Articles

Mosquito Construction


During the Battle of Britain, de
Havilland in the United Kingdom considered Canada as a possible
emergency transfer area to bring its production of aircraft away
from German bombing. So the de Havilland plant in
Downsview, Toronto, was already considered for
Mosquito productions. When the contract came to de
Havilland Canada in September, 1941, Canada was ready, and then the production began. Behind us is a de Havilland
Mosquito, a B.35, later converted to a PR.35. This is our beauty stripped down
to its absolute bare skin here. This is where you see the birch
and the spruce ply in here and over top of this, the entire
airplane would have been fabric covered as well. Then that would have been doped
and painted to give it the final finish. Basically, it’s made like a
plastic model. A plastic model kit that we’re
accustomed with now as children building them. It’s made in the same way; two halves coming out of a mould
and sticking them together. One of the things that was true
about Mosquito production is that it was, in large measure, a
cottage industry. Small businesses all over
England and then later in Canada as we started up production, were building components for the
Mosquito and then all of the components were brought together
for final assembly. In those days, there were many
people in England who were used to working with wood. You had the pool of craftsmen
and you had this material that wasn’t getting used. The other neat thing that you
can see while our airplane is in this condition, is the fact that
the entire fuselage is not much over half an inch thick. The key types of wood that
comprised the Mosquito were balsa, birch wood and spruce. Now birch and spruce are grown
in North America. A great deal of the wood that
went into the production of British Mosquitos came from the
west coast of Canada. Balsa wood, of course, is
tropical wood, mostly from Central and South America, the
lightest wood in the world, and it was basically used as spacers
sandwiched between the plies of the wood. The fuselage production is,
perhaps, one of the most interesting parts. They had great big moulds that
they would lay the sheets of plywood down and they would
strap them with great big metal straps. Then they were so light that it
took only two people to lift half a Mosquito fuselage off the
mould. Then they would put the two
halves side by side and people would install the electrical
lines, the hydraulic lines, the instruments and all of the
equipment in each half of the fuselage. Before they were stuck together,
it was actually the female workforce that went along and
wired and plumbed the inside of the fuselages. Then the two halves were brought
together and so you had a single, complete tube. Once the fuselage halves are
glued together, a guy comes along with a handsaw and cuts
this huge hole out of the center of the
Mosquito. The wing was slid underneath it. They dropped them on a moving
platform. The payload was in the wing. The propulsion systems,
obviously, they’re the load-bearing items. Basically the fuselage just
points the wing in the right direction. The wings are built as a
one-piece wing. In total, it’s got a 54 foot
wingspan, made as a single piece. The wing is very complex. I mean if you get into the
structure of it, the woods are laminated in different
directions to compensate for the torque of the engines. It was cutting edge in its time. This airplane was one of the
first composite ones to come down the pipe. The other thing about this
airplane for the engineers here, is that it’s a monocoque
construction, which means there’s very little internal
structure to the airplane. The strength of the airplane is
in the skin, in the outer shell, just in the same way it is with
an egg. In total, there were 7,781
Mosquitos built, 1134 of which were built in Canada during
World War II and about 200 were built in
Australia. Canada had one airplane to work
from as a model. They sent one over from England,
parked it in the factory and said make us a
bunch of those. The first Canadian Mosquito flew
on September 24th 1942. Only 12 months after the
contract began. This was something nobody
foresaw and nobody thought it would be possible but
Canadian industrialists had met the challenge of the Second
World War and had answered the call with flying
colors. When the war ended, Canada had
the sixth largest aircraft production in the world, 16,418
aircraft of various models had been produced in just a short
span of five years in this
country. You have to remember
that in the previous ten years, before the beginning of
World War II, Canada had built less than 500
aircraft.

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