When metal was in short supply, the de Havilland Mosquito prevailed without it.

What happened to all the military aircraft that helped secure an Allied victory in World War II? Thousands of fighters, bombers, and transports ended up in scrapyards, but some aircraft found second careers as civilians. Such is the case for the National Air and Space Museum’s de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito.

Given the serial number TH 998 by Britain’s Royal Air Force, the Museum’s Mosquito was manufactured as a bomber late in the war at a factory in Hatfield, England. The Air Ministry took charge of the aircraft about a week before the Japanese formally surrendered on September 2, 1945.

Though TH 998 never saw a day of combat, some 7,000 Mosquitoes—known affectionately as “Mossies” and “Wooden Wonders”—had already logged numerous hours. In addition to bombers and fighters, Mosquitoes also flew photo-reconnaissance missions. In fact, the DH.98 came in 44 variants.

Versatility aside, the Mosquito’s aesthetics are  quintessentially British. Its harmonious lines, curves, and proportions give the twin-engine taildragger the elegance of a tailored suit from Savile Row. Save for some metal framing in the Museum’s Mossie, almost the entire aircraft is made of wood—the fuselage halves formed by crisscrossing layers of thin birch veneer over a mold.

After the war ended, TH 998 went into storage. Seven years later, it emerged as a target-towing aircraft for a civilian contractor. For the next 10 years, TH 998 towed aerial gunnery targets for the British Army and the Royal Navy.

Upon retirement, TH 998 was destined to be scrapped. But its life was saved when, in 1962,  the aircraft was chosen as an artifact for the Smithsonian Institution.

Related Topics Aircraft Technology and Engineering World War II
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