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Author Topic: The Mosquito  (Read 4262 times)

goatroper

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The Mosquito
« on: April 27, 2013, 02:51:51 pm »
This is in response to RandySBreth's post on the P38 (in Automotive) -- great video, RSB.  My reason for picking this one -- aside from its obvious historical interest -- is that it's the first in the Weekend Wings series by BayouRenaissanceMan at bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com

These articles cover a range of different aircraft and flying history bits, and are well researched with many supporting links.  Worth the time to look through them.  (For the full list of articles, go to his blog and scroll down the right-hand column.)

http://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2008/01/plywood-wonder.html

Weekend Wings #1: The 'Wooden Wonder'

I'm an aviation enthusiast (amongst other things) and now and again I'd like to introduce readers to some of the aircraft that have aroused my interest over the years. Today I'd like to talk about the 'wooden wonder', the De Havilland Mosquito of World War II.

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It was a truly remarkable aircraft in its versatility. Over its operational career it served as a fighter, fighter-bomber, maritime strike aircraft, gunship (armed with a 57mm. six-pounder anti-tank gun for shipping strikes), torpedo-carrier, reconnaissance aircraft, specialist target-marking aircraft (used by 617 Squadron, the famous 'Dambusters', among others), night fighter, intruder, specialist bomber (using OBOE, one of the earliest precision-bombing electronic systems), trainer, target tug, and passenger/freight aircraft operated by BOAC on the perilous England-Sweden and England-Portugal routes during the war. (One was used to carry the fugitive Danish physicist Niels Bohr from Stockholm to London in 1943, nearly killing him through oxygen deprivation as he lay in the bomb bay.) In all there were 43 'official' versions and variants. I don't know of any other aircraft in history that performed so many and such varied tasks - all with complete success.

To the initial astonishment of friend and foe alike, the plane was made out of wood: a plywood-and-balsa composite skin on spruce frames. This aroused deep suspicion among senior Royal Air Force (RAF) officers during its development, but it proved completely successful in practice. Strenuous efforts were made by Britain and the USA to secure balsa wood supplies from Peru and Ecuador during World War II - the OSS was involved in this from its foundation. Nowadays we wouldn't think of a particular wood as a strategic material, but things were different then. Almost 8,000 Mosquitoes were built in the UK, Canada and Australia, and some were still operational with the Israeli Air Force in the 1956 Suez crisis.

The Mosquito used two Rolls-Royce Merlin engines (the same powerplant used in the Spitfire, Hurricane and P-51 Mustang fighters). It had an extraordinarily high performance for its day, exceeding 400 mph in later models, and was very difficult to catch. The Germans thought so highly of the Mosquito that they reportedly credited their pilots with two kills if they succeeded in shooting one down. Indeed, it so impressed them that they tried to develop their own 'plywood wonder', the Focke-Wulf Ta 154 (without much success). As late as 1950 the Mosquito remained the fastest bomber in the RAF.

The Mosquito roused the ire of Hermann Goering by disrupting his speech at a parade in Berlin in 1943 commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Nazi Party's rise to power. Three Mosquitoes attacked Berlin's main broadcasting station and shut it down during his speech. Afterwards he famously commented: "In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that?"

The Mosquito carried out three of the most remarkable precision strike missions of World War II: the raid on Amiens Prison in February 1944 to free Resistance members and political prisoners (known as Operation Jericho); the strike on the Gestapo records center in The Hague, Netherlands in April 1944; and the bombing of Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark, in March 1945.

There are today no Mosquitoes in flyable condition. Fortunately, there are several good videos of them, including some of the last remaining example before it was tragically destroyed. I've linked a particularly good one at the foot of this entry. YouTube hosts a number of others:

Departure from Strathallan, Scotland, of a restored example in 1984 (superb recording of the engine noise!);

Display at North Weald Airshow, 1996 (interesting commentary);

The tragic crash of the sole surviving airworthy Mosquito in 1996, killing both crew.

