Janusz Żurakowski c.2003
12 September 1914|
|Died||9 February 2004
Barry's Bay, Ontario
|Children||George Żurakowski, Joleen Żurakowski and Mark Żurakowski|
|Parents||Adam Żurakowski and Maria Antonina Szawłowska|
Żurakowski was born to Polish parents in 1914 in Ryzawka, which had been a city of the Russian Empire since 1864 when the Russians abolished the Congress Kingdom of Poland. In 1921, following the Polish-Soviet War, the Treaty of Riga established the frontier between Soviet Russia and the Second Polish Republic. The new border placed Ryzawka in Soviet territory and the Żurakowski family left their home and escaped into the newly established Polish Republic.
Żurakowski was educated in Lublin and while at high school, he learned to fly gliders. In 1934, Żurakowski joined the Polish Air Force and entered the Polish Air Force Officers' School. After learning to fly powered aircraft in 1935, and graduating as a Sub-Lieutenant, he went on to serve as a fighter pilot posted to 161 Fighter Squadron in Lwów, and later, in 1939, as a flying instructor at Deblin.
Second World War
In September 1939, "Black September", Żurakowski had his combat debut in an outmoded PZL P.7 trainer against a flight of seven German Dornier 17s attacking Deblin on 2 September. He managed to damage a Do 17 but was forced to break off combat when his guns jammed.
Following the defeat of Poland, Żurakowski made his way to England via Romania and France. Like many of his compatriots, he was smuggled out of the war zone with false documents and a new identity as a forester. Thousands of the Polish Air Force pilots who had made their way to France fought against Luftwaffe forces in the Battle of France. Żurakowski was originally posted to a fighter unit in France before he was selected to train as a bomber pilot in England. Once he arrived in England, the RAF changed its mind and sent him and the first group of Poles to fighter squadrons which were rapidly being deployed in anticipation of an attack on Britain in 1940.
Żurakowski was first posted as a Pilot Officer to 152 Squadron before joining No 234 Squadron initially stationed at RAF St Eval, Cornwall, a town named after the patron saint of flight testing. The squadron was moved forward to RAF Middle Wallop on 13 August 1940. He flew the Supermarine Spitfire Mk. 1 against the Luftwaffe shooting down a Messerschmitt Bf-110 over the Isle of Wight on 15 August 1940. After being shot down nine days later,[N 1] he returned to duty, shooting down two Messerschmitt Bf 109Es on the 12th and 13th day after that. Near the conclusion of the Battle of Britain, he scored a "probable" over a Bf 110C on 29 September 1940. Following the decimation of 234 Squadron and its transfer to the north, Żurakowski asked for a transfer to No. 609 Squadron RAF, a Spitfire unit still in the front lines. From there, he was reposted as a flight instructor to a succession of Flight Training Units where he passed on his knowledge of combat flying to a new group of fighter pilots.
In 1942, now Flying Officer Żurakowski flew again with his countrymen on Spitfire IIs in No 315 Squadron rising to the post of Squadron Leader of No 316 Polish Fighter Squadron and Deputy Wing leader of Polish No 1 Fighter Wing stationed at RAF Northolt, often escorting USAAF bombers on daylight bombing raids. Żurakowski scored a probable over a Messerschmitt Bf 109G on 17 May 1943 while acting as the Wing Gunnery Officer. He was awarded the Virtuti Militari, the Polish equivalent of the Victoria Cross in 1943. Other awards included the Polish Cross of Valor (Krzyż Walecznych) and Bar (1941) and Second Bar (1943).
After the war, Poland's Soviet-imposed communist government exiled all of the Polish fighter pilots who had flown with the RAF as part of a ploy to downplay Polish patriotism. As a result, S/L Żurakowski, among many other Polish war heroes, chose to stay in Britain. In 1944, he was posted to the Empire Test Pilots' School, graduating from No. 2 Course on 5 January 1945. From 1945 to 1947 Żurakowski worked as a test pilot with "C" Squadron of the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at RAF Boscombe Down, testing naval aircraft for the Air Ministry. Never having landed an aircraft on a carrier before, he practised landing on a deck painted on a runway at Naval Air Station East Haven. Following a brief training period, he proceeded to land the Supermarine Seafire, a navalised Spitfire, on the deck of HMS Ravager without incident.
