The mystique and marvel: Why does the Avro Arrow continue to fascinate Canadians?
Fifty years after the first powered flight in Canadian history, the “little nation that could” had developed a supersonic aircraft known as the fastest and highest-flying interceptor of its time. To this day, the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow (the Arrow) remains, an inspiring symbol of our nation’s ingenuity and engineering excellence.
The story of why the Arrow never came to be, however, is one of intrigue and exaggeration that continues to fascinate Canadians. Whether you’re an aviation enthusiast or not, you can’t help but be captivated by Canada’s most famous aircraft.
The Arrow takes flight
In 1953, Avro Canada Ltd. was commissioned to develop a supersonic interceptor that would bolster North America’s air defences during the Cold War. Production began at the company’s facilities in Malton, Ontario, and four years later, the first Arrow, RL-201, was unveiled to great fanfare.
After a successful first flight in 1958, four more prototypes were completed, plus one Arrow Mk. 2. The twin-engine, delta-winged Arrow was hailed as a technological triumph; it was the first production aircraft to adopt a fly-by-wire flight control system, while the newly developed Iroquois PS-13 turbojet engine would have allowed it to fly at a speed exceeding Mach 2 — twice the speed of sound.
A new age overshadows the Arrow
Early in 1959, the Canadian government cancelled the project due to mounting costs and the advent of the missile age. Prime Minister Diefenbaker announced the cancellation:
“Unfortunately these outstanding achievements have been overtaken by events… The bomber threat against which the CF-105 was intended to provide defence has diminished... Potential aggressors now seem more likely to put their effort into missile development.”
The Department of National Defence ordered all Arrow prototypes, models, plans and equipment to be destroyed. Concerns over the current state of the Cold War made it a matter of national security.
Click here for an in-depth photo slideshow on the history of the Arrow created by the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum.
The Arrow’s story lives on
The Arrow had captured the imagination of the Canadian public unlike any project in our nation’s history. The idea that a country like Canada could develop this type of futuristic technology ignited the passion and pride people still have for this aircraft 60 years later.
Though many think all remnants of the Arrow were destroyed, artefacts from the program live on in museums across Canada. The largest known survivor, the nose section of RL-206, is currently on display at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Conspiracy theories of an intact aircraft are still rife throughout Canada as some individuals staunchly believe RL-202 was flown away before dismantling.
This curiosity has fueled many TV shows, documentaries, books, and even collector coins honouring the innovators behind the Arrow and examining the turbulent story of Canada’s most famous aircraft.
You can own a part of Canadian aviation history with our latest piece celebrating the Avro Arrow.