Restoring an RAAF de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito PR Mk.XVI

The RAAF Museum Point Cook long-term restoration of a de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito PR Mk.XVI (A52-600) photo reconnaissance aircraft continues on as time and labour permits. Delivered to the RAAF in November 1944 this aircraft was one of 23 of this variant operated by the RAAF (A52-600 to 622). This is the only surviving PR Mk.XVI in the world and the only remaining RAAF Mosquito of any mark with a combat record – it flew with No. 87 (Photo Reconnaissance) Squadron out of Coomalie Creek in the Northern Territory conducting 21 photo reconnaissance missions over Japanese held Pacific theatre territory in 1945.

RAAF Mosquito A52-600 SU-A August 4th, 1945 at Moratai en route to Labuan Island
RAAF Mosquito A52-600 SU-A August 4th, 1945 at Moratai en route to Labuan Island (Photo Source: ADF-Serials.com.au via
Geoff Kingman-Sugars)

Post war A52-600 was used for mapping surveys of Australia over 11 missions until declared unserviceable by the RAAF with just 321.8 hours of total flying time on the aircraft. In 1947 the Mosquito then became a ground instructional airframe (Instructional Airframe No.4) at the Air and Ground Radio School (AGRS) in Ballarat, Victoria until put up for disposal sale in 1954.

Given the Mosquito was predominately constructed from wood, hence its nickname “Wooden Wonder“, the civilian orchardist buyer from Mildura cut its wings and rear fuselage off with a chainsaw to transport it! He intended to put the parts left to use on his property but eventually it became a playhouse for his kids before sold in 1966 to the Warbirds Aviation Museum in Mildura. Some restoration work had been completed in Mildura but it was too big a job and it had been in storage for a long time before it was sold in 1983 to a group who somewhat ambitiously for the time wanted to restore it to flight. This didn’t happen and the RAAF reacquired it via an exchange in 1987 for restoration to a museum display. A52-600 then briefly went into storage at RAAF Laverton (where I first saw it in pieces in a hangar during an air show in 1988), then it was sent to RAAF Richmond in NSW for restoration, where some progress was made before it was sent back to RAAF Point Cook in Victoria for them to complete the job.

How I remember Mosquito A52-600 looking like in 1988 at RAAF Laverton - this photo was taken by an unknown photographer at RAAF Richmond in the late 1980's (Photo Source: WarbirdsOnline.com.au)
How I remember Mosquito A52-600 looking like in 1988 at RAAF Laverton – this photo was taken by an unknown photographer at RAAF Richmond in the late 1980’s (Photo Source: WarbirdsOnline.com.au)

At the RAAF Museum Point Cook with parts missing, deteriorated and detached from the Mosquito they have had to recreate the severed rear fuselage section and rebuild the internal bulkheads. There has been a lot of repair done to the damage to the fuselage outer skin and they have had to reglue the internal skin and balsa core. Restoration work has also been done on the tailplane, fin and propellers and continues on internal fittings, instrument panels, the tailwheel and undercarriage assemblies.

Almost 20 years since I first saw Mosquito A52-600 at RAAF Laverton, work progresses but it is expected to be at least a 10 year restoration project. You can check out this project in the RAAF Museum Restoration Hangar where they have a viewing platform that overlooks the restoration workshop. It is quite interesting seeing the complex woodwork and effort that goes into restoring a Mosquito! They also have on display some parts and equipment from Mosquito A52-600.

