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Windsor Mosquito Bomber symposium marks 80th D-Day anniversary at Canadian Aviation Museum


A special presentation updating the public on a Windsor group's near 30-year effort to rebuild a Second World War plane took place Thursday morning at the Canadian Aviation Museum in Windsor.

About 100 people were on hand for the panel discussion, hosted by Elder College, that recalled how four local men and a Windsor Star news reporter ventured into Canada's Northwest Territories on a recovery mission to retrieve the remains of a crashed Mosquito bomber aircraft in July of 1996.

"We went and got the wreckage of that Spartan aircraft Mosquito Bomber that crashed," said Tim Gillies, who started the "Windsor Mosquito Bomber Group" in 1993.

On July 10, 1956, while on an aerial mapping and photography mission in Canada's north, the former World War Two Mark 35 Mosquito Bomber crash-landed on a desolate sand dune along the Back River near Pelly Lake, NWT.

All three crewmembers escaped and survived.

Gillies explained it was 40 years to the day of the crash that the Windsor team retrieved the wreckage.

"It had sat up there since 1956. We didn't realize it until we were up there," he said. "It had an engine fire. It went back to Pelly Lake, which was its airbase, and it belly landed in. We went back. We got a lot of aluminum, a lot of steel parts, phenolic parts, all of the propeller blades, things like that. Propeller hubs that survived the crash, armored seats."

A Windsor Mosquito Bomber symposium took place at the Canadian Aviation Museum in Windsor on June 6, 2024. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)

Gillies told CTV News he has been fascinated with Mosquito Bomber planes ever since a young age due to the fact they are made out of wood.

Canada's "plywood" Mosquito was constructed by De Havilland Aircraft and was considered one of the fastest aircraft in the Second World War.

Gillies believes the plane currently has 10 per cent original pieces and is about 70 per cent complete, noting the volunteer group relies on donations to continue with rebuilding efforts.

"It's on its landing gear. The engines are mounted, the propellers are mounted, and as much work you see is done, there's still a lot to go on. Like internal wiring, plumbing, fuel lines, things like that. But it is an impressive piece right now by itself. It's come a long way. There's a crew of guys working on it now that I don't have the involvement I used to have, but these guys have made great progress," said Gillies.

"Honestly, we couldn't have built the plane without help or asking on the public," said Project Manager Richard Fox. "It’s nickels and dimes, but it adds up at the end of the day."

Fox said it's too soon to say when the long term reconstruction project will be complete or if the plane will ever fly again, noting he's satisfied with its progress so far.

"This plane was actually in D-Day," Fox said, "There were several Mosquitoes flying in the area during D-Day and I think it's fitting that we had something in our area to that."

Fox continued, "I think we're on track, based on the amount of hours that we can put into this project and the amount of money that we have. The money is spent very wisely here and I really count on some of the industrial people in the community that help us with making things, at automating things, welding and stuff like that."

"Airplanes are expensive," Fox said, while noting another Mosquito Bomber recently sold for upwards of $10 million USD in 2018.

"It's a lot of work, the work that people don't see. Finding out where does this go and how do I make that, and where can I get the material for that? And is it correct at this point? It was built in 40 different variants. So the plane we're building is a purebred bomber. No guns on this plane. And because of that, it's very specific as to what goes on this plane," said Fox. Top Stories

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