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THE AVRO AEROCAR
Project Y/Y2, Project VZ-9V, Project 606A
Canada's Flying Saucer (Patella Canadiana Volucris)
FATE MAGAZINE: Canada Builds Flying Saucer In the 1950s Canada's AVRO Company of Malton, Ontario, a division of the British A.V. Roe Ltd., was working on a variety of secret flying saucer designs.

Prototype of Vertical Take-Off (VTO) 'Wing'

To the British it was initially known as Project Y and was to take-off vertically while propped up on-edge.

Initially the idea was of a flying wing that scooped air from above, creating a vacuum above the wing and vented it out the sides for thrust, but the heat from the exhaust melted the metal channels and the power of the engines blew-out the rivets holding things together.

The "wing" idea was eventually abandoned for the classic flying saucer shape and the project was renamed: Project Y2.

Prototype of RCAF Project Y2 Flying Saucer To the Americans it was known as Project VZ-9V or later as 606A. "VZ" is the American designation for vertical take-off aircraft.

By 1961 Canadian work on the project had stopped due to lack of funding and the prototypes were moved south of the border to become the American Secret Project Silver Bug.

Avrocar in Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia Today the two existing prototypes that we now of are in the United States. One is in the Air Force Museum in Fort Eustis, Virginia and the other is wasting away in a Maryland warehouse.

CONTENTS OF THIS DOSSIER:

  1. [VZ-9V AEROCAR] Aviation History Entry (1 page)
  2. [AVRO DEVICES] UFO Encyclopaedia Entry (1 page)
  3. [FLYING SAUCER] Look Magazine, June 14, 1955 (2 pages)
  4. [THE VZ-9A] by Errol Bruce-Knapp (1 page)
  5. [PROJECT Y] Jonathan Leake, Sunday Times (1 page)
  6. [FLYING SAUCER] Julian Borger, The Guardian (3 pages)
  7. [THE AVROCAR] by Palmiro Campagna, author (1 page)
  8. [HOME] (Link back to HomePage)

AVIATION HISTORY:

Schematic Drawing of Avro Aerocar

Avro of Canada VZ-9V Avrocar - Avrocar, with distinctive "flying saucer" shape, designed as a VTOL aircraft for DoD. At the time, concept considered promising way to incorporate VTOL capability into high-speed design. Annular nozzle equipped with some rather ingenious flow control mechanisms intended to produce lifting thrust during cruise and control moments during all phases of flight. Air for annular jet pumped by centrally mounted 5 ft diameter turbo rotor driven by exhaust of the 3 engines. In forward flight, body of the Avrocar intended to develop aerodynamic lift. Avrocar designed to have max speed of 300 mph at high altitude and range of 1,000 mi. 2 pilots sat in bubble- enclosed cockpits. Avrocar found to have narrow flight envelope in tests at NASA Ames Research Center and in flight tests by USAF. Was unstable and never operated at a height of over 4 ft. Work abandoned on concept due to limited flight success, existence of major mechanical problems caused by structural fatigue, and possible disenchantment over potential of unique flying saucer design.

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THE UFO ENCYCLOPEDIA
Compiled & Edited by John Spencer

AVRO DEVICES

During the early 1950s there were rumours of collaborations between the Royal Canadian Air Force and A.V. Roe Ltd. an aeronautics firm in Toronto, Canada. They were apparently perfecting AVRO devices, i.e. terrestrially made 'flying saucers', and in particular the AV-9 and VZ-9.

It is alleged that at one time the Air Force was using the presence of AVRO devices as an excuse to explain away reports of UFO sightings but it appears that in fact the AVRO development was a monumental flop. These vehicles were reportedly highly unstable and were never able to fly very far of for very long.

However, there was a new twist to the story when it was believed that the Army was using the AVRO excuse as cover for the fact that it was actually test flying a captured alien flying saucer.

This later claim was made by Lieutenant Colonel George Edwards, a scientist and former USAF personnel member, who claims to have been involved in the AVRO VZ-9 project and stated, 'We know that the AF was secretly test flying a real alien space craft.'