RAAF Museum Point Cook long-term restoration of a de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito PR Mk.XVI (A52-600) photo reconnaissance aircraft (May 2017)
RAAF Museum Point Cook long-term restoration of a de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito PR Mk.XVI (A52-600) photo reconnaissance aircraft (May 2017)
The wartime PRU Blue paint scheme can be seen on the bottom of the fuselage of Mosquito A52-600 - RAAF Museum Restoration Hangar (May 2017)
The wartime PRU Blue paint scheme can be seen on the bottom of the fuselage of Mosquito A52-600 – RAAF Museum Restoration Hangar (May 2017)
Woodworking skills are essential when restoring a Mosquito! RAAF Museum Restoration Hangar (May 2017)
Woodworking and gluing skills are essential when restoring a Mosquito! RAAF Museum Restoration Hangar (May 2017)
de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito PR Mk.XVI rear fuselage example and tailplane - RAAF Museum Restoration Hangar (May 2017)
de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito PR Mk.XVI rear fuselage example and restored tailplane – RAAF Museum Restoration Hangar (May 2017)
Fuselage restoration continues on Mosquito A52-600 at the RAAF Museum Restoration Hangar (May 2017)
Fuselage restoration continues on Mosquito A52-600 at the RAAF Museum Restoration Hangar (May 2017)
RAAF Museum Point Cook F24 aircraft cameras that could be used in the Mosquito PR Mk.XVI along with a rear fuselage section, the crash axe and a wooden section of the fuselage from A52-600 which includes spruce, balsa, plywood and fabric (May 2017)
F24 aircraft cameras that could be used in the Mosquito PR Mk.XVI along with a rear fuselage section, the crash axe and a wooden section of the fuselage from A52-600 which includes spruce, balsa, plywood and fabric in the RAAF Museum Restoration Hangar (May 2017)

During my recent visit to the museum, in addition to the Mosquito, there was also the flyable CAC CA-18 Mk.23 Mustang (A68-170) within the hangar, a newly acquired Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 (A4267) airworthy replica and ongoing restoration work for static display of a de Havilland DH-60M Gypsy Moth (c/n 783 ex VH-UQV) trainer used by the RAAF. For the latter the visible items that I could see included the fuselage frame and wooden wing frames.

RAAF Museum Restoration Hangar - Work continues on a Gypsy Moth, the Mosquito (airframe and undercarriage shown), CAC Mustang and R.E.8 replica (May 2017)
RAAF Museum Restoration Hangar – Work continues on a Gypsy Moth, the Mosquito (airframe and undercarriage shown), CAC Mustang and R.E.8 replica (May 2017)

The CAC Mustang is a 1950 Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation licence-built P-51D Mustang which flew with various RAAF units in Australia throughout the 1950’s. By 1964 it was on display in Toowoomba, QLD before being transferred to the RAAF Museum where a 10 year restoration back to air worthiness was completed and it received the civil registration VH-SVU in 1995. It was engineless as the Packard Merlin engine has been sent away for overhaul in the UK. In the meantime other minor repair work is being conducted on the airframe which is painted up as a North American P-51D Mustang (A68-750) operated by No. 77 Squadron RAAF in Japan from 1945 to 1948 as part of the Commonwealth Occupation Force. The real A68-750 is today in the United States.

CAC CA-18 Mk.23 Mustang A68-170 wearing the markings of A68-750 in the Restoration Hangar at the RAAF Museum Point Cook - the Packard Merlin engine has been sent to the UK for overhaul (May 2017)
CAC CA-18 Mk.23 Mustang A68-170 wearing the markings of A68-750 in the Restoration Hangar at the RAAF Museum Point Cook – the Packard Merlin engine has been sent to the UK for overhaul (May 2017)
RAAF Museum CAC Mustang taxiing before its flying display at the RAAF Air Pageant - Point Cook in 2010
RAAF Museum CAC Mustang taxiing before its flying display at the RAAF Air Pageant – Point Cook in 2010
Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 airworthy replica and de Havilland DH-60M Gypsy Moth restoration (wooden fuselage and wing frames in the foreground) – RAAF Museum Restoration Hangar (May 2017)

The Royal Aircraft Factory RE.8 (A4267) airworthy replica was built by The Vintage Aviator in New Zealand. During World War One the Australian Flying Corps operated 135 R.E.8 two-seat reconnaissance and bomber aircraft in operational and training roles in the Middle East with No. 1 Squadron (11 aircraft) and on the Western Front of Europe with No. 3 Squadron (104 aircraft) and No.  7 (Training) Squadron in the UK (20 aircraft). I look forward to seeing the R.E.8 fly someday and also for the CAC Mustang to return to the skies!

 

References:

RAAF Museum – Mosquito Restoration

ADF Serials – Mosquito

ADF Serials – Mustang

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