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VOODOO

by  Wm. "Turbo" Tarling

[ Aeroplane Magazine - Aug 2015 ]

 

Voodoo takeoff taken by Wm. "Turbo" Tarling

The impressive AVRO CF-105 Arrow was rolled out and unveiled to the Canadian public on October 4, 1957.

 

My navigator and I were recent arrivals as an all-weather interceptor crew on 428 Ghost Squadron at RCAF Station Uplands (Ottawa), Ontario flying the twin-engine AVRO CF-100 Canuck.

 

We loved the CF-100 but we lusted after the CF-105 Arrow – it was magnificent. Not only that, 428 Ghost Squadron was rumoured to be the first squadron to be re-equipped with the Arrow. Life was good.

 

Our hopes and dreams were shattered on Friday, February 20, 1959 when production of the Arrow was shut down by the government – it became known as Black Friday. The workers at AVRO were suddenly out of work and all traces of the CF-105 Arrow were to be destroyed.

 

Who was responsible for the decision to kill the Arrow and the wanton destruction of all traces of the aircraft – the Prime Minister, John G. Diefenbaker? The RCAF Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshall Hugh Campbell? Who? The debate continues on to this day with no definitive answer.

 

However, these decisions were out of our hands and so we continued to fly the CF-100 with no replacement in sight or contemplated. In 1959 my navigator was posted to RCAF Station Cold Lake, Alberta as an instructor on the CF-100 with 3 All-Weather (Fighter) Operational Training Unit [3 AW(F) OTU] after two years on 428 Squadron, I followed him to 3 AW(F) OTU one year later.

 

Our CF-100 instructor tours were cut short when 3 AW(F) OTU moved to RCAF Station Bagotville, Quebec in late August 1961, some CF-100 navigator instructors were posted to other stations, and six CF-100 pilot instructors were left behind at RCAF Station Cold Lake. I was one of those left behind. We weren’t told why or what was to become of us. We flew the T-33 Silver Star for the Radar Support Flight – it was not exciting flying, and certainly did not compare to flying the CF-100, but there was lots of it – life was still good.

 

Meanwhile, the government announced that the RCAF would replace its aging CF-100s with sixty-six “gently-used” ex-USAF McDonnell F-101 Voodoos. The F-101 Voodoo was a big, supersonic century-series interceptor aircraft. This was somewhat baffling news since the Canadian government had really been selling the precept, since the cancellation of the AVRO CF-105 Arrow, that we had entered the age of the missile and the days of the manned-interceptor were over. 

 

This "purchase" was welcome news for the Americans since they really wanted the RCAF to fly a newer interceptor aircraft, just not the competing CF-105 Arrow, and no money was actually changing hands as Canada had agreed to take over the operation of the Pinetree Line in northern Canada plus operate two Bomarc missile squadrons in eastern Canada.

 

The “CF-101” Voodoo would equip five RCAF squadrons in Canada and nine CF-100 squadrons would disband. The four CF-100 squadrons in Europe would also disband and be replaced by the new CF-104 Starfighter, a Canadian-built version of the Lockheed F-104 in the USA.

 

The RCAF enthusiastically plunged into its new role with its “gently-used” CF-101 Voodoos. The chosen cadre of ex-CF-100 pilots and navigators were quickly trained in the USA under the watchful eye of the USAF. They then returned to Canada as the embryo 425 Squadron, took up residence at RCAF Station Namao (Edmonton), Alberta (with its 14,000-foot runway), and trained the pilots and navigators for four of the new CF-101 squadrons – 409 Squadron at Comox, British Columbia; 410 Squadron at Uplands, Ontario, 414 Squadron at North Bay, Ontario and 416 Squadron at Chatham, New Brunswick.

 

RCAF Station Cold Lake, with its 12,000-foot runways, was only 120 nautical miles north-east of Namao and the Voodoo pilots-in-training lost no opportunity to make an approach at Cold Lake, light the afterburners (reheat, I believe it’s called, in the RAF) with a resounding BOOOOM!!!, scorch across the airfield, and rapidly disappear from sight in a breath-taking steep climb. It was very impressive and we were envious.

 

Then, with no advance warning whatsoever, we received a posting message in early April 1962 – five of the six ex-CF-100 instructors that had been left behind in Cold Lake were to be trained on the CF-101 Voodoo and the remaining pilot was going on an exchange posting with the RAF and would be going to a Javelin squadron. We were ecstatic – all fears of being posted to a ground-tour on the Pinetree Line instantly disappeared!

 

Referring to my RCAF log book, it shows we attended the CF-101 Field Technical Training Unit (FTTU) at RCAF Station Uplands from April 30 to May 4, 1962. We were shown the many systems of the Voodoo but most impressive of all, they promised that we would have heat in the Voodoo by simply twisting the heat rheostat. They were right.

 

The CF-100 had a perpetual heat problem that took many years to diagnose, then finally fix. I remember many a winter night flying at 40,000 feet in a CF-100, on auto-pilot, sitting on my hands to keep them warm, stomping my mukluk-clad feet on the cockpit floor to maintain circulation, then wiping the frost off the instruments before commencing our descent.

 

My CF-100 ferry flight across the Atlantic Ocean in March 1958, as part of Jumpmoat II (we ultimately delivered 53 new CF-100 Mark 5s to Belgium), wearing a rubber poopy-suit with almost no heat, is another story for another time.

 

We then went to RCAF Station Bagotville, Quebec from May 7 to June 6, 1962 for CF-100 refresher flying.  While we didn’t see the need for this, it was a good opportunity to get used to flying with our new navigators – in my case, Flying Officer Pat Clancy. Again my log book shows Pat and I receiving twelve hours of training in the CF-100. 

 

We also "flew" the CF-101 Operational Flight and Tactics Trainer (OFTT) from May 28 to June 2. The CF-101 OFTT (later called the Canadian OFTT or COFTT) was a much better “simulator” trainer than the CF-100 COFTT and we welcomed the chance to learn about the various Voodoo systems and tactics before training on the real thing.

 

On June 11, 1962 we had our first Voodoo “famil flight” at RCAF Station Namao with our assigned instructor and mostly “oohed and ah’d” while the instructors impressed us with their “derring-do” in the dual-control CF-101F. There was much to be impressed about – the Voodoo had a wide-stance undercarriage, afterburners, a drag chute, tiny wings (it was rumoured that they were added as an after-thought for pilot morale), and incredible performance.

 

The OFTT training paid off, however, and after only two dual flights we went solo in the Voodoo with a staff navigator.

 

Training progressed quickly after that and the six-week course was compressed into three weeks. We assumed this was because the instructors found us to be superior students but it was probably because Course 6 was smaller, the Voodoo serviceability 

was outstanding, the weather was good, and the instructors were anxious to leave RCAF Station Namao and get to their new base at RCAF Station Bagotville, Quebec.

 

Regardless, with just under thirty hours on the CF-101, and accompanied by Flying Officer Bob Burnie, we ferried Voodoo 443 on July 10, 1962 to Ottawa Ontario with stops at Red River and KI Sawyer in the USA and July 11 to RCAF Station Bagotville, Quebec. We quickly set up as 425 Alouette Squadron – life was really good!

 

The next three years passed much too quickly but I thoroughly enjoyed flying the Voodoo. I have many pleasant memories but one that stands out was my annual instrument ride with the Command Instrument Check Pilot, Flight Lieutenant Steve Dzamka, on January 17, 1963. As one of the squadron Instrument Check Pilots I had to renew my instrument rating with the CICP – F/L Dzamka would accept nothing but the best performance by a squadron ICP.

 

Everything was going well and I was on approach at the USAF Loring AFB, Maine and  expecting further clearance for my return to Bagotville. With no “further clearance” from the Air Traffic controller I was starting to panic, especially when the controller finally intoned “stand-by”. I’m not sure exactly how you “stand-by” when shooting an approach in a Voodoo. In inspiration, or was it desperation, I asked for, and received clearance to climb outside airways to altitude in an impossibly-small airspace. I called for afterburners (the dual-control CF-101F rear cockpit had a squashed pilot’s instrument panel on the left side and limited access to ancillaries; the afterburners being one of them), shot up to altitude in the impossibly-small airspace, and called the Canadian Air Traffic controller for “further clearance”.

 

F/L Dzamka must have been suitably impressed because he renewed my instrument rating and certified me as a squadron Instrument Check Pilot. Me? I was impressed with the performance of the CF-101 Voodoo – it was a winner.

 


 

(Flight Lieutenant/Captain “Turbo” Tarling had two tours flying the CF-101 Voodoo – 1962 to 1965 with 425 AW(F) “Alouette” Squadron at RCAF Station Bagotville, Quebec and 1974 to 1977 with 416 AW(F) “Lynx” Squadron at CFB Chatham, New Brunswick. He accumulated 1189 hours in the CF-101, 10,460 hours in jets, and 11,645 hours total time in 50 types of planes and helicopters while in the RCAF/Canadian Forces. He retired in 1982.)