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LOOK MAGAZINE

Look Magazine, Volume 19, June 14, 1955

DESPITE HUNDREDS OF "eyewitness" accounts of flying saucers, none has been captured and no government has come forward to take credit (or blame) for their reported aerial shenanigans. So, barring the possibility that the saucers are from other planets (a theory ardently supported by science-fiction fans), it seems reasonable to conclude that "there ain't no such animal."

But persistent and fairly credible rumours recur that a Canadian aircraft manufacturer, A. V. Roe, Canada, Ltd., has had a saucer design under development for two years. One report has it that the project was abandoned by the Canadian government because it would cost over $75 million to get a prototype flying model into the air. The A. V. Roe people maintain a confusing silence about the whole thing. They can't deny the project has been abandoned because they never announced it had begun. Our own Air Force offers "no comment."

At a recent meeting of engineers, it was indicated that, while flying saucer or sphere projects may still be purely hypothetical, new air-defense problems are setting up requirements for aircraft performance that would seem to be most ideally met by a saucer craft such as illustrated above.

One problem, recently stated by Brig. Gen. Benjamin Kelsey, deputy director of research and development of the Air Force, is this: "Airplanes today spend too much time gathering speed on the ground and not enough flying in the air." Today's fighters, he pointed out, need extremely long runways and there are few in existence that are now long enough. These few, and the concentration of the planes using them, provide a worth-while target for an A-bomb. With a single blow, the enemy might cripple a substantial portion of our air defense.

Planes that could take off vertically would not need long runways, which cost millions of dollars. They could be dispersed widely and safely. In this country, four vertical-rising aircraft already have been revealed. All but one, however, are modifications of conventional plane designs. None yet approaches the performance a true saucer might be capable of.

Look Magazine, Volume 19, June 14, 1955
Page 2
What are the requirements of an ideal defense fighter?
    1) Ability to take off and land vertically
    2) high speed of over Mach 2. (more than 1500 mph)
    3) high rate of climb
    4) excellent manoeuvrability
    5) heavy armament
    6) ability to operate at 60,000 feet
These sketches indicate a highly educated guess of what a flying saucer to fulfill these requirements would look like. It provides for a one-man crew, housed in a glass bubble that would provide excellent visibility.

The prone position of the pilot not only allows improved streamlining but also enables the pilot to withstand high accelerations and quick turns. The design contemplates use of cannon, rockets or guided missiles. Exact armament would depend on the mission. The target would be sighted by radar, and the actual firing would be computed and accomplished electronically, as in several interceptors now in operation.

Power unit is key to design. The whole success of the saucer design depends on the unusual engine. The sketched design is remarkably similar to a conventional jet engine but is many times larger. It consists of a set of combustion chambers and a large turbine. These produce blasts of propulsive air around the circumference of the saucer. Air entering the intakes around the pilots cockpit is deflected to the engine. This pressurized air is swept up by the impeller, with a subsequent rise in pressure and temperature. Next, the air goes to the combustion chamber, where fuel is added and ignited and a propulsive gas is formed. The hot gases rush through the turbine blades, in the process turning the impeller wheel. The gas then expands and exhausts at high velocity through the many-fingered jet pipes. The large turbine acts as a stabilizing gyroscope keeping the plane level even when it is hovering.

Design is structurally strong. The saucer shape lends itself to engineering for strength much more readily than a conventional aircraft does, with its long fuselage, thin wings and troublesome tail unit.

The simple saucer shape makes structural rigidity much less of a problem. New materials will also come into the picture. Titanium, for example, is 60 per cent heavier than aluminium but with qualities of steel and is not as vulnerable to temperature effects as the light alloys now used in supersonic planes.

Landing problems are simple. In contrast to present vertical take-off designs, the saucer need not make a touchy stall-type landing. It is already in the correct flight attitude for landing and only the forward jets need be switched on and all jets deflected downward to provide the necessary lift to hover and land.

This description is brief and highly simplified. Military security and rapidly changing defense problems not only cloud many details of a project like this but also obscure whether anything comparable actually exists. But based on the current requirements of our defense effort and the demonstrated abilities of our designers, an educated guess is that a flying saucer much like this one may well be flying within the next few years.

The VZ-9A Avrocar
by Errol Bruce-Knapp

Test Flight of the Avro Aerocar

On February 11, 1953 The Toronto Star reported that a new flying saucer was being developed at the Avro-Canada plant in Malton, Ontario. On 16 February the Minister for Defense Production informed the House of Commons, in Ottawa, that Avro-Canada was working on a 'mock-up model' of a flying saucer, capable of flying at 1500 miles per hour (2400 km/h) and climbing vertically.