In 1964 a film was made, 633 Squadron (based on the novel by Frederick E. Smith, now out of print in the USA but available in the UK), showing many sequences of the Mosquito in flight. (Fortunately there were still enough Mosquitoes in flyable condition at that time to make it!) It's a good war film, now available on DVD and highly recommended for aviation buffs. Another film, Mosquito Squadron, was made in 1970 but 'recycled' many of the sequences from the earlier film and isn't as well regarded.

There you have it. An extraordinary aircraft that made a very significant contribution to victory in World War II.

VirginiaGoatroper

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    Penguin

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #1 on: April 27, 2013, 03:47:34 pm »
    I love the sound of the merlin engine. :D
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    stephendutton

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #2 on: April 27, 2013, 07:03:09 pm »
    I believe that the possibilty of mounting a smaller version of Barnes Wallace's bouncing bomb on the mosquito was investigated. This would have been for precision bombing against shipping had it been fully developed.
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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #3 on: April 27, 2013, 08:11:32 pm »
    I love how we insist on throwing away machines that are no longer needed, until the one or two that are remaining are priceless. You'd think we'd stash a bunch of each type away for posterity (like at D-M), but we generally don't do that.

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    TommyGunn

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #4 on: April 27, 2013, 11:45:51 pm »
    I love how we insist on throwing away machines that are no longer needed, until the one or two that are remaining are priceless. You'd think we'd stash a bunch of each type away for posterity (like at D-M), but we generally don't do that.

    Mike

    A week ago I watched the 1949 Gregory Peck movie 12 O'Clock High, that classic about WW2 bomber command; after the movie was over I watched the DVD specials about the production of the movie and was surprised that they had problems scrounging up enough B-17s to make the movie ...and that was only four years after WW2 ended!!
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    goatroper

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #5 on: April 28, 2013, 12:15:37 am »
    I love how we insist on throwing away machines that are no longer needed, until the one or two that are remaining are priceless. You'd think we'd stash a bunch of each type away for posterity (like at D-M), but we generally don't do that.

    Mike

    Yep.  From the article, part of the problem was the glue used for the wood parts.  Still, I could see taking down to those parts to keep the airframe running.  Funny how so much of modern tech is just a refinement of old tech, with a couple of tweaks.  Remember talking to a WWII engineer about a fuel pump for bombers back in that day (B17 I think, but many years ago, and fuzzy with age), and seeing how it was a marvel of sense over tech that made it work.










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    VirginiaGoatroper

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #6 on: April 28, 2013, 04:41:42 pm »
    I have no idea what it would cost but imagine reproducing the Mosquito using today's materials and machining techniques.  Instead of balsa wood and plywood why not graphite composites like they make bicycle frames and motorcycle fairings out of.   Imagine the Rolls Royce Merlin built to the tolerances of today's production line engines.  Imagine Slipstream STYXX as an assembly lube.  :cool  Then imagine what that airframe might carry out of today's arsenal -   :shocked  -   :panic .     

    ( And yes, there is no sound on earth quite like that raspy snarl of the Merlin at full tilt boogie.   :cool  )
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    RetroGrouch

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #7 on: April 28, 2013, 08:32:00 pm »
    I would bet that balsa wood has a higher strength to weight ratio than graphite composites, but you could reproduce a Mosquito if you had a copy of the original plans, it would just be an Experimental Aircraft per the FAA.  I agree the old Merlin engines sound cooler, but I think a turboprop would give you better performance and reliability.  But there is a lot to be said for being able to do your own engine maintenance.
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    JesseL

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #8 on: April 28, 2013, 09:38:28 pm »
    Balsa has a specific strength almost twice as good as titanium and three times steel, but graphite composites are another ~50% better than balsa and carbon fiber is almost 5 times as good.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_strength
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    GeorgeHill

