Mosquito Restoration on Track for Spring Flight
KA114 is retrieved from the Canadian Museum of Flight and Transport in June 2004. Larger view
Glyn Powell used wooden molds to craft the fuselage. Canadian manufacturers first used concrete molds to guard against atmospheric changes affecting the shape of the molds from day to day. Larger view
The Mosquito is starting to take shape. Canadian Mosquitos had Rolls-Royce Merlin engines built by U.S.-based Packard Motor Company. Larger view
The forward fueselage before painting. All photos courtesy Jerry Yagen and AvSpecs. Larger view
November 24, 2010 — The restoration of a flyable de Havilland Mosquito is on track for completion in spring 2011. With remains rescued from a Canadian farm, the aircraft is undergoing an extensive rebuild in New Zealand and would be the only flying copy of this WW II fighter-bomber in the world. The Mosquito is mostly a wooden aircraft, which gives it a great speed advantage over its competitors and adversaries. Rebuilding a wooden warbird, however, is not a speedy process since much of the original aircraft had to be thrown away and built from scratch, including the tools and equipment required for the restoration.
KA114, a de Havilland Mosquito FB.26 built in de Havilland’s Downsview factory in Toronto, Ontario, was delivered directly to reserve RCAF storage in early 1945. The aircraft never saw combat and was passed around from storage facility to storage facility, when it finally ended up in Alberta and was soon purchased by a nearby farmer through a public sale of war assets in 1948. KA114 would languish and decay on that farm until 1978 when it was transferred to the Canadian Museum of Flight and Transport (CMFT) by one of its founders, Ed Zaleski.
Moving the Mosquito to the museum was a distinct challenge as time had ravaged the wooden airframe. The forward section of the fuselage disintegrated while the rest of it broke in two as it was being loaded for transport. The aircraft was also missing both engines and parts of the landing gear, but the majority of the wing and many other parts had fared much better over the years.
The remains of the aircraft stayed at the CMFT until it was purchased by Jerry Yagen, who operates the Fighter Factory, which is the restoration arm of the Aviation Institute of Maintenance, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. As Ed Zaleski found, moving the pieces of the aircraft proved challenging as they used a chainsaw to trim 4 feet off the wing to fit it in a shipping container for the journey to a restoration center in New Zealand.
As with many restorations, much of the aircraft had to be built again from scratch despite many parts surviving the long hibernation. Glyn Powell, of Auckland, New Zealand, was enlisted to create new fuselage, wings, and tail sections. Wood made the Mosquito fast and formidable, but it was challenging to make in large pieces. Powell discovered why Canadian manufacturers used concrete molds to shape the fuselage: Larger wood molds (36 feet for the Mosquito) tend to change shape based on daily atmospheric conditions. Powell employed a top boat builder to assist with creating the molds and applied a “modern” epoxy instead of glue in joining many of the pieces. Otherwise, Powell says that he is “absolutely faithful to the original drawings and specifications.”
All the parts were shipped to Ardmore Airfield in South Auckland, New Zealand, where AvSpecs, which has a wide range of expertise rebuilding vintage and warbird aircraft, is based. AvSpecs’ previous work for the Fighter Factory includes the restoration of a Dragon Rapide, which won Best Warbird Transport at AirVenture 2010.
Jerry Yagen says that, while parts were hard to find, at this stage only engine cowlings and a prop spinner are left to track down. One of the difficult parts of the restoration was grounding the metal parts on a wooden aircraft. The original manufacturers used flat strips of copper to ground some of the remote parts of the aircraft, such as the ailerons. Yagen says making sure all the parts were tied into the grounding system was a unique challenge.
KA114 is expected to fly by Easter (2011), and if all goes well will make its debut in the Ardmore Air Show. Yagen would next like to send the Mosquito on a summer tour of British air shows as a salute to the Mosquito’s English heritage. By fall the aircraft will return to North America permanently and be based at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach.
See more photos of the restoration of KA114 here
You can read more about the process and see plenty of pictures on Glyn’s blog
AvSpecs maintains a building blog here.
A nice video of the Mosquito restoration process:
Currently there are no Mosquitos flying, but here is a great video of what it might look like if a Mosquito squadron existed today: