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AVROLAND's Logo   Alan Cobden

Memories from Alan - some of the following will be moved into the listing section for Avro Staff:

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 friend.

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 the seats.

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