"Heads Up at Flight Level 370." An Aviation Blog Image.

Owen Zupp - Monday, February 06, 2012

The view through the 'Head-Up Guidance System' (HGS) of the Boeing 737-800.

                                     Image by Steve Ruttley.

     Check back here for the upcoming 'Blog Post' on Head Up Displays.

The Wooden Wonder. An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Monday, February 06, 2012

Hi All, here's something a little different today.....

 

The De Havilland aircraft company had a fine tradition of civilian training and touring aircraft prior to the outbreak of World War Two. From Humming Birds and Hornet Moths to Dragons and Albatross, the British company produced a vast range of machines. At the upper end of the speed spectrum was the twin-engined monoplane, the DH88 Comet. Manufactured from wood, the Comet blew away the competition in the 1934 MacRobertson Air Race from the UK to Australia, though just as significantly, it planted the seed for a revolutionary military aeroplane. The DH 98 Mosquito.

The Mosquito was originally conceived as a high speed unarmed bomber. In 1940 with Great Britain facing its darkest hour and a shortage of resources, it needed aircraft and it needed them quickly. Though the Air Ministry had some reservations about the unarmed aspect of the design, it could not argue with de Havilland’s expertise in wooden aircraft production techniques. Additionally, the fact that its construction called for minimal amounts of treasured metal resources offered up a viable alternative.

After a series of changes in the aircraft’s perceived role, the original order was modified to a requirement for 20 bombers and 30 fighters. The prototype initially built in a hangar disguised as a barn at the home of de Havilland, Hatfield. It narrowly missed being destroyed during a successful Luftwaffe bombing raid on Hatfield that did spell the end of a number of materials and over twenty people. However, the Mosquito survived and undertook its maiden test flight in November of 1940 at the hands of Geoffrey de Havilland’s son of the same name. During the subsequent trials the Mosquito’s speed established it as the fastest combat aircraft on either side of the conflict; a title it held for the next two years.

Into the Fray.

The Mosquito’s first operational sorties were in the role of Photo Reconnaissance (PR) in August 1941, a task it was ideally suited to with its high speed. Early in 1942, the aircraft began to see service as fighters and bombers. The Mosquito had far exceeded the original specifications and through minor modifications was able to carry 500 pound bombs in place of the originally planned 250 pounders. The first bombing raid was a daylight strike on Cologne after a “1000 bomber” raid had taken place the previous evening.

The versatility of the Mosquito became apparent and aside from being a fighter, bomber and photo recon aircraft, it successfully served as successful night-fighter and even participated in the “Hunter/Killer’ pairing of Turbinlite operations. The Mosquito was also extensively used in the precision-navigation role of ‘Pathfinder’ where it would fly in advance of the main bomber force to mark the target with incendiary ordinance. BOAC (the forerunner to British Airways) even used civilian registered Mosquitoes during the war to run the gauntlet between Britain and neutral Sweden on a regular air service. There seemed very little that the Mosquito could not do.

Special Roles

In its time, the Mosquito was called upon to fill some rather niche roles that have gone down in folklore. Two of these were 618 Squadron’s use of the bouncing bomb ‘Highball’ and the breaching of prison walls in ‘Operation Jericho’.

While much has been written of Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bomb and the Dambusters raid on the Ruhr Dams, there was an alternate deployment of the bouncing bomb planned for use by the Mosquito. This version of the bomb was known as ‘Highball’ and while the Dambusters used a cylindrical style bomb, ‘Highball’ was far more spherical.  Also conducted under a great veil of secrecy, 618 Squadron was tasked with using the bomb in an anti-shipping role with its number one priority the sinking of the German battleship the Tirpitz. Unfortunately, despite all of the effort and training, 618 Squadron never had a shot at the Tirpitz and eventually the squadron was deployed elsewhere.

A task for the Mosquito that did see notable fruition was ‘Operation Jericho’. Conceived in 1943, this mission involved an attack on the Amiens Prison in France which was holding amongst others, numerous members of the French Resistance who were scheduled to be executed. The daring low level attack took place on the 18th February 1944 and included squadrons from the RAF, RAAF and RNZAF. Its plan was to destroy the prison walls to facilitate the escape of the inmates, with an alternate plan of destroying the prison outright should this fail. It did not, and while there was loss of life, hundreds of prisoners were able to escape.

The Numbers

To quote specifications for the Mosquito is akin to comparing racehorses; there are so many types and so many variables.

In essence, the Mosquito was a twin-engined combat aircraft of primarily wooden construction. It was operated by two crew, including the pilot, and whether the second crewman was a navigator, bomb aimer or radar operator was dependent upon its designated role.

Powered by two Rolls Royce Merlin engines, it could carry nearly two tonnes of bombs deep into the heart of Germany. As a fighter it could carry 4 × 20 mm Hispano cannons in the fuselage and 4 × 7.7 mm (.303) Browning machine guns in the nose. Some photo reconnaissance versions had a service ceiling of 40,000 feet and a number of marques had a top speed in excess of 400 mph.

Ultimately, nearly 8,000 Mosquitoes were built and of these around 6,700 were delivered in wartime. As an aircraft it was not purely versatile, it was truly prolific as well.

The End.

As with all types, a number of Mosquitoes met ignominious ends on scrap heaps at the end of the war. However, several models survived and the Mosquito production line remained open until 1950. They saw service with air forces around the world and saw action with the Israeli Air Force during the Suez Crisis. A less adventurous tasking involved duty as target tugs while others took to the seas as a carrier-borne variant sporting folding wings.

To the very end, the Mosquito continued to fill roles that no other aircraft could. The model continued onto the Mk. 43 which was a trainer with the RAAF, but there were so many variants and marques before the final propeller stopped.

I had the pleasure to be interviewing a ‘Battle of Britain’ veteran who in 1942 received a new posting to a Mosquito squadron with some trepidation. He had heard very little of the new type other than the fact it was wooden and therefore seemingly a backward step in fighter technology.

He went on to fly the Mosquito more than any other aircraft and commanded a Mosquito squadron post war. He never lost his affection for the ‘Mossie’ he grew to love and sixty years later still had a twinkle in his eye when remembering de Havilland’s “Wooden Wonder”.

The Five Most Popular Aviation Blogs. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, February 05, 2012

 

Hi All,

As the numbers continue to soar on this blog and a new group of readers join us, I thought it would be worthwhile to re-visit five of the most popular aviation blogs thus far. Here they are.

1. Golden Days.

2. So You Want to be a Pilot?

3. The Fatal Stall.

4. A Glimpse of the 'Red Tails'.

5. The Big Bang Theory.......of aircraft engines.

For those of you new to this aviation blog, welcome aboard! And for those that are continuing to come back, thanks for your support and please enjoy the growing list of original content.

Cheers

Owen

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