Today marks 80 years to the day since one of the most influential aircraft to have ever flown first took to the skies. The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito – affectionately named the Wooden Wonder by a British public stunned by its unmatched performance – went on to become one of the most important aircraft of World War Two.
Thanks to the efforts of UK charity The People’s Mosquito, backed by the unique expertise of world-renowned historic aircraft restoration specialists, East Sussex-based Retrotec Ltd, the Mosquito is once again taking shape in the UK.
Efforts to return the Mosquito to UK skies for the first time in more than 25 years have gathered pace in 2020, despite lockdown restrictions and an airshow season decimated by the Coronavirus pandemic. The exciting restoration project is funded entirely through donations from Mosquito enthusiasts from all over the world, in addition to vital backing from major names in UK industry such as Airbus UK.
The Mosquito remains one of the most influential aircraft ever designed and is an outstanding example of British wartime engineering. Described as the world’s first true multi-role aircraft, it excelled as a reconnaissance aircraft, bomber, pathfinder, fighter bomber, and night fighter.
The Mosquito’s unique plywood construction, which played an important role in pioneering the composite material construction used in today’s aerospace industries, was pivotal to the aircraft’s unmatched performance between 1941-1943.
As we mark the 80th anniversary of the Mosquito’s first flight from Salisbury Hall, just outside Hatfield, public backing in 2020 has helped The People’s Mosquito make rapid progress towards the completion of the first De Havilland Mosquito fuselage moulds to be built in the UK for more than 70 years. Orders have now been placed for the first aircraft-grade Sitka Spruce sourced from sustainable forestry in British Columbia, Canada – the same region used to supply the original Mosquito production between 1941-1950.
The construction of the first fuselage bulkheads of the aircraft marks a further vital milestone in the efforts to return the iconic Mosquito to UK skies.
The charity is harnessing its cache of more than 22,000 original de Havilland Mosquito drawings, along with the respected engineering expertise and traditional wooden craftsmanship employed by Retrotec, to deliver the highest standards of authenticity.
John Lilley, Chairman and Managing Director of The People’s Mosquito said:
“In these difficult and challenging times it is gratifying to be able to report some good news. The restoration of our Mosquito fighter bomber – a former 23 Squadron aircraft sadly lost in an accident at RAF Coltishall in 1949 – is an opportunity to address a glaring gap in Britain’s proud aerospace heritage story. The Mossie as she became known, was born out of adversity, when Britain had her back to the wall… in some ways, this restoration is summoning the spirit that helped carry us through those historically dark days.
“The entire project is being overseen by Retrotec – in full compliance with 21st Century UK Civil Aviation Authority engineering and manufacturing requirements, A commitment to the highest standards of authenticity underpin this important restoration. What better way to honour the bravery of the two-man crews who flew this remarkable aircraft into harm’s way, often below treetop level, and who made an absolutely vital and significant contribution to the eventual victory in World War Two.
“Subject to us obtaining sufficient levels of funding, we are aiming to complete the fuselage moulds in early 2021.”
The work is part of a four- to five-year restoration to return the Mosquito to the skies for the first time since Europe’s last airworthy example was tragically lost in a crash near Manchester, in 1996. Once flying, The People’s Mosquito is expected to be a huge asset.
The De Havilland DH.98 Mosquito remains one of the most influential aircraft ever designed and an outstanding example of British design and engineering. The aircraft played a pivotal role in the Allied war effort from 1941-1945 and continued to serve with the Royal Air Force with distinction until the mid-1950s, well into the jet age.
At the height of World War Two, the Mosquito was the world’s fastest production aircraft; it was the world’s first true multi-role aircraft and helped to pioneer the use of composite construction techniques, now ubiquitous in today’s aviation industry.
Its ground-breaking and innovative manufacture also included the first use of radio frequency heating in the construction of the aircraft, which is similar to the process which is used in a modern-day microwave oven.
The People’s Mosquito is a registered UK charity and full member of Aviation Heritage UK, whose aim is to inform and educate the public and future generations on the Mosquito and its place in history. Its motto is ‘To fly, to educate, to remember’ as it works towards restoring and returning this important aircraft to the sky.
The charity is backed by Airbus UK – an international reference in the aerospace sector, whose own heritage history includes manufacture of the Mosquito between 1948-1950. More than 80 de Havilland Mosquitoes, including the last ever Mosquito aircraft to roll off the production line, were completed at Broughton, now home to Airbus UK.
Collaborating with East Sussex-based restoration company Retrotec, the charity is working towards restoring a successor to a Mosquito lost on a training flight from RAF Coltishall, Norfolk in 1949. In doing so, the project will deliver the first UK-built Mosquito in more than 70 years: the last UK-built example rolled off the line at Chester on 15 November 1950.
All photos © The People’s Mosquito unless otherwise credited.