ADA:Avro Jetliner C102-North America's First
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C102 Jetliner
North America's First
republication has been made possible thanks to the assistance
The Society of Automotive Engineers and Dr. James C. Floyd. This
is quite a lengthy lecture and was presented in January 1950. We hope
you enjoy this piece of aviation history.
Scott McArthur. Webmaster, Arrow Recovery
   Canada was
years ahead of any other country in the design and development
of intercity jet transport in 1950-51.
August 10th 1949, the Avro C-102 jet transport, now
better known as the Jetliner, made its first flight.
aircraft was the first civil jet transport to fly on
the North American Continent and missed by only thirteen
days the honour of being the world's first jet transport
to actually fly, which went to the British De Havilland
main purpose of this paper is to give a brief summary
of the design and general problems, which were encountered
in the development of the prototype up to the present
flight test stage.
proceeding with the main portion of the paper, however,
and with apologies to the technical reader, the author
would like to give a short account of the events
which immediately preceded the first flight.
the 25th of July, the last stages of preparation
for flight were nearing completion and the aircraft
had reached the stage of final inspection and last
minute test checking.
had worked on the project for almost three years
and had of course had numerous set backs, the biggest
of which was the inability of the engine manufacturers
to suppoy the original twin engines, and we had had
to completely change the design of the aircraft to
accommodate four engines of a different type.
reached the final inspection stage, we thought therefore
that most of our bridges were crossed and all that
we had to do was get our aircraft into the air. It
just shows how optimistic you can get.
days later on July the 27th, it was announced over
the radio that the De Havilland "Comet" had
made its first flight. It was true that it had only
hopped a few feet into the air, but we realized that
we had missed by just a few days the honour of being
the first people in the world with a true jet transport.
to make life still a little more complicated, the Department
of Transport deceided to tear up the runways at Malton,
and carry out extensive modifications, which were not
scheduled to be finished until some time towards the
end of August. We were informed, however, by DOT that
we would have one runway on which to land, the 14-32
runway running north east and south west, with a bituminous
surface, and we would also have a short piece of concrete
runway on which to carry out our engine runs and taxi
to confuse things still further, the tempurature deceided
to take a hand in the proceedings, and for several
days before the first flight was anticipated, it hovered
between 90 and 100 degrees fahrenheight.
engine runs having been completed over the week end,
the aircraft was wheeled out of the hanger on Monday
Augest the 8th to start taxi trails. As a special favor
the tempurature had gone up to 103 deg F, nevertheless,
we carried out our taxi runs, braking tests, steering
control tests, and towards early evening deceided that
it might be possible to attempt a hop, and take the
aircraft a few feet off the ground.
was not a very easy decision to make in view of the
fact that we had to contend with what was probably
the highest temperature of the whole year, and with
engines which were very much more susceptible to temperature
than normal reciprocating engines. We had a very short
runway, due to the alterations to the rest of the runways,
and the pilot was handling a completely new type of
aircraft, the performance of which could only be predicted
at that time.
had calculated the distance required to take off and
the decelerated stop after the hop, and from our calculations,
there were only a few feet of runway left for pilot's
aircraft taxied down to the north east end of the runway,
wasting as little space as possible, the throttles
were opened up, the aircraft accelerated, and at about
90 mph, the nose wheel came off the deck. A few seconds
later, there were four loud and ominous reports, the
nose wheel came down, and the aircraft decelerated
to a stop, just a few feet from the far end of the
runway. The pilot had realized that he just could not
make it and had applied the brakes a little too early
before the weight of the aircraft was on the wheels,
the wheels had locked, and all four tires had blown
out. In spite of this, the pilot had been easily able
to keep the aircraft on the runway, and there was no
damage to the wheels or brakes or any other portions
of the aircraft.
aircraft was wheeled back into the hangar, the tires
were changed, and the next day more taxi runs were
carried out to enable the pilot to feel out the brakes
before making another attempt at a hop.
Wednesday morning, August the 10th, three more runs
were made and a hop was attempted on the third run.
This time, the two main wheels on the starboard side
of the aircraft blew out, and the pilot again brought
the aircraft to rest dead in the centre of the runway,
and this time with quite a bit of runway to spare.
tires were quickly changed and a conference held to
decide whether any more attempts at a hop would be
made, as It was getting a little expensive on the tires,
and also on the nerves of the pilot, co-pilot, and
flight engineer who had to sit in the aircraft wondering
what was going to happen next.
pilot decided that the next time he went down the runway
he would rather take her up and "have done with
it", as he expressed it. The crew took time out
for lunch, and after returning, decided that in spite
of a small gale that was blowing with quite a stiff
crosswind on the only available runway, and the fact  that
the temperature was around
103degF, the next time they went down on the runway,
they would Just keep on going, and so just after lunch
on Wednesday, August the 10th, the Jetliner came down
the runway, lifted off the deck after a relatively
short run, and gracefully climbed up to about 500 ft.
where the pilot tried out the controls.
did a circuit of the field, and then asked for clearance
to bring her over the spot where the ground crew were
standing to let the boys have a look at  the aircraft
in the air. He then climbed away to 8,000 ft. and reported
after a few minutes flying, that everything felt
wonderful, and needless to say, everyone on the
ground felt pretty good too.
a flight of about one hour, during which time the aircraft
was flying at altitudes up to around 13,000 ft., the
aircraft was again seen, preparing for landing.
