The Kiwis Fly a De Havilland Mosquito!

For most WWII airplane buffs, the De Havilland Mosquito holds a special place of interest. It was the last major wooden military aircraft in an era of when aluminum airplanes had otherwise swept the skies. Made of special plywood of balsa sandwiched between birch, the Mosquito proved faster than any comparable metal aircraft. It’s feats are legendary.

Because of the wooden airframe, few Mosquitos survived more than a decade after the war. Because of its basically two piece construction, in which nearly the entire fuselage and each wing were made in two pieces which were glued together, any rot or decay anywhere in a major section caused the scrapping of the entire aircraft. While you can leave a aluminum airframe setting out in a field for decades without harm, the Mosquitos airframe would disintegrate into air unworthiness in a just a couple of weeks if not cared for. Because of the fragility of the wooden airframe, I thought that no flying examples remained.

Imagine my surprise then when, while researching a software testing framework called “Kiwi” I stumbled upon a video of new Mosquito restored (more likely almost completely rebuilt) by a team in New Zealand.

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Information is scarce but Wikipedia says:

One aircraft, Mosquito FB.26 KA114, built in Canada in 1945, has recently completed restoration by Avspecs Ltd, Ardmore New Zealand and flew for the first time on Thursday 27 September 2012. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth flights were watched by several thousand spectators at a special air show at Ardmore on Saturday 29 September 2012. The restored Mosquito is owned by Jerry Yagen and is heading to its new home at the Virginia Military Aviation Museum, in Virginia Beach, USA, as soon as transport logisitics have been worked out. A complete set of forms, jigs and molds will allow for new Mosquitos to be built.

Frankly, I think they’re missing a market here. With everything supposed to be “sustainable” and for some reason wood and other biological materials considered sustainable (despite a long history of being emphatically not sustained in the least) a proven all wood airframe might be a selling point.

The Kiwi’s really impressed me with this aircraft. The restored Mosquito actually makes up for the Hobbit movie.

19 thoughts on “The Kiwis Fly a De Havilland Mosquito!”

  1. Ithink it was plywood because of the material shortages. And then the costs of maintaining, say, a Mustang with one RR Merlin engine is astronomical, think of maintaining a plane with 2! (The Mossie) – But, a beautiful and graceful plane.

  2. Ah, here it is…a very positive review of the Mosquito’s capabilities, from German fighter general Adolf Galland:

    “A Special chapter was the fight against the Mosquito. Britain had developed an all-purpose aircraft with an extraordinary performance, whose activities over Germany caused a lot of trouble. The twin-engined de Havilland had a speed which none of our fighter planes could approach. By day it flew on reconnaissance at high altitude, but it also performed bombing missions, and had a very precise bombsight called ‘Oboe’. It was also successful, at little cost, in nuisance raids at night. Until we were able to send up the Me262 jet fighter planes we were practically powerless against the Mosquitoes. Like their namesake, they became a plague to our Command and the population. Our fighters could only catch up with them when we dived on them from a much greater height during an attack, temporarily achieving higher speed. But as the Mosquitoes already flew at a great height this manoeuver could only be performed when the approach of the aircraft was discovered early enough and it could be passed on from one radar station to another. Here were the difficulties: firstly, our radar network was by no means without gaps; and, secondly, the Mosquito was built of wood, so this little ‘bird’ only gave a very faint signal to our sets. These were facts which one simply had to accept for the time being. Anyhow, with this aircraft alone the German war industry could not be hit decisively; there was no danger that we might lose the war on account of the Mosquito. It was for quite different reasons that Goring went mad about our inability to stop these raids. In daytime they flew without loss and went wherever their mission took them; at night they chased the population out of their beds. The latter, who were justifiably annoyed at this, started to grumble: “fatty can’t even cope with a few silly Mosquitos”.

    Ignoring me, Goring recalled two experienced group leaders from the east and ordered them to clear up this daily nuisance one way or another. Two strengthened squadrons were formed especially for this purpose, bombastically christened the 25th and 50th Fighter groups. The aircraft were ‘hotted up’ by all sorts of tricks, and special methods of attack were worked out – without avail! As far as i know, neither of these units ever shot down a Mosquito. They were dissolved in the Autumn of 1943, and i was able to use the aircraft in the general defence of the Reich.”

  3. @David – ironic that is construction material – plywood – made necessary because of aluminum shortages, made it more formidable with a tiny radar footprint.

    Perhaps the Mossie could be called the world’s first stealth aircraft.

  4. The only problem with the Hobbit movie is I didn’t know going in that Jackson split this one as well.

    Yes he took interesting Liberties with the text if you’re a purist.

    Some of us just want to be entertained.

  5. Thanks for the Galland quote, David.

    In the YouTube video, could that plane,other than the Spitfire, be a De Havilland Vampire? Sure looks like it-another rare bird.

  6. Wooden structure had it’s pluses and minuses for the Mosquito.

    In terms of pluses, World War 2 “Meter wave radars” (Radio Wave lengths over 1 meter) could not see wooden aircraft structure. The German “Freya” early warning radars and those German radars derived from the Freya electronics (using different antenna’s) were all 2.4 meter radars.

