Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck Mk.4 – RCAF 18112 – crash on August 23, 1954
Crewman Gave Life in Saving Secret Equipment From CF-100 Which Crashed and Burned in Farmer's Field at Ajax
ACE'S SURVIVAL OF CRASH MAY SAVE MANY LIVES THOUGH CREWMAN DIED
Jan Zurakowski, Avro's famed test pilot jumped from a rocketing CF-100 carrying top secret equipment before it crashed near Ajax yesterday, said from his Oshawa hospital bed today, "I tried everything but nothing worked." Blown clear in his ejector seat, Zurakowski parachuted to a hard landing 500 yards from where the $800,000 fighter disintegrated in a field killing its flight observer, John Hiebert, 28 of Rexdale. Zurakowski steered the plane clear of Ajax homes before he jumped.
News of his crewman's death caused the usually stoic Zurakowski to lapse into semi-consciousness at the hospital. It was found later that his ankle had received a minor fracture. The Battle of Britain ace was at the controls of the hush-hush Mark IV fighter in a routine flight and aviation experts say his survival may save countless other lives and untold millions or research dollars as he fills in answer to the mystery crash. Mrs. Zurakowski, who visited her husband in the hospital said he told her he fought desperately to save the aircraft.
The following statement was issued today by A.V. Roe, Canada, Ltd: "he aircraft involved in yesterday's accident was the Mark IV prototype which has been in service for the past three years as a development test vehicle. the aircraft was returning to Malton after completing a normal routine test flight. An inquiry is now under way in an effort to determine the cause of the accident."
Hiebert died a hero, Zurakowski revealed. In the last frantic seconds of the dive, the observer insisted upon jettisoning top secret equipment before blowing himself to safety. The delay cost him his life but the equipment was later recovered. "I called out to my observer over and over," the pilot recounted. "I kept saying: "Get out! Bail out! Get out!" I waited and waited. Then I finally had to get out myself."
Zurakowski told interviewers: "As soon as I realized something was wrong, I tried to pull the plane up but I couldn't do it." He said that it was the first time he had to bail out of an aircraft on a test flight. "During the war I had to bail out of burning planes twice." Zurakowski's heroism in steering the jet away from the population centres from of Ajax and Pickering was attested to by the thousands who watched the aircraft in its death dive. As flames engulfed the fuselage and trailed far behind it, eye-witnesses believed escape to be impossible.
Asked About Mate
The fighter screamed to less than 2,000 feet before the pilot's parachute billowed out. He struck the ground heavily. But when rescuers rushed to his side, he dismissed his own injuries saying: "How is the other fellow?" It is believed Hiebert, flung into his seat by the tremendous pressure of the air stream after the canopy was jettisoned was unable to pull down the screen which sets off the explosion charge. Top Avro officials, including Crawford Gordon, president, met in secret today. Although many spectators claimed to have heard explosions before the jet erupted into flame, company officials were inclined to discount these stories. However, they added they could make no statement until an inquiry had been held.
Saw Flash of Flame
"There was a terrific explosion and I saw a flash of flame coming from the rear of the plane." recounted John Chubb, 19, who saw the crash from his rear veranda. "Suddenly it veered off and seemed to pancake down."
The CF-100 was at 5,000 feet en route back to Malton when Zurakowski found himself in trouble. When he decided it was out of control, he fought it over the farm fields before telling Hiebert to prepare himself for ejection procedure. Pilot and observer then prepare themselves for ejection from the cockpit, a procedure that must be followed precisely and one which allows for no mistakes or omissions.
Once all connections between the two men are cut, the cockpit canopy is jettisoned. the pilot in the front seat and the observer behind, separated from him a bulkhead, are now on their own. since the slipstream fills the cockpit with tremendous pressure, only limited movement is now possible. To leave the aircraft, a safety pin which prevents the ejector seat's explosive charge from being accidentally discharged, must first be removed. the flier then pulls down a protective screen in front of his face. This activates the charge which throws the seat and its occupant clear of the aircraft.
Must Take Chance
In an extreme emergency, when these is not enough time to jettison the canopy, the flier may be forced to take his chances on being shot through it on his ejector seat. Examination of the wreckage of the CF-100 may show why Hiebert failed to get clear of the aircraft.
An employee of A.V. Roe for several years, Hiebert was in the flight test department a short time. He and his wife, also employed at the plant, have parents living in Winnipeg.
A 19-ton plane, the CF-100 has been pushed through the sound barrier and cartwheeled through the skies by Zurakowski. In active service with the RCAF, it is the backbone of the "seek and destroy" squadron based at North Bay. It is the only all-Canadian aircraft in use by the RCAF.
Some spectators screamed when they saw the rocket pods jettisoned by Zurakowski hurtle downward, they believed them to be the crew members.
Desmond Kavenaugh, the man who drove the test pilot to hospital said: "What brought me out of the house was the screams of a neighbor. I saw the parachute going down in a field about a mile from my house."
Mr. Kavanaugh picked up his two-year daughter, Margaret, jumped in his car and raced east along Highway 2. He turned up a lane on the Blake farm, which borders the Fleming farm on which the fighter crashed, and drove almost to the spot where Zurakowski was sitting. "He told me his leg was broken and asked if I'd seen the other fellow. He was conscious but he didn't say anything all the way to the hospital." He had to wait with the injured man until police were able to clear the way for his car.
Zurakowski will go home today, Dr. Claude Vipond of Oshawa General hospital said. The pilot suffered a minor fracture of the ankle and has been fitted with walking cast. He has some bruised muscles but suffered no shock, the doctor said.
Tony Hubers, herdsman on the Fleming farm, was eating supper when he heard the jet explode overhead. "I rushed outside and saw it crash in the field. Black smoke was swirling all around and the whole tail was burning," he said.
Mr. and Mrs. Russell Fleming, who own the farm where the CF-100 crashed and their son Gordon, 11, were just going to dinner when they hear the low flying jet almost above their house. "The whole house shook and some pots and pans I had drying on the window sill crashed to the ground." said Mrs. Fleming.