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The Arrow's maiden flight

It's the closest thing Canadian industry has to a love story and a murder mystery. The Avro Arrow, a sleek white jet interceptor developed in Malton, Ontario in the 1950s, could have been many things. It might have become the fastest plane in the world, our best defence against Soviet bombers, the catalyst to propel Canada to the forefront of the aviation industry. Instead, it became a $400-million pile of scrap metal, and the stuff of legends.

At 9:52 a.m. on March 25, 1958, Arrow RL-201 roars into the skies above Malton for the Avro Arrow's first test flight. Three kilometres below, all non-essential Avro staff pour out of the plant to watch their plane circle overhead. Some 35 minutes later, the Arrow touches down and comes to a halt, braking parachutes trailing behind. Test pilot Janusz Zurakowski, who is given a hero's welcome, complains only that the cockpit has no clock.
• Arrow RL-201 used just half of the runway before taking off at a steep 45 degree angle. It flew up to 3,350 metres high at speeds up to 250 knots - a small fraction of its capability. The only problem recorded was the failure of two tiny switches (out of 4,000) in the plane's nose gear bay.

• Two chase planes followed the Arrow's maiden flight. Jack Woodman flew a F-86 Sabre and Wladek "Spud" Potocki flew a CF-100 with a photographer aboard.
• Zurakowski and Potocki were both Polish pilots who flew for the Royal Air Force during the Second World War before moving to Canada. The only other pilots to fly the Arrow were Peter Cope and RCAF Lt. Jack Woodman.

• There were many Arrow tests on the ground before the maiden flight. During one taxi test ,all four tires on the main wheels exploded. The landing gear failed during two test flights, causing minor accidents.
• On subsequent test flights, the Arrow flew 15,240 metres high and reached speeds of Mach 1.98 (over 2,000 kilometres per hour, nearly twice the speed of sound.) In 1958 there were 57 Arrow test flights totalling 61 hours.

• All five of the first Arrows used Pratt & Whitney J75 engines. Orenda Engines, a division of Avro, began developing a much more powerful engine, the PS-13 Iroquois, in 1953. These engines would be installed in the "Arrow Mark 2," beginning with RL-206. These engines used expensive titanium to keep weight down. Avro expected the Arrow to break all world speed records once the Iroquois was installed.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: March 30, 1958
Announcer: Rex Loring
Duration: 4:06

Last updated: March 27, 2014

Page consulted on March 27, 2014

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