Last week I came *this* close to buying a 50-year-old airplane. A 1952 de Havilland Chipmunk became available at a very reasonable price (less than the price of a new Toyota, in case you're wondering what "reasonable" means for an airplane) at an airport just north of San Francisco.
Many people asked me why I would even contemplate buying a WWII-era airplane. (Luckily, my understanding wife was not one of them. She saw the plane. She understood.) The answer is simple. Love.
And the back of a napkin.
The first movie I remember seeing as a kid was Guy Hamilton's now-classic "Battle of Britain". I was five years old, my father was in the United States Air Force, and I lost my heart to airplanes painted with British roundels saving the world.
While some people claim the Spitfire is the most beautiful airplane ever created, those people are wrong. The most beautiful airplane ever to fly is the de Havilland Mosquito. Conceived on the back of a napkin by designer Geoffrey de Havilland in the late 1930's, the Mosquito became the fastest, most versatile, and safest aircraft in the British arsenal.
The Chipmunk was designed by de Havilland's Canadian division at the end of the war as a trainer. It went on to become the first airplane that tens of thousands of British, Canadian, Australian, Portuguese, and Swedish pilots flew. Looking at the design, you can see it is a direct descendant of the Mosquito. Look at the fuselage and tail on this red one; it's lifted straight from the Mosquito. (BTW, this red Chipmunk is the actual plane in which Prince Charles learned to fly during his time in the RAF.)
In other words, it is beautiful — sketched on the back-of-the-napkin beautiful, if you get my meaning. And to those who learned to fly in the Chipmunk, that beauty is much more than skin deep; pilots who know it claim the Chipmunk is the sweetest flying airplane ever made.
So how come I said no? Good question. I'm still torturing myself. The next day the plane was gone, purchased by a more dedicated Chipmunk fan from Reno. Now that bird has flown. But I keep my eyes open for the next to fly along.