CBC Digital Archives

Unveiling the Arrow

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.

After four years of work by 14,000 people, the first Avro Arrow is wheeled out of a hangar in Malton, Ont. on Oct. 4, 1957. A huge crowd is on hand to marvel at the sleek white craft. But the Arrow's timing turns out to be disastrous: the Soviet Union launches the Sputnik 1 satellite the same day, diverting attention from the Arrow and prompting some Canadians to begin rethinking the country's approach to strategic defence.
• Sputnik 1 was the world's first artificial satellite. It was the size of a basketball and weighed 83 kilograms. While it didn't really "do" anything other than beep, it caught the West off guard. Many feared the Soviets could use the same rocket technology to launch ballistic missiles carrying nuclear weapons from Europe to North America. Sputnik began the space race and led directly to the creation of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

• At the unveiling of the Arrow, Defence Minister George Pearkes said that although we are entering the missile age, the era of manned aircraft was not over. He said that aircraft and missiles complement each other, and aircraft have the advantage of introducing human judgement into battle. Unlike missiles, aircraft can turn back. Later, Pearkes was instrumental in the cancellation of the Arrow program.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: Jan. 1, 1958
Guest(s):
Announcer: Bruce Marsh
Duration: 0:34
Photo: National Archives of Canada, PA-210520

Last updated: January 18, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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