Celebrating 80th anniversary of Mosquito aircraft’s maiden flight

The Mosquito Prototype W4050 at its permanent home at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum in London Col

The Mosquito Prototype W4050 at its permanent home at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum in London Colney. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum. - Credit: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

Eighty years ago today one of Britain’s most famous wartime aeroplanes made its maiden flight from Hatfield.

The Mosquito Prototype W4050 as final checks are made on November 19, 1940. Picture: BAe.

The Mosquito Prototype W4050 as final checks are made on November 19, 1940. Picture: BAe. - Credit: BAe

But the prototype Mosquito has had to go without any major celebrations marking the 80th anniversary.

Instead, the aircraft, W4050, had the company of only two other Mosquitos in the display hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney, standing just a few steps from where the iconic multi-role ‘Mossie’ was both designed and built in 1940.

“It made its first flight on November 25, 1940 and it was very disappointing that because of the coronavirus lockdown we have not been able to celebrate the event at the museum, as we did for its 75th anniversary,” said museum marketing director Mike Nevin.

When the aviation museum is allowed to reopen after lockdown is lifted, visitors will once again be able to see the largest collection of Mosquitos in the world.

W4050 makes its maiden flight from Hatfield airfield. Picture: BAe

W4050 makes its maiden flight from Hatfield airfield. Picture: BAe - Credit: BAe


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You can even book a special ‘Cockpit Experience’ in one of the trio, the B.Mk35 bomber version which shares the same hangar as the fighter-bomber variant, the FB Mk.VI.

W4050 is the only surviving World War Two twin piston engine prototype of a combat aircraft to be preserved in the world.

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It was one of four versions which were fully built in secret in long-since disappeared hangars built on the site of the museum entrance and Aeroshop.

It was disassembled and taken by road to the de Havilland Aircraft Company’s headquarters and airfield at Hatfield on November 3, 1940, just over a year after the company moved its design team from its Hatfield base into the remote Tudor mansion, Salisbury Hall.

The de Havilland Mosquito Prototype W4050 with camouflaged topsides replacing its all-yellow finish.

The de Havilland Mosquito Prototype W4050 with camouflaged topsides replacing its all-yellow finish. Picture: BAe - Credit: BAe

After reassembly, the de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito Prototype – then numbered E0234 – made its first flight at 3.45pm on November 25, 1940.

At the controls was Geoffrey de Havilland Jnr, a son of company founder Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, who was among those watching.

It was never to see combat. Instead, it took part in nearly three years of various development trials during which it attained a maximum altitude of 40,000ft and, fitted with increasingly more powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, reached a highest-ever speed for a Mosquito of 439mph.

“The prototype made a truly remarkable contribution to the development of a wonderful aircraft and it is even more remarkable that it has survived and is here now for everyone to see,” said Mr Nevin.

When the Hertfordshire museum reopens, visitors will continue to have to observe the coronavirus rules of wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing, and using the sanitising sprays around the site as they see nearly a score of historic de Havilland civil and military aircraft on display and under restoration by volunteers.

“We will be putting news of the reopening on the museum website and we are really looking forward to welcoming lots more visitors,” said Mr Nevin.

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum is signposted at Junction 22 of the M25 and on the B556, and is fully accessible. There is free parking.

Full details and pre-booking can be found on the museum website at www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk where a new range of virtual tours of the museum and its aircraft can also be viewed.

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