The President of Avro-Canada wrote in AVRO NEWS that the prototype being built was "...so revolutionary that it would make all other forms of supersonic aircraft obsolete".

But by 1960 is was being officially claimed that the project had been dropped. The 'prototype' of the Avro flying saucer is now in the U.S. Air Force Museum in Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Avrocar in Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia

A true flying saucer. A circular craft with a large central fan, that sucked in air from the upper side and expelled it at the edges of the disk. It flew well at low altitudes of five or six feet, but when it tried to rise further it became unstable. Never did more than hover at low altitude, and was abandoned after seven months because of stability problems.

The AVRO Canada VZ-9A AVRO car was , designed, built and tested just outside Toronto was unique in the annals of flight. Shaped like an obese discus, it was intended to use a novel flight mode called GETOL - Ground Effect Takeoff and Landing. The machine would lift into ground effect on a cushion of air expelled from a peripheral slot on its underside and directed by a sliding "focusing ring." The ring would then "focus" the cushion rearward, driving the flying saucer forward. The strange craft would thus taxi in ground effect until it had enough forward speed to climb out of ground effect and fly like a conventional airplane.

In actuality, the prototype never flew out of ground effect. To solve problems of stability in ground effect the designers came up with a pneumatic analogue control system using the huge vertical-axis lift fan as the sensing element. The obvious wobbliness of the ship in its original configuration completely disappeared thanks to this light, simple solution.

Revealed - Britain's 1950s Flying Saucer
The Sunday Times, March 26, 2000, Jonathan Leake

Saucerful of secrets: the disc-shaped AVRO plane was intended to fly at 2,500mph

It is the nearest the RAF got to a UFO. Recently discovered photographs taken at a secret laboratory in the 1950s reveal for the first time how close Britain came to developing a saucer-shaped stealth fighter after the second world war. The pictures, taken at a research centre in Canada, show a revolutionary ultra-high-speed jet fighter designed by the British engineer John Frost. Aviation experts who studied the pictures last week said the jet incorporated some of the features on America's stealth fighter plane.

Work on the aircraft in the 1950s was code named Project Y. Frost and his team initially set out to build a disc-shaped machine with vertical takeoff, but ended with a sleek, arch-shaped aircraft.

"The pictures are a wonderful find," said David Windle, who has researched the history of Project Y. "It is technology that Britain just lost and it is a pity the project was abandoned. Who knows what would have happened if they had pursued it."

The photographs were taken at a laboratory in Malton, near Toronto, where Frost was working with Avro-Canada, a subsidiary of the British firm AVRO, to develop a jet fighter for the Canadian government. He wanted to create an aircraft which could fly at 2,500mph and take off and land on its tail.

The existence of Project Y has been known about for years, but no pictures of the aircraft have ever been found. An aviation researcher accidentally discovered the photographs in a file at the Public Records Office in Kew.

An elongated saucer shape was used because of the revolutionary "radial flow" jets designed to power it. The engines were designed to emit the exhaust gases from several small nozzles, increasing the thrust of the jet.

Aviation experts said last week that the prototype vehicle would have been almost invisible to radar because of its slim cross-section. It would also have been more likely to evade enemy missiles because of the lower heat output through the numerous jet outlets.

It is not known why the revolutionary jet never went into production, but the project was abandoned before the plane had its first test flight.

Reach for the sky: despite its sleek look, the AVRO never flew

Alex Raeburn, then assistant superintendent of manufacturing at AVRO, described the life of secrecy for those on the base.

"The security was very tight," he says. "Armed guards were stationed on the doors and drawings were taken away as soon as we'd made the component. In fact, we never knew exactly what it was we were making."

Verne Morse, one of the team who worked on the secret project, said he was amazed any pictures had survived because of the total secrecy surrounding the project. He described how he saw a subsequent model designed by the team.

"When I saw it [the plane] for the first time I was stunned," he said. "I'd heard rumours we were working on a flying saucer, but I dismissed them. Now, here I was looking at it, and I was speechless."

