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The 'Spring Has Sprung', Hurricane Engine and Mosquito Report

Let's talk hours and donuts for a minute. How many of each have we invested in the restoration of our two birds? In the first quarter of this year there were 13 Saturdays at a dozen Tim's each, for a total of 156 of their finest fat pills. (Thank you Jack). In the same period, we put in 1831.25 volunteer hours: 148 on admin and organization, 127 on the Hurricane and 1556.25 on the Mosquito.

Those numbers, both for volunteer hours and for donuts, are very consistent. If we look back to when we started these projects in August 2012, board members have put in 8831 hours on admin and organization. We have invested 4496 hours on the Hurricane and 54,308 hours on the Mosquito, for a total of 67,635 volunteer hours.

On the donut side of the ledger, averaging 50 Saturdays worked per year, times 12 is 600 per year. We've been at it for 12.5 years, so that adds up to 7500 donuts -so fat far. I hope you've been doing your share here. But what is the distance covered? At 3.5" diameter each, laid side by side, it would be 26,250 inches, or 2187 feet of donuts. For the metrically minded, that is .667 kilometers. Of course this does not take into consideration Michael's licorice and biscuits, Catherine's brownies, Alan's homemade treats, broccoli, pineapple and other assorted goodies that volunteers bring in on Saturdays, thank you very much! Read on to find out what we do with all of these calories.


This year -hopefully. This quarter has seen a tremendous amount of activity on the Merlin engine test stand, mostly thanks to the efforts of Jack M., Dick S., Davy D. and Andy W. Big thanks also to Gary T. for turning (literally) big chunks of metal into much smaller chunks of metal so that we could hook up the large diameter coolant hoses from the engine to the radiator.

Shortly after New Years we spent a few hours mounting the engine on its new ground running test stand. After that came the newly purchased fuel tank, radiator and all of the lines for coolant, fuel and oil; both to and from the tanks and engine. Jack spent some very challenging Sunday hours at the Hangar Flight Museum removing instruments from the Hurricane so that we could mount them on the test stand to monitor temperatures, pressures and speeds. Next came the pedestal, on which are mounted the instruments and the oil and fuel tanks.

When you start with a much larger chunk of aluminium and need to make an adaptor for an engine to hose fitting, you end up with a whole ‘kitchen catcher’ full of very sharp shavings. Thank you Gary.

With Jack M. at the wheel, Dick S. and Andy W. position the Hurricane’s Merlin on the wooden base which will serve as our test stand to ground run the engine before dropping it back in the airframe.

The propeller continues to be a source of discouragement and despair. We had a call from Western Propeller advising us that the prop blades we got from the Hangar Museum likely could not be used. After shortening the blades the next step in the process was to balance them. This is done by adding weights to a threaded stud that sits at the end of the hollow space (barrel) at the base of the blades. Somewhere in time and space, the studs had been hammered over to the point of being unusable. Western sent us some photos and some suggestions on how to solve the problem. After some discussion on our end we suggested a quick static balance then Western suggested that rather than use the normal method of adding weights to balance the blades that they could try shaving material from the barrel of the blades. Failing that, they said that for unspecified quantities of time and money, they had old Hamilton Standard blades that would fit the hub and spider we provided. This part of the process ain't going quick, easy or cheap.

Davey D., peeking around from behind the engine. If you look to the rear of the engine, you can see the wooden pedestal with the fuel tank on top, the oil tank down below, and up front, below the prop shaft, the radiator. Unlike almost every other Merlin install in history, the Hurricane’s coolant overflow tank is on the upper rear of the engine, as opposed to the iconic ‘horse collar’ tank above the prop shaft. Photo by Dick Snider.


We completed a couple of trades and acquisitions of note in this quarter. When board member Andy W. was out in Ontario last year, he stopped in to visit the Mosquito project at the Canadian Aviation Museum in Windsor and spotted some cockpit switch covers in their 'surplus' cabinet. We completed the trade by sending them 15 Merlin spark plugs for some beautiful, new-old-stock (NOS) covers - a good deal on both ends of the bargain.

Once again Facebook has proven to a valuable source of 'you just never know' Mosquito parts. We spotted a couple of photos of a set of 12 exhaust stubs and contacted Mike Niewiadomski who accepted our offer, and in the magical ways of airplane restoration,

Swappin’ and tradin’ are often the name of the game in the old airplane biz. These are the push button switch covers for the starter and boost coils acquired from the Mosquito group in Windsor. Thx to their project lead Richard Fox for approving the trade from their end.

