Interview with the Project Lead of The People’s Mosquito — the project to build a flight worthy De Havilland Mosquito to the public
John Lilley is the Project Lead of The People’s Mosquito and has helped immeasurably to form a capable group of experts to guide the project to completion — to build a flying restoration of a de Havilland Mosquito. John is enthusiastic and eloquent also speaking (and writing) using the King’s English. He easily agreed to be interviewed — his responses to the queries are written in italics.
John, The People’s Mosquito (TPM) project’s admiral objective is to fill a niche sorely empty in the UK. It seems a shame there is not a flying Mosquito in the UK since the Mossie was designed, built and flew so many wartime missions from bases there during World War II. One would seem to be especially welcomed when joined with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Placing the flight ready TPM into the public trust would make TPM unique among the flying Mosquitos. The Weeks Mossie is privately owned, though he has an outstanding reputation for maintaining his aircraft in authentic shape — the fact remains that with his passing the Weeks Mossie could well become unavailable to the public. The same may also be said for the other Mossies as they are or will be controlled by a Board of Directors responsible to their respective museums with their unique financial pressures. Like Weeks, the museums are to be lauded but they are not obligated to the general public. Is there more to say on that?
Yes I agree a DH.98 Mosquito is missing from the BBMF hangers. I believe it is no secret the BBMF do have a desire to operate the type. The aircraft is very much revered and loved by crews, ground staff and the public. If the circumstances & politics are not going to work out in that direction our project has a desire to operate the restored aircraft.
Please describe to special nature of having the number plate with regard to the UK’s equivalent to the FAA, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
In regards to registering the aircraft it will be on the G-reg as this will be an aircraft based in the UK. As some of your followers & readers will know the CAA restoration regulations under a strict code called BCAR is much more stringent than the FAA ‘Experimental’ classification.
But this brings for the project an increase in due diligence, methodology, testing and ensuring the restoration is done as close to the OEM [original equipment manufacture] design as possible. Yes we will use modern epoxy resins and this is in itself what the CAA call a ‘mod’ or modification. But in this case the modern glues are much stronger, last longer and do not delaminate or ‘soften’ like the old ‘casein’ glues of WW2. So we get a safer aeroplane from this approach. Yes it is more money to restore under these rules but then we believe when asking for public funding this ensures great value for money and a quality re-build.
We have met the CAA now on a few occasions and we have demonstrated competency in this area and built good working relationships. This helps to create a working environment of working in partnership, so any issues or problems are resolved quickly and keep safety as our number one concern!
Due to the fact this is a ‘wooden’ aeroplane the CAA were open to tell us there is much data on metal fatigue versus flying time etc. but very little for wood! There are a number of wooden historics but not to this size and power! So we are doing a complete fuselage, tail plane and wing re-build. After all, most wood is pretty rotten after many years sitting around.
How is the art and artist coming along?
In terms of ‘art’ then we have a partnership with renowned aviation artist Simon Atack (see our website www.peoplesmosquito.org.uk) and we highlighted his ‘Wings of The Storm’ Mosquito release this year. I have a limited edition copy I will be selling or auctioning for TPM. Then, when the timing is right and we know our aircraft identity, I hope to commission an original painting.
Quite right about Simon’s work as it is evocative and accurate — the quality and originality of his work cannot be overstated and TPM scored a coup obtaining his support. His work is worth an interview in its own right which will soon be published but, in the mean time, readers can go to www.simonatack.com to view his many works — especially On the Wings of the Storm where Mosquitoes are being flown low and fast over a wave swept craggy coast.
Search for major sponsors?
In terms of the search for major sponsors we have identified a number of people and organisations to approach. Some have a direct connection with the aircraft and others are aviation enthusiasts. In addition to this we will also make a UK National Lottery Heritage application and I am looking to bring a new member on board for this.
How about the molds and people skilled in their use?
