Mosquito TT.35, TA719, ‘AirSpace’, IWM Duxford – the film star that inspired a movement!


 Sometimes, in the middle of the TV/film awards season, during the ‘Golden Globes’ or the ‘Oscars’, as the female film stars move down the red carpet to a volley of camera flashes, you can hear the speculation, ‘Wow! What a colourful outfit! ‘Has she had any work done, do you think?’ Well, here is one film star who is decked out to dazzle, AND she’s had LOTS of work done under that skin! The story of TA719, a Mosquito TT.35, is fascinating…..

The De Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was almost ‘all things to all men’ in flying terms. From the dark days of 1940, when it was almost certain that the unarmed, mostly wooden, private venture bomber by De Havilland would never take flight, to the relentless hunting of the Luftwaffe nightfighter force over their own airfields in 1944/5 by Mosquito NF.XII and NF.XIIIs, the ‘Wooden Wonder’ emerged triumphant. Later, high-altitude bomber versions such as the B.XVI spawned even longer photo-reconnaisance Mosquitos such as the PR.34. Inevitably, as the fighting waned and was finally brought to abrupt halt by the atomic strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, orders for the most developed versions of this ‘first of the multi-rôle aircraft’ were either severely cut-back or cancelled. The B.35 bomber, powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin 113/114 combination (each of 1,690 hp) was capable of 422 mph at altitude, but its first flight did not occur until 12th March, 1945, so none saw squadron service during WW2. The B.35 was issued to No. 109 and No. 139 Squadrons at RAF Hemswell, post-war, but the Hatfield-built aircraft you can see here, TA719, after being completed in June, 1945 went straight into store at 22 MU. TA719 never saw service in the rôle for which it was designed, languishing in various storage facilities until 1953!

In 1953, TA719 was flown to Sywell Aerodrome, where she was converted to a target tug (TT.35) by Brooklands Aviation. She was delivered to No. 3 Civilian Anti Aircraft Co-operation Unit, and then transferred to No. 4 CAACU at Exeter Airfield in June 1954. The next nine years were busy, as TA719 provided high-speed radar targets for various stations, and towed target banners around the sky. Retired in March, 1953, she was assigned the civilian registration, G-ASKC and flown to Bovingdon, where much of the shooting for the film ‘633 Squadron’ was taking place. Whilst there, TA719 was painted with the fictitious codes and serial, ‘HT – G’ and ‘HJ898’. Acquired by the ‘Skyfame Collection’ at Staverton Airport, Gloucestershire, post-filming, TA719 was damaged during a landing accident. Following repairs, she had her second and last turn in front of the cameras, during the filming of ‘Mosquito Squadron’ in 1968,  during which she was used to simulate a crash landing, and suffered in the ensuing fire. To add insult to injury, various components (including the engine cowlings) were stolen before TA719 was returned to ‘Skyfame’. When the collection closed in 1978, the Imperial War Museum acquired the remains. 

What follows was nothing short of a labour of love. The aircraft was minus engines, engine bearers, propellers, spinners, cowlings and needed a new port wing! A small team, lead by Ron Smoulton, built a new wing from scratch, fabricated a framework to carry fiberglass cowlings, propellers and spinners and painted the aircraft in a 1944 Bomber Command scheme for exhibition at Duxford. In 2005, a team of eight, lead by IWM staff members Dennis Smits and Dave Roberts completely overhauled TA719, and repaired the bomb bay doors and cockpit area, before returning the aircraft to her target tug scheme of a stylish silver topside and high-visibility yellow and black striped undersides. The year-long rebuild – essentially the whole aircraft – was completed in early 2005, and TA719 was exhibited for a time in No. 4 Hangar at Duxford, before being hoisted into her permanent position in the roof of ‘AirSpace’, IWM’s tribute to British and Commonwealth aviation history.

