The Mosquito Aircraft Association of Australia Incorporated

ABN - 68 831  327  047

Glyn Griffiths Powell QSM—

        The Mossie Master Craftsman

Glyn Powell enjoying a flight in the first flying Mosquito where he built the wooden components such as the fuselage, wing and tailplane of KA114. He accompanies test pilot Keith Skilling fulfilling one of Glyn’s life long ambitions—a flight in a Mossie.

Glyn Powell with the KA114 nose of the fuselage he produced.

Glyn Powell’s first flying example (KA114) of his exceptional skills and dedication.

The photograph was autographed by him, Warren Denholm the owner of AvSpecs Limited and the Mosquito’s owner Jerry Yagen, on the evening of the KA114 Dinner on 29th September 2012 at Ardmore, New Zealand.

Glyn Powell was made an Honorary Life Member of the MAAA at the AGM held on 26th August 2018.

 

The citation read:

 

In recognition of his outstanding service to both the worldwide historic aviation movement, and to the re-birth of the De Havilland Mosquito aircraft in particular.

 

Glyn Powell has devoted a significant period of his life to re-creating the iconic  Mossies. His manufacture of the fuselage moulds is, in itself a labour of love, and a demonstration of his superb cabinet making skills. Culminating with the production of multiple wings, fuselages and other components. Glyn’s career has spanned more than 30 years; the award of New Zealand’s Queen’s Service Medal was a fitting tribute to one man’s devotion to his ideals.

 

 

 

The following article ‘Sculptures in Wood’ was written by John King and it relates the journey undertaken by Glyn to produce the all important moulds for manufacturing the Mossie fuselage shells and the jigs to assemble the wing and tailplane.

‘Sculptures in Wood’ by John King

 

This article was written by John King and was first published in the April 1996 issue of NZ Wings magazine. It is Copyright © 1996 NZ WINGS Magazine. Photographs courtesy of Glyn Powell.

 

At first glance, the scene resembles something for Greenpeace, or Project Jonah. That's apt enough, considering the building's previous use - constructing KZ7, a large white elephant device now permanently propped up on shore as a reminder of how to spend lots of money to little effect.

 

But inside the tall half-round hangar beside Auckland's Tamaki River these aren't moulds for making full size models of pilot whales, similar in shape though they may be. This is something much more significant in world terms, the (eventual) return to the air of at least one of the ultimate in piston engine aircraft, the remarkable DH98 Mosquito.

 

Geoffrey de Havilland and his team set out in 1938 to make the smallest possible airframe able to control two Rolls Royce Merlin engines. For many reasons, such as the scarcity of that strategic airframe material, aluminium, and the existence of countless carpenters in widely dispersed workshops capable of making components, the airframe structure was made entirely of wood. The de Havilland designers knew a lot about wooden aeroplanes.

 

The resulting private venture far exceeded all expectations and more than 7,000 Mosquitoes were made in England, Australia and Canada in two basic versions. All were two seaters, but while the unarmed bomber carried up to four 500 lb bombs or even a single 4000 lb unit, the fighter sacrificed the forward part of the bomb bay in favour of four 20 mm cannon under the cockpit floor, plus four 0.303 in machine guns in the nose. As well as that sting it still managed to carry two 500 lb bombs, plus various noisy devices hung under the wings, so it didn't pay to have a Mosquito pilot get angry with you!

 

Of the 80 Mosquitoes ordered for the RNZAF in 1946 to equip three squadrons in the interim postwar period, only 22 were ever put into service, almost all with No. 75 Squadron. Some came from the production line at Bankstown, Sydney, including NZ2308. Laid down as FB40 A52-20, it was completed as T43 A52-1054, the Australian version of the T3 trainer, but retaining the fighter's armament while adding dual controls, then flown across the Tasman Sea by Johnny Checketts in June 1947.

Glyn Powell checks the starboard mould for the accuracy of contour.

 
Internal bulkheads, inset flush with the mould, are glued and screwed to the inner skin which is laid over the top of the mould.

 

A layer of  balsa wood is added before the outer skin is applied in the same way.

In common with virtually all the RNZAF Mosquitoes, NZ2308 was scrapped at the end of its service. The remains finished up at Riwaka, but many years later were acquired by a group at Ardmore, led by Owen Fenner of Gulf Aeronautics. They set about gathering as many Mosquito parts as possible from the broken-up aircraft not already in the hands of the likes of John Smith, MOTAT, and the RNZAF Museum, with an eye to restoring at least one to airworthy standard. While metal parts have mostly withstood the ravages of more than 50 years, all wood needs to be renewed in any Mosquito rebuild.