While still at Boscombe Down, Żurakowski also flew, among over 30 different types, the Vampire, the de Havilland Hornet, and the Gloster Meteor never letting pass, "an opportunity to give the staff a display that included single engine aerobatics." Acknowledged as one of the best aerobatic pilots in the UK, he gave a spectacular display at the Farnborough Airshow in June 1946, with the Martin-Baker MB 5, a piston-engined fighter designed too late to enter production.
Retiring from the RAF as Squadron Leader in 1947, Żurakowski was employed as Chief Experimental Test Pilot for Gloster Aircraft Company under Chief Test Pilot Bill Waterton, and when Waterton was away in Canada on assignment, assumed the role of Acting Chief Test Pilot. "Zura" as he came to be known, tested the many experimental versions of the Gloster Meteor, Javelin, and Gloster E.1/44 fighters. He set an international speed record: London-Copenhagen-London, 4–5 April 1950. The attempt was organised by Gloster to sell the Meteor IV to the Danish Air Force and succeeded.
At the 1951 Farnborough Airshow, Żurakowski demonstrated a new aerobatics manoeuvre, the "Zurabatic Cartwheel", in which he suspended the Gloster Meteor G-7-1 prototype he was flying, in a vertical cartwheel. "This jet manoeuvre was the first new aerobatic in 20 years." The cartwheel used the dangerously asymmetric behaviour the Meteor had with one engine throttled back. The manoeuvre started with a vertical climb to 4,000 ft by which point the aircraft had slowed to only 80 mph. Cutting the power of one engine caused the Meteor to pivot. When the nose was pointing downwards, the second engine was throttled back and the aircraft continued to rotate through a further 360 degrees on momentum alone having lost nearly all vertical velocity. Carrying out the cartwheel and recovering from it without entering an inverted spin (which the Meteor could not be brought out of) required great skill.
In April 1952, Żurakowski and his family left for Canada where he became a test pilot for A.V. Roe Canada, concentrating on experimental testing. He broke the sound barrier on 18 December 1952, diving the CF-100 fighter, the first straight-winged jet aircraft to achieve this feat. While testing an experimental rocket pack on 23 August 1954, Zura survived an explosion that killed his observer, John Hiebert.
During the Avro Canada years, Żurakowski continued to fly as an aerobatic display pilot, with spectacular results, especially at the 1955 Farnborough Airshow where he displayed the CF-100 in a "falling-leaf". He was acclaimed again as the "Great Zura" by many aviation and industry observers. In 1958, he was chosen as the chief development test pilot of the new CF-105 Avro Arrow program. On 25 March 1958, with Żurakowski at the controls, Arrow RL 25201 took off from Malton, Ontario for its first flight. The flight lasted 35 minutes and was problem-free. Żurakowski continued in the flight test program. He flew Arrows RL 201, 202, and 203, over a total of 21 flights, 23.75 hours, reaching speeds of Mach 1.89 and an altitude of 50,000 feet.
After flying Arrow 203 on 26 September 1958, Żurakowski decided to give up test flying for good, fulfilling a promise he had made to his wife to stop experimental flying once he reached the age of 40, although he had already exceeded that age.
Żurakowski retired from active test flying in November 1958 but continued with the Avro Aircraft company as an engineer in the Flight Test Office. On 20 February 1959, the infamous "Black Friday", Żurakowski, along with the approximately 15,000 employees of Avro and Orenda plants learned that the Diefenbaker government had precipitously cancelled the Avro Arrow program and its Orenda Iroquois engine. The five flying examples and the newly constructed RL-206 (slated for a run at World Air Speed and Altitude records) along with all the assorted factory jigs and tools were broken up. Only the nose of Arrow 206 and sections of other Arrows now exist, on display at the Canada Aviation Museum in Ottawa.
