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Mosquito to Buzz Again

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.”

-Stephan Wilkinson

Missing CNAC C-47 Located

The search for China National Aviation Corporation C-47 No. 60 began on November 18, 1942, the day after the transport was reported missing while flying from Kunming, China, over “the Hump” to India. Its crew included pilot John J. Dean, a former Flying Tiger; my cousin, copilot James S. Browne, a transfer from the RAF’s Air Transport Auxiliary; and Chinese radioman K.L. Yang, who radioed a message saying all was well as they approached the mountains. But No. 60 never arrived at its home base in Dinjan, India. Searches went on for weeks, to no avail. The crew was eventually declared dead on June 17, 1943.

Fast-forward 61 years, to a 2004 CNAC reunion in San Francisco, where I met Clayton Kuhles of MIA Recoveries. Kuhles, who had previously discovered 19 aircraft lost in the China-Burma-India Theater during WWII, was intrigued by the story of my cousin’s missing C-47. He studied official reports of the incident, and consulted villagers in the crash area with the help of an American mountaineer in China. Based on his research, Kuhles decided to mount an expedition to Yunnan Province to pinpoint the wreckage.

On September 14, 2011, Kuhles arrived at the base of a mountain near Dali. Local guides initially agreed to make the climb to the wreckage site, but Kuhles said that “after days of intense trekking and numerous very hazardous river crossings,” the guides gave up. A few days later the team tried again, accompanied by locals who had previously visited the site. The weather deteriorated, and when they encountered a rocky drainage course, the new guides also quit. “The steep, rocky drainage was now a flowing waterfall,” reported Kuhles, “making for probably the most dangerous downclimb in my entire mountaineering career.”

The weather eventually cleared, and the team discovered an easier route. When team members finally reached the crash site, they found bits of metal spread over a large area. Although a rockslide had covered much of the wreckage, pieces of the plane were still visible. One piece bore the stamped numbers “4681,” conclusive evidence that this was indeed CNAC No. 60.

Thanks to the team’s dogged perseverance and the generosity of the CNAC Association and its members, C-47 No. 60’s disappearance is no longer a mystery.

-Robert L. Willett

Semper Fi in the Sky

Visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., this year can view an impressive new exhibit commemorating the centennial of U.S. Marine Corps aviation. In addition to art and artifacts from NASM’s collection, “Fly Marines!” features 91 works currently on loan from the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

The Marine museum’s collection includes nearly 8,000 pieces of art by more than 350 artists—dating from WWI to the present. While some are by well-known artists such as Keith Ferris and R.G. Smith, others were done by active-duty Marines.

Many of the works in the exhibit were created as part of the Marine Corps Combat Art Program, which began in 1942 and was permanently established in 1966. During WWII there were as many as 70 artists in the program, leathernecks who have typically been embedded for periods with fellow Marine units. But according to The New York Times, by July 2010 the program had dwindled to just one artist, Sergeant Kristopher J. Battles, and some were speculating that it might be terminated. During a recent phone interview, however, Sergeant Battles said that a second artist has just been added to the roster, and the future looks promising.

While the Smithsonian exhibit includes posters, field drawings, portraits and sculpture, in recent years Corps artists have focused on telling the story of 21st-century Marines, whether in far-flung combat or in emergency relief efforts in places such as Haiti. Interviewed by the Times, Battles said of his mission: “We’re not here to do poster art or recruiting posters. What we are sent to do is to go to the experience, see what is really there and document it.”

To learn more about the Smithsonian exhibit, see For more on the Marine Corps museum, see

-Nan Siegel

Chino’s Connie Flies Home

Capping off a seven-year restoration project, on January 14 the only currently flyable Lockheed Super Con- stellation made a 90-minute ferry flight from Camarillo, Calif., to Chino, where the Connie will join more than 170 aircraft on display at the Yanks Air Museum. Despite what one observer described as a “long trailing oil stain on the right fuselage,” the 57-year-old EC-121 landed safely. For information on the museum, visit

CAP Seeks Congressional Gold Medal

On December 1 of last year the Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, observed its 70th anniversary. The all-volunteer service was founded on December 1, 1941, less than a week before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As part of the anniversary the organization has intensified its campaign to award members the Congressional Gold Medal for their World War II service.

CAP performed a host of aerial missions during the war, including patrolling for German U-boats. Known at the time as the Coastal Patrol, CAP operated from ad hoc bases up and down the East Coast and along the Gulf of Mexico. CAP pilots flew missions in their own personal aircraft, and in addition to reconnaissance and search-and-rescue, performed combat missions with jury-rigged armament. All told, 26 CAP pilots were lost while on Coastal Patrol duty during WWII.

The bill awarding the Civil Air Patrol with the Congressional Gold Medal is currently pending in Congress. Only a few hundred of the roughly 60,000 CAP volunteers in WWII are still alive. “Each week, each month, others are lost,” stated Maj. Gen. Chuck Carr, CAP’s national commander. “We want to make sure those who remain, and those who have passed, are rightly honored for their great service to America.”

In support of the campaign for Congressional recognition, CAP pilots are coming forward to tell their stories. Charles Compton, 94, left two jobs in Chicago to volunteer with CAP and “be more actively engaged in the war effort.” The duty was dangerous, and Compton recalled that pilots often navigated using partially sunken American merchant ships.

For more info and CAP pilots’ stories, visit

-Stephen Mauro


Originally published in the May 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.