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Janusz (Jan) Zurakowski


On Monday, February 9, 2004, Canada lost one of her aviation greats. Janusz (Jan) Zurakowski passed away at the age of 89 at home with his family in Barry's bay, Ontario.

Although he had a fascinating and varied career before this, he was most famous in his adopted country of Canada as the head test pilot for the AVRO ARROW program in the late fifties....the high point of the cold war and of Canada's status as a world class aircraft producer.

Jan Zurakowski was born of Polish parents in Russia on September 12, 1914. After the revolution, they fled to Poland. As a youth, he took his first ride in a glider and became hooked on aviation. In 1934, Jan joined the Polish Air Force.

When Poland fell at the outbreak of  World War II, he managed to flee to England in 1940. Like many expatriate Polish pilots he ended up in the Royal Air Force, and distinguished himself in the Battle of Britain. During this time, he shot down three German aircraft and was, himself, shot down in flames, although he parachuted to safety. In 1942, he was given command of his own Polish squadron and let m any combat missions. He was awarded the British Cross Of Valour and Bar and the Polish Vittuti Militari.

At the war's end he was posted to The Aircraft & Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down, where he tested Britain's first jet fighter, the DeHavilland Vampire.

In 1947, he retired from the RAF and took a position as chief experimental test pilot at the Gloster Aircraft Company, where he flew the Javelin and the Meteor aircraft.

In 1948, he married his childhood sweetheart, Anna.

He perfected two entirely new aerobatic manoeuvres: "The Zurobatic cartwheel" and "The Falling Leaf"

He set an air speed record flying between London and Copenhagen.

In 1952 he came to Canada and became  the Chief development pilot at AVRO in Malton, Ontario.

Here, he became the first man to power dive a CF-100 through the sound barrier, a feat previously thought impossible.

He was selected as the first test pilot for the world beating AVRO ARROW project. He was the first to fly the aircraft, and , on it's seventh flight he reached the speed of  Mach 1.52 at 49,000 feet while still climbing. On Sept 14, 1958, he reached the highest speed of his career, Mach 1.89. He would get in a total of 23 hours and 45 minutes in the Arrow.

After the 14th flight of the Arrow,  at the age of 44, he retired as test pilot, but remained with AVRO in an advisory capacity.

On February 20th, 1959 came the infamous day to be known in the future as "Black Friday" when the Conservative Government cancelled the Arrow project.

Jan, now out of work,  gave up flying and eventually moved to Barry's Bay in northern Ontario, where he and his wife operated a tourist resort known as Kartuzy Lodge where he raised a family and lived until his passing.

He continued to receive acclaim as an aviator for the rest of his life. He was inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of fame in 1973, and was named a "Pioneer of Canadian Aviation" by The Western Canada Aviation Museum. The Canadian Flight Test Centre was re-named after him in the year 2000.

Finally, in 2003, a memorial in his home of Barry's Bay was dedicated to him. It consists of an arrow shaped park, a granite statue of him, and a scale replica of the Arrow, forever to soar into the sky in  tribute.

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