The Legendary WWII de Havilland Mosquito Flies Into the 21st Millennium
Article and Photos by Barry Griffiths
Three very rare WWII warplanes participated in the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s 2014 Skyfest celebration in Hamilton, Ontario this past weekend; its own Avro Lancaster, CAF’s Consolidated B-24 Liberator, and the de Havilland DH98 Mosquito. The two heavy bombers have been appearing at air shows for many years, and have always attracted of great deal of interest, but the star of this year’s gathering of warplanes was indisputably the beautiful DH98 Mosquito, KA114, one of the most famous and successful aircraft of WWII.
This British twin-engined, multi-role WWII combat aircraft has been generating a great deal of buzz among warbird enthusiasts for the past few years as it was being painstakingly reconstructed and restored in New Zealand to flying status. Geoffrey de Havilland’s ground-breaking design, better known as “Mossie” to everyone familiar with it, was constructed primarily of glued balsa and birch wood in order to overcome the shortage of metal during the war. This “Wooden Wonder” proved to be an extremely lightweight aircraft with exceptional flying abilities and characteristics but one whose airframe literally started to decompose when it was left out in and exposed to the elements. This warbird was not built to last!
The remarkable restoration of this Canadian-built aircraft was undertaken by Avspecs Ltd. of New Zealand, for the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia, which transformed the remains of KA114, rotting in a farmer’s field in Alberta, Canada, into what is arguably one of the very best warbird restorations ever. This stunning aircraft is painted with the colors and markings of 487 Squadron RNZAF as EG-Y, in honor of the Royal New Zealand unit flying Mosquitos during WWII.
After receiving its airworthiness certificate in New Zealand, KA114 was returned to the United States where it now holds the badge of honor as the only airworthy de Havilland DH98 Mosquito in the world.
When the Mosquito, with its sleek design and twin Merlin engines, entered production in 1941, it was one of the fastest operational aircraft in the world with a top speed of 380 mph and a longer operational range than Spitfires and Hurricanes of the same era. In its many wartime roles, the “Mossie” with its four Hispano 20mm cannons under the cockpit floor and four Browning .303 machine guns in its nose, along with the rockets or bombs on hard points under the wings, proved to be lethal weapon against the enemy.
The Mosquito was a true multi-role performer in that it was originally conceived as an unarmed fast bomber, but proved so versatile and capable that it morphed into many other roles during the air war, including: low-to-medium altitude daytime tactical bomber, high-altitude night bomber, pathfinder, day or night fighter, fighter-bomber, intruder, maritime strike aircraft, and fast photo-reconnaissance aircraft.
When KA114 first fired up its powerful Rolls Royce Merlin engines on the Hamilton hot ramp, it provided an unmistakable reminder that this British icon was one of the most successful aircraft engines of the World War II era. This wasthe powerplant of Spitfires, Hurricanes and P-51’s that, along with the Mosquito, allowed the allies to win air superiority from the best the Luftwaffe could offer during WWII.
With more than 7700 Mosquitos having been built around the world up to 1950, it’s remarkable that KA114, built in Downsview, Ontario in 1945, and left derelict for decades on a farm near Milo, Alberta, is now the only “Mossie” in the world in flying condition. The best part, of course, is that the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia has chosen to fly it around the continent so that the warbird aviation community and the general public alike can enjoy this remarkable “game-changer” of the WWII skies as it performs into the 21st Millennium.