    Remember though, that meter wave radars could still see the steel propellers, engines and metal support structure underneight wooden structure just fine. The Mosquito simply had a smaller meter wave radar signature, which combined with its performance, allowed it to get to targets and get away before Radar’s could vector the interceptors could reach them.

    The German Wurzburg and Mannheim gun laying radar with 54cm, 58cm and 60cm radar bandwidths could see a Mosquito just fine…if they were properly alerted first, see the Freya problems above.

    This is from page 75 of the September 2010 Mitchell Institute Study titled “THE RADAR GAME: Understanding Stealth and Aircraft Survivability” By Rebecca Grant —

    The British also had a wooden (but not composite and charcoal-coated)
    bomber, the Mosquito, though its stealth characteristics were almost
    nil because the radar waves that passed through the wood
    outer structure would reflect off internal structures, such as
    the skeleton, wing spars, bomb racks, the cockpit, and the
    engines. The Mosquito probably had a lower RCS than a
    metallic Lancaster or Halifax, though this amount was not
    militarily significant. The Mosquito’s survivability was derived
    from its performance rather than its RCS reduction. Doug
    Richardson, Stealth (New York: Orion Books, 1989) p. 42.

    See also:

    Fundamentals of Stealth Design

    The following article was written by Alan Brown, who retired as Director of Engineering at Lockheed Corporate Headquarters in 1991. He is generally regarded as one of the ‘founding fathers’ of stealth, or low observable technology. He served for several years as director of low observables technology at Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Co. in Marietta, Ga. From 1978 to 1982, he was the program manager and chief engineer for the F-117 stealth fighter aircraft and had been active in stealth programs since 1975. This article first appeared in 1992. Design for low observability, and specifically for low radar cross section (RCS), began almost as soon as radar was invented. The predominantly wooden deHavilland Mosquito was one of the first aircraft to be designed with this capability in mind. Against World War II radar systems, that approach was fairly successful, but it would not be appropriate today. First, wood and, by extension, composite materials, are not transparent to radar, although they may be less reflective than metal; and second, the degree to which they are transparent merely amplifies the components that are normally hidden by the outer skin. These include engines, fuel, avionics packages, electrical and hydraulic circuits, and people.

    The wooden structure of the Mosquito served it well in the night fighter role when it flew intruder missions into North West Europe against German night fighters with 3-meter air intercept radars which lacked reliable & effective identification friend of foe (IFF) technology. The Mosquito could shoot at any two-engine fighter it saw at night because all Mosquitos had type III IFF beacons. German night fighters could not readily see a Mosquito with radar before the mosquito saw them and could not tell if it was German or British if visual contact was established.


    “The RAF equipped Mosquito night intruders with a device called “Serrate” to allow them to track down German night fighters from their Lichtenstein B/C and SN-2 radar emissions, and also fitted Mosquitoes with a device named “Perfectos” that tracked German IFF. The secrets of Lichtenstein SN-2 and German IFF had been dropped into the hands of the Allies in July 1944, when the pilot of a Ju-88 night fighter flew the wrong way against a landing beacon and landed in the UK by accident.”

    There were other reasons for Mosquito survivability besides wood.

    When the Mosquito used “Obo” radar beams for night time bombing missions, they flew a parabola trajectory that foiled the mechanical analog fire control computers of German Flak batteries which computed gunfire trajectories based upon a aircraft flying a straight and level flight path.

    The Mosquito squadrons also flew missions in smaller numbers than the Bomber Command Lancaster or Halifax squadrons, making “barrage box” firing at them by German Flak cost ineffective.

    See also from the same vectorsite link:

    “Even when their radar was blinded, the anti-aircraft batteries generally kept up a heavy rate of fire, focused on the best guess for where the intruding formation was, and actually scored enough kills to make Allied countermeasures officers wonder if the countermeasures were actually working. Such “predicted barrages” also helped reassure the local population by at least giving the sound of putting up a strong defense. However, predicted barrages wasted enormous amounts of ammunition. During a raid through overcast by 720 USAAF bombers on Hamburg on 25 October 1944, the Germans fired over 24,400 rounds of heavy anti-aircraft ammunition, and shot down one bomber. Shortly after that, faced with using up ammunition faster than it could be manufactured, the practice was restricted to defense of high-priority installations. Bomber losses to flak then fell by 75%.

    However, wood structure had a huge price. When the “Mossies” flew low level daylight attack missions into German 20mm and 37mm automatic weapons fire, their lack of self-sealing fuel tanks, Merlin in-line engines and wooden structure made them fire traps.

    That is why towards the end of World War 2, photo mission Mosquitos had “Rebecca” radar beacons that allowed the American and British radars to vector the Mosquitos around known German Flak concentrations and directly over photo targets day or night.

  7. The Wellington bomber (The “Wimpie”) was built with a fabric skin. I don’t know if that reduced RCS but the internal lattice work to support the skin might have had more effect on it radar signature.

  8. MK,

    The Wellington’s engines, fuel lines, fuel tanks, control linkages and landing gear were all metal.

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