In 1954, the Canadian government decided to end the development of the aircraft. The American air force took over the project and later a scaled-down version of the plane became an "air jeep", which was nicknamed the Avrocar.

Raeburn said he witnessed test pilot Spud Potocki flying the saucer-shaped craft. "I remember him flying up to the hangar windows and looking in like a humming bird might do. When he flew in cold weather the engines sucked pieces of ice off the puddles. They'd float around in the air, shining in the sunlight."

Professor Michael Graham, professor of aerodynamics at Imperial College, said: "In the 1950s there was a lot of interest in different aircraft shapes. This is built like a kind of flying wing. Its ability to hover is useful for landing in rough places."

While Frost worked on Project Y, American engineers were developing their own ultra-high-speed jets at desert bases in California and Nevada, which led to the development of spy planes such as the U2.

In 1961, however, despite the successful flights of the Avrocar, the American air force halted all funding for the company's researchers. There were no more British-designed flying saucers and Frost left AVRO and moved to New Zealand, where he died.

Last week Tony, his son, said: "Dad was a brilliant artist who was always designing things, but he combined that skill with being a very capable mathematician and great lateral thinker."

Canada's Avro 'Flying Saucer' - And German Disc Technology

The Guardian, September 25, 1999
By Julian Borger
In 1954, a memo was fired off to CIA department heads demanding intelligence on new 'saucer-like' flying machines being developed by Britain and Canada. So began the race to develop the most unlikely weapon of the Cold War.

It Came From Outer Toronto...

Avro Canada is best remembered for the ill-fated Arrow, the supersonic jet fighter shelved by Ottawa in 1959. Now, newly-released CIA documents shed new light on another of the company's dreams - a flying saucer.

Washington -- The year was 1952 and the Cold War was at full chill. The House Un-American Activities Committee was looking for reds under beds, and UFO sightings were spreading like an epidemic across the United States. Even Air Force pilots reported being pursued by flying saucers. The sense of dread was turning to frenzy, and the CIA decided something had to be done.

In one of his many memos on the subject, H. Marshall Chadwell, deputy head of the agency's Office of Scientific Intelligence, declared that "something was going on that must have immediate attention." He and others in the CIA were concerned that the Soviet Union was developing a secret weapon based on the "flying discs" that the Nazis had been rumoured to have constructed in the last months of the Second World War.

Recently released documents from the CIA archive are full of accounts by former German scientists of their desperate work to save the Fatherland with revolutionary circular aircraft supposedly capable of enormous speeds. But when the CIA set up a study group in 1952 to look into the phenomenon, it discovered something extraordinary far closer to home: In Canada, British engineers were in the process of building a flying saucer of their own.

It was called Project Y, a joint British-Canadian venture into the unknown that was, for much of the 1950s, perhaps the most secret aviation project in the West. Half a century on, the Project Y story remains a remarkable chapter in the history of aerial design, an idea that came tantalizingly close to breaking all the rules of the sky, before collapsing in bitter disappointment for lack of money and faith.

Back in the '50s, the news that British boffins were building a saucer set off alarm bells at the CIA. Was the United States being left behind by its staunchest allies in the race for a technological edge? And if Britain and Canada could build a flying saucer, then surely the Soviet Union wouldn't be far ahead.

Mr. Chadwell wanted answers. The sense of urgency is tangible in a memorandum he sent in June of 1954 to his department heads, demanding reports on "the use by any foreign power or nation of non-conventional types of air vehicles, such as or similar to the 'saucer like' planes presently under development by the Anglo/British Canadian efforts."

While CIA agents were dispatched to watch eastern skies for flying saucers, U.S. Air Force officers were visiting Malton, just outside Toronto, the research headquarters of Avro Canada, a subsidiary of the British aircraft firm A.V. Roe Ltd.

Aerocar's designer, British engineer, John Frost After the war, Malton was the place to be for hotshot aircraft designers fleeing Britain's doomed aviation industry. Among them was a supremely talented 31-year-old, John Frost, who had already earned a reputation for unorthodox design with the sleek de Havilland 108, a swallow-shaped research plane and arguably one of the most beautiful aircraft of all time.

