The Wartime Diary of a de Havilland Engineer – Part 2

DW motorbike
Dick on his motorbike

Richard (Dick) Whittingham spent all his working life at de Havilland, starting as an apprentice in 1935 and finishing up as a senior production engineer. This is the second extract from Dick’s wartime diaries, adapted by his nephew Roger Coasby, and it gives a real insight into those heady days at Hatfield in the early 1940’s.

“Saturday 8th May 1943.

Carried out a D.I. (Daily Inspection) on W4052 (the Mosquito fighter prototype), ran the engines, and cleared it for flight. It rained during the morning, but cleared up after lunch, when Geoffrey de Havilland arrived and said he was going to fly it over to Old Welwyn and give a demo in support of their Wings for Victory Fete. About 20 minutes later he re-appeared, coming in to land with only the port wheel and tail-wheel lowered. He made a very good landing on the one main wheel and as he came to a halt the starboard wing tip dropped on to the ground. We rushed across the airfield to see what had happened and as we got to the aircraft we could see that the starboard wheel and its nacelle were missing! Geoffrey got out and said that he was doing a high speed low-level run over the field in Old Welwyn when one of the wheels came down on its own and the rush of air blew the wheel and its nacelle away. While he was telling us this, there was a screech of brakes and a butcher’s van from Old Welwyn pulled up. The driver got out and said “I’ve got a bit of your aeroplane here. I came over as fast as I could as I knew you would want it right away!” He had brought back most of the nacelle, but of course it was too damaged to be of any use.

Mosquito prototype W4052

We eventually found that although the undercarriage when retracted locked on to a substantial metal block, it was able to shake itself sideways and slip off the edge of the block. Upon reporting our findings to the Design Office they said “we have already put out a Class 1 mod for a retaining plate to be fitted which will stop this happening”. Unfortunately it was still going through the system and had not reached us at the ‘coal-face’ in the flight hangar.

Note: W4052, which Geoffrey used for all his demos, and had already had a wheels-up landing at Panshanger, was repaired and I signed it out for flight again a month later on 8th June.”

Part three of Dick Whittingham’s diary will be published next month.

Roger Coasby is a member of the De Havilland Aeronautical Technical School Association. You can find out more about the DHAeTSA, which has over 500 members, on our Affiliates page here.

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