The moulds and skill base is there! The skill level and quality has been demonstrated on Jerry Yagen’s KA114 FB.26. But to add more confidence to any donators or sponsors it is good to see Paul Allen has contracted the same people in New Zealand to restore his T.III Mosquito. I am in regular contact with the team in New Zealand on the ‘wood’ bits and I am very confident on their ability, communication, quality and value for money.
Engines – Merlins seem to abound, is that the case?
Merlins – lovely, beautiful Merlins! You know Eisenhower named a few icons of WW2 for helping win the war e.g. the Willys Jeep. I believe the Merlin should also be held that highly!! In terms of Merlin type then the 25 series powered the FB.VI version and, yes, obtaining 2 of these is possible. If we however go with our NF.36 (which is a post war variant night fighter) then these have the rare 113/114A series Merlin. Not just rare as only produced in the 100’s rather than 1,000’s but also spares are scarce.
The engine type though will be settled by our current ‘Permit To Fly’ rules set by the CAA. Which is operations below 10,000ft (no oxygen then) on VFR rules. So we will not need a 2 speed, 2 stage supercharged Merlin to propel us at 440mph at 36,000ft! Sadly
How many other parts will have to be manufactured – tires, wheels, frames?
As I may have mentioned the aircraft, due to CAA regulations, will be largely re-built. Depending on obtaining airworthy other parts & fittings from the WW2 era I will update you as the project develops.
Has the CAA mandated modern features?
Yes due to modern rules on such things as radios, IFF transponders for homeland style security (following 911) and also our wish for a good GPS system then we will fit these features (very neat & discreet is the design brief). Also I mentioned the glue, but we will look at improving the under carriage retraction times under the heading ‘drag is bad’ especially if one engine goes bang! The wartime notes say for a 45 second retraction (very slow) and we may add a second hydraulic pump to improve on this. Again a ‘mod’ but we discussed this as an improved safety feature with the CAA and again following our ‘paperwork’ submission the CAA will review and advise. But they acknowledged our intention. Just one example of how we are looking to ensure safety of the aircrew & the aircraft’s longevity. But externally to the great aircraft loving public she will look the same!
Originally, one of the TPM thoughts was to build the antitank/antishipping variant with a medium bore cannon (6 pounder/57mm) — but the decision has been finalized now to be a fighter. Was that based upon the serial number?
The serial number is actually a NF.36 or night-fighter version; but see previous answer on the identity.
Where might TPM be built?
The aircraft will be built in New Zealand, shipped to the UK for re-assembly and flight testing for the C of A and Permit to Fly.
You make a good point about restoring museum Mosquitoes. The general public often say / ask why don’t you get one out of a museum or indeed buy Kermit’s [Weeks] etc. Let’s put out a few facts on the construction & design of the Mosquito. First of all it’s wood! Yes I know a shock it’s wood; but what is the condition of that timber being sat in either a dry hanger or out in the tropical lands of Florida, or the very damp UK for 30, 40, 50 and 60+ years? The wood needs to retain some moisture content to flex and be strong. Too dry and she is a match-stick waiting to snap! Too wet and literally she is rotten and weak also. Secondly, the glue! The casein glue was the best at the time and not designed for 60-70 years of holding everything together. Testing may prove me wrong but until you test I remain doubtful. Third, the de Havillands were amazed on the strength of their design and were very surprised on the condition of war weary 100+ operations flown by their Mosquito’s. But this was never part of the design brief. With the early WW2 attrition rates she was not designed or expected to last that long!
