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Mosquito to Buzz Again

By Stephan Wilkinson 
Originally published by Aviation History magazine. Published Online: March 08, 2012 
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The restoration of Gerald Yagen's Mosquito FB MK.26 involves more than 50 percent new components. It is shown here under reconstruction in late 2011 (courtesy of Gerald Yagen).
The restoration of Gerald Yagen's Mosquito FB MK.26 involves more than 50 percent new components. It is shown here under reconstruction in late 2011 (courtesy of Gerald Yagen).

The de Havilland Mosquito is one of the very last of the major World War II types not represented by a flying restoration or accurate replica

The current holy grail of warbird restoration is an airworthy de Havilland Mosquito, one of the very last of the major World War II types not represented by a flying restoration or accurate replica. Mosquitos were once plentiful, but other than the 30-odd parked in museums and non-flying displays, all have succumbed to the inevitable deterioration of their wood airframes and, particularly, the glue used to fabricate them. The last flying example crashed fatally at an airshow in Manchester, England, in July 1996.

A Mosquito airframe built from scratch by New Zealander Glyn Powell seems to be well in the lead in this race for the sky; after all, Powell had been working on the concept of creating an essentially new Mosquito for some 22 years (see "Briefing," November 2008 issue). The current airplane is owned by wealthy American warbirder Gerald Yagen, whose enormous collection is housed at his Military Aviation Museum and associated maintenance facility, The Fighter Factory, both in Virginia Beach, Va. The Powell-built Mosquito is now being fitted out by Avspecs, a highly regarded New Zealand restoration shop that is doing all the metal-related work. Yagen says the airplane is "about 80 percent done" and should fly later this year. (Note, however, that a popular rule of thumb among aircraft restorers and homebuilders is that "the last 10 percent is 50 percent of the work.")

It should be easy to build a wooden airplane, right? EAAers do it all the time. Actually, it would be a far simpler restoration if Mosquitos were aluminum, for a big part of the job consists of building the large fuselage molds, the tooling and the extremely precise wing and attachment jigs that must be in place before a rebuild can really begin. All of de Havilland's jigs and tools had been scrapped in the early 1950s, so the Mosquito literally had to be reinvented.

Yagen's airplane is built around the dataplate and many of the metal parts of a Mosquito originally manufactured in Canada in 1946, so it is officially a restoration and not a replica, though Yagen says, "More than 50 percent of the airplane is new." By the time he bought it, the airframe (including 50,000 small brass screws) had deteriorated to a state that would make "firewood" a compliment, yet remarkably, that Mosquito had very little air time logged: It had been delivered from the factory straight to storage.

Yagen plans to paint the Mosquito in the colors of "one of the airplanes that flew the Amiens raid." Though he hasn't determined exactly which one, we're guessing it will be a Royal New Zealand Air Force No. 487 Squadron FB Mk.VI that took part in that famous 1944 prison break, in tribute to its rebirth in New Zealand. (Yagen's airplane is an FB Mk.26, which simply means a Mk.VI fighter-bomber built in Canada.) How much will it be worth once it's flying? Yagen has no idea, though he says it's not for sale, "and we have more money in it already than we do in our B-17."


23 Responses to “Mosquito to Buzz Again”


  1. 1

    [...] them. The last flying example crashed fatally at an airshow in Manchester, England, in July 1996. Mosquito to Buzz Again Boom – headshot! It should be easy to build a wooden airplane, right? EAAers do it all the time. [...]

    • 1.1
      Maw-z says:

      Because the Mossie is made out of wood does not equate to a simple structure. This bird has a stressed plywood skin, pure brilliance on the part of DH. Not much else like it……..

      • 1.1.1
        Stephan Wilkinson says:

        What I wrote–"EAAers do it all the time"–was meant as a bit of a joke. I fully understand the difficult of building a stressed-plywood-skin airplane, having built one myself (a Falco).

  2. 2
    Maw-z says:

    Hi,

    Nice article and a great restoration, however, to say that "seems to be well in the lead in this race for the sky" is not wholly correct.

    Sitting over on Vancouver Island is a project that is well under way and also close to completion. CF-HML is a B Mk35 Mosquito which is largely orginal and is in pristeen condition. Please ref the link below.

    http://vicair.net/mosquito-update-2012

    I wouldn't want to bet which one gets airborne first and personally…..I don't care. Both are being completed professionally and with due dilligance….That is what matters.

    I would expect Mr. Yagen's bird to one day grace the skies over the US.

    Twin merlins…….and in sterio…….I'd pay good money to see that again….

    Cheers

    • 2.1
      Stephan Wilkinson says:

      The Yagen Mosquito is now scheduled to first fly on 29 September.

      • 2.1.1
        Phil Rundle says:

        I presume that the first flight will be this saturday from Avspecs at Ardmore Aerodrome. It should be quite awesome when it happens

  3. 3
    John Jones says:

    It's not really accurate to say that the Mosquito is "one of the very last of the major World War II types not represented by a flying restoration".

    Few of the British aircraft that bore most of the workload during the war can now be seen in the air anywhere in the world. The RAF's major heavy and light bomber types are particularly badly served. None of the 6,000+ Halifaxes or 11,000+ Wellingtons survives in an airworthy condition. The same goes for the 6,000 Beaufighters and the 4,000+ Blenheims: the latter type has had a similar unfortunate history to the Mosquito, with the sole flying survivor crashing about ten years ago. As for the other significant bombers from the first half of the war, such as the Stirling and the Whitley, of which around 2,000 were built in both cases, we have nothing at all, not even a non-flying example.

