Uncovered WWII Blueprints Could Be Used to Restore a Mosquito Plane

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Airbus uncovered something unexpected while shuttering its factory in Flintshire, UK: a trove of aircraft blueprints dating back to World War II. Though the sketches are nearly 70 years old, a team of aviation enthusiasts wants to use them to get an iconic plane back in the air today.

The old technical drawings, of which there are 20,000, include blueprints for the de Havilland Mosquito, Atlas Obscura reports. During the 1940s, the British aircraft performed many roles for the Allied forces as a fighter, bomber, and reconnaissance plane. Even more impressive than its capabilities was its design: Constructed almost entirely from balsa and plywood, it earned the nickname “The Wooden Wonder.” The plane has earned cult status in aviation circles in the time since, and there’s even a group, the People’s Mosquito, dedicated to rebuilding a Mosquito that crashed in 1949.

The wooden body that makes the vessel famous also makes it notoriously difficult to preserve. Many metal aircraft from World War II are still around today, while most of the Mosquitos have rotted beyond recognition. In the face of such challenges, the People's Mosquito team views the newly discovered blueprints as a game-changer. The group's operations director, Bill Ramsey, described the find to BBC Radio as “a complete collection of drawings for every mark and modification that was ever made to a Mosquito.”

If the project members can successfully restore the plane to its former glory, it will be one of four Mosquitos capable of flight today. To achieve that goal they must raise $7.8 million in total. Only then will they fully realize their motto: “To fly; To educate; To remember.”

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

On This Day in 1953, Jonas Salk Announced His Polio Vaccine

Getty Images
Getty Images

On March 26, 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk went on CBS radio to announce his vaccine for poliomyelitis. He had worked for three years to develop the polio vaccine, attacking a disease that killed 3000 Americans in 1952 alone, along with 58,000 newly reported cases. Polio was a scourge, and had been infecting humans around the world for millennia. Salk's vaccine was the first practical way to fight it, and it worked—polio was officially eliminated in the U.S. in 1979.

Salk's method was to kill various strains of the polio virus, then inject them into a patient. The patient's own immune system would then develop antibodies to the dead virus, preventing future infection by live viruses. Salk's first test subjects were patients who had already had polio ... and then himself and his family. His research was funded by grants, which prompted him to give away the vaccine after it was fully tested.

Clinical trials of Salk's vaccine began in 1954. By 1955 the trials proved it was both safe and effective, and mass vaccinations of American schoolchildren followed. The result was an immediate reduction in new cases. Salk became a celebrity because his vaccine saved so many lives so quickly.

Salk's vaccine required a shot. In 1962, Dr. Albert Sabin unveiled an oral vaccine using attenuated (weakened but not killed) polio virus. Sabin's vaccine was hard to test in America in the late 1950s, because so many people had been inoculated using the Salk vaccine. (Sabin did much of his testing in the Soviet Union.) Oral polio vaccine, whether with attenuated or dead virus, is still the preferred method of vaccination today. Polio isn't entirely eradicated around the world, though we're very close.

Here's a vintage newsreel from the mid 1950s telling the story:

For more information on Dr. Jonas Salk and his work, click here.

Drunken Thieves Tried Stealing Stones From Notre-Dame

Athanasio Gioumpasis, Getty Images

With Paris, France, joining a long list of locales shutting down due to coronavirus, two thieves decided the time was right to attempt a clumsy heist—stealing stones from the Notre-Dame cathedral.

The crime occurred last Tuesday, March 17, and appeared from the start to be ill-conceived. The two intruders entered the cathedral and were immediately spotted by guards, who phoned police. When authorities found them, the trespassers were apparently drunk and attempting to hide under a tarpaulin with a collection of stones they had taken from the premises. Both men were arrested.

It’s believed the offenders intended to sell the material for a profit. Stones from the property sometimes come up for sale on the black market, though most are fake.

The crime comes as Paris is not only dealing with the coronavirus pandemic but a massive effort to restore Notre-Dame after the cathedral was ravaged by a fire in 2019. That work has come to a halt in the wake of the health crisis, though would-be looters should take note that guards still patrol the property.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]