After deciding to leave the aviation world altogether, Żurakowski and his family moved to Barry's Bay, Ontario to build Kartuzy Lodge, a small tourist lodge and resort which he and his family operated for over 40 years. During this period, he resorted to his engineering background when he "tinkered" with a number of sailboat, catamaran and ice-boats, of his own design and construction. Two of his hydrofoil boats are still used by Kartuzy Lodge renters.
Following a lingering battle with myelodysplasia, Żurakowski died at Kartuzy Lodge on 9 February 2004.
In recognition of his contributions to Canadian aviation, Żurakowski was inducted into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973. He was further honoured in 1996 by the Royal Canadian Mint's release of a commemorative coin, the Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck which featured an insert of Janusz Żurakowski. In 1997, he was inducted into the Western Canada Aviation Museum "Pioneers of Canadian Aviation" annals, as well as being profiled in the following year in the documentary film, "Straight Arrow". On 23 July 1999, CFB Cold Lake (Alberta) Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment named its new facility, the "Żurakowski Building", and in September 2000, he became an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test pilots, joining the ranks of Charles Lindbergh, Neil Armstrong, and Igor Sikorsky, among numerous other luminaries.
Żurakowski received the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in 1999.
His adopted hometown built Żurakowski Park in 2003, recognizing his contributions to the community, as well as the world. Two imposing statues, of Janusz Żurakowski and his beloved Avro Arrow, dominate the arrow-shaped Żurakowski Park (an elongated triangle evocative of the Avro Arrow's profile) at the crossroads of two main streets in Barry's Bay, Ontario. A future museum and visitor's commemorative centre consisting of a gazebo and display area will be located at Żurakowski Park.
The former Gloster Aircraft company airfield at Hucclecote has become a residential division in Gloucester, UK and features Zura Avenue.
- Zurakowski's lifelong friend, Stanislaw Wujastyk, a colleague of Żurakowski's at flying school in Dęblin, recalled in 2011, that on parachuting to the ground, Żurakowski was approached by an Englishman who said, "This is private property, you know. But never mind, come in and have a cup of tea."
- Hamilton-Paterson, James. Empire of the Clouds: When Britain's Aircraft Ruled the World. London: Faber & Faber, 2010. ISBN 978-0-571-24794-3.
- Kusiba, Marek. Janusz Żurakowski: From Avro Arrow to Arrow Drive. Toronto: Address Press, 2003. ISBN 0-9733641-0-6.
- Rossiter, Sean. The Chosen Ones: Canada's Test Pilots in Action. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2002. ISBN 1-55054-930-8.
- Sutherland, Alice Gibson. Canada's Aviation Pioneers: 50 Years of McKee Trophy Winners. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., 1978. ISBN 0-07-082704-4.
- Waterton, Bill. The Quick and the Dead. London: Frederick Mueller, 1958.
- Wujastyk, Stanisław. Czasy i Przyjaźnie. Lublin: Zaklad Literatury Wspólczesnej, 2010. ISBN 978-83-227-3155-0.
- Ziółkowska-Boehm, Aleksandra. Amerykanie z wyboru. Warszawa: 1998. ISBN 83-900358-7-1.
- Ziółkowska-Boehm, Aleksandra. The Roots Are Polish. Toronto: Canadian Polish Research Institute, 2004. ISBN 0-920517-05-6.
- Zuk, Bill. The Avro Arrow Story: The Impossible Dream. Calgary: Altitude Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1-55439-703-0.
- Zuk, Bill. The Avro Arrow Story: The Revolutionary Airplane and its Courageous Test Pilots. Calgary: Altitude Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-55153-978-0.
- Zuk, Bill. Janusz Zurakowski: Legends in the Sky. St. Catharine's, Ontario: Vanwell, 2004. ISBN 1-55125-083-7.
- Web site dedicated to Janusz Zurakowski & the Canadian aircraft Avro Arrow
- Zurakowski Park, Barry's Bay official website