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Big Challenges: Bigger Wins!

We've faced some steep hills on this journey that have threatened the security of the airplanes and the functionality and authenticity of the restorations. With a lot of persistence and the support of some great people, we've overcome the latest challenges. Read on for juicy details!


Lots on the go since our last report. We had a call from the founder of Vintage V-12s, Mike Nixon and with his help, our overhaul kit finally arrived. Thanks to restoration boss Jack M. and a pilot with TC Energy for expediting delivery via their Houston, TX office. Sure helps to have friends.

As we mentioned in our last report, Dick S. designed and built some clamping boards to help secure the coolant transfer tubes. They worked like a charm, so that tedious job is behind us. Next it was rings on pistons and now begins the reassembly process.

Bags of precious Hurricane engine overhaul goodies courtesy of Vintage V-12s. We managed to get by with just o-rings and piston rings.

Dick S. and Jerry M. going to town clamping down the newly o-ringed coolant transfer tubes into the Merlin 29 head and by the looks of it, having too much fun doing it.

We are also giving serious consideration to using our Merlin engine stand as the base for a running test stand so that we can get the engine started and iron out any bugs before dropping it back into the Hurricane. However we go, it will be the spring of next year before we can get the engine assembled, tested, installed and the airplane outside for a run.


It's been a very busy and very productive quarter on the Mosquito. Before we hand it over to Jack for a restoration update, here are some of the other things that have been happening. Lots of hard work and good fortune have combined to produce some great results.

We got word from the Windsor Mosquito Bomber Group this summer that they had completed their ailerons using ours as patterns and that they would be returning them to us, along with the newly manufactured rudder pedals as payment for borrowing our ailerons. Reg Kirby from the Windsor group borrowed a trailer to make the trek westward.

From the "Nice to see you again!" department, we have our ailerons back. Davey, Michael, Jack and Dick all pitch in to unload the trailer driven out by Reg Kirby of the Windsor Mosquito Bomber Group.

With this deal complete, they also asked if they could make a similar arrangement with one of our undercarriage nacelles and a pair of gear doors. Our board agreed so when Reg arrived, we offloaded the ailerons and loaded a nacelle and gear doors.

Lending Windsor our ailerons earned us a shiny new set of rudder pedals. Michael and Jerry unpack as Reg and his son look on. Not only are they gorgeous, but the good folks at Windsor put together a whole binder of info on their production with drawings, purchase orders, invoices, bill of materials, etc. Very professional. (Care to guess what it costs to carve a new set of Mossie rudder pedals?)

Early in this quarter we spotted a post on Facebook by a fellow in Trenton, ON asking if anyone could confirm the identity of a fuel panel and junction box as being from a Mosquito. We did some research and board member and cockpit specialist Andy W. concluded that they were very likely from a Spartan Mosquito because of some unique mods to the panel. We don't have a fuel panel and junction box. We offered to trade to acquire them, but the owner was not interested.

The following weekend we discussed the situation with Bomber Command Museum curator Karl Kjarsgaard who knew the panel owner and suggested that he might be interested in a B-25 propeller that Karl had recently acquired. Mr. Panel owner was indeed interested! Before making the deal, we asked for more photos of the panel and having spotted an obscure little number in one photo Andy W. confirmed that it was a perfect match for a PR.35 Mosquito! We paid Karl for the prop and the panel owner accepted the propeller in exchange for it. It also just so happened that we had a mostly empty trailer headed back to southern Ontario courtesy of Reg Kirby and the Windsor Mossie group. Perfect! We disassembled the prop and loaded it in the trailer. Woo and hoo!

Our Saturday crew takes a B-25 prop apart so that we can ship it to Ontario and get the fuel panel and junction box in exchange. We paid Karl for the prop and our friends from Windsor hauled it east for us. Don't you love it when a plan comes together?

Quick shout out to KF Aero for cleaning up and painting the fuel line that they borrowed from us so that they could fly their newly acquired Mossie from Vancouver to Kelowna. We now have an excellent working relationship with D'Arcy Barker, Chief Engineer, Heritage Maintenance at KF.

A year ago we called the North American representative for the JAF Group, based in Austria to put in an order for the plywood needed for the wing restoration. We discovered that their NA rep was no longer on the job. We called their head office and got a voice mail in German. Turns out they were on a Covid shutdown. When we did eventually talk to the new North American rep, the news was distressing. He told us that JAF could not supply the needed wood as the raw lumber was sourced in Russia and with the invasion of Ukraine, nothing was crossing the border. We began the hunt for alternate sources of British Standard 6V3 birch plywood. One of the ironies of the situation is that most of the wood used to build Mosquitoes during the war came out of Canada, but we don't make birch ply anymore. In fact most growers and harvesters in B.C. consider it to be nuisance tree and actively work to weed them out. Our hunt began.

Board member Don H. had a friend of a friend who was a 'star' wood specialist working in Austria. She started generating leads for us and in a bit of synchronistic good fortune, returned to Canada for a visit and dropped in to see our project. Beyond that we talked to a mill in Finland that produces a large percentage of the world's supply of aircraft grade plywood.

