de Havilland Aircraft Museum
Eighty years ago today, one of Britain’s most famous warplanes made its maiden flight from Hatfield.
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The Mosquito Prototype W4050 as a final inspection is carried out on November 19, 1940. Image: BAe.
The prototype Mosquito, however, had to forego major celebrations for its 80th anniversary.
Instead, the W4050 aircraft had the company of just two other mosquitos in the exhibition hangar of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall in London Colney, just steps from where the legendary multi-purpose Mossie was designed and built in 1940.
“It made its first flight 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.
If the Aviation Museum is allowed to reopen after the lockdown has been lifted, visitors can again see the largest collection of mosquitoes in the world.
W4050 makes its maiden flight from Hatfield Airfield. Image: BAe
You can even book a special “cockpit experience” in one of the trios, the B.Mk35 bomber version, which has the same hangar as the FB Mk.VI fighter-bomber variant.
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 that were built completely covertly in long-gone hangars that were built at 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 .
The de Havilland Mosquito Prototype W4050 with camouflaged tops replaces the all-yellow finish. Image: BAe
After assembly, the De Havilland DH.98 Mosquito Prototype – then numbered E0234 – made its first flight on November 25, 1940 at 3:45 p.m.
At the controls was Geoffrey de Havilland Jnr, a son of the company’s founder, Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, who was among the observers.
There was never a fight to be seen. Instead, it took part in nearly three years of various development attempts during which it reached a maximum altitude of 40,000 feet and, with increasingly powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, reached a top mosquito speed of 439 mph.
“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 Hertfordshire Museum reopens, visitors must continue to obey coronavirus rules on wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing, and using the sanitizing sprays on the premises as they see and do almost a variety of historic civil and military aircraft from de Havilland exhibit restored by volunteers.
“We’ll be posting news of the reopening on the museum’s website and we look forward to welcoming many more visitors,” said Nevin.
The de Havilland Aircraft Museum is signposted at Junction 22 of the M25 and the B556 and is fully accessible. There is free parking.
Full information and pre-reservations can be found on the museum’s website at www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk. New virtual tours of the museum and its aircraft can also be viewed there.
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