In the late 1950s Canada’s Avro Arrow led the race to become the top military aircraft in the world. The others were not even close. Suddenly it died of a Canadian self-inflicted wound. Canada’s former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker cancelled the program. Any existing Arrows were ordered to be scrapped.
All that was left were nine models, each three-metres long and one-eighth the size of the Arrow. However, they have been at the bottom of Lake Ontario for almost 60 years. This week a new effort began to find the models. They served as testing models that were launched over the huge freshwater lake.
Central to the “Raise the Arrow” project is an unmanned, programmable submarine named The Thunderfish. It is now surveying the bottom of the lake in the area where they had been launched, which was Point Petre in Ontario’s Prince Edward County. From there they are selecting “high probability” areas. The team includes private companies, the Canadian Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Military Institute.
An on-board computer on the submarine processes what it sees to form a map that is developed each day. John Burzynski, who leads the search team, says it won’t take long if the submarine succeeds. “This will be within days.”
The Arrow was a supersonic interceptor, whose role was to intercept bombers from the then-named Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (U.S.S.R.). Canada’s government saw the Soviet Union as a threat to our Arctic.
Sixty years later, with the thawing Arctic and its easier access to oil and minerals in the area, makes many Canadians think the threat is still there. What isn’t there is the Avro Arrow. Worse still, was the exodus of thousands of skilled aero-space workers to the U.S. when the Arrow was scrapped.
Canada’s lofty position in the aero-space industry peaked on March 25, 1958, when Polish-born test-pilot Janus Zurakowski piloted the Arrow on its inaugural flight.
People tend to cherish mementos of highlights in their lives. Canadians are not an exception, so much so that if the search team finds the Arrow models, they already have homes awaiting them – the Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa and the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton Ontario.
The Arrow is gone now and so is Zurakowski. That makes recovering the models so meaningful.
Built by A,V, Roe in Malton, Ontario, the Avro Arrow was the first and only Canadian-built supersonic interceptor. It had twin engines and could fly in all weather conditions. The plan was to build 600 Arrows with each costing $2 million. In 1959, the program was cancelled. The cost of the aircraft and the emergence of inter-continental ballistic missiles were factors in its demise.
But since the termination of the Arrow there has been scant recovery of the once promising Canadian military aircraft production industry. We started buying planes from the U.S. We still are.