The Avro Arrow's Forgotten 50th Anniversary
By James Grahame
Oh, Canada. I've been waiting for someone to write a tribute to the Avro Arrow. Alas, the fiftieth anniversary of her first flight came and went earlier this week without so much as a quiet sigh.
The CF-105 Arrow was Canada's ill-fated foray into the world of advanced jet fighter design. The delta-wing design was considered by many to be decades ahead of its time. The aircraft first flew for just over half an hour on March 25, 1958. By the time the Arrow program was canceled on February 20, 1959, five prototypes had flown a total of 70.5 hours. The design reached Mach 1.96 and 50,000 feet - impressive achievements in that era.
Although rapidly escalating development costs and Canada's integration into NORAD played roles in the Canadian government's decision to cancel the program, the launch of Sputnik 1 in October 1957 greatly influenced the political landscape as well. The arrival of the Space Age foreshadowed the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles that were untouchable by even the most advanced supersonic interceptor.
The cancellation of the program in early 1959 caught Avro off guard, and the aircraft, engines, tooling and plans were ordered destroyed within weeks to avoid them falling into Soviet hands. All that remains of the $260 million program today is a single nose section and a couple of wing panels. It was an ignominious end for a once-promising aircraft.
The Avro Arrow [Diefenbaker Canada Centre Archives]