More of Simon W. Atack’s aviation works can be seen here. More examples of his art are:
Nakajima G8N Renzan (連山 Mountain Range / Allied reporting name “Rita”) — WW II Japan’s heavy bomber
When thinking of heavy bombers of World War II one naturally thinks of Allied aircraft powered with four engines — especially Great Britain and the United States. The Imperial Japanese Navy attempted to get into this class of weaponry with the Nakajima design G8N Renzan (連山 Mountain Range / Allied reporting name “Rita”). The Renzan was an impressive aircraft and entered service a short time after design-start. First flying in January 1945 it was too late in the war to provide a difference and produced in too few numbers with lass than a handful completed (four). Each of the four engines was a 1990 hp (1485kW) Nakajima NK9 Homare (誉, Honor) twin row 18-cylinder radial — which were unusually cooled by fans. The Renzan has tricycle landing gear and a high aspect ration mid-mounted wing. Defensive armament was impressive with powered turrets in the nose (2 x 13.2mm MG), tail (2 x 20mm), dorsal (2 x 20mm) and ventral (2 x 20mm) positions augmented by waist positions (2 x 13.2mm MG each). Maximum range was 4500 miles/7250km with a maximum speed of 358 mph/576km/h for the “Rita” which would carry a crew of ten with a maximum bomb load of 8818 pounds/4000kg. The additional reality was the engines would often produce much less power due to material shortages as well as field conditions and the aircraft used more strategic materials than Japan could afford in what would be the last desperate year for the Land of the Rising Sun. There is no mistaking, however, that the Renzan was an advanced heavy bomber by standards of the day and the cannon heavy defensive armament would give any intercepting fighter pause. One example was captured after the war, the others had been destroyed in bombing raids, but it was scrapped after testing, sadly.
Armstrong Whitworth Argosy
A design of the late 1920s at the direction of Imperial Airways the Argosy was built to be powered by three engines for greater reliability — beginning a trend built upon by Fokker, Ford and Stinson. Flying from 1926 through 1935 the Argosies flew European circuits as well as routes connecting Europe to the Middle and Near East for Imperial Airways — carrying as many as 20 passengers as far as 405 miles (652km) in an enclosed cabin, though the pilots were exposed in an open cockpit in an upper flight deck. Argosies were en evolutionary step in luxury passenger travel as well as reliable air mail service (a service more secure than many land routes).
YP-24 — Lockheed’s first fighter aircraft
The U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) desired a modern replacement of the Berliner-Joyce P-16 and the Detroit Aircraft Corp. (DAC) joined with Lockheed Aircraft to produce the YP-24 in 1930 — the chief designer was Robert Woods of DAC. The aircraft looked much like the biplane P-16 but was a monoplane and with retractable landing gear — which was the Lockheed firms main contribution, essentially the wing of the Lockheed Altair (an evolution of the Lockheed Sirius which was made famous by Charles and Anne Lindbergh in their exploration flights for Pan Am Airways). DAC designed the modern-at-the-time metal fuselage. The following years found both companies in bankruptcy, as fallout from the Great Depression, though Lockheed was reformed less than a week after dissolution. The manufacturing name for the sole prototype then became Lockheed, with the YP-24 becoming their first fighter aircraft to fly. The aircraft was later redesignated Y1P-24 by the USAAC — and, to further complicate its story, the design was taken over by the Consolidated which placed it back under Robert Woods as the Y1A-11. Neither of the design iterations were placed into production but these were advanced designs for the day, nonetheless, though none survive today.
Japan’s jet to intercept B-29s — Nakajima Kikka (中島 橘花 Orange Blossom
Nakajima’s Kikka 中島 橘花 (Orange Blossom) came at the very end of World War II and was obviously based upon the Messeschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe (Sparrow) — the world’s first operational jet fighter. The Kikka did not see operational service and differed from the Me 262 in these significant ways:
- It was downsized with non-swept wings and a straight horizontal stabilizer
- The fuselage has a circular cross-section for easier construction instead if the Me 262′s semi lifting body triangular cross-section
- Part of the Kikka was in common with the Mitsubishi “Zero” and Yokosuka Ginga
The Kikka’s speed in excess of 400mph (700km/h) and twin 30mm cannon would have made them formidable against B-29 Superfortresses and their escorting fighters. Fortunately an example exists and is housed at the National Air & Space Museum storage facility (see photo, below) awaiting restoration. The photo below was taken at the Garber facility but has since been moved to the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the National Air & Space Museum Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center (the F-105 in the foreground has been on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center for several years now).