To build the Mosquito, de Havilland used B.S. 6V3 birch plywood. Depending where it was used on the airplane, it was anywhere from 1.5 mm thick up to 6 mm. But regardless of how thick the finished sheet of plywood, they were all just 3 ply, meaning that the plies were custom cut for thickness. As well, some sheets had the grain on the outside sheets running lengthwise, some run crosswise and some run at 45 degrees. The structural use of wood is a tricky and exacting business, and this is where we ran into problems with the mills in Finland, in Estonia and in the USA.

The European mills do not make sheets larger than 1.5 meters square. We need 1.5 by 3 meter sheets. They don't do 3 ply as all of their veneers are cut to a standard thickness of 0.5 mm. That means that a 6 mm thick sheet of plywood is 12 layers. Not what we want or need. As well, they don't do 45 degree grain. Aircraft Spruce in the USA has some 45 degree grain sheets, but not in the right thicknesses for us. And they too use 0.5 mm veneers. Heavy sigh.

We talked to dozens of vendors, mills and virtually every other group in the world actively restoring Mosquitoes looking for 6V3 plywood. Compromising authenticity was starting to look like a necessary evil.

We want to take a moment to acknowledge Gary Chanin of W.G. Chanin Hardwoods in Edmonton. When the story came out in the Calgary Herald about our challenges, we had over a dozen people contact us, half of whom said the same thing: Talk to Gary Chanin. He is THE wood guy in this part of the world. We called him and they were more than right. Gary couldn't have been more helpful in working to solve our problem. He had a variety of aircraft grade plywood, but lacking 6V3, he did all he possibly could to get us the next best options. Then he offered to sell it to us virtually at his cost and to personally deliver it to us from Edmonton. Five stars for this man.

The breakthrough came when we posted the Calgary Herald story on our Facebook page. Warren Denholm of Avspecs in New Zealand spotted the story and gave us a call. Avspecs is the company that took the newly manufactured Mosquito airframes and turned the bare shells into new flying airplanes. Without getting into all the gory details, Warren came through and our 13 sheets of BS 6V3 plywood were delivered last week. Yahoo.

Indulging the tree hugger in me. Our skid of 13 sheets of B.S. 6V3 birch plywood on the day it arrived at the museum. It was a year in the making and we came very close to giving up and compromising, but thanks to a lot of legwork, drum beating and helpful friends we finally got what we need. Thank you Warren Denholm of Avspecs.

Before moving on to Jack's report, a quick word about some of our volunteers. Our culture and philosophy is to welcome anyone with an interest to participate in our project. With this, we attract some pretty interesting folk, some of whom have little or no experience or even knowledge about the Mosquito. But they see us hard at work and having a good time and they want to be a part of it. Temporary Nanton resident Catherine D. was one of them. Last year she visited the museum, read every bit of text in the place on two consecutive Saturdays and eventually became a very dedicated paint chipper as well as our favourite baker. High school student Kane living in Claresholm had his grandmother drive him up each Saturday so that he could help, learn and to feel like he was with a group that accepted him. Most recently we had a bright and cheeky young fellow by the name of Thomas G. come down for Saturdays through the summer, courtesy of his mother Natasha's willingness to drive him and her recognition of how important it was for him to be a part of our project. It serves to remind us that while we are restoring airplanes, we are also doing so much more that means so much to a lot of people. And in addition to being a part of our community, they can claim, for the rest of their lives, that they helped to restore a Mosquito.

Above, young and enthusiastic volunteer Thomas G. stops to lend some moral support to Colette. Below, Catherine D., nose to the grindstone, or fuel bay in this case, putting in a very good Saturday’s worth of wing cleaning. Just some of the cool people we attract.

Jack McWilliam

We invested a lot of time in the third quarter getting ready for winter. After crawling through our storage trailer looking for parts in -40 degrees last winter, I am working to ensure everything required for the project over the frigid months are in, or on the way into our work area.

Fresh out of storage, and optimally positioned to annoy our hosts, (as some of them would like to believe), we pulled numerous crates out to start planning projects for the winter.

The Windsor Mosquito Bomber Group requested a couple more items to use for reverse engineering. Of course they were well buried at the front of the trailer. What they wanted was an undercarriage nacelle and a set of gear doors.

Prepping an undercarriage nacelle which we are loaning to the Mosquito Bomber Group in Windsor, along with a pair of gear doors which they will reverse engineer for their airplane.

Thankfully we were working to dig out a main landing gear and engine firewall for ourselves and had to move the nacelle to get at them. In the summer, the trailer gets stiflingly hot, so we work in short shifts and take turns moving parts and crates. Rather than try to extricate the firewall crate from under other larger crates, we managed to just pull the lid and hand bomb the firewall out of it.

The firewall and undercarriage crews at work on their new projects. Below, Davey D., Gene F. and Matthew S. Right are Colette P., Davey, D., Robyn M. and Alan W.