Mike had a trip from Ontario to Calgary a couple of weeks later and delivered them at no extra charge. Between the exhausts stubs donated to us by Bob Jens of Vancouver, and now these, we have a complete set for both engines.

Jack McWilliam

As we roll through the first quarter of 2024, its pretty much business as usual in that most of our projects are sizeable and simply continue on from the latter half of 2023.

Our project to replace the top skin on the Mosquito wing began in earnest in December 2022, so we've been at it for coming on a year and a half now. Though I wouldn't say there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel, there is at least a sliver of dawn visible. Gary T. continues to lead the work with 'de-skinning' the wing one panel at the time with a router, usually on a weekday so as not to drive the rest of the crew crazy with blizzards of noisy sawdust. On Saturdays, Gary cuts and shaves new skins, working from the ends of the wing inward toward the center section. The most recent skins require lots of additional work as he has to build around the fuel transfer plumbing which infringes on the wing's top and inner skins. Gary continues to be aided in his wing skin work by Alan W. and Colette P. who 'de-paint' and then repaint the stringers and inner skin surfaces below the uppermost wing skin.

As we near the engine mount and radiator sections of the wing we will have to deal with some significant damage due to coolant, fuel and oil absorption in the structure of the wood in these areas. These will slow the skin replacement process.

In one photo you can see the many phases of wing skin replacement and some of the challenges we face now and in the near future. Near the lower center of the photo you can see the fuel filler and channel for wing fuel tank pipes. To the lower right side, the original skin is darkened by fuel and coolant stains where they have soaked into the wood.

Michael H. continues his work on the underside of the wing aided by Nigel C. now that the latter has returned from his travels to exotic locales. The work there is about replacing all the hardware, fixtures and fittings that were removed, cleaned, bead blasted, repainted and are now ready for reinstallation. This includes metal rib braces, fuel tank slings, engine, firewall and undercarriage attachment hardware, as well as wing to fuselage gear and castings. We also rely heavily on Don H.'s contribution in getting many of these parts powder coated through the week in Calgary. An additional challenge is to find new hardware where and when the original has been corroded over time, peened beyond reuse, or where it was simply lost in the mists of time and numerous half hearted restoration attempts.

The shelf unit is filled with metal bits that were removed from the underside of the wing. They were then cleaned, bead blasted, cleaned again and then painted, ready for reinstallation. (If only we could remember where they all went… Kidding).

Andy W. continues his work in the cockpit area and is often challenged by the fact that Spartan Mosquitos were built in Britain and were individually modified with American and Canadian instruments, switches and assorted parts, with very few of these modifications being recorded back in the day.

Don H. faces many of the same challenges in the rear fuselage where Spartan not only installed the sizeable Wild camera and all of its fixings, but had to accommodate a third crew member with seating, a work table, oxygen, an intercom system, light, spare film magazines and tools. All of these were Spartan modifications, which again were generally not recorded and varied from aircraft to aircraft. As the weather continues to improve we will retrieve from storage, the side panels that fit under the wing, bridging the gap from front to rear fuselage so that Don's work with hydraulic, electric and pneumatic lines can begin to connect with Andy's lines in the cockpit.

Standing in the wing cut out area, I can look forward to see the progress Andy is making in the cockpit and then turn 180 degrees to see Don's handiwork in the rear fuselage. Once we have the lower panels out of storage, all of these lines can meet and be connected in the middle.

Davy D., Colette P. and Alan W. have finished dismantling and stripping the second engine firewall of all of its bits, pieces and major grunge. The firewall has now left the building with Don H., destined for Plastic-Blast Ltd. for a good bead blast cleaning. Having done one already, we hold hope that this side might be move a little quicker than did the last, but the cynic in me suggests that the jury is still out. Also in the firewall department, I need to order seal material and we are hoping the three inch wide strips will work.

Brian C. should be ready to finish the flap transmitter repair by simply shortening the newly installed stud. After that, all the little bits can get nailed and sewn back together to make one big bit that works as advertised.

Jaime G. continues with his 3D puzzle project, namely one side of the main undercarriage. While he waits for the return of newly cleaned and plated hardware, we are using parts from the opposite gear. We are also compiling a list of missing parts and working to source them. As we have also discovered, some of the specialized undercarriage bolts are obscenely tight and with no hydraulic press down in Nanton we have successfully relied on a rivet gun for bit of 'friendly' percussive persuasion.

Brian C. under close supervision by Jack M. and Wayne T. as he does some machining on the flap position indicator. Sad to note that Wayne T. has returned to his native Saskatchewan after having been with us from the start of the project in 2012.

