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The CF-100 Mark 3D

by Turbo Tarling

3 AW(F) OTU CF-100 Mark 3D at RCAF Station Cold Lake, Alberta

3 AW(F) OTU CF-100 Mark 3D at RCAF Station Cold Lake,

Course 38 arrived at RCAF Station Cold Lake, Alberta in February, 1957. We were anxious to begin flying the CF-100 but first there was the inevitable groundschool, crewing up of the pilots and navigators, and then two weeks of flying together in the radar-equipped B-25s at Basic Flight.


Finally, in late March, we reported to 3 All-Weather (Fighter) Operational Training Unit [3 AW(F) OTU] Conversion Flight to begin training in the dual-control CF-100 Mark 3D.


With the advantage of hindsight, and given the CF-100's incredible almost-32-year life span, the Mark 3Ds were mere youngsters at that time. They were converted 3As and 3Bs which in turn had been front-line fighter aircraft only four or five years earlier.


Even though they looked a bit old and tired, the fact that they'd been operational fighters lent the Mark 3Ds a certain aura. Stripped of their radar and armament, they were exactly what they were supposed to be – trainers. We would have to master these before we would be allowed near the more modern Mark 4As with their electronic wizardry.


The cockpit was both exciting and disappointing. It was painted, of course, in the almost-mandatory flat black that was so popular in military aircraft. The only colour relief was provided by the faded instrument markings, the red and yellow emergency and cautionary levers, switches et al, and the warning lights that were randomly scattered on the instrument panel and consoles.


The instrument panel was mounted rather low; a feature that seemed very operational at the time. Right across the top, clamouring for top billing, were six fuel gauges for the wings and fuselage tanks, calibrated in imperial gallons. It was a team effort reading those gauges and then calculating the fuel-time remaining.


The flight and engine instruments looked like they'd been salvaged from piston-engine aircraft. The artificial horizon was a simple pull-to-cage and erect instrument, and the compass was fixed-card with a +/- enunciator which required setting before each flight. The compass was mounted at the bottom of the panel. The entire flight instrument arrangement on the panel defied logic (in our limited-experience opinion) but perhaps that explains why CF-100 pilots became expert instrument pilots – they had to!


The control column was the divided type; the entire column moving fore and aft for the elevators, and the top half moving left and right for the ailerons. This was a very sensible arrangement in a rather narrow cockpit. There was one problem, however – when the pilot gripped the control column his hand completely obscured the compass!


Rather than simply moving the instrument, they moved the top half of the column 11 degrees to the right and marked the new position with two white lines. So, thereafter, the Mark 3 was flown with the control column canted to the right proving, once again, that RCAF pilots could adapt to anything.


The rear control column was definitely low-budget - besides being canted to the right, it resembled the handle of a baseball bat and was neatly wound with string to provide a better grip.


Trim tab controls were conventional and looked like they'd been salvaged from the same piston-engine aircraft that had provided the instruments. They were all manually-controlled by wheels. After the sensitive, finger-tip adjustment electric trim of the T-33 it was disappointing to revert to this archaic trim system in the CF-100. But, in fact, the manual trim was easy to use and very effective – the Mark 3 could easily be trimmed to fly hands-off with a bit of practice.

The CF-100 Mark 3D pilot's cockpit

The CF-100 Mark 3D pilot's cockpit – note the six fuel gauges at the top of the panel, the two-piece control column, and the trim wheels on the left console


The two-piece framed canopy lacked the aesthetic appeal of the goldfish bowl, one-piece bubble canopy of the T-33, F-86 Sabre and CF-100 Mark 4 and 5. It was manually cranked fore and aft by the pilot and locked by latches. These were duplicated on the outside and the ground crew would confirm that they were engaged before pulling the chocks.


Visibility from the front cockpit was excellent but from the rear it was limited – to the side by the big Orenda engines, and to the front by the pilot's big Martin-Baker seat and the curved windscreen mounted behind it. With considerable stretching and weaving from side to side, the instructors could cope with the limited view during the day but at night there was too much reflection and distortion from the windscreen.


For self-preservation they had the windscreen removed for night flying; preferring to risk the discomfort of a breezy cockpit in the unlikely event of a canopy loss.


The CF-100 Mark 3 lacked other features we later took for granted on the Mark 4 and 5 such as nose-wheel steering, Maxaret anti-skid brakes, autopilot, electric yaw damper, electric trim, and an electrically-operated canopy. Although aged beyond its years, and simplistic almost to a fault, the Mark 3 was still an agile, impressive performer and a delight to fly.


Copyright © Wm Turbo Tarling
All Rights Reserved
Reprinted With Permission