December, 1950, Canadian Aviation
by Ronald Keith
Flight in a jet is not easily described. This is because the strongest impressions are negative. It’s the things that don’t happen that distinguish jet from piston-powered flying. The absence of the familiar thunder and shuddering vibration lend this ‘squirt-flying’ an unreal and almost fantastic quality that has to be experienced to be appreciated.
The writer had the good fortune to fly in the Avro CF-100 twin-jet fighter with S/L W.A. “Bill” Waterton. The sleek black “Canuck” was like a shapely beauty queen on a personal appearance circuit, with a retinue of fussing attendants. Once airborne, the fighter wasted no time, but without the clumsy Dakota “mother ship” the jet speedster was helpless. The Canuck functioned smoothly and efficiently but, being a new breed, had to have its own maintenance shop flown along in its wake. Once the CF-100s are numerous there won’t be such problems, but right now all sorts of special arrangements have to be made for the simplest cross-country flight.
Our flight was a routine 45-minute test hop from Malton. Strapped into the ejection seat we were conscious of a whining crescendo as Bill “clutched in” the turbines. Eventually, the powerful auxiliary batteries are used to spin the turbines, and then the engines are fired. There is no warming-up period. They are running, so the battery cable is unplugged and you are ready to go.
The take-off proved to be a rather startling experience. As the throttles were advanced and the brakes released we darted forward with an acceleration that slammed us back against the seat. In what seemed just a few seconds, there was the thud of the wheels locking into the belly and we were rocketing upward at an astonishing angle. In the climb, the enormous power of those jets, more than 12,000 lb static thrust, can be used to advantage. In one spectacular loop we started at 7,000 ft altitude and were riding over the top at 17,000 ft. The Canuck rode around this two-mile-diameter pinwheel without a shudder.
Our rear cockpit, designed for a navigator, was without flying controls or instruments, just an oxygen flow meter, a few other gadgets and a steel tomahawk, presumably for crashing your way out if necessary. Bill told us, however, that the controls were exceptionally light, a bit too much so, in fact, for general use. There would have to be some adjustments made to put a little more weight into the finger-tip feel of the stick.
Level flight at 25,000 ft and at a speed somewhat over 10 miles a minute proved to be remarkably unsensational. You could feel no vibration, even pressing your hand against the instrument panel. The noise level was low enough to permit normal conversation. At that altitude we just seemed to be sitting there. It was not difficult to appreciate Bill Waterton’s insistence, which the press wrote off as modesty, that the 30-minute flight to Montreal was “slightly boring.”
This article originally appeared in the December, 1950 edition of Canadian Aviation.