Flight Lt. Bill Ramsey on flying The People’s Mosquito
©2012 Nick Horrox for the People’s Mosquito
Flt Lt Bill Ramsey is responsible for Technical Project Research and Development of The People’s Mosquito Project — the audacious venture by a cadre of of accomplished professionals to build a de Havilland Mosquito. But he is more than a section chief, he is one of the United Kingdom’s most accomplished pilots. His credits are extensive and include: flying the Avro Lancaster as well as the Douglas Dakota with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) and the Avro Vulcan XH558, a pilot with the RAF Red Arrows flight demonstration team and flying his Grob G 115 Tutor in aerial display at airshows with its sensational roundel on its ventral side.
One wonders what a pilot’s thoughts are about the new Mosquito, especially one with his experience and keen wit?
We are in luck, he has been generous with his time and answered a few questions!
Hello again, and thanks for offering to answer a few questions regarding the The People’s Mosquito Project.
There are no training or instructor Mosquito aircraft, if there ever were, so what do you have in mind as a plan for preparing to take this one aloft?
Actually there were a number of dual-control variants of the Mossie including the highly successful T Mk III (supplied to everyone from the Israelis to the Turks!), the Australian T Mk 43, and the Canadian produced T Mk 22, 27 & 29. We at The People’s Mosquito are working hard to understand the handling characteristics of the aircraft – in particular its vices which include a pretty poor asymmetric performance after an engine failure. We must minimize risk to the crew and people on the ground. I believe the first flights will be made by a test pilot to validate our work to the satisfaction of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Will you make use of another aircraft to simulate flying a Mossie, per chance?
That would be great, although anyone lucky enough to fly the Mossie will have a proven track record of course. I have flown an Argentinian built Pucara which in many ways replicates Mossie-like performance in the air but we’d need to borrow a tail-dragger to fully prepare people for the difficult ground handling of such aircraft. In the UK a DC3 might be the most easily available, representative machine.
Have you or will you be able to talk with other Mossie pilots? If so, what do they say about flying a Mossie?
We’re trying to establish contact with one of the last pilots of RR299, and gain access to valuable notes and advice. We have gleaned some useful information already from various sources. I haven’t yet talked face-to-face with a Mossie pilot, but if wartime Lanc pilots are anything to go by they will say it was the finest aircraft ever built!
[Editors note: RR299 was a Mosquito T3 flown at airshows until 21 July 1996 when the aircraft and crew of two were lost in a crash — since then there has not been a flying Mosquito]
What about the engines — is there anything special about Merlins to take care to either do or not to do?
Make sure the carburettors are in good order and that all throttle movements are as smooth as can be. They will be single-stage supercharged engines, therefore optimized for flight below 10,000 ft (also, there will be no oxygen system, due to flight restrictions).
Which portion of the flight envelope do you foresee utilizing?
I think the CAA [Civil Aviation Authority, UK] will insist that we have the same limits as RR299. Not above 250 kts and above 8,500 ft. (Higher speeds during a display sequence?). In short we will stay well within the aircraft’s original performance envelope. Fast enough to provide a spectacle and keep above the critical handling regime if an engine fails but slow enough to avoid undue airframe fatigue.
Given your knowledge and experience, what would be your most personal preferential location to fly The People’s Mosquito?
Not quite sure of the question. But if you mean basing, that is an emotive question. The heart would say a famous wartime/heritage field – for instance Duxford or North Weald. Indeed there are sound engineering reasons to do so as well. From a pilot’s perspective, I’d like somewhere with 2 long wide runways positioned at right angles to each other to minimize loss of flights due to crosswind. Logistically, somewhere central to most display venues to minimize transits. I’m sure we’ll find a compromise! If you mean favorite display venue, I suppose we’d have to start with Farnborough.
Will additional flight crew be required when flying this aircraft? And during airshows?
It was a 2 man crew – pilot and navigator (WSO). We’re checking to see if there is a physical reason to carry the nav anymore as I suspect UK CAA rules may well require minimum crew for a display. Thank goodness for GPS!
The People’s Mosquito is envisioned to fly with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) and seeing her flying in formation with their aircraft will certainly be extraordinary. You also fly the Avro Vulcan XH558 (though not part of the BBMF), any thoughts regarding the airmanship challenge flying the Vulcan in such a formation?
That’s a good question. The BBMF big aircraft only fly at very slow speeds usually – around 120-140 knots as I recall. The Vulcan threshold speed for landing even at light weights is 130 kts so there is very little room for error there! The fighters do fly a little faster at a speed compatible with the Vulcan – although we’re all much slower than in years gone by – so no big issues there. Generally, in my view, easier for the Vulcan to lead and the chicks to follow – the view out of a Vulcan isn’t great. As ever, the real key to success is preparation and careful briefing.
It is an understatement to say you are an accomplished pilot — you have flown dozens of aircraft types, instructed, and are retired from the RAF after 34 years of service. Please, for a moment, suspend reality (of course airspeed, energy and landings cannot be forgotten as well as the historical contribution of the de Havilland Mosquito) and let me ask, “What would be your thoughts when you are advancing the throttles for The People’s Mosquito first test flight?”
Well, as I said it won’t be me – it’s sure to be a test pilot. If I am lucky enough to fly it I suppose it would most equate to my first Harrier solo take-off. At that time I just thought – “If I don’t do this right now, I’m just going home and never coming back.” I suspect a first Mossie take-off might feel like that. The second thought would be “Wonder how I’m going to land this!!”
Many, many thanks Bill — we wish you good luck with The People’s Mosquito Project and can hardly wait to see her fly 🙂
©2012 Nick Horrox for the People’s Mosquito