As It Happens

Film documents Canadian restoration of a de Havilland Mosquito airplane

The plane flown by our shepherd is a World-War-Two-era de Havilland Mosquito. Dubbed the "Timber Terror" and"The Wooden Wonder", it was hailed as the plane that won the war. A new documentary tells the story of Canadian efforts to put one back in the sky.
The de Havilland Mosquito is often hailed as the plane that won the Second World War. (Submitted by April Butler)
The de Havilland Mosquito was known as "The Wooden Wonder", and "The Timber Terror". And the plane has often been hailed as the plane that won the Second World War. But it also has a strong Canadian connection. April Butler is the director of Gaining Altitude: The Mosquito Reborn -- a documentary about the five-year effort to restore a Mosquito to flying condition.
The Mosquito undergoing restoration at Victoria Air Maintenance in Sidney, B.C. (Submitted by April Butler)

To our 1957 jet-fighter pilot in "The Shepherd", the appearance of a de Havilland Mosquito in the sky below him is a vision that's difficult to reconcile. De Havilland ceased production of the aircraft in 1950 -- and to encounter the "piston-engined aircraft of an earlier generation" -- as he described it -- would have been a surprising sight for his sore eyes to behold. 

When it finally did go up, it was just this quiet amazement.- Filmmaker April Butler, on witnessing the restored Mosquito plane take flight

Well, fast forward another 57 years, to this past summer -- when plenty of people witnessed the flight of a De Havilland Mosquito over the skies of Sidney, British Columbia.
The restored de Havilland Mosquito on its modern maiden flight. (Submitted by April Butler)

It was a welcome sight -- but no surprise -- for documentary filmmaker April Butler. That day last June marked the apex of a five-year devotion to capturing a historic restoration on film.

"It was emotional," she says of seeing The Mosquito take flight. "I got a little teary-eyed. When it finally did go up, it was just this quiet amazement."

Ms. Butler's film tells the story of the painstaking efforts of a crew of aircraft engineers at Victoria Air Maintenance in Sidney, British Columbia, to restore a Mosquito to flying condition.

The film also touches on an ongoing Calgary-based project to return one of the airplanes to running condition.

If you'd like to hear more about the history of the Mosquito, be sure to check out our interview with Dave Barrett, who also makes an appearance in the film. Like the shepherd in Frederick Forsyth's story, Mr. Barrett was a member of the crack RAF flying squadron known as the Pathfinders.


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