The Avro Arrow
1991, 24" x 38", Oil on Canvas
The legendary Arrow was designed and built at Malton, Ontario to an RCAF specification for a supersonic interceptor to seek and destroy any enemy threat to the northern reaches of North America. The Arrow had its first flight on March 25th, 1958.
At that time, it was internationally acknowledged the most powerful and sophisticated fighter aircraft in the world. The performance of the Arrow, with full weaponry at high altitude, is only now being approached by recent designs in other countries, at enormous cost.
The first and earliest test flights were carried out by the famous Avro Canada test pilot Jan Zurakowski. It flew supersonically on the third test flight and by the seventh flight had flown at speeds up to 1,000 mph while climbing and still accelerating at 50,000ft. Other pilots to fly the Arrow were test pilots Spud Potocki and Peter Cope, Spud carrying out the most flights, at speeds approximating twice the speed of sound. The RCAF evaluation pilot Jack Woodman had flown the aircraft through 95% of his assessment flying prior to cancellation of the project on February 20th. 1959 and reported "the Arrow was performing as predicted and meeting all guarantees".
The five aircraft flown in the test program were all Mk.1 aircraft with the interim P&W J 75 engines. Number 6 aircraft (Mk.2) was fitted with the production Orenda Iroquois engines, which had 30% more thrust and the MK.2, due to fly within days of the cancellation, would have had an even more startling performance. Approximately 70 hours of test flying was carried out in the course of the 66 flights of the five Arrows and climb speeds of up to 40,000 ft. per min. were recorded by Spud Potocki.
The Arrow was a two seat, twin-engine delta aircraft with an armament bay as large as the bomb bay on a B-29 bomber. Wingspan was 50 ft., length was 80 ft. and a gross weight, equipped for combat, was approximately 60,000 lbs.
The government of the day ordered everything to do with the Arrow destroyed after cancelling the project on the grounds that "no more manned aircraft will be required and missiles will be the future defence weapons", but the front section of the fuselage of the sixth aircraft, containing the cockpit, is on display at the National Aviation Museum in Ottawa.
The primary objective was to create an image of the Arrow that was both dramatic and unusual as well as being technically correct.
The first stage was the building of a model and photographing the aircraft in various flight positions. Once the final pose was chosen, drawings were made and a preliminary background designed. The final draft was then transferred to canvas and the oil painting began.
Having arrived at this stage, it was now extremely important to obtain a professional critique on the drawing of the aircraft so any flaws or omissions could be corrected. To this end, Mr. James Floyd provided his guidance and assistance and I was able to make the necessary alternations.
The Arrow is performing an inverted loop and the unusual perspective was designed to give the viewer a heightened sense of the manoeuvre. The painting can also be viewed upside down, exaggerating the effect. Directly below and to the right of the nose cone you will find several floating segments of land and a small boat floating above the clouds (the contrail passes beneath the largest piece of land). This was done to depict a sense of disorientation - the same experience a pilot may have executing such a manoeuvre.
Robert W. Vanderhorst
The oil original painting was acquired by the National Aviation Museum in Ottawa and now hangs in the museum's permanent art collection.