Mr. Frost was brought to Avro Canada to work on the CF-100 fighter, an ugly pug-nosed design he never really liked. He soon became obsessed with far more radical departures from orthodoxy. It is unclear whether he drew inspiration from the increasingly widespread popular legend of alien-piloted flying saucers skimming through the postwar skies or how much he relied on previous research.

Page 2

He would have known about the "Coanda effect," named after a French Romanian inventor, Henri-Marie Coanda, who experimented with the first rudimentary jet engine as early as 1910. He found that a turbojet would not only provide thrust; by sucking in air, it could also create a vacuum above the wing and thereby produce extra lift.

There is plenty of evidence that, in the closing stages of the Second World War, the Nazis began to experiment with secret weapons built around the Coanda effect. Among the documents in the CIA's "X-File" archives is an interview given by a German aeronautical engineer, George Klein, who claimed to have worked on a flying saucer under the supervision of Luftwaffe designers Rudolf Schriever and Richard Miethe.

Another document from the archives is a 1950 article written by a German émigré in Chilé, Eduard Ludwig. The article, submitted to a Chilean magazine but apparently never published, was titled "The mystery of 'flying discs' -- a contribution to its possible explanation." It recounted Dr. Ludwig's wartime work at a Junkers research facility, where he helped to develop a "one-piece metal wing" functioning as a "speedily rotating top" capable of vertical takeoff and high speeds.

"The experiments turned out to be extremely difficult and involved many casualties," Dr. Ludwig observed dryly, clearly rueful that the spinning-top experiments had not come to fruition before the arrival of the Red Army.

He concluded: "The future will show whether the 'flying discs' are only the products of imagination or whether they are the results of a far-advanced German science which possibly, as well as the nearly finished atomic bombs, may have fallen into the hands of the Russians."

Some of the Luftwaffe's top engineers did, indeed, end up in Moscow, while a handful, such as Wernher von Braun and Dr. Miethe, were spirited away to the West. Dr. von Braun, of course, became the father of the U.S. space program. No one seems sure what became of Dr. Miethe.

In his own work at Malton, John Frost seemed to be groping his way. He was in search of the aeronautical holy grail of the age, the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) craft, but he began his research on a spade-shaped craft before settling in 1953 on a disc. The original concept called for a single flat turbojet to draw in air from above and force it out through nozzles around the edge of the craft. It would be kept aloft by a cushion of air and pulled upward by the Coanda effect.

The early work was carried out in total secrecy; only a handful of Avro workers were told what was going on. "It was so secret that when Frost would come to the welding shop, he would sketch the piece he wanted on some paper and, when we had finished, we had to put the sketch in a special garbage bag," Alex Raeburn, Avro's workshop superintendent at the time, recalls.

Verne Morse, the company photographer, was made privy to the secret only once it had begun to take shape. "There was a stupid rumour going around the plant that we were building a flying saucer, and everybody was laughing about it," he says. "Then one day I was called in by security, and I was told I needed clearance because we were building a flying saucer.

"My first impression was that this was ridiculous," but when he was taken past the guards, through Project Y's double doors, and saw the smooth metal disc taking shape, he was speechless. "It was a sense of 'Wow!' Just real awe."

But Project Y's first year was proving troublesome. The jet engine blew so hot it melted the steel structure of the craft, and its violent shaking would pop the rivets. When the U.S. Air Force officers arrived in September of 1953, the Canadian government, having spent $400,000 on the project, was glad to hand over the reins to a bigger sponsor. A.V. Roe, having failed to squeeze funds out of the British government, also welcomed the Americans with open arms.

In 1955, Project Y became the U.S. Defence Department's weapon system 606A, and a white USAF star was painted on the prototype's fuselage. Millions were now being poured into the project, and the cult of secrecy deepened yet further.

Mr. Raeburn recalls the day in 1959 that the U.S. Navy came to take the prototype away for wind-tunnel tests near Los Angeles. "We loaded it on a flatbed truck in the middle of the night. The police shut off all the traffic right down to Toronto harbour, and they put it on a U.S. tugboat. They even had one of our men sworn in to the U.S. Navy so he could go with it, along the Erie Canal, along the New York intercoastal waterway, and through the Panama Canal."

Page 3
With the help of U.S. financing, Mr. Frost had redesigned the original concept, placing three small jet engines around a central fan that would suck in the air through a circular intake at the centre of the disc. The pilot would sit in a little oval cockpit to one side under a perspex bubble.

