First man to fly Avro Arrow dies

Jan Zurakowski, the chief test pilot for the CF-105 Avro Arrow died at his home in Barry's Bay on Monday at the age of 89.

Jan Zurakowski, the chief test pilot for the CF-105 Avro Arrow, died at his home in Barry's Bay, Ont., on Monday following a two-year battle with leukemia. He was 89.

An accomplished war pilot, the Polish-born Zurakowski was decorated for his fighting in the Battle of Britain and later went on to test fighter jets for Britain.

He immigrated to Canada in 1952 to work for AV Roe Canada Company as chief development pilot for the supersonic jet and became the first to fly the Avro Arrow on March 25, 1958.

A member of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame, Zurakwoski retired to Barry's Bay, located about 150 kilometres west of Ottawa, in 1960 to open a tourist business with his wife. In July 2003, the community dedicated the Zurakowski Park and Museum in his honour.

It took about 14 years for A.V. Roe Canada to design the Avro Arrow aircraft, a supersonic defence weapon decades ahead of it time. On Friday, February 20, 1959, the Avro project was cancelled by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, most likely because of mounting costs.

The cancellation meant all photographs, technical drawings and manuals were ordered destroyed. The five aircrafts on the production line were cut up and sold for scrap metal.

The cancellation also caused 14,000 people to lose their jobs and many of the key scientists working on the aircraft went on to work for NASA.