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Arrow Pilots:Peter Cope

Peter Cope
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Cope also flew the Orenda Sabre development aircraft. With A.V. Roe’s Orenda engine, the Canadian Sabres became the best day fighter in the West with its similarly-powered night and bad-weather cousin, the CF-100, taking similar honours in its more demanding role.

He made over 1,900 flights accumulating over 1,600 hours in the CF-100—more than any test pilot and perhaps more than any pilot period.   He also flew 103 different aircraft types in his career. Some notable experiences included over-running a defective .50 caliber round in the CF-100 with the bullet puncturing an engine nacelle.  The sometimes erratic folding fin rockets that were developed in a 58 rocket twin-pod arrangement, also caused some excitement with one rocket emerging from the pack quasi-normally, performed a loop in front of his eyes, and returned to punch a hole in his starboard aileron!  On another occasion a rocket punctured the radome just in front of the cockpit.  While this armament system was developed successfully, an initial retracting belly-pack arrangement, that lowered into the slipstream before launch, was considerably more hazardous, and was abandoned due to the dangers exposed by the test pilots at Avro. 

Cope tested the then experimental T-160 rotary breech  cannon on the CF-100 in a four gun arrangement.  (This effort led to the weapon used in Canada ’s CF-104s and current CF-18 fighters.) For Cope this would mean the increase in armament being considerably more impressive than the jump obtained from the Mustang 1 to 2 transition—because a single T-160 had a rate of fire nearly equal to all  four guns of his cannon-armed Mustang, with projectiles of the same calibre.  This CF-100 had four of these weapons and therefore represented potential average weight of fire, for a quarter of a minute, (requiring a huge magazine for each weapon) approaching that of a naval cruiser. 

In part because there were jamming and potential misfire hazards, Avro decided in mid-1954 that the weapon was not developed enough for use in the CF-100.  In terms of the CF-100 part of the equation, a probable subtext existed regarding explosive gas collection dangers, plus structural problems, inherent in the adoption of this number of T-160s.  In fact Cope relates the nearest he came to the “real thing” was during the final test of the T-160s, which called for a live continous firing of all four cannon at near maximum speed at 5,000 feet, for seventeen seconds.  This was punctuated by a massive explosion in the centre section that blew off both port engine cowls. This set off a near-instantaneous chain reaction involving the  lower cowl section damaging the wing leading edge, followed by the upper canopy ricocheting off, and shattering, the Perspex canopy.  Cope had difficulty persuading the observer not to proceed with a dangerous low-level ejection and following stall and handling tests made a successful landing at Malton.  Cope received several letters of commendation and thanks from Smye and senior management for his handling of dangerous situations.

In reality, Cope is probably the pilot most responsible for experimental missile development test flying in Canada during the 1950s.  In highly technical and classified missile firings Peter launched the majority of the Sparrow 3 and 2D missiles, that epitomized 1950s CARDE, DeHavilland, Canadair, Westinghouse, Douglas, Hughes, RCA and Avro Canada collaboration in missile technology. 

The CF-100 Sparrow 2D test aircraft. Chosen for the Arrow, this missile was a failure. For it's CF-18 Hornets, Canada uses the less-sophisticated Sparrow 3 missile, identical in concept and capacity to Velvet Glove. The USAF didn't field a successful active-guidance Sparrow version (like the 2D) until 1990.

           That, by 1955, the European members of the NATO pact had made a special request to Canada to supply their needs for a competent high-performance all-weather and night fighter, cannot but be a testament to a phenomenal performance on the part of this new Canadian company in producing such a machine, its engines, and it’s armament.  By building on the engine and airframe programmes, often moved by the requirement to find, or develop adequate Canadian suppliers of components and materials suited to the CF-100 and Orenda engine, A.V. Roe Canada Ltd. grew to be one of the largest employers of Canadians during Peter’s time flying this aircraft.  Avro produced nearly 700 CF-100s while Orenda produced nearly 4,000 of their TR-5 turbojet engines, renaming their division (which was split off into its own corporation) after this engine.  By 1957 Avro Canada was the third largest corporate entity in Canada and Canada ’s top employer.  They also had replacements for both the CF-100 and the Orenda engines in the works, known as the CF-105 Arrow interceptor and the Orenda PS-13 Iroquois afterburning turbojet engine.


Copyright 2005, Randall Whitcomb.

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