But the wind-tunnel tests suggested that secret weapon 606A had severe stability problems and was in constant danger of flipping over like a stiff pancake once the throttles were opened on its jets. Mr. Frost and his assistants tinkered away at the problems for another year, but had still not mastered them by the winter of 1960 when Spud Potocki, a former Polish air force flier, took the prototype for its first flight.

Ernie Happe, another British engineer, was one of the few allowed to watch. "We were standing around it, and it was tethered with three cables to stop it flipping. It just went up a couple of feet off the ground, and Potocki was sitting in the cabin fiddling around with the controls, trying to make it do what it was supposed to."

The Aerocar's Test Pilot Potocki Over the next few months, as Mr. Potocki attained a feel for the delicate controls, he was allowed to roam around the Avro compound, dodging in and out of hangars. Mr. Raeburn would often look out of his workshop window and see it floating by. "He would go up and down and hover over the concrete apron and look in the doors of the hangars. I remember the wind would suck the ice off the puddles and they would float around in the air like plates of glass."

Avro's management was overjoyed to see its flying saucer take to the air. The publicity department began designing brochures to capitalize on the aircraft's boundless potential for the day when the shroud of secrecy would drop away. It was to be called the Avrocar, and it would spawn a string of civilian and military spinoffs. There would be an Avrowagon for the family of the future, an Avroangel (an air ambulance that would zip to the scene of an accident and land on the spot) and an Avropelican for air-sea rescues and anti-submarine warfare.

Ken Palfrey, a draughtsman on the project, remembers Mr. Frost's far-reaching hopes. "He was planning to make one four times as big, to move troops in and out of battle, like helicopters do now." The giant troop carriers would lurk under the enemy radar, drop their passengers and then zip into the stratosphere before the other side even spotted them. Mr. Happe recalls Mr. Frost excitedly visualizing the craft bouncing off the upper layers of the atmosphere, crossing continents in a single bound.

The reality was more mundane. The Avrocar hovered happily close to solid ground but became dangerously unstable at heights over 2.5 metres, however much Spud Potocki struggled with the controls. The USAF wanted to fit it with a tailplane to test whether that would correct the problem, but Mr. Frost, a design purist, refused to countenance the idea. "He wouldn't have it," Mr. Palfrey recalls. "When the Americans suggested that, it was about the only time I ever saw him angry."

Mr. Frost insisted he could fix the problems, but the U.S. military was rapidly losing interest. After spending $7.5-million, the Defence Department pulled the plug at the end of 1961, killing the Avrocar. Mr. Frost left the country a bitter man. "He was completely fed up," Mr. Palfrey says. "It was a sad story. He was a fine guy. A gentleman." The designer ended up in Auckland, where he spent the rest of his days dreaming up gadgets for Air New Zealand, such as a hydraulic tail dock to allow engineers easy access to commercial planes. But it was small beer compared to the cosmic ambitions of Project Y, and the sense of betrayal was as keen as ever when he finally retired in May of 1979.

In his valedictory interviews, Mr. Frost told the local press that he had been robbed of credit for inventing the Hovercraft by Sir Christopher Cockerell. The irony was that, at Malton, Mr. Frost's eyes had been so set on the skies he failed to spot the Avrocar's ground-hugging potential under his nose. Within a few days of leaving his job, he died. He was 63.

The legend of Project Y lives on in the Web pages of committed ufologists. Some speculate that it had been a stunning success, and the litany of design errors and disappointments recalled by Avro veterans was merely a cover story. Others believe the project was merely a smokescreen for the Pentagon's "real" flying saucer project being masterminded in secret bases such as Roswell, perhaps by mysterious superannuated Nazis such as Dr Miethe.

Project 606A Aerocar wasting away in Maryland Warehouse As for secret weapon 606A, the prototype is gathering dust in a corner of a Maryland warehouse that serves as a storage facility for the National Air and Space Museum. Jack Walker, a veteran pilot who shows visitors around, cannot understand why anyone would want to see it, and warns me not to get too close lest I be abducted by aliens.

The burnished metal disc, about 15 metres across, is lying unsung and forlorn under the wing of a Second World War Black Widow fighter. The perspex bubble over the cabin has been removed, and its instrument panel is in a cardboard box somewhere else. But you can still see where the edges were charred in the effort to get John Frost's flawed vision off the ground.

