Fall of an Arrow
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After earning the right to build the Arrow, Avro became a dominant force in Canadian aerospace and the economy at large. By , Avro employed more than 20, people, making it one of the largest companies in the country. With plans to build everything from jetliners to cameras that could photograph speeding airplanes, Avro drew major investment from the government and its own employees.
Technical drawing of the Avro Arrow from the papers of engineer William Kuzyk. Among them: Avro president Crawford Gordon Jr. Floyd, a renowned British engineer and the first non-American to win the Wright Brothers Medal for his work on jet transport technology; and Janusz Zurakowski , a fighter pilot from Poland who braved the Battle of Britain before becoming the first person to fly an Arrow. The Arrow was to be an immense project — in size, scale and ambition.
Weighing about 20, kg when empty, with a Faster than any jet in its class, the Arrow would travel nearly twice the speed of sound at an altitude of 53, feet. Testing the Arrow was intensive. Without computer simulation tools, the Avro team relied on wind-tunnel testing and scale model experiments.
Nine models each one-eighth the size of the full-scale planes were launched on rockets over Lake Ontario to gauge flightworthiness.
Two additional models were launched over the Atlantic Ocean. On 4 October , the first Arrow was unveiled in front of 12, people at the Avro plant. On its first flight, piloted by Zurakowski on 25 March , the Arrow broke four different speed records. In June , Canadians ended 22 years of Liberal rule by electing a minority Progressive Conservative government. But its technology was another concern. Global imagination and paranoia shifted to space; it was then assumed that nuclear attacks would no longer come from piloted bombers, but from intercontinental ballistic missiles that pass through outer space.
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Even those in favour of the Arrow acknowledge that had the program sustained funding, the jet would not have been ready for combat until Notions that the US government pressured Diefenbaker to cancel the Arrow in an effort to eliminate a competitor of the American industry appear to be more myth than history.
Taking this as an act of charity, Canada refused. Around the time the Arrow was cancelled, British officials requested the use of one or more of the jets for flight testing. The request was soon withdrawn, allegedly on the recommendation of the Canadian government.
In a interview with the CBC , Arrow test pilot and native Briton Peter Cope suggested that Diefenbaker had not wanted Great Britain to realize that Canada had abandoned such a high-performing plane. Roe tried desperately to find a foreign buyer for the Arrow. And while fans of the Arrow have since demonized the Diefenbaker government for ending the project, some historians think that the Liberals would have done the same. On 20 February , before the Arrow could enter military duty, the Diefenbaker government cancelled the Arrow project.
Overnight, more than 14, people, many of them highly skilled, lost their jobs. The day would come to be known as Black Friday in the Canadian aviation industry.
By July , all aircraft had been cut apart with blowtorches, while blueprints, models, designs and machines used to make the planes were destroyed. Scraps were sold to a Hamilton , Ontario , junk dealer for 6. At the time, Parliament claimed it was a matter of national security, given the threat of Soviet espionage. Jack Granatstein has speculated on another reason: that Diefenbaker acted out of spite for Gordon and his beloved company.
Free from the Avro contract, the Canadian government moved to buy 66 second-hand Voodoo fighter jets capable of less than half the speed of the Arrow from the United States as a supplementary defence strategy. In response, Canada ultimately withdrew its armed forces from nuclear roles and shut down the Bomarc system. The total cost of the Voodoo and Bomarc purchases amounted to more than the entire cost of the Arrow program. He died at age 52 on 26 January in New York City, likely from alcoholism.
The Avro Arrow is in the background. Shot in Manitoba , the miniseries received mixed reviews. Pieces of the original Arrow, along with models and replicas, can be found in various Canadian museums. The Canadian Air and Space Conservancy scheduled to open in in Edenvale, Ontario has a full-size replica of the plane, while the Avro Museum outside Calgary , Alberta , is building a flying replica. One of the largest surviving pieces of the Arrow — a nose section marked with the words Cut Here beside a jagged blowtorch line — remains on display at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa , Ontario.
In September , members of Raise the Arrow a group of historians, scientists, archeologists and businesspeople discovered an arrow-shaped object in Lake Ontario around Prince Edward County. Over several weeks, the team had collected data from the bottom of the lake using underwater sonar equipment.
One of the specifics of this deal was the purchase by the U. Air Force of the new Avro Arrow fighter.
Even Americans were shocked, because they expected some pushback. The cancellation of the CF Arrow was a deathblow for Avro.
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It was also a serious setback for the Canadian aerospace industry as a whole. Some of the special projects at Avro were right out of science fiction. Others were years ahead of their time. Cohen notes other plans, such as a monorail system for Toronto from Union Station to what is now Lester B. Pearson airport, cameras that could capture and airplane travelling 1, mph and technology that could capture a rocket blast. For Squires, the connection to Avro Canada is particularly personal — his father helped worked on the Avro jetliner, the C This is especially true for Cohen.
The museum is currently trying to find a new home while most of its planes — including a full-size replica of an Avro Arrow — sit in storage at Pearson airport. Cohen acknowledges that while funding was a problem, the main issue was a change in direction from above. Get a roundtrip of the most important and intriguing national stories delivered to your inbox ever weekday.
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