Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jan Zurikowski, Principal Test Pilot of the Avro Arrow, A True Canadian Aviation Legend

Janusz (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. Jan 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 led many combat missions. Throught his flying carrer he perfected two entirely new aerobatic manoeuvres: "The Zurobatic cartwheel" and "The Falling Leaf". After migrating to Canada, he became the principal test Pilot of the Avro Arrow program which was a Jet program designed to patrol Canada's skies and intercept any hostile aircraft, especially Soviet bombers, that might threaten Canada's airspace. Jan Zurikowski, was one of the four test pilots that flew the Avro Arrow.
The Canadian conservative government cancelled the Arrow program on February 20, 1959, throwing 14,000 people out of work, on that day Jan decided that he would never fly again. Weeks after the program got cancelled, Jan Zurikowski was driving down highway 401 near the Malton Airport Avro Arrow plant and seen a flat bed truck driving near him with a section of the Avro Arrow wing sticking out from underneath a cover, the aircraft was being taken away as scrapped metal. Jan pulled over to the shoulder and broke down in tears.
Jan moved on with his life and bought a home with his wife Anna in Barry's Bay, Ontario, they operated a tourist resort known as Kartuzy Lodge and raised a family together, Jan lived until his passing on February 9, 2004.

Story Credit: Bob Teodori