John Lilley worked as part of the team on TA719, and it was this that inspired him, not just to become an owner of warbirds, but to now form the group ‘Peoples Mosquito’, an organization dedicated to seeing a Mosquito flying in British skies once again. I would urge all of you to explore their website, and consider ways in which you might help this grand vision to succeed!

http://bit.ly/TPMFund

http://www.peoplesmosquito.org.uk/ 

http://twitter.com/#!/peoplesmosquito 

http://peoplesmosquito.wordpress.com/contact-us/ 

http://www.facebook.com/groups/1819037052 

http://travelforaircraft.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/mossie-write/

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5 comments on “Mosquito TT.35, TA719, ‘AirSpace’, IWM Duxford – the film star that inspired a movement!”

  1. No matter how they are displayed, the Mosquito is simply beautiful :)

    Like

    • Thanks! I was wondering which shot to use, and they were all interesting! I’ll be featuring the B.35 at Cosford at some stage in the near future….

      Like

  2. During 1964,I joined the Skyfame Aircraft Museum at Staverton airport in Gloucestershire, where Mosquito fever took over my life when I saw TA719 in the hanger for the first time. This aircraft had completed the filming of 633 Squadron and was delivered to the new owner in December of 1963 , a Welsh Chicken farmer Mr Peter Thomas who sold everything to purchase ‘Georgie’ along with an Airspeed Oxford mk 2, V3388, and an Avro Anson mk 1, N4877, as a tribute to his brother Desmond, who died in a Wellington crash in Malta.

    These aircraft had to earn their living and were flown as part of the nations first aviation museum to open it’s doors to the public, as participants in two air displays a year in order to accumulate the necessary finance for the business to survive.

    Prior to the July air display TA719 had to have a flight test to satisfy the ARB, (CAA), but the regular pilot was unable to be available on the allocated date and therefore nominated another experienced Mosquito pilot in his place. This pilot insisted on making a flight that included a feathering test, that really was un-necessary for the ARB inspector, however, the flight continued.

    During the flight the starboard engine was feathered as planned, but a pannicking pilot insisted that the propeller would not unfeather and he was not skilled in single engine landing of Mosquito’s. In truth, as heard during the police investigation immediately after the incident, it was admitted that this pilot was used to flying Mosquito aircraft having the Rotol Ltd propellers and feathering system and when unfeathering, the unfeather button is depressed and the unfeathering sequence continued automatically to engine ignition.

    Unfortunately the propeller seemed to fail to unfeather using the DeHavilland, (Hamilton Standard build propellers under license by DeHavilland Dynamics), as the unfeather button required to be depressed and held in that condition to change the propeller pitch to fine, when the magnetoes were selected to restart the engine, but in a pannick the feather port button was selected and both propellers ceased rotating at 1200 feet and no co-pilot to assist.

    The pilot executed a perfect wheels up landing on the airfield and on contact with the tarmac of the cross runway, the port propeller broke off at the reduction gear and jammed under the engine, while the starboard propeller broke free doing somersalts across the airfield, (strangely this assembly was never found on clean up), the aircraft continued to collide with a haystack that fractured the port wing outboard of the engine and retained by the control wires. The pilot escaped uninjured from the hatch.

    On lifting the remains by crane, the sling crushed the port side of the cockpit and after the aircraft was on it’s landing gear again it was towed to a safe place to be dismantled and kept in the museum until replaced by RS709.

    When making 633 Squadron, Mirisch Films Inc. used TA718 to do the crash scenes and the badly burnt remains of this aircraft was used for spares.

    I have a picture of TA719 on her belly seconds after the incident if anyone is interested??

    Martin Clarke
    Jet Age Museum.

    Like

    • Dear Martin,

      Thank you very much for this! I shall be writing to you shortly….I am sure that everyone at The People’s Mosquito will enjoy this, too, and would ask you to contact them at http://peoplesmosquito.org.uk

      I quite agree with you regarding the ‘press to feather’ buttons, as they are incredibly close together, and in an emergency situation it is easy to see how a mistake could be made. Given that No 2 Group, RAF issued a prohibition on the practicing of single-engine landings due to the high incidence of crashes, the difficulties involved are obvious. Speed should not be allowed to decay below 160 mph in these circumstances, and the undercarriage should be keep retracted until the last moment (bearing in mind the high rate of sink that will occur as it deploys). Decision height for a single-engine landing is given as no less than 4,000 feet !

      Cheers

      SF

      Like


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