A statue of Janusz Zurakowski, the Avro Arrow’s test pilot and local resident looks on. The replica of the Arrow, located in downtown Barry’s Bay, is gone for repairs. Barry Conway, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The model Avro Arrow, which has seemingly soared into the skies in the village for the last two decades, will be missing for a bit as repairs are undertaken, but the fascinating history of the test pilot who called the village home is the continuing fascinating part of the story. 

Janusz Zurakowski was born in Ryzawka, Poland (now in the Ukraine), on September 12th, 1914. When he was seven, his family moved to Garwolin and then Lublin, where he was educated. In 1934, he joined the Polish Airforce and at the outbreak of the Second World War, he shot down his first German aeroplane. 

After Poland fell, he escaped to England where he fought in the famous Battle of Britain, flying a Supermarine Spitfire for the Royal Air Force. He soon shot down three more German aircraft and was promoted to Flight Lieutenant, taking over command of the No. 316 Polish Fighter Squadron for the RAF. 

After the war, he became a test pilot at Boscombe Down, testing 40 different aircraft. He also established a new speed record and invented a new aerobatic manoeuvre, still performed today as the “Zurabatic Cartwheel.” 

In 1952, he emigrated to Canada where he joined the Avro Aircraft Ltd. in Toronto and was the first to fly a Mark 4 CF-100 at supersonic speed (or faster than 1,234.8 km/hr). It astounded the Avro design team as they believed it could not be done. 

He thought differently. 

By March, 1958 he became the chief test pilot for the Avro Arrow, a $400-million project and the most famous Canadian-built aircraft in history. Within a year he flew it at Mach 1.5 speeds (or 1,852.2 km/hr). 

That is until February 20th, 1959, when the Avro Arrow project was cancelled by the Diefenbaker government, throwing Zurakowski and 14,000 very highly-skilled workers out on their ear. Most left Canada for high-paying jobs in Britain and the United States, including NASA, where they helped put a man on the moon in 1969, or helped develop the Concorde supersonic jetliner. 

Mr. Zurakowski took a different path. Despite lucrative offers from American aeronautical companies, he moved his family to Barry’s Bay and established Kartuzy Lodge, a very successful tourist resort. 

Shortly before his death in 2004, Zurakowski Park was officially opened on in July 2003 in downtown Barry’s Bay. It holds a replica of his beloved Avro Arrow that took 2,500 volunteer hours to build. The park was created by Gerard Trader and his son, Peter, with Ronnie Coulas assisting, and with John S. Hildebrandt and Jackie Recoskie aiding with design. Greg Ryan and Andre VanHoof looked after construction. 

Mr. Zurakowski attended the opening ceremony, applauded by thousands, with everyone looking up into the sky to see a Supermarine Spitfire fly past not once but twice. Later, 900 avid fans dined and toasted their local hero at the Paul J. Yakabuski Community Centre, decorated by another team of volunteers organized by Ursula Jeffrey and Helen Recoskie. 

The whole town turned out to cheer on the courageous life and heroic times of Mr. Zurakowski. And though the replica will go missing for a short while to undergo some minor repairs and a major cleaning, the spirit of the man himself will forever remain at the heart of Zurakowski Park.

By Barry Conway, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 19, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   The Eganville Leader   Eganville, Ontario
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