CBC Digital Archives

Debating the Arrow's legacy

It's the closest thing Canadian industry has to a love story and a murder mystery. The Avro Arrow, a sleek white jet interceptor developed in Malton, Ontario in the 1950s, could have been many things. It might have become the fastest plane in the world, our best defence against Soviet bombers, the catalyst to propel Canada to the forefront of the aviation industry. Instead, it became a $400-million pile of scrap metal, and the stuff of legends.

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In January 1997, CBC broadcasts a four-hour miniseries called The Arrow that generates powerful reactions from Canadians who love or hate the legendary plane. Calling in to CBC's Radio Noon, historian Michael Bliss calls the miniseries "an orgy of mythologizing," arguing that Avro was a disaster and the Arrow got what it deserved. Broadcaster Elwy Yost, who worked at Avro for six years, says that's the most stupid statement he's heard in 40 years.
. The Arrow was a two-part series starring Dan Aykroyd as Crawford Gordon. It co-starred Sara Botsford, Michael Ironside, Michael Moriarity and Christopher Plummer. It was shot in Winnipeg, Man. and featured a scale replica of the Arrow built in Wetaskiwin, Alta. by sales estimator Allan Jackson. It was broadcast on Jan. 12 and 13, 1997. The movie's "docudrama" format was generally well received, but irritated some viewers who wanted greater historical accuracy.

. Michael Bliss is a University of Toronto history professor. He has published a dozen books and is noted for his studies of Canadian medical history.

. Bliss tells his history students that the last Avro Arrow did indeed escape, and is stored in a barn in Saskatchewan. "It is taken out and flown once a year. By Elvis."

. Film historian Elwy Yost hosted TVOntario's Saturday Night at the Movies from 1970 to 1999.

. Yost worked in the personnel department of Avro and was involved in laying off thousands of workers. The last pink slip he issued was to himself.
Medium: Radio
Program: Radio Noon
Broadcast Date: Jan. 13, 1997
Guest(s): Michael Bliss, Elwy Yost
Host: Maureen Taylor
Duration: 10:07
Photo: National Archives of Canada, PA-203476

Last updated: January 18, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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