The plan moving forward is to start work on the landing gear and firewall as we are running short of wood projects at the moment. The gear has been on the hangar floor for a few weeks now, undergoing basic cleaning and some disassembly. The local car wash has been put to good use in the cause.

Steve S. is working to design a fixture which will hold one complete main undercarriage assembly. If all goes as planned, we will be able to swing the gear once the fixture is complete.

Colette P. and Alan W. have switched from wing paint scraping to cleaning the firewall and main undercarriage leg. A lot of the crew have been busy preparing the gear for dismantling by pulling split pins and figuring out how to undo hammered over bolt ends.

With our dedicated wing cleaning crew having moved on to the undercarriage, Michael H., with help from Nigel C., holds down the fort on wing cleaning with an orbital sander to remove the very last of some stubborn paint on the front spar.

Gary T., ever the optimist, is getting ready for the upper wing skin plywood arrival by starting to remove a section of the upper right skin. Gary is also dealing with a broken rib at the end of the starboard wing. Within the tip, some of the structure is damaged around the flux valve attach point.

Gary T. with some top skin removed to get at a damaged wing rib.

Dick S. continues his work on the flap skins. Anticipating their completion, we have made a crate and created storage space until the completed flaps are ready for installation on the wings.

With some renewed inspiration, Gary and Dick will take another run at producing a set of wing tip light lenses. Their last efforts were good, but not great, and with the offer of a larger oven from their friends at SAIT, they will give it another try.

The horizontal stab gives us some grief as its size makes it difficult to crate or properly protect, so for now it will remain mounted on the strongback and stashed beside the fuselage.

Andy W. and Don H. continue their reinstallation work in the cockpit as well as inside the tail end of the fuselage, sorting tubes for the different systems and painting components for the windows of the camera operator.

Don H. and Andy W. at work on components for the fuselage interior. Lots and lots of little challenges from sourcing copper braided wire, to British fittings, to odd diameter tubing.

Mathew and Andrew S. have some of the oil tank components cleaned and ready for paint. Andrew stripped all the remaining hardware and electrical components from the end of the starboard wing and Matthew helped to secure the main undercarriage to a floor stand. The attach brackets are stripped down by Davey D. I haven't yet decided on the type of coating to use on them.

Jack works with Andrew S. to remove the last of the wiring, cables, hardware and fittings from the end of the starboard wing to facilitate structural repairs in the area.

Richard continues documenting the Vancouver parts, with our friends in Vancouver still looking for parts and tooling for us.

It looks like after our quiet summer the pace is picking up as we head into autumn and winter with lots of new projects on the go.

Events and Miscellaneous

The summer months were busy with the usual raft of event days at the Bomber Command Museum. Event days always mean lots of visitor traffic for us, which usually means less restoration work and more 'Honour and Educate' work as we share the story and restoration progress on the Mosquito.

On July 23 the fields north of the museum were filled with collector cars and as usual there were Lanc and Hercules engine runs enhanced by great sunny summer weather.

The biggest event day of the year was a celebration of 429 Squadron, with a book launch, presentations and highlighted by a flyover of a C-17 from that squadron.

A great showing of wheels and wings proving again that lots of car people are airplane people, and vise versa.

Highlighting the museum’s biggest event day of the season was this flyby of an RCAF 429 Squadron CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft.

The annual Halifax Celebration Day was September 17, with a Lancaster night run the evening prior to. On September 30 there was another night run along with a presentation by author and historian Ted Barris. The next day he gave us an overview of his latest book on the Battle of the Atlantic, with more smoke and noise from our favourite aircraft engines

An always impressive sight is to see the Lancaster doing an engine run in the dark, its natural environment.

Bomber Command Museum curator Karl Kjarsgaard gives Ted Barris the chance to address the crowd prior to deafening everyone with the running of the Bristol Hercules engine.

In August we were featured in a story by long time supporter and CAHS National Membership Secretary John Chalmers. John wrote a story detailing several restoration projects on the go in Alberta and he highlighted our project and the challenges we were having with plywood supplies. Thank you John.

Part of John Chalmers story for the Canadian Aviation Historical Society about the restoration of the Mosquito and some of the challenges locating plywood for the wing.

Our Russia/Ukraine/plywood issue also caught the attention of CTV Calgary News and made the air, thanks to Kevin Fleming, on July 21. Local Aircraft Restoration Impacted By Russian Invasion of Ukraine

To close off I will sneak in a bit of 'humble brag' having received Alberta Culture's 2022 Outstanding Achievement Award for "Exemplary contribution to the preservation and presentation of Alberta's Heritage." Big thanks to Jodi Ofstie Smith, President of the Harvard Historical Aviation Society out of Penhold, AB for the nomination.

Doing a quick 'grip and grin' with Alberta Minister of Culture Ron Orr upon receiving the 2022 Alberta Heritage Award for Outstanding Achievement.

Richard de Boer, President

Richard de Boer, President

Oct 14, 2022

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