APRIL 28, 2012 11:27PM

Broken Arrow

Rate: 16 Flag

     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.




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Great title, Bo. Loved the beginning of the end of your essay: Why is this of interest to anyone outside Canada? No reason, really, except this ...

The big question is what caused the Avro Arrow's demise and why was it destroyed. :( Wouldn't want to have a young country like Canada having the world's most advanced aviation research and design team, now would we? ...
It's a small consolation to know the US isn't the only country ruled by conservative shallow thinkers and reactionaries. One difference, tho -- fighter planes are almost never shot down by our politicians.
Fascinating. I had not heard of Avro or the Arrow. What was Diefenbaker's objection? Our conservatives would have had wet dreams of such an enterprise.
I love learning things like this. I was near Langley AFB the other day and had a chance to watch a bunch of Delta-winged fighters practicing landings. Now I'll view them with a Canadian perspective!
I knew that the many friends we made at our cottage on St. Joe Island wasn't the only reason that Gwen and I so loved and respected our Canadian neighbors. Of course, I'm a wee bit biased, my Grandpa Tanguay was of French-Canadian stock. Oh! Canada!!
Actually while Avro Arrow was scrapped because the same almost identical by appearances jet was already operational and in production in the USA. The F-106 Delta Dart. After the Arrow was cancelled it became knowledge that the Canadian Government had been already considering buying the F-106. You are very correct in stating that not to long afterwords NASA and several US aircraft firms actively sought after some very highly regarded engineers and designers from Avril and many other Canadian aviation firms. Politics definitely was and always has been a factor in procurement of military aircraft but what it boils down to between the USA and Canada was money and need. Why build a jet when there is already one in existence and with technology advancing at such a rapid rate during the cold war newer interceptors were already being designed and built made both the Arrow and the Delta Dart obsolete in a matter of 10 years. The Delta Dart by the 70's was turned into a target drone and used until I believe the early 90's. We're still life long friends though Bo. You knew you would draw me out of the woodwork.......talk at you.......o/e
You are doing a great job with these no nonsense education pieces Boan.
Loving it much..
Carry on dear...
Let's see now, the head of an ideological, regressive, punitive, vengeful government makes petty decisions in the country's worst interests with disastrous results, turning back the hands of time with a gleeful attack on progress ... and planes are involved. Hmmm ... why does this sound familiar? ...
One way or another (and I have my pet theory), it was politics that killed the Arrow, Scarlett. At the time, Canada -- which I believe ended the war with the world's third largest air force -- was cutting edge.

Yah, Tom, it's a different kind of "conservatism" up here. I can't begin to explain it, not even to myself, but it inevitably leads to toadying to some other country.

Chicken, Avro was a creation of Hawker-Siddley, a Brit concern that, among other things, designed the Lancaster bomber during the war. Many Lancs were built in Canada at Victory Aircraft in Malton (near Toronto) to such a high standard that H-S later bought the operation from the government to create Avro Canada. Much more to the story, of course, but that's sort of a potted look at it.

Hi Grif! Thanks for stopping by. As Older/Exasperated quite rightly points out below, the Arrow wasn't the only delta-wing fighter in the works at the time. It is said, however, that the 200 series, with its homebuilt Iroquois engine, would out-perform anything else in the skies, with 200 series prototype hitting mach 2.5 out of the box.

Canucks are an insidious lot, John -- we turn up in the damndest places. Like family trees.

O/E, I was aware of the Convair, but it wasn't built to RCAF specs to intercept Russian bombers flying over the Pole. I probably should have noted the other delta wings (Russia had the MiG 21 in the works as well), but I guess my inelegantly expressed point was that it was the Avro brains trust that wound up at NASA and Concorde and that's what I remember every time I see those pictures.

Thank you, Mission. It just struck me, seeing photos of the shuttle, what a large debt was owed to Avro Canada.

Yeah, it has an all-too-familiar ring to it, doesn't it, VA? While we're at it, we'd best not mention submarines....
Yes, Bo, I think we're on the same page here. The type of politics that involves as you say, "toadying to some other country." I thought my last sarcastic sentence might allude to that but then again I'm not being too clear these days ...
SS, you have (OK, you probably do have) no idea how much I hate the "colonial crouch" mentality that somehow pervades much of this country, especially its dysfunctional right wing (think Mulroney). We desperately need another PET, but no one is in the offing. The current crop of "legislators" reminds me all too much of what it was like in the 50s and early 60s. Did you see that some asshat Tory from Kitchener has introduced a private member's bill to define when "life" begins? Jesu, but I'm sick of those perverts. What's next? Re-opening the capital punishment debate?
Your military-industrial complex loss is our gain. At least you have health care.
PS: My condolences to you on Steven Harper, etc.
Yes, I did see that, Bo. Our PM (if you can call him that) said he had absolutely no intention of re-opening that debate. He better have meant every single friggin' word of that statement. Besides I have every faith that the women of this country will not have it. You're right we do need a new PET and have for a long while. Thankfully over 40 years ago, in this country, we had an international figurehead who said, "there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation." Different issue but still applies, especially relevant south of the border.

Btw, someone told me last week that a group of baboons is known as a "parliament of baboons." Fitting, huh?
What a fascinating post on something I knew nothing about. I wasn't even in Canada then. Thanks, I love reading such posts.
RIP, Avro Arrow.
ONL, thank you for the condolences. Prime Minister Sweater Vest is a buffoon in whom I have zero confidence. Various Artists referred to the latest military procurement fiasco, and now I read that the PM won't necessarily end our longstanding "commitment" in Afghanistan when he said he would. I remain aghast.

SS, I've said before that a man has a right to dictate policy on reproductive rights just about the time he has his first period. I would hope that, if this jackal from Kitchener gets his bill on the floor for debate, every woman in this country fills the streets. Oh, and I do SO love Parliament of Baboons. How ... appropriate.

Thank you, Fusun. Nice it is to see you here, and thanks for reading and commenting.
It must have been painful for the engineers to have their results killed -- but a good design never dies, because it's beyond politics and agendas.
Thank you, BV. We lost a lot of brainpower that February....
How fascinating. I had not heard of the Avro before, clearly for a reason...nicely put together essay. Those Delta wings are a stunning addition to aircraft -- and I don't think about that kind of thing much.
: )
They were beautiful, JT, and very advanced.