Known as the “Wooden Wonder,” the de Havilland Mosquito is as beautiful in flight as it is rare. It took restoration workers three years to rebuild the wooden airframe of the salvaged bird. In these photos, KA114 graces the skies over New Zealand.
Rare Airplanes in Flight
de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito
The de Havilland Mosquito
has the multiple distinctions of being an important historical airplane, an uncommonly configured one and a beauty on top of that. The example shown here is currently the only flying model of its kind.
With nearly 8,000 built, the Mosquito was not a rare airplane in its day. It was launched into service in 1942, a critical juncture of World War II for the British. At first, it primarily saw duty as a photo-reconnaissance craft. As the war progressed, it was pressed into service as a sub hunter, a high-altitude light bomber and, perhaps most famously, a night fighter fending off Messerschmitt Me-109s during a number of German offenses later in the war. The key characteristics of the DH.98 were its speed — it was 30 knots faster than a Spitfire and capable of nearly 400 mph at altitude — and its high-altitude capability, which let it fly at altitudes that were difficult for the Germans to defend.
The Mosquito was unusual for a number of reasons. First, it was an Allied twin light fighter. Along with the P-38 Lightning and the F-82 Twin Mustang, it was one of only a few such types, all of which are characterized by great speed and marginal armament.
The DH.98 is unique in that it is made of wood. Its monocoque fuselage and built-up wing were created with birch, balsa, spruce and plywood and an ingenious amalgam of fasteners, glues and other attachment schemes. The wings are built up with ribs and spars of wood with plywood skins that are doped in a very similar fashion to fabric-covered wings. The result was a light and strong structure. The powerplant was the famous Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12, the same engine that powered some of the most famous single-engine fighters in the Allied fleet.
The previous last flying Mosquito was destroyed in 1996, when engine trouble caused a low-altitude loss of control during a demonstration flight in England. There are an estimated 30 nonairworthy Mosquitoes around the world.
For more than 16 years there were no flying Mosquitoes, until this airplane, KA114, made its return to the air. This example was originally manufactured in Canada — de Havilland licensed production to various companies in Britain and abroad. KA114 never saw combat and was found deteriorating in a farmer’s field in Alberta, Canada, when it was purchased by the Canadian Museum of Flight in 1978 and then, in 2004, by the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, which oversaw restoration. That work took eight years and was conducted in Auckland, New Zealand, by restoration experts at AVspecs. The paint scheme on the airplane is that of the Royal New Zealand 487th Squadron, which flew Mosquitoes during the war.
The airplane made its first flight in more than 60 years in New Zealand in September of last year. Earlier this year it voyaged back to North America, to its new home in Virginia Beach. — R.G.