Rare WW2 'Wooden Wonder' confirmed for Warbirds Over Wānaka

by Kim Bowden - Feb 19, 2024

A rare World War Two fighter-bomber aircraft will have a public outing in Wānaka this Easter, as long as everything goes to plan for the team charged with its restoration.

The former Royal New Zealand Air Force de Havilland Mosquito NZ2308 is weeks away from the end of a 15-year restoration in Auckland.

Once complete, its American owners will dismantle the aircraft to ship it to its new home in the United States.

A de Havilland Mosquito, introduced during World War Two, was constructed mostly of wood and nicknamed the 'Wooden Wonder' or 'Mossie' (Image: Wikimedia Commons).

However, they've allowed it one last hurrah down under, agreeing to it flying at the Warbirds Over Wānaka airshow to be held over Easter, assuming the aircraft is flying in time.

In a statement this morning announcing the news, Warbirds Over Wānaka general manager Ed Taylor says securing the Mosquito is the icing on the cake for airshow organisers.

“We already had an amazing line up for our first airshow in six years but now it’s gone next level with confirmation that we are to have a Mosquito on the flightline.”

However Mr Taylor says the news does come with a caveat: “Warren Denholm and his team at Avspecs are confident they will have the Mossie flying in time but there is always the possibility that there may be a last-minute problem which prevents that.”

This is the fourth Mosquito restored by Avspecs and Mr Denholm has told airshow organisers his team has committed to doing “everything within their power” to complete the job on time.

All four aircraft restored by the Kiwi restoration and repair company have been built for American customers, and the only other airworthy Mosquito in the world is in Canada.

Mr Taylor says having the aircraft at Wānaka may well be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many New Zealand and Australian warbird enthusiasts.

He says the Mosquito is right up there with the top two or three aircraft requested by airshow visitors and to finally have one at Wānaka after all these years is a dream come true.

First introduced during World War Two, the bomber was constructed mainly of wood, and nicknamed the 'Wooden Wonder' or 'Mossie'. Because of their construction material, it was tricky storing them and keeping them structurally sound.

Mr Taylor thinks having the aircraft on display in Kiwi skies before heading to the United States is important.

“This is a former RNZAF aircraft and the fact that four of the five in the world still flying have been restored in New Zealand is very much worth celebrating.”

Originally the aircraft was the personal project of Mosquito woodwork pioneer Glyn Powell, who passed away in 2019, giving another strong Kiwi connection.

Mr Taylor's only regret is that Warbirds Over Wānaka founder Sir Tim Wallis, who passed away late last year, will not be at the airshow to see this great Warbird lead the fighter flypast.

“We know Tim will be looking down and he will be smiling from ear to ear to finally see a Mossie fly at the airshow he started 36 years ago.”

The aircraft will be test flown at Ardmore and then displayed at Wānaka by accomplished American pilot Steve Hinton.

Mr Hinton, a former Reno Air Race champion, has flown numerous Warbird types, including the last Mosquito from the Avspec’s workshop, and is currently President of the Planes of Fame Museum at Chino in California.

De Havilland Mosquito NZ2308 – a brief history

  •  The aircraft was built by de Havilland Australia in Sydney in 1946 for the Royal Australian Air Force but almost immediately went into storage as it was surplus to requirements following the end of World War Two
  • In 1947 the dual-control aircraft was purchased by the Royal New Zealand Air Force which was looking to replace its Ventura and Corsair aircraft with a fleet of 80 Mosquitos
  • The aircraft served with 75 Squadron until the early 1950s when the Mosquitos were replaced by Vampire jets
  • NZ2308 was declared surplus in 1955 and passed through various New Zealand hands before it ended up in the ownership of a Warbird enthusiast, the late Glyn Powell.
  • Mr Powell was instrumental in making the moulds for the wooden fuselage for all four Mosquitos which have been restored by Avspecs
  • Ownership of the Mosquito passed to its current American owners, who engaged Warren Denholm and his team to complete the restoration and bring the aircraft back to airworthy condition

Main image (Facebook/Warbirds Over Wānaka): Restoration underway of the NZ2308 at Avspecs in Auckland.



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