One of the few vivid memories I have of high school is sitting in a hot crowded gym listening to Prime Minister John Diefenbaker give one of his characteristically bombastic speeches.
I retain nothing of what he said. I do remember his reaction when a rain of paper airplanes descended from the balcony where sat the thuggish senior students, one of them a scary cousin who would go on to be a scarier RCMP forensics expert.
Each of the paper planes carried the word "Avro Arrow", a reference to the cutting edge fighter/interceptor aircraft project that Diefenbaker had unilaterally, maliciously and stupidly killed the year before.
(Did I say killed? It was obliterated. Blueprints, models, tooling, engines, airframes, complete aircraft, all were cut up, burned or otherwise demolished. Nothing remained but a few bits and pieces ... and tantalising rumours of the survival of CF202, one of the those prototypes that would have revolutionised fighter plane technology.)
Diefenbaker was so livid that 1960 afternoon, I don't think he finished his peroration, which may have been a first for the Conservative -- of course he was a Conservative -- gasbag.
The death of the Avro Arrow destroyed Canada's highly regarded aeronautics and aerospace industry. Avro was the third largest company in the country in February 1959, with 40,000 employees and arguably the world's most advanced research and design team.
How good were they? More than 30 of the engineers were head-hunted by a newborn NASA scrambling to catch up with the Russians. They played leading roles in putting men in space and on the moon. More would be taken on by the developers of the SST. It started a brain drain that really hasn't stopped.
Why is this of interest to anyone outside Canada? No reason, really, except this.
Next time you see a photo of one of the recently retired NASA shuttles heading to its final destination in a museum, or of the British-French Concorde, take a close look at the design.
Now take a look below at the 1959 Avro Arrow (wasn't she beautiful?).
Notice anything in particular? You win a prize if you thought "delta wing" aircraft, whose supersonic capability came from the minds and genius of the brilliant people at Avro Canada. They deserve your recognition and respect.
RIP, Avro Arrow: Your legacy lived on.
Just not in your place of birth.