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A Look Back: November/December 2007

Flying saucers have been part of aviation lore for many years; our imaginations have been rendered even more vivid by endless numbers of books, movies, comic strips and the like, all purporting to show some form of space travel  outside our world.


November 30, 2007
By Raymond Canon

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Flying saucers have been part of aviation lore for many years; our imaginations have been rendered even more vivid by endless numbers of books, movies, comic strips and the like, all purporting to show some form of space travel  outside our world. To add to all this there are equally numerous sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects piloted by Venutians, Martians and perhaps even Klingons and the Borg.

People have actually seen UFOs for centuries. One of the earliest on record was in Japan in the 13th century while yet another was in Germany three centuries later. If nothing else, it proved that even people in earlier ages were capable of identifying them and ascribing them to other parts of the universe.

But for people who lived near Toronto’s Malton Airport in the 1950s there was no need to involve any of those sources; there was a flying saucer to be seen on occasion right at the airport.

Funding for this project actually began in 1952; the money came from the Canadian and American governments and the development was carried out by Avro Canada’s chief designer, John Frost, in the plant located at the north part of the airport.

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Admittedly, when you saw the resulting product up close, it did appear rather primitive. There was one man sitting out in the open flying it, and he was 100% human. The flying saucer could also be described a hovercraft, but was more popularly known as the AvroCar.

The first model built was intended for wind tunnel testing only but the second model, VZ-98V, completed in 1959, was flown at Malton. It managed to get only a few feet off the ground and the US government, citing poor lateral stability problems with the AvroCar, withdrew its funding as had the Canadian government much earlier.

Avro decided to go it alone and believed it had resolved the problem with the use of J-85 turbojets similar to the ones used on the F-5 fighter series. However, with the crash of the Arrow project in 1962 the AvroCar went with it. On April 30 of that year, Avro Canada was out of business, the darkest day in Canadian aviation history. Amazingly enough, both prototypes still exist – and both are in the US.

One is left to wonder where the Canadian aviation scene would be today if the AvroCar, Jetliner and Arrow projects had been backed resolutely by Ottawa. This will be the subject of a future article.


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