We all know the de Havilland Mosquito was made mostly of wood, but the whittler in me wants to know what kind. “Which wood?” isn’t an accurate question. “What kinds of wood?” fits the bill better.
De Havilland couldn’t get everything required from the British Isles. They had to conduct a world tour to get the materials they needed to construct their prized “aerial lumberyard.”
First stop, Ecuador for balsa. Light, squishy, Ecuadorian balsawood (that’s Ochroma pyramidale) makes up the middle of our plywood sandwich used on the exterior of the plane. The harder outer and inner layers of the plane’s skin are 3-ply birch (Betula) which was harvested in the UK, upper American Midwest, and in Canada.
European ash (Fraxinus excelsior), good for baseball bats, tool handles, and walking sticks, came almost exclusively from the UK and made up light, strong structural members. Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), found in the rainy upper American West Coast and into British Columbia made up other pieces of the plane’s “skeleton” including many of the Mosquito’s stringers.
Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), found from Alaska to Northern California, nearly always along the coastline, is light and strong. Spruce is often used in boat-building, ladders, guitar components, and of course, airplanes. Spruce made up the Mosquito’s famous multi-layer laminated wing spar.
You can come and see this whole magnificent timber yard, flying in very close formation, when the de Havilland Mosquito takes to the air at Flying Heritage Combat Armor Museum’s SkyFair, July 22, proving, once and for all, some of the best things around do “grow on trees.”