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June 25, 2004

Will no-one exorcise this ghost from the Canadian psyche?

The Globe and Mail reports:

Starting next month, the ships will scan the bottom [of Lake Ontario] for nine scale models of the Avro Arrow, the fabled Canadian jet fighter scrapped by then-prime minister John Diefenbaker in 1959, killing the idea of Canadian air superiority.

For Arrow fans, the roughly one-seventh-size models are something of a holy grail, since they are exact flying replicas of the real plane.

The models were launched over the lake in the 1950s as engineers developed the revolutionary Arrow, which featured a radical delta wing and a Canadian-made engine that pushed it past the speed of sound
I hate to sound like a killjoy, but everything I've read about the AVRO Arrow says that, while Dief was widely viewed as an idiot for destroying the 11 finished planes, it would never have been a viable military export for Canada. The plane was great, there seems to be no question about that, but it was too expensive for the RCAF to be the only purchaser, and neither the United States nor the United Kingdom was willing (at that time) to buy from "foreign" suppliers. With no market for the jet, regardless of its superior flying and combat qualities, there was little point in embarking on full production.

Also, given the degree of penetration by Soviet spies, the Canadian government took the easiest option in destroying the prototypes. That doesn't make it any less tragic if you're a fan, but it does put it into some kind of perspective, I hope.

Update: A surviving technician from the test program says that the search is being conducted in the wrong place.

Update 28 June: Another article in the Kingston Whig-Standard says:
For his first book, Zuuring spent two years virtually camped out at the National Archives in Ottawa and uncovered what historians say is the closest Canada has come to finding a smoking gun as to the cause of the Arrow?s demise.

Zuuring found declassified documents that showed top military leaders, not Diefenbaker, killed the Arrow project.
But the rest of the article concentrates on the search for the Arrow models, not his discoveries in the National Archives.

Posted by Nicholas at June 25, 2004 02:41 PM

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