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Arrow Pilots:Peter Cope

Peter Cope
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Peter shared anti-icing systems development and testing duties on the Avro Jetliner, XC-102.  This led to Canadian leadership in another flight technology, and was successfully used on the CF-100 with a corresponding leap in operational capability and crew safety.  Like virtially all those associated with the Jetliner, Cope thought it was a fantastic aircraft, and is flabbergasted at how such a promising design, with military and civil sales interest, could be sidelined.

        He was very impressed with the Arrow and recalls no major problems in the flying of this type.  In variance to assertions, Cope described the Arrow as being exceptionally stable on approach for landing.  He stated to the author in the spring of 2002 that you could trim the Arrow up for landing and practically “take your hands off the stick and let it land itself!”  A prominent “historian” and a controversial writer (Larry Milberry and Peter Zuuring respectively] publish sections of Arrow pilot’s notes, compiled by Potocki (purportedly with the assistance of Cope), claiming they show the Arrow to have been a difficult aircraft to manage with potentially serious defects. Cope himself, along with every other test pilot insists the Arrow, compared to anything flying then and for many years after, was an exceptionally competent aircraft in flight, and was, indeed, relatively “easy” to fly.  In fact Peter wrote: “I saw these so-called notes only a year ago and I have no idea where they came from.  They had nothing to do with me.  The aircraft was easy to fly.” [underline in his note.]  Cope also is the only pilot to land an Arrow away from Malton, having landed RL-204 at Trenton in late 1958. His Trenton landing was the shortest known landing accomplished in the Arrow with it touching down at 140 knots –proving that with development and pilot training landing speeds would have been red uced to quite modest levels by any standard for a fighter aircraft.  Today even civil airliners land at considerably higher speeds.

In a CBC documentary Cope states that “It was a phenomenal performing aircraft… our performance boys thought we might get Mach 1.6 out of it yet we flew it to nearly Mach 2.  With the Iroquois engine we were talking about a 2.3 [or] 2.4 Mach number potential. There wasn’t a single plane flying at the time that could come anywhere near to touching that aeroplane.  Boy, the day I saw them take the torches to those planes was the nearest I’ve come to shedding a tear over an aeroplane.  It was pathetic.”  He has subsequently related to this writer that he did, in fact, cry.  This writer also agrees with his performance assessment in terms of the Arrow’s potential, and research involved in trying to form an informed opinion on this very topic resulted in this writer’s book, Avro Aircraft & Cold War Aviation, which discusses this topic empirically and at length.  

The Orenda-Lancaster engine test-bed.  The Orenda engine was developed into the success it became on this aircraft. It, and other aircraft, were lost in a hangar fire at Avro.

       After the Arrow cancellation, Cope remained at Avro until 1961 and was involved in flight testing John Frost’s “Avrocar” flying saucer.  This led to advanced Canadian knowledge in ‘jet-flap’ and ducted methods of lift-augmentation.  This led, for example, to Don Whittley’s ‘augmentor wing’, developed for the de Havilland Canada Buffalo STOL aircraft.  He thus became the only Avro test pilot to have test flown all of Avro’s prototype aircraft.  These included the Jetliner, the Lancaster Orenda test-bed, the CF-100 prototypes, the Orenda Sabre development plane, the Arrow and the Avrocar.  Like all the others who experienced the Avro Jetliner, he became an avid admirer, and laments her passing and the circumstances that caused it.

            After the Arrow cancellation he joined Boeing in Seattle Washington and worked in their customer support organization, becoming a manager covering the introduction of the Boeing 727, 737, 747, and 767 to service in various airlines.

            Peter retired as recently as 1986 after what anyone must agree is an outstanding career in aviation and participated in some of the most historic events in aviation for nearly half a century.  Until his passing in April, 2005, Peter resided quietly in Washington State with his beloved wife of many happy years, Anabel.

Copyright 2005, Randall Whitcomb.

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