By this time, the weather man had turned on a crosswind
of 35 mph at approximately 50deg to the runway, but
the pilot made an extremely short landing, and
taxied the aircraft down to the group of people waiting
at the dispersal point.
was a general slapping of backs and congratulations
all round, the aircraft was wheeled back to the hangar
and the first flight of North America's first jet transport
was all over.
that time, the aircraft has done approximately thirty
flights, during which much valuable data has been accumulated,
and the aircraft is now well on the way to completing
the tests, which have to be carried out before the
aircraft can be put up for C.A.A. approval.
may be worth while mentioning one or two of the highlights
of this test programme.
most spectacular was probably the second flight, when
after almost an hour in the air, it was found that
it was not possible to extend the undercarriage, and
it eas discovered later that this was due to a fault
in the main undercarriage gear. After losing most of
the hydraulic oil in the system, the pilot was forced
to land with the nose wheel down, the main gear up,
and no flaps. The fact that the flaps were up made
the plane float, and the biggest problem was getting
it down at all, but after three runs, the pilots brought
the aircraft down on a grass verge at the end of the
runway, and skidded to a stop approximately 50 ft.
from the airport fencing.
only damage sustained was four bent jet pipes and a
caved-in plating in the rear of the fuselage, and the
landing only served to highlight the safety of an aircraft
which had no propellers to get in the way on an emergancy
such as this. The nacelles were repaired, and the aircraft
was flying again in just over four weeks, having completed
a test which no manufacturer would dare to carry out
at this stage in the life of a prototype, unless by
accident, as in this case.
is no doubt that we got a lot of data from this test,
and we also learned something from the tire bursting
episode, as it was proved that the aircraft could be
brought to rest easily with any tires burst, in any
series of tests probably worth mentioning are the engine
cuts at take-off. An outboard engine was shut down
at various speeds between 130 mph and 75 mph, it was
still possible to take off and have plenty of rudder
power to spare.
lot of excellent data has also been accumulated on
the low speed charactistics of the aircragt. These
have proved that the low speed characteristics are
just as good on a high speed aircraft, if it is designed
properly, as on the present conventional low speed
type of aircraft.
the jet transport had actually flown, there were many
criticisms of this type of aircraft, and some of them
were so bitter that one would almost think that they
had been instigated by the manufactures of propellers
and their attendant controls.
of the criticisms was, that the runways and ground
personnel would probably get burned up when these aircraft
were operating. It would have done the critics good
to see the official flight of the Jetliner. On this
day, the engines were started while the aircraft was
standing next to the big marquee containing the refreshments.
As the aircraft moved away, the people generally crowded
in to get a good look, and some of the press photographers
appeared to be almost trying to climb inside the jet
pipe nozzles to photograph the flames around the turbine,
and nobody even got their eye lashes singed.
point that has been grossly over-exaggerated is the
takeoff and landing distance required with the jet
airliner. The Jetliner has been repeatedly taken
off and landed at weights up to 57,000 lb. T. 0. gross
weight during tests, in distances of around 1,000 to
1,500 ft. and in one case, landed at an average landing
weight, less than 950 ft. from the approach end of
the runway.
tests on relightig procedures in the air have been
carried out, and engines have been shut down and restarted
at various stages during test flights, and it has never
been necessary to attempt more than one start on any
engine. The results have been so good, that it is now
felt that relighting in the air is not only feasible,
but if carried out correctly is entirely without hazzard.
the most noticeable improvement inside the aircraft
is the amazing lack of noise. The test equipment for
automatic recorder on the Jetliner is about twenty
feet aft of the cockpit, in the fuselage, and the observer
sits at this station with the various instruments and
cameras. It Is possible to converse without using the
aircraft inter-com by just carrying out a normal conversation
between the cockpit and the observers station.
one flight when a Lancaster aircraft was being flown
along side the Jetliner to get some photographs for
the press, the roar of the Merlin
engines were quite apparent from inside the Jetliner.
It was almost possible to tell without looking out
of the window just how close the Lancaster was
at any time.
lack of vibration is also very noticeable, and special
vibrators have
had to be fitted on the instrument panels to prevent
instrument needles sticking. During the high speed
runs which were recently made at 30,000 ft., at which
time the aircraft reached speeds up to 500 mph, descent
procedures ware checked from 30,000 ft., and the aircraft
was brought down at a rate approximately 3,000 ft.
a minute with the use of the dive flaps fitted on the
aircraft. There was no sensation of rapid descent,
and in fact, two of the observers had no idea that
the aircraft was descending at all, and were surprised
to find themselves at 20,000 ft. when they were at
the opinion that they were taking readings
at 30,000 ft.
aircraft is at present being fitted with the necessary
equipment to test the air conditioning and pressurizing
system, carry out cruise control, and make a final
assement of the aerodynamics. To date, the test program
has gone extremely well, and a large ammount of data
has been amassed in a relatively short time.
giving away any secrets, it can be said that up to
the present time, them has been surprisingly few snags,
and to quote from the pilots official report, "The
aircraft has behaved magnificently and is a very easy aircraft
to fly".
following portion of the paper gives a brief history
of the project and covers some of the Technical problems
encountered in the design.
1951 Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc. This paper
is published on this web-site with permission from the
Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc. As a user of this
web-site, you are permitted to view this paper on-line,
download the pdf file and to print a copy at no cost
for your use only. Downloaded pdf files and printouts
of the SAE paper contained on this web-site may not be
copied or distributed to others or for the use of others."
Scott McArthur.
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