The Avro Arrow, Canada's 'greatest plane that never was'
Arrow was a much-anticipated, years-long aviation dream that died on Feb. 20, 1959.
Just before 10 a.m. on March 25, 1958, Arrow RL-201 roared into the skies northwest of Toronto for its first test flight.
The Arrow One, Canada's first supersonic fighter plane was finally ready to fly, after years of planning, work by thousands of people, $200 million and 17,000 blueprints.
'Previously secret films'
Two weeks later, Newsmagazine brought Canadians an exclusive look inside the hangars.
The television cameras captured models undergoing spin and "free flight" tests, a wooden engineering mock-up, engineers subjecting the various components of the plane to arduous tests, and test pilots checking out the cockpit.
'The first production aircraft in production before it was tested'
But the dream of producing the plane that would bring Canadian aviation into the supersonic age was ended in 1959.
On Feb. 20, 1959, a day that workers came to call "Black Friday," the announcement of the layoff of approximately 14,000 workers came. The project, which had run to a total cost of $400 million had been scrapped.
Prime Minister John Diefenbaker explained the reasoning behind the unequivocal scrapping of the project.
With the current development in the U.S.S.R. of missiles and the threatened buildup of nuclear weaponry, he noted that if the production of the jet continued "the defence that would be available to Canada by 1962 would be ineffectual."
'A funeral procession'
CBC Radio News was at the plant as tool makers, designers, maintenance men and office workers drove away, for the last time. Reporter Bill Beatty interviewed them as they left in "a funeral procession of cars, bumper to bumper."
One worker reported that the announcement had come with no warning — "we were just working and they put it over the loud speaker, everybody as from now was laid off."
Two decades later, Kay Shaw, a senior design draftsman on the project, described the destruction of the completed planes, models and all materials and plans related to its development, "an act of obscenity that nobody has been able to explain."