Relative newcomer Markus S. and relative 'oldcomer' Cam B. are holding down the fort in the never ending task of cleaning and spray painting a stream of fiddly bits for both the Mosquito as well as additional parts for the Bomber Command Museum's Lancaster engine mount.

Above, Cam B. applies his skills, learned from his hobby as a modeller, to the airbrushing of a seemingly endless stream of fiddly bits from the Mosquito and lately from the Lancaster's spare Merlin engine bearers. Below, the second firewall gets some attention from new volunteer Markus S., Davey D., and Andy W.

Our son/father team from Lethbridge, Zack and Joe M., along with the elusive Chris D., are nearly finished with the Lancaster engine bearer build up for the Bomber Command Museum's spare Merlin. Young Zack showed some great initiative and persistence by digging into some vintage maintenance manuals and IPCs (Illustrated Parts Catalogues) which he used to solve the riddle of a 'what the heck is it and where does it belong?' when he succeeded in identifying said bit as a Lancaster Merlin flame switch.

Our Lethbridge father and son team, Joe and Zac M., attending to wing filling and sanding and to the Lancaster engine bearer.

Mosquito Society Secretary Robyn M. is becoming a much more regular Saturday contributor as she begins to wind down her working career with a .7 full time commitment to her job, allowing her to join us and get some Mosquito dirt, oil, grunge and 'don't ask' under her fingernails.

Events and Miscellaneous

As we are legally required to do, we conducted our Annual General Meeting on March 13 over the Zoom platform. We had 29 folks in attendance and we reported on our financial situation, re-elected all existing board members, reported on membership numbers, restoration progress, etc. It was a drama free event with no serious casualties, which culminated in a PowerPoint presentation illustrating our events, activities and progress over the past year.

When Legion Magazine editor Stephen J. Thorne gathered material for a piece about our work on the Mosquito, he told us that it would only appear online and would not make their print edition. He was wrong. A shortened version of the article appeared in the March/April printed edition of the magazine, which resulted in our 'Professor' Andy getting pestered by numerous autograph requests. Thanks to Mr. Thorne and Legion for the exposure.

The cover and first page of the story about our restoration work on the Mosquito which appears in the March/April edition of Legion Magazine. Some great national exposure.

Speaking of things in print, we were approached by Canada's aviation history guru, author, publisher and Aviation Hall of Fame inductee, Larry Milberry about contributing up to 1500 words and three photos to his RCAF 100th Anniversary book. As Larry nears the end of a tremendous run in the business, this will be his magnum opus and we are very pleased to be a part of it as he invited us to highlight the work in Canada to honour and restore aircraft that are superstars in the history of Canada's Royal Canadian Air Force. Look for Larry's new book in early July this year. Our thanks to Larry for the invitation to be a part of it.

Larry Milberry’s seminal work from forty years ago, on the history of the RCAF, soon to be eclipsed by his latest work for the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force. There are likely few households in Canada with an aviation fan that doesn’t have a copy of this book on their shelves and we will likely all be on the lookout for its replacement, with a small contribution by the Calgary Mosquito Society.

Back in 2014 when we were producing our video series, we made contact with Spartan Mosquito pilot Vern Schille, whom we featured in a couple of our short films. In them, Vern makes very clear his love for the Mosquito and that it was his favourite of all the aircraft types he flew in his over 40,000 hour career as a pilot in the RCAF and afterward. When I spoke at the Canadian Warplane Heritage in Hamilton last October, I was thrilled that Vern made the trip to sit in while I told the story of 'Calgary's Mosquito' and our efforts to prevent its sale and export, and our subsequent work to restore it as it served with Spartan. Vern also clarified for us the fact that it was rot and damage in the upper rear fuselage that grounded our Mosquito. As a result of our chat and Vern's gratitude for our efforts, he sent us his original Pilot's Logbook detailing all his flights on Spartan Mosquitos. The log entry of greatest interest to us is for the second last ever flight of our airplane, CF-HMS on July 7, 1960. Wow.

The fifth line down, dated July 7, details the second last flight of our Mosquito made by Vern Schille.

Note that he flew solo for a local flight and some circuits and as detailed on the adjacent page, the flight lasted 1 hour and 30 minutes.

At this time, Vern had approximately 350 hours on Mosquitos with Spartan.

CF-HMS completed just one more flight before it was permanently grounded because of damage and rot in the upper rear fuselage.

Richard de Boer, President

Richard de Boer, President

April 9, 2024

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Website - Calgary Mosquito Aircraft Society