 

The early process was described by Glyn Powell in "Mosquito '08: A Reconception" (NZ WINGS August 1991), but the scale of the thing is hard to imagine without actually seeing it. Bigger even than the Walsh brothers' wooden-hull flying boats 80 years ago (and there's a project underway to recreate one of those), it's the largest wooden aircraft project ever undertaken in New Zealand.

"There are 10,000-odd drawings," says Glyn, "and the parts manual is the size of a phone book."

 

"Accuracy is my main problem. There are no straight lines, and tolerances are normally to two decimal places, or even down to thousandths of an inch where interchangeability is a factor. I'm working to metal engineering standards in wood, and even the thickness of a pencil line is a major problem". (No carpenter's pencils here, either; his 2H Staedler is honed to a razor point. This is serious stuff. Those who depend on plastic wood and other bodgery need not apply.)

 

A lifetime in the building trade has made Glyn Powell comfortable working with drawings and wood, which is what he's been doing on this project for about six years now, "pretty well full-time". Most of that was spent finding drawings, visiting other Mosquitoes, both intact and rebuild projects, and generally getting the feel of the job, but for the past couple of years he's been working on the fuselage, full-time and mostly alone.

"There's a jig for every piece of aeroplane," he says, "patterns, laminating, gluing, drilling and assembly jigs. The de Havilland people designed, built the mockup - for drawings and jigs - built the aircraft and flew it within 11 months. I take my hat off to them."

 

Not least amongst the skills needed to renew the woodwork in such an aeroplane is lofting, the process by which three-dimensional curves and shapes are interpreted on full-size but flat drawings and can then be related to points in space. This is where the yachting connections of Tony Butcher and Bruce Coulter, fellow Warbirds Association members, came in handy. The Mosquito project is being done in a building in the yard of McMullen and Wing, the Auckland boatbuilders best known for America's Cup challengers.

"Chris McMullen was a big help," says Glyn. "He gave me a crash course in lofting. It took me months and I had to do the lofting twice. The first wasn't good enough."

 

The basis of the lofting is a sheet containing hundreds of coordinates, each representing an intersection along x, y and z axes. The resulting lines lie along the outside of the mould, inside the inner plywood skin.

 

Each Mosquito fuselage is made in two halves, joined along the centre line just like a plastic model, but in full-size, 12 in: 1-foot scale. Each male mould left- and right-hand, is strong and built of timber, a fully shaped representation of the inner skin, with slots to hold the bulkheads and other structural members, explains Glyn.

 

An inner skin of plywood is applied and glued and screwed to these bulkheads and members, clamped by broad bands of spring steel to retain the shape. Inter-skin stringers follow, with balsa wood filling all other spaces, to be glued and clamped again, followed by the outer skin in a similar process. The shape is then carefully lifted off the mould, fitted with some other parts and mated with its other half, and if everything's gone right there are no discrepancies to let the air in.

Inspection panels and doors are cut straight from the fuselage, the underlying structure having been built in.

 

The first fuselage is expected off the moulds by the end of this year, but it will be a display unit, not destined for the air. Aircraft-quality spruce being rather expensive, the structural parts are being made in Douglas fir, known locally as Oregon pine, available in large dimensions as demolition timber and therefore stable. Heavier than spruce but offering similar strength, it will prove the moulds and other building processes and the second fuselage, the first flying example for NZ2308 and using the original specification materials, should be straight-forward by comparison.

 

The wings will be made in a single 51-foot full-span unit and require even more careful jigging, if that were possible, but that's still to come. Now the focus is on the fuselage and Glyn's Mosquito Aircraft Restoration company is a partner in Mosquito Fuselages Ltd with Colin Henderson, Graeme Eason and Maurice Hayes.

 

No project of this scale is easy. Many parts have still to be found, especially the dual controls which have been taken out and souvenired over the years. MOTAT's own T43, NZ2305, isn't much help as the decision was made years ago to convert it to an FB6 and all the dual controls have disappeared.

 

The scale of the Mosquito project would daunt a lesser person, but Glyn Powell has a fitting quote attached to a large photograph in his office of a Mosquito in flight: "Some people dream of worthy achievements while others stay awake and do them."

The human scale is tiny against the size of the moulds under construction and the boatyard shed, once used to build KZ7.

.

Above: With the nose of the starboard mould planked in Oregon pine, the
shape of Mosquito NZ2308 is starting to become evident.

 

Right: Each bulkhead is a work of art in itself and must match precisely
its opposite number. Glyn Powell holds both halves of the bulkhead
immediately behind the bomb bay.