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The Avrow Arrow...A Broken Dream

A Brief History

After the second world war, he Liberal Minster of Munitions and Supply and of Reconstruction C.D. Howe wanted to develop Canada's air industry. So in 1945, Howe sold Victory Aircraft Limited, a Crown Corporation located in Malton, Ontario, A.V. Roe and Company, a division of Hawker-Siddeley Aircraft of Britain, which would later become known as Avro Aircraft Limited. Thus, Avro Canada was born.

    Problems at the Beginning

Avro's first project was to design a commercial transcontinental jet transport which was requested by Trans-Canada Air Lines. On August 10, 1949, the Avro C-102 Jetliner prototype took flight, missing being the first jet-powered passenger aircraft to fly in the world by only thirteen days. On April 18, 1950, the Jetliner carried the world's first jet-delivered airmail during a record-breaking Toronto-New York flight. But Avro had problems in dealing with Trans-Canada Airlines and the Department of Transport and, even though there was interest from Howard Hughes, owner of TransWorld Airlines, and the United States Air Force, no jetliners were sold.

Avro turns to the Military Wing of the RCAF

In the 1950 with the start of the Korean War, Howe told Avro to discontinue their jetliner efforts so that they could concentrate on building military aircraft. In 1946, since Canada had troubles during the Second World War in buying foreign military aircraft, gave Avro a contract to design a long-range, two-seat, twin-engine all-weather interceptor to meet the RCAF's North American and European air defence requests. In that same year Avro bought Turbo Research Limited from the Canadian government, and changed its name to Orenda Engines Limited, and began developing a jet engine to for the fighter. The Avro CF-100 Canuck prototype took flight for the first time on January 19, 1950. However, with the Cold War, Avro started producing the Canucks faster in 1952. The overall cost of the programme was $750 million. Canucks served with distinction in thirteen RCAF squadrons, nine in Canada and four in Europe, and fifty-three were purchased by the Belgian Air Force. A total of 3838 Orenda engines were built. Its specifications: It could reach speeds of a mach when diving and could go as high as 45,000 ft.

Avro is Awarded a Contract

A few years after the Canuck was being produced, the RCAF requested to the Canadian government that they needed a new replacement for the Canuck that could intercept new Soviet supersonic nuclear bombers. An RCAF evaluation team again concluded that no suitable aircraft were to be found in the US or Britain. In 1953, the Liberal government gave Avro a $27 million, five-year contract to design two prototypes of a long-range, two-seat, twin-engine, supersonic, all weather interceptor - the Avro CF-105 Arrow. The RCAF believed that 500-600 Arrows at $1.5-2 million each would be needed. In 1955 because of the belief that Soviet supersonic nuclear bombers were now in service, Avro was given a revised $260 million contract for five Arrow I aircraft powered by Pratt and Whitney J-75 engines and thirty-five Arrow II aircraft fitted with the unavailable Iroquois engines. The Arrow was rolled for its first test flight on Oct 4th, 1957. However, the USSR launched Sputnik 1 the same day, which created the space race and made people start to believe that missiles would be the army now, not manned interceptors. NORAD said that by 1961, the year the Arrow was to enter squadron service, the main Soviet threat to North America would come from intercontinental ballistic missiles, not bombers. Diefenbaker announced that air defence requirements were to be rechecked because of the small Soviet bomber threat, also two American Bomarc-B missile bases would be built in Canada.

Black Friday

By 1959, five Arrows had been successfully flown and the Iroquois-equipped prototype was almost finished and ready to make a world speed record-breaking flight. Avro had also managed to increase the range of the Arrow and reduce its cost to $7.8 million each by redesigning it to put in a US radar fire-control and missile system. However, on February 20th, 1959 at 11:00 am Prime Minister John Diefenbaker announced the decision to terminate the Arrow and Iroquois programs. Avro Canada made a last attempt to sell their planes to the U.S. or the U.K. however was unsuccessful. (It is rumoured though that after the cancellation, France wanted to buy the five Arrows for their price but that Deifenbaker decided to destory them instead). That day 14,525 workers left the Avro plant unemployed. A small amount were rehired later, but the vast majority never enetered the plant again. On February 20, 1959, Diefenbaker announced the immediate termination of the Arrow and Iroquois programmes and his intention to acquire nuclear warheads for the Bomarc-B and other weapons systems. Cancellation charges brought the total development costs of the Arrow programme to $470 million. In 1962, A.V. Roe Canada Limited was renamed Hawker-Siddeley Canada Limited and the Malton facilities were bought by the McDonnell-Douglas Corporation, (now a part of Boeing). The planes were then scrapped and sold to a Hamilton smelter to make pots and pans, however a fuselage and other parts were saved and are on display in Ottawa. (It is rumoured that a plane escaped. The story is that it was the last one to be destroyed and was scheduled to be destroyed in the morning. However, when the army left for the night, the test pilot with the help of a few engineers got into the plane, took off and dumped it into Lake Ontario.) Many of the workers fired went to join U.S. and U.K. companies. Many joined NASA and helped develop the Apollo missions ( An idea that was in development when the Avro was in research). Others helped develop the space shuttle for NASA.