    The fighter situation is not great either. We do, of course, have Spitfires and some Hurricanes but we have no Hawker Typhoons or Hawker Tempests in the air and even precious few surviving airframes.

    All in all, the sight and sound of most British aircraft of the last war is mainly confined to the memories of a diminishing number of older people.

    • 3.1
      Ray Grundy says:

      I totally agree John,large numbers of fine aircraft both fighter and bomber flown by extremely brave young men saved our country.
      How could they be allowed to end up as scrap? or was this the start of a uninterested society.
      Every school child should be taught lessons on ww2 and the huge sacrifices made by people of that era
      For myself i was born just after the war in Coventry but all my knowledge of the war came from the people around who lived through it.
      So sad that all the brilliant engineers that designed and built such wonderful aircraft all those that crewed them will soon be forgotten together with the aircraft they flew.

  4. 4
    Fred Robinson says:

    Hi, Can anyone tell me the place where the De-havilland mosquito will take its first flight in New Zealand, We have read that it will fly on the 29 September.There are a group of us that would like to be there when she first flys.
    Regards Fred

    • 4.1
      Stephan Wilkinson says:

      Avspecs is located on Ardmore Airport, which I think is near Auckland–you'd know better. I'd assume that's where the first flight will occur, since that's where the airplane is. But just to be sure they aren't trucking the airplane elsewhere for its first flight, you should contact Avspecs–do a search for their contact info, they have a website–to confirm this. Have fun, I envy you!

      • 4.1.1
        Fred Robinson says:

        Thankyou Stephen for the heads up, Yes its Ardmore aerodrome.Yea we-got tickets and we are going,Have the camera battries all charged up, Cant wait. sorry guys this is going to be GREAT
        Cheers

  5. 5
    Ewan Smith says:

    Just heard from a friend of mine in Auckland that she is airborne right now…….I'm flying down there to watch it on Saturday to……..

  6. 6
    Fred Robinson says:

    Just A UPDATE ON The Mosquito in New Zealand.Hay Guys, Ive Just received a phone vidoe of the Mozzy test flying around 12.04 pm NZ time. tis a bit grainy, but wow awsome. Feed back was she did a copple of laps of Ardmore and went off but never arrived back, seems she had to land at another aerodrome ( Mangorei ) For a fix up, sorry no more information at the moment.
    Cheers

    • 6.1
      Maw-z says:

      The Mosquito is buzzing…………..

      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KLGbXc22Z-8

      • 6.1.1
        bbear says:

        Via Avspecs website: the first public flight was 29/09/2012. All went well according to wbsite and the litle press i can see – all in NZ – is suitably impressed. As far as I can see all actually went like clockwork, only days after the initial flights – amazing. No real flight report I've found so far. Everyone who attended seems to be putting up their video on YouTube around about now. So this post is just a 'heads up' – just a stop gap for the tiny number of AH readers who didn't expect this so soon, until those with knowledge and who were there sober up, calm down and get back online. I predict some forum traffic about this later.

        If i am permitted, avspecs have a facebook page via

        http://www.warbirdrestoration.co.nz/current.html#ka114

        on which i see

        '
        "This has to be the best restoration I've ever seen," said the Mosquito's pilot Keith Skilling'

  7. 7
    Mark says:

    I was fortunate to be able to photograph yesterday's flight. Please look at my website for the images. It was a fantastic day and it really brought my childhood to life. I can remember reading every book about WW2 aviation that I could lay my hands on. The roar of the Merlins was brilliant.

    I hope you enjoy the photos.

    http://www.photofinishnz.com

  8. 8
  9. 9
    Dave says:

    Hi my name is Dave and I was the first firefighter at the crash of RR299 in the summer of 96 , I've just watched some clips of the mozzi flying again she looks amazing thank you for putting this wonderful aircraft where she belongs in the sky. I just hope we will see one back here in England again .

  10. 10
    Rose says:

    What fantastic news; just come across this on the Vulcan to the Sky newsletter.
    Must tell my 87 year old mum, who spent the war years working testing wood quality on airframes of Mossies. Whenever we took her to see one in a museum she had to be stopped from climbing in to see if it had her own 'mark' stamped on the fuselage. She tells many stories about being taken to crash sites, etc . to take samples for testing, not to mention her favourite involving an RAF officer who managed to inflate the liferaft in the cockpit by accident when doing an inspection! Would love her to see it in flight but no chance as she's virtually housebound in UK. Good old Youtube will have to suffice.

  11. 11
    bj says:

    Saw the Mossie fly at Masterton, NZ on January 19th 2013
    Awesome!
    Took me nearly a lifetime to see one fly.
    Big change from seeing the Battle of Britain Memorial flight on a regular basis passing over head.

  12. 12
    David Hastie says:

    I'd like to know when the Mossie will arrive in the Washington DC area and then down at the museum in VA Beach. My Dad flew one with the 25th BG out of Watton and I think he and his navigator would like to be present at the 'unvailing' for the aircraft. But since they are in their late 80's, I need to make travel plans.

  13. 13
    Stephan Wilkinson says:

    David, you'll need to get that information from Jerry Yagen's museum, not from Aviation History Magazine. http://www.fighterfactory.com/museum.



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