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #9 on: April 28, 2013, 09:50:59 pm »
    Talking to an old RAF Vet, we talked about these planes... One of my favorites.  He said If you were to build another one now, you would have to use Carbon Fiber.  No one knows how to build the original anymore.
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    TommyGunn

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #10 on: April 28, 2013, 10:46:11 pm »
    Balsa has a specific strength almost twice as good as titanium and three times steel, but graphite composites are another ~50% better than balsa and carbon fiber is almost 5 times as good.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_strength

    Come on ---I had Balsa wood planes as a kid and could crush them with one hand -- heck, two fingers!!!   :shocked :nervous :nervous :shrug :-[ :-[

    No way is it stronger than titanium.   Next thing you know someone will tell me styrofoam makes great bullet-proof vests ...... :rotfl :facepalm
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    coelacanth

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #11 on: April 28, 2013, 10:56:16 pm »
    Yes, and you can total a Ferrari with a Swiss Army Knife.   You can almost do it with your fist.    :scrutiny     Point is, in terms of tensile strength and resistance to torque loading and deformation balsa wood is tough stuff, especially for its weight.   
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    JesseL

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #12 on: April 28, 2013, 11:53:30 pm »
    Come on ---I had Balsa wood planes as a kid and could crush them with one hand -- heck, two fingers!!!   :shocked :nervous :nervous :shrug :-[ :-[

    No way is it stronger than titanium.   Next thing you know someone will tell me styrofoam makes great bullet-proof vests ...... :rotfl :facepalm

    The strength of titanium is 1300 MPa whereas balsa is 73 MPa, but show me a model plane made from titanium that weighs the same amount as that balsa plane and I'll crush it even easier - think of a single ply of cheap aluminum foil to get the idea.

    Absolute strength and strength/weight ratios (aka specific strength) are very different things. It's important in places where weight/mass is more critical than a bit more bulk - like airplanes or connecting rods.
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    RetroGrouch

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #13 on: April 29, 2013, 04:56:47 am »
    Balsa has a specific strength almost twice as good as titanium and three times steel, but graphite composites are another ~50% better than balsa and carbon fiber is almost 5 times as good.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_strength

    Wow, that is really impressive stuff.  Carbon fiber and graphite Mosquitoes it is (unless the cost is prohibitive).  I looked into the cost of a turboprop, and piston engines are a lot less expensive to buy.
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    TommyGunn

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #14 on: April 30, 2013, 12:54:58 am »
    The strength of titanium is 1300 MPa whereas balsa is 73 MPa, but show me a model plane made from titanium that weighs the same amount as that balsa plane and I'll crush it even easier - think of a single ply of cheap aluminum foil to get the idea.

    Absolute strength and strength/weight ratios (aka specific strength) are very different things. It's important in places where weight/mass is more critical than a bit more bulk - like airplanes or connecting rods.

    I knew there was some "trick" involved.   ;)  Thanks for the explanation.
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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #15 on: May 02, 2013, 12:17:26 pm »
    Next thing you know someone will tell me styrofoam makes great bullet-proof vests ...... :rotfl :facepalm
    They use Styrofoam is car and truck bumpers and inside crash helmets.
     :coffee
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    RetroGrouch

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #16 on: May 02, 2013, 05:30:55 pm »
    I wonder what thickness of styrofoam will stop a bullet....
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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #17 on: May 03, 2013, 01:37:30 am »
    Ah crap .  .  .   :facepalm .  .  .  here comes the .25 ACP thread again.    :doh
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    TommyGunn

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    Re: The Mosquito
    « Reply #18 on: May 03, 2013, 02:12:13 pm »
    They use Styrofoam is car and truck bumpers and inside crash helmets.
     :coffee

    So....there ARE bullet - proof vests made of styrofoam?
    I actually knew about car bumpers -- my Saturn SL2 has styro under the bumper.  I stopped tailgating semis when I discovered that. :shocked :facepalm :panic :panic :rotfl :rotfl
    "Through ignorance of what is good and what is bad, the life of men is greatly perplexed." ~~ Cicero.

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