THE AVROCAR
Canada's Flying Saucer

by Palmiro Campagna, P. Eng


Official USAF press release photo of the Avrocar.

Canadian developments in aircraft design are well represented in literature. For example, one can read about Canadian efforts in the production of Lancaster bombers or in the subsequent design of the CF-100 Canuck jet fighter. Even the Avro Jetliner and the controversial Arrow have been the subjects of books. Squirreled away in Ottawa's National Archives of Canada though, are files which detail aspects of our aviation history which have not been extensively covered in the mainstream literature but which are nevertheless a very real part of our aviation heritage. These files discuss the Canadian Government's involvement in the study of unidentified flying objects (UF0s) and in the design and development of an actual "flying saucer" for the United States Air Force (USAF).

Towards the end of WWII, some allied fighter pilots reported that strange luminous globes sometimes followed their aircraft during sorties over Germany. The Washington Star of July 6th 1947 recalled an extensive account of one such sighting by the USAF 415th Night Fighter Sqn. To this day, it is not known exactly what the objects were, hallucinations, Nazi secret weapons, some form of battle fatigue or extraterrestrial spacecraft. The objects were never known to have attacked and were dubbed "Foo Fighters." Today, this is the name of a popular musical group.

In April of 1950, the Right Hon Brooke Claxton, then Canadian minister of national defence, requested that the Joint Intelligence Council investigate the matter of flying saucers in earnest. A committee was to be established comprised of representatives from the Directorate of Air Intelligence, Naval Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Scientific Intelligence, with the Defence Research Board (DRB) acting as chair. Liaison was to be established with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Were flying saucers prototype weapons or extraterrestrial in origin? In a report sent to the Canadian DRB in 1953, the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) noted that German engineers had filed patents for flying-saucer-like craft they had supposedly developed towards the end of the war.

The CIA had interrogated a number of former German soldiers who claimed of having worked on saucer-like aircraft. As it turned out, members of the RCAF and National Research Council (NRC) had also interrogated some of these German engineers about this strange work.

In 1959, a book entitled, "German Secret Weapons of the Second World War," claimed the Foo Fighters were the product of Hitler's war machine. One individual who believed the Nazis had developed such, devices was aeronautical engineer John C. Frost of A.V. Roe Canada Limited. Avro, as the company came to be called, had succeeded in designing, building and flying the Jetliner, the first commercial, inter-city jet transport to fly in North America, back in 1949. Frost himself had been brought in from the U.K. to work on the CF-100 and now, the company was embarking on its most ambitious project, the CF-105 Arrow. A flying saucer seemed a natural progression for such an advanced high technology aeronautical firm.

Avro Engineer John Frost, Father of the Aerocar Avro engineer John Frost was project director for the Avrocar. Prior to that he was a project engineer on the CF- 100 jet fighter.

Frost was made chief design engineer for Special Projects A.V. Roe (SPAR). By 1952, not to be left behind in the technological race for vertical take-off and landing vehicles, he had coauthored two technical reports for the design of a circular wing vehicle or, flying saucer. Initially the vehicle was more of a horseshoe or spade shape design. It was called Project Y. It would sit on its tail at an angle, with the pilot looking skyward, as he would if he were in a rocket. He would land in a similar fashion. This made take-off and landing rather difficult and uncertain for the pilot.

Frost abandoned Project Y and eventually settled on the complete circular wing planform. It became known as Project Y2 in 1954 and was to be developed under intense security at the Avro plant in Malton, Ont.

The designs caught the interest of Dr Omond Solandt, then chairman of DRB and chair of Project Second Storey, the flying saucer committee that had been established as requested in 1950, by the minister of national defence. Dr Solandt encouraged Frost in his work and provided approximately $300,000 in development funding. He also brought the project to the attention of the British military, and Duncan Sandys, Britain's minister of supply. The ministry though had reservations about the project. Eventually, Dr Solandt put Frost in touch with Gen D.C. Putt, head of the USAF Air Research and Development Command.

At that time, the U.S. had been investigating the feasibility of a number of vertical take-off concepts put forward by companies such as Goodyear, Chrysler and Hiller.

 

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