Avro Arrow 60th anniversary marked by Calgary group constructing replica

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the Avro Arrow interceptor.

1st flight of the Avro Arrow happened March 25, 1958

Michael Ward, treasurer of the Avro Museum of Springbank Airport, says once work is complete, they plan to tour the replica at public events and airshows as a way to bring Canadian aviation history to life. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

After 20 years of planning, engineering and hard work, a group of volunteers is inching toward their goal of seeing a replica Avro Arrow take to the skies.

As the group marked