When Jerry Yagen replied to our recent query seeking interesting aircraft refurbs, he said he was working on a light twin restoration and would we be interested? Sure. Shortly, a handful of photos came pixeling into the inbox of a de Havilland DH98 Mosquito. Light twin indeed.
Yagen's reason for restoring the Mosquito are straightforward enough. "I did it because I wanted to fly a Mosquito and that's the only way I could fly one," he told us in an interview this week. In addition to being the only flying exampleor certainly of a very fewthe Mosquito will find a home in Yagen's Military Aviation Museum on a private airport in Virginia Beach, Virginia. When we asked Yagen how many airplanes reside there, his answer was equally blunt. "Oh, I have no idea. I never counted them. But it's a lot."
The Mosquito project started more than eight years and $4 million ago after Yagen located a restorable hull in western Canada. But restorable may be a generous description.
"The secret to restoring and making that airplane fly was two things: One, finding a project that had all the metal parts on it. We decided early on that finding the wooden parts was a waste of time. They used animal glues and none of those wings or fuselages are airworthy today. Second, there's a guy in New Zealand, his name is Glyn Powell, he had been building a mold for the fuselage for almost 10 years. He had built one fuselage, a static example for a museum in Canada. He just didn't have a lot of money."
Money Yagen had, so he contracted with Powell and another restoration company called AvSpec to restore the airplane from the ground up. Powell had already constructed the fuselage molds for the static display and could basically build a factory-new version using the same glue-lam process that de Havilland developed to produce the airplane for the Royal Air Force during World War II. Although it's a widely known aircraft, compared to the Spitfire and Hurricane, for example, fewer Mosquitoes were built. In addition to de Havilland's construction, the airplane was also license-built in Canada and Australia.
For Yagen's project, molds based on the original drawings were used to lay up and glue birch and balsa laminations, while the wings are wood and metal fabrications. Yagen says he got lucky on the engines.
"I found them in Australia, in a car garage," he says. "They were a pair of Mosquito engines on the mounts with all of the accessories." The engines were shipped to California and rebuilt by Vintage V-12s. They swing Hamilton-Standard props.
As is obvious from the photos, the panel is as close to original military specs as Yagen could make it. "Some of the instruments we found in the project airplane we bought in Canada. But then I did some trading with the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. We got a new nose turret for ours. All of the old instruments were overhauled and they function," he told us. The 1940's-vintage radios are just faceplates; there's a modern navcomm and GPS mounted out of sight by the pilot's left knee.
"The principles of this restoration are the same as with any airplane, except in our case, we were going back in time. Getting modern radios is no problem, but getting radios and avionics from the 1940s, that was a much more difficult thing," says Yagen.
If you want to see the Mosquito fly, that will be happening sometime this spring at Yagen's museum in Virginia Beach. Most of the airplanes in his collection are kept in license, says Yegan, and two flying events are held every year, one in the spring and one in the fall, with World War II planes in May and World War I aircraft in October. For more, see MilitaryAviationMuseum.org.