Discovery of model Arrow rekindles bittersweet memories

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The timing of the discovery of the first of nine Avro Arrow test models could not have been more appropriate. This year is Canada’s 150th birthday and next year will be the 60th anniversary of the full-sized Arrow’s first test flight.

For Canada and the plane’s manufacturer, Avro, the Arrow was a moment in the sun because this aircraft was unmatched by any military aircraft at the time. It was the first time a Canadian plane had achieved such an honour.

The moment was fleeting. John Diefenbaker, who was Canada’s prime minister at the time, ordered that existing Arrows be scrapped and no more were to be built. There were differing opinions on why the plane was discontinued, including one that the prime minister felt missiles would be a better defence against the threat of an attack from what is now Russia.

The decision cost Canada more than the best military jet in the world. The loss of the Arrow was accompanied by the exodus of thousands of aero-space workers, many of them to the U.S.

The nine models are three-metres long. They were launched from shore into Lake Ontario in the mid-1950s as a design test for the real thing. There have been other attempts to find the models. This successful one was by OEX Recovery Group and was led by John Burzynski. A press release reported that new sonar imagery offered confirmation of the discovery. Also, a factor in the success was an unmanned submarine that surveyed the bottom.

The supersonic Arrow’s role was to have been to intercept bombers from the former Soviet Union. It was built for the Royal Canadian Air Force by A.V. Roe in Malton, Ontario.

The models of the Arrow will find a home at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa and the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton, Ontario.

The zenith for Canada’s aero-space industry was on March 25,  1958. On that day Polish-born test pilot Jan Zurakowski flew the Arrow on its maiden flight. It performed flawlessly. But that was not enough to save the plane or to keep the talented people who designed and built it. Also lost, never to return, was Canada’s position at the top of the aero-space industry.

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Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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