I worked at AVRO,
in the Flight Research & Development Dept, under Mario Pesando,
from 1952 until July 1956, when I moved to England, intending to stay
for a year, staying for almost 5. These memories of mine are kind of
higgly piggly, and 50 years has dimmed the details; however, here are
some things that I remember. I've been putting off this writing, but
today saw Mike Cooper Slipper's obituary in the email edition of the
Daily Telegraph, and that has got me going
Jack Ames was Chief Structural Test Engineer. The Flight Test Lab was
in a corner of the hangar, and Jack Ame's test rigs sat beside our offices.
Sometimes when they were testing wing structures, they would run the
jigs steadily, night and day, for a week at a time, and the repeated
thump of the hydraulic fist hammering the wing was almost unbearable.
The whole area around the Flight Test lab was like a junkyard with in-
construction rigs, old rigs, piles of metal, and all kinds of abandoned,
dust covered stuff.. One day, a group of the higher ups appeared in
the structural test area. One of them was Crawford Gordon (perhaps that
was the day that Sir Roy Dobson visited us.) I was told that his words
upon seeing the area were "who owns this mess?" Anyway, from
that day, on the housekeeping in the structural test area was meticulous.
Talking about noise - one day a flight of single engine, piston driven
fighters came to AVRO and were lined up outside the hangar wall that
formed the back of the Flight Test lab. For a whole week, they were
tethered there while the engines were repeatedly revved up to ear shattering
crescendos. We should have had ear plugs, but no one thought of that
kind of thing then.
Companies often only adopt safety measures as a result of accidents,
and AVRO was no exception. People remember the flight crew who were
killed in the course of AVRO's aircraft program, but probably not many
remember the others.
After a flight, the CF100's would be towed back into the hangars by
tractors, and then the ground crew would set about their maintenance
functions. In one case, a technician climbed a ladder up to the cockpit
and leaned over it, perhaps to disarm the seat ejector. Whatever he
was trying to do, he slipped and grabbed the nearest thing to save himself,
but it was the seat ejector handle, and the seat shot up to the ceiling
of the hangar, killing him. After that, any seat with an armed ejector
mechanism had a red flag attached to it..
The second case I remember was that of a young English engineer, who
was killed when a tractor was pulling the hangar door open. When the
hangar doors were closed, we could go in and out of the hangar through
a small hinged door that opened into the building. It opened in, because
when the main doors were being opened they slid across one another,
and our small personnel door was on the inner hangar door. When the
main doors were being opened by the tractor, it was common for someone
in a hurry to try to save a minute by jumping through the small door
instead of waiting for the operation to be completed. Unfortunately
the young man misjudged, and as he went through, the outer door came
across and he was caught and crushed in the 6 inch space between the
two doors. After that, before the tractor moved the main doors, an inspector
had to lock the small door and hang a red flag on it and declare it
safe for the hangar door to be moved.
There was an article in the AVRO news about the new stretch forming
machine that was going to create Arrow main spars from one billet of
metal in one complete operation. I happened to be in the production
plant when it operated - it was like a minor earthquake. Someone told
me that the repeated vibrations broke up nearby water piping.
Eddie MacDonald - Flight Research & Development electronic technician.
He worked on the instrumentation of CF100 test equipment, and that of
the CFl05 free flight models. AVRO purchased a tractor trailer unit
to be fitted with instrumentation and taken to Picton for the CF105
model flights, and Eddie spent a lot of time on the trailer unit.
Vic Leblanc - Instrument Technician in the Lab - he repaired out of
spec or u/s aircraft instruments - he was an expert watchmaker, and
if anything could be brought back to specification, Vic could do it.
We all had mechanical watches in those days, and if they got sticky,
we'd ask Vic to throw them in the instrument cleaning bath. After the
Arrow, Vic set up his own instrument repair business.
Eric Wolfenden was an engineer in the old UK sense of the word. He was
an expert with metal and with metal working machinery, and a meticulous
workman. He could perform magic with his micrometer and his lathe. He
was a mine of information on any part of the physical sciences. Zura
and the other test pilots used to drop in to chat with Eric. The flight
test engineers and draughtsmen used often to consult with Eric. They
often wanted unusual things made, and they'd review them with Eric,
since he'd have eventually to create them. He and his wife, Emily, came
to Canada in the 1950's, when they must already have been in their fifties
He had worked with aircraft in the UK during the war. He died in Victoria
in the 1980's.
Eddie Carr, a draughtsman, from the UK. He would spend hours with the
technicians in the lab, getting every detail properly recorded so that
his drawings were as accurate as they could be. Most of his work, as
it was with the other draughtsmen in his group was for "one-off"
things, specially designed for a particular purpose.
Larry Borth was the lab supervisor. He left AVRO before 1956, and joined
Litton Industries in Toronto. He was much respected by his peers.
Wally Gibson was one of the young engineers in Mario Pesando's group
George Gibson, a Flight Test lab electronics technician - transferred
to Cold Lake for the cold weather trials of the CF100
Roy Combley another of Mario's UK engineers. After leaving Avro, he
worked for Computing Devices of Canada in the early 1960's.
Phil Folwell, an RAE graduate, he worked in the lab, but left AVRO before
the CF105 debacle, and went with his new wife (a Scots girl) to California.
Last I heard, he was with an oceanic scientific group there.
I remember when Stan Haswell joined AVRO. Another ex RAF pilot was with
him. The company initially gave them both of them jobs that required
them to deliver flight schedules (I think) to various place around the
company. I remember how depressed they both used to look traipsing from
office to office with hands full of paper. I remember the first time
that I saw Stan in his flying suit - he looked like a man resurrected,
and seemed at least 6 inches taller. I don't know what happened to his
In the summer of 1955, I flew to London and spent two weeks in the UK.
It cost a lot of money, although I can't remember the figure now. I
took a portion of my wages over to the in-plant office of the AVRO credit
union each payday and deposited it in a savings account to cover the
cost of my ticket.The charter flight was arranged by the AVRO recreation
club and we flew by Boeing Stratocruiser. . We came over southern England
in the morning, under puffy white cumulous clouds scattered across a
blue sky. Beneath us the green fields of England. We flew almost over
Windsor Castle. It was a marvellous sight, its towers and walls glistening
in the sunlight - but not so for many of my fellow passengers who'd
been carousing all night. The aircraft began bucking as we came over
the land and into the air currents that were capped by the cumulous
clouds, and soon a lot of the passengers were sick. The aircraft was
a mess - stuff all over the places, including an arm rest from one of
Shorty Hatton was on the flight, and I was on the tarmac when he came
down from the plane, immaculately dressed and wearing a very large,
white, 'ten gallon' hat. That image has stuck with me vividly.
That two weeks in England changed my life, and all good things that
I see in my past seem to me to flow from that.
Jack Kinch, Derek Wolley, Ron Brighty, Vaughan Williams (chief draughtsman),
Jack Brandon were other people I remember form Mario Pesando's staff..Al
Betts - photographer - often in the flight test hanger