APRES is proud to be associated with The People's Mosquito and is equally proud to feature a brief history of their project. It is written by them and reproduced here.
The People’s Mosquito Ltd. – a monument to the people of Great Britain
As recently announced by John Lilley, Chairman and Managing Director, The People’s Mosquito is in detailed discussions to bring a significant proportion of our Mosquito restoration back to the UK. The decision follows the culmination of months of effort behind the scenes in reviewing and analysing more than 22,300 De Havilland technical drawings, donated in late 2016 by Airbus UK, and with the full approval of BAE.
Following our decision to digitise the drawings for posterity, Ross Sharp, TPM’s Director of Engineering and Airframe Compliance, has been systemically cataloguing this treasure trove of Mosquito-related data throughout 2017, unearthing the hidden engineering details behind this iconic aircraft’s success.
Up until now, the restoration project would have seen The People’s Mosquito built entirely in New Zealand, under the proven expertise of Mosquito Restorations, Aerowood and Ardmore-based warbird restoration specialists, Avspecs. Following the issue of an Export Certificate of Airworthiness by the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand, the complete aircraft would have been exported to the UK. This model was not only considered the quickest and ‘easiest’ route to deliver an airworthy Mosquito, it was the only route. Warbird restorers in New Zealand had built up an extensive, but incomplete library of De Havilland Mosquito drawings, which has enabled the teams to successfully deliver two airworthy Mosquitoes for North American customers. These aircraft operate under a Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Experimental airworthiness certification, which limits those aircraft to essentially air display only.
Under the revised plan, The People’s Mosquito still intends to work with New Zealand-based suppliers in delivering the wooden structural components, including fuselage and wings. However, all forgings, control surfaces, undercarriage, key aircraft systems, as well as engines will be delivered, installed and tested in the UK
“The wealth of technical data we have unearthed over the past few months, coupled with an extensive network of specialist aerospace companies in the UK, means we now have the technical specifications and capability to complete the assembly of RL249, here in the UK,” explains John Lilley, Managing Director.
The Mosquito was a superb example of British innovation and engineering. In 1940, when aeronautical designers and manufacturers were focused on metal monocoque designs, Sir Geoffrey De Havilland bucked the trend and delivered a composite airframe that was without equal for many years in terms of performance. The ‘Mossie’ as it became affectionately known, ultimately helped to change the way we build aircraft today.
Supporters will benefit from an accessible project
The decision also reflects many conversations with supporters and members of the public who frequently voiced their ultimate desire to see a Mosquito FB.VI built in the UK. “We were always mindful of that desire to see the aircraft built here, in its spiritual home, but we needed to ensure we had the necessary technical knowledge and OEM specifications to be able to achieve that goal,” adds John. “It’s clear now, we have everything we need. Discussions are underway with UK-based suppliers to make that dream a reality.”
John continues: “We hope to provide further updates on UK partners in the coming weeks.”
Media interest in the project has been considerable, including interest from several documentary makers. The decision to bring the build back to the UK is therefore seen as an enabler for providing TPM’s supporters with unprecedented access to the restoration, as well as providing young people with extensive opportunities for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
John continues: “It’s an incredibly exciting time for the project as we progress commercial negotiations with our UK suppliers, but we continue to prioritise fundraising activities as we seek to secure our fuselage through suppliers in New Zealand.
“Once complete, the completed, doped fuselage will be brought to the UK ready for the next phase. Our New Zealand partners will then pick up work already started on the wing and tail section following fabrication of wing ribs in 2016.
“We have a considerable amount of work to deliver in 2018 and continue to seek partners and Mosquito enthusiasts willing to support fundraising efforts. Subject to funding, we believe we can have an airworthy Mosquito FB.VI gracing UK skies inside four years.”
The tragic loss of pilot, Kevin Moorhouse, and his engineer, Steve Watson, in the crash of the much-loved RR299, the BAE-owned Mosquito, was shocking to many. The T.III had been a staple on the British airshow scene for many years, and at the time of the fatal crash at Barton Air Show on the 21st July, 1996 was the only one of its type left in flying condition in the world.
Pioneering work by Glynn Powell and others in New Zealand gave rise to the miraculous flight of KAII4, a Canadian-built Mosquito FB.26, after a painstaking restoration. On 27th September 2012, KA114 went ‘wheels up’ at Ardmore, New Zealand, and it suddenly became possible for British aviation enthusiasts to dream about having a de Havilland Mosquito back in U.K. skies once more.
John Lilley, with a background in aircraft restoration, quickly gathered a group of like-minded people, and set up a communications net on the web which stretched from China to the U.S.A. The upshot of this was first the formation of a Limited Company, registered in England & Wales (No. 8145785), and then a Registered Charity (No. 1165903).
The project was given a significant boost when Wing Commander Bill Ramsey, former OC The Red Arrows, BBMF Lancaster and Dakota pilot, Tutor Display Pilot and the very last Captain of Avro Vulcan XH558, with an RAF career stretching to 41 years, joined as Director Operations. Bill immediately made contact with former Mosquito pilots, including Flt Lt George Stewart, DFC, RCAF, to ensure that TPM had access to a broad body of knowledge regarding flying the Mosquito. Bill’s arrival was supplemented by the recruitment of respected Mosquito authority Ross Sharp (formerly of the Society of British Aerospace Companies, British Aviation Preservation Council, Science Museum Wroughton, RAF Finningley Airshow, Leicestershire Museum Service, etc) who joined the Board as Director, Engineering.
Restoration or replica?
The People’s Mosquito, as it became, acquired what is known in technical terms as ‘the mortal remains’ of RL249, a post-War, Mosquito NF.36 that had crashed on take-off at RAF Coltishall on 14th February, 1949. Close consultations with the Safety Regulation Group of the CAA (now SARG) led to the formulation of an engineering plan, which was approved; a Liaison Engineer from the SRG was appointed.
Following discussions within TPM, and consultations with supporters, it was decided to restore the aircraft not as an NF.36, but – by popular demand – an example of that ‘dashing all-rounder’ of the Mosquito world, the FB.VI. Following that collective decision, a highly-appropriate Registration Mark on the British Register was reserved through the CAA – G-FBVI.
Contact was made with the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand, who had undertaken the inspection and release to flight of KA114 and other Mosquitoes, and TPM appointed Aerowood of New Zealand to act as our prime contractor. Aerowood had been involved in construction of wooden components, including the wings, for the previous DH.98 projects, and continues to act as a link between TPM and other New Zealand companies.
Aerowood has already completed the mid-ribs for the wing, and some other wooden components, and are just waiting on the raising of funds by TPM to start on the fuselage halves.
Quotations for some of the larger components, such as two Rolls-Royce Merlins, propeller hubs and blades are also to hand, and TPM and Aerowood are certain that RL249 will be completed to the highest possible standards, to give a long service life.
A passion for aviation heritage
TPM is determined that this aircraft will not be built, or operated, for the benefit of wealthy individuals, but rather to become seen by as many of the general public as possible – a true ‘people’s aircraft’. After all, it was the genius and the work of many skilled hands, including cabinet makers and workers in the furniture trades, which made the Mosquito possible.
TPM’s motto, ‘To Fly – To Educate – To Remember’ is taken very seriously, and the personal stories of many veterans, people who worked on the ‘Mossie’ and those who built her, along with their families, have been collected. It is the Charity’s intent to form a permanent exhibition, centered on RL249, and also to undertake an outreach programme with a strong educational element. Already, Board members have fanned out across the U.K. speaking to aviation groups and societies about the Mosquito and TPM’s work. Indeed, talks by Wg Cdr Ramsey, and other Board members, may be booked by contacting mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
It goes without saying that the Board receives not a single penny in either salary or consultation fees. Indeed, it is an accepted fact that every single Board member (and, in some cases, members of their own family) have actually incurred monetary losses due to their work on this project. This is being done, genuinely, for the benefit of others.
The People’s Mosquito Club
Due to rising public interest, it was decided to found a TPM Club, with Members receiving various benefits, including an exclusive quarterly online Journal called ‘Mossie Bites’, full of historical articles on the Mosquito, reviews of museums, airshows and other interesting data. This has been a major success, with TPM Club Members joining from as far afield as Canada, the USA, Holland and New Zealand. Every single surviving Mosquito aircrew member is automatically made an Honorary Life Member of the Club, and Mrs Sandra Pickford, the Club Secretary, would be happy to learn of their contact details via TPM’s website http://www.peoplesmosquito.org.uk/
TPM has worked hard over recent years to share the Mosquito story and our project to ‘the people’, by attending many airshows in the U.K. This allowed people to buy branded goods, and speak directly to those manning the stand, which usually included one or more Directors. We simply welcome your questions! This outreach has become so popular that TPM now has two branded gazebos, and in 2017 they were able to service two widely spread airshow venues on the same day! Alternatively, for really large events such as RIAT or Duxford, the two units can be combined into one.
A priceless legacy
The project received a major boost recently, when the Chairman, John Lilley, rescued more than 22,000 aperture cards, containing original de Havilland drawings of the Mosquito. These were about to be thrown in a skip, as the building they were in was due for demolition!
The resultant media explosion ensured that TPM received coverage as far away as the USA and Hungary, as well as many enquiries from U.K. media outlets. The images were digitized, to prevent further deterioration, and the long, hard process of classification and examination of these drawings has begun. Already many startling, unknown facts about the Mosquito have been revealed, and it is safe to say that these drawings have altered the status of the project.