Rare plane big passion
"Are you interested in building a De Havilland Mosquito? Dreamers need not apply."
That ad in a Warbirds' newsletter sent Glyn Powell criss-crossing the globe on a quest to restore the World War II aircraft.
And when the world's only airworthy Mosquito finally took flight in 2012 it couldn't have happened without his decades of work.
The 80-year-old has received a Queen's Service Medal in the New Year honours list for services to aeronautical heritage preservation.
Despite bringing the British aircraft back from the brink of extinction, the Drury man got "quite a surprise" when he got a letter from the prime minister announcing the award.
"It was great," he says.
"I feel most honoured and I can't really believe it."
Nearly 8000 of the planes were made during World War II but all fell into disrepair as their wooden bodies and formaldehyde glue wore out.
Mr Powell, a pilot and electrician, joined a group of Warbird enthusiasts at Ardmore who were keen to restore a Mosquito.
He volunteered to gather the drawings and plans then "went traipsing around the world trying to get my head around it".
The mammoth task eventually proved too much for the rest of the group but Mr Powell kept going.
"I got so frustrated I said ‘I'm going to go out to my workshop and build the bloody thing myself' and I proceeded to do just that."
Apart from engine parts the two-man planes were almost entirely wooden. They were light and manouevrable and could flit between the United Kingdom and Berlin in two hours.
It took just 11 months in 1940 to design, build and fly the prototype, Mr Powell says.
"So I thought ‘it can't be that hard'. Wrong. I don't know how they did it."
With no instruction manual, he modelled the plane's parts on thousands of collected drawings and photos, building huge wooden moulds for the fuselage.
The expensive project got a big financial boost when he was commissioned to restore an American collector's Mosquito. With the help of Warbird restoration company AvSpecs, the fighter bomber was launched in September 2012 at Ardmore Airport, becoming the only airworthy Mosquito in the world.
But Mr Powell hopes it will be the first of many because his work means all of the moulds and templates and more than 10,000 drawings are now in one place.
The invaluable collection will mean future De Havillands can be built relatively quickly.
Mr Powell is now restoring his own Mosquito, a decommissioned trainer which he found rotting in a Riwaka field. He reckons it needs another three years of work before it too can take to the skies.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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