ADA-First Flight of the Avro Arrow
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First Flight of the Avro Arrow
| INTERESTING
INFO | RANDALL
WHITCOMB | PALMIRO
CAMPAGNA |
The
Arrow Soars
Aloft
Better
than projected...By Randall Whitcomb
   ENGINE
RUNS WERE CONDUCTED on
the pre-production Arrow Mk. 1 on 18 January 1958.
Also in January 1958, taxi trials at speeds of up to
100 knots were done. Drag chute deployment proved unreliable
so some modifications were introduced. On these tests
Zura found that idle thrust from the de-rated J-75s
was sufficient to maintain a taxi speed of between
25 and 50 knots. Heat-sensitive paint was applied to
the engine bays to observe temperature characteristics
during these runs. During these taxi-trials the brakes
were found to be inadequate under emergency conditions
and new units were developed. The nose-gear door was
found to have the potential to cause crosswind-landing
weather-cocking (making the nose move sideways in the
direction of any crosswind) and was modified to close
after gear extension.
   During
this period the weapons pack was ground tested by conducting
repeated extensions and retractions to test the doors
and missile struts. With the Falcon missiles, extension,
door closure and firing were designed to be accomplished
in less than one second. "Quite a trick," as
Jim Floyd stated in 2001, a trick apparently accomplished
during tests. Dummy-missile firings into sandbags were
conducted in an effort to determine the wear characteristics
of the launch rails.
   For
three weeks in February RL-201 was on jack-stands in
the flight-test hangar undergoing intensive flight-control
system checks. These were the "last chance" checks
to convince Zurakowski that the radical, computer controlled,
synthetic flight control system would actually work "as
advertised." The flight-control development rig,
already described, that had been developed into a simulator
was not quite right on the simulator side. Other works
have mentioned that Zurakowski and Potocki had quite
low survival times in the simulator-in the order of seconds
in the dynamically unstable regions under simulation.
Zura elected to fly the jet anyway, believing it "looked
right" and having faith in the engineers and designers.
Obviously he wanted to make very sure that the actual
prototype's systems were working perfectly, under every
flight performance regime they could simulate in the
hangar while attached to the computers. (This anecdote
came from a letter from Am Floyd to Dobson, responding
to a rumour Dobson had heard, that the Arrow had flown
in February 1958!)
   On
25 March 1958, the bird was ready to fly. RL-201 had
been scheduled to fly on the previous Saturday but an
all-too-common (to sophisticated aircraft) hydraulic
leak had scrubbed the mission. Once it was ready, the
plant loudspeakers blared an invitation for nonessential
personnel to leave their posts and witness the making
of history. The plant emptied in seconds! Zura's diminutive
form marched smartly around the big delta while he conducted
the preflight inspection. He then climbed the ladder,
completed his strap-in and helmet connections and began
the cockpit check. Long seconds later the switches were
flicked, throttles adjusted and the big J-75s began their
slow moan, ignitors snapping, as the engines spooled-up
to light-off rpm. After a brief roar they quickly settled
down to idle revs. Zura scanned the instruments for rpm,
exhaust gas temperatures, hydraulic pressures and other
signs of life, while working the stick and rudder and
watching for correct movement of the control surfaces. "RL-201,
taxi 3-2!" was the characteristically crisp request
for taxi clearance.
On reply the brakes
were released, throttles quickly cycled to about 75 percent
then back to idle and the big jet sprang eagerly forward.
A fast stab at the rudder pedals indicated nose-wheel
steering function but Zura apparently found differential
braking to be more precise with the wide-track landing
gear as he swung the nose around and entered the taxi-way.
Final checks were mouthed along the route to Malton's
longest stretch, runway 3-2. The gleaming white wedge
serenely paused at the hold position while the CF-100
and F-86 chase jets clambered down the runway. It must
have appeared to be an act of almost arrogant confidence
as the big delta leisurely turned its high-pointed nose
down the runway to follow. Zura moved the throttles to
full military thrust. The engines responded to the command
by howling their eagerness while the test-pilot flicked
experienced eyes across the panels and the engine note
went from a low moan to a hissing bellow. Zura's mind
considered wind speed, crosswind component, engine rpm,
exhaust gas temperature, altimeter setting, magnetic
versus gyrocompass alignment and a score of other factors.
As a signal of his approval two small flight-booted feet
on the brakes relented to the insistence and Zura's body
was snapped to attention by the force of 25,000 lbs of
jet propulsion. Eyes flicked from airspeed to rapidly
blurring runway centerline as he pushed the throttle
past the detents and into full afterburner. Two tightly
spaced slaps in the back acknowledged their cooperation.
At 100 knots indicated air speed (IAS) the stick was
progressively pulled backwards. The nose began to rise
as control authority increased. At 120 knots the nose-wheel
left the tarmac. By 170 knots the main gear legs had
completely extended and then wheels left terra firma
... the Arrow was aloft!
   There
was no time for pondering the moment however as the Arrow
was now thundering hungrily for both more altitude and
speed! As the airspeed zoomed upwards and the runway
disappeared under the nose, a gloved hand, probably a
bit too slowly, backed off the throttles and selected "gear-up".
Having the confidence to select gear retraction on a
first flight was and is still somewhat unusual.
   Once
RL-201 was airborne, the then state-of-the-art Orenda-powered
fighters closed in to check for proper gear retraction
and to have a general look-over of the aircraft. Externally,
all appeared as it should despite Zura's cockpit indication
of incomplete nose-gear door closure (this annoying yet
minor glitch would rear its head on subsequent occasions).
The throttles were nudged forward slightly to give an
airspeed of 250 knots. At 11,000 feet a general handling
assessment was conducted with the fly-by-wire system
in emergency mode. A half-hour of flight time passed
and the aircraft was returned to the landing circuit.
A faster than projected approach was made for the sake
of safety with the aircraft touching down smartly at
160 knots. The drag-chute streamed "as advertised" and
the aircraft came to taxi speed less than halfway down
the runway. Zura only required light braking to slow
to taxi speed well within the hardtop available. On the
way back to the shacks Zura was heard to exuberantly
shout over the radio: "Wonderful stuff!"
   Once
the Arrow had stopped, the engines spiralled down and
Zura climbed out. He was immediately accosted by a jubilant
horde. Zurakowski was instantly hoisted shoulder-high
and paraded around the tarmac! The first flight snag
sheet was framed since it revealed only the failure of
two tiny microswitches in the nose gear bay! Zura's comments
included the statement that the aircraft behaved "within
expectations," with his one gripe being the lack
of a clock by which to check the time! Perhaps this is
an indication of how time fails to progress in a linear
fashion when flying something out of this world!
   Statistically,
speaking, the second flight of the Arrow, less than a
week late & roughly doubled the performance of the
first flight. Speeds up to 400 knots were demonstrated
at altitudes up to 30,000 feet. The aircraft was turned
at past 60 degrees of bank at 2.5 G. Again the nose-wheel
door microswitches malfunctioned and did not indicate
full closure. Two short days later the Arrow spread its
supersonic wings and broke Mach 1.1 at 40,000 feet before
throttling back. On its third flight the Arrow had, for
all intents and purposes, met the top performance of
the F-102 without even breaking a sweat. On the return
flypast from this record-breaking flight Zura began something
that would become his trademark during Arrow testing. "Zorching" over
the runway at modest speed he pulled the nose up... higher..
still higher.. then impossibly high to the vertical with
full afterburner thrust ripping attentive eardrums. The
gleaming delta pulled up into a vertical climb and almost
disappeared from sight. This manoeuvre became a symbol
of the confidence of the company and pilot in the performance
and potential of their products. It was certainly an
analogy of what they expected the project's future to
bring not only to Avro but also the Canadian people,
and perhaps the people of the Free World. On the fall
of 1958 the British magazine Aviation Studies stated
that "Canada owes it to the free world to put into
production the Arrow aircraft, the most advanced interceptor
in the Western world.' The Iroquois-engined Mk. 2 would
have been able to accelerate while climbing vertically
and carrying a useful load. The developed Iroquois promised
this performance at dose to gross takeoff weight.
   Most
of the remaining development flying of the Arrow was
devoted to exploring the various flight regimes of the
aircraft in an effort to obtain data with which to refine
the fly-by-wire and artificial stability programming
and to validate the mechanical design. Stability tests,
stress, temperature effects and other variables were
quantified and assessed against projections. They found
no "show-stopper" design deficiencies, unlike
the CF-105's competitors.
Courtesy of Randall Whitcomb, "Avro
Aircraft and Coldwar Aviation."
© RL Whitcomb 2006
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