It was 80 years ago this week that one of the UK’s most famous warplanes made its maiden flight – but the prototype Mosquito had to do without the celebrations that marked the historic event.
Instead, the W4050 aircraft had the company of just two other mosquitoes in the de Havilland Aircraft Museum’s exhibition hangar at Salisbury Hall in London Colney, just steps from where the legendary multi-purpose Mossy was designed and built in 1940.
“The first flight was on November 25, 1940 and it was very disappointing that due to the coronavirus lockdown we couldn’t celebrate the event at the museum as we did for its 75th anniversary,” said Mike Nevin, the museum’s marketing director.
W4050 makes its maiden flight from Hatfield Airfield (BAe)
If the museum is allowed to reopen after the lock has been lifted, visitors can again see the world’s largest collection of multipurpose mosquitoes and even a special “cockpit experience” of one of the trios, the B.Mk35 bomber version, which shares the same hangar as the FBVI fighter-bomber variant Has.
W4050 is the only surviving twin-piston engine prototype of a WWII warplane that has been preserved around the world. It was one of four versions, built entirely in special, long-disappeared hangars that were built on the site of the museum entrance and Aeroshop.
It was dismantled and taken by road to the de Havilland Aircraft Company’s headquarters and airfield in Hatfield on November 3, 1940, just over a year after the company relocated its design team from its Hatfield base to the remote Tudor mansion of Salisbury Hall .
W4050 – five days left since final controls will be on November 19, 1940 (BAe)
Once assembled, it made its first flight at 3:45 p.m. on Friday, November 25th.
At the controls was Geoffrey de Havilland Jr., a son of the company’s founder Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, who was among the spectators.
There was never a fight to be seen, instead participating in nearly three years of various development attempts during which it reached a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet and, with ever more powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, Mücke achieved the highest speed ever of 439mph.
W4050 with camouflaged tops to replace the all-yellow finish (BAe)
“The prototype made a truly remarkable contribution to the development of a wonderful aircraft, and it is all the more remarkable that it survived and is now visible to all,” said Nevin.
When the museum reopens, visitors must continue to adhere to coronavirus rules for wearing face masks, maintaining social distance, and using the disinfectant sprays around the museum as almost a number of historic de Havilland civil and military aircraft are on display and restored are made by the museum’s volunteers.
W4050 in its permanent home in the museum (DHAM)
“We will be posting news of the reopening on the museum’s website and we look forward to welcoming many more visitors,” said Nevin.
The museum is signposted at Junction 22 of the M25 and the B556 and is fully accessible. There is free parking.
For full information and advance reservations, please visit the museum’s website at www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk. There you can also watch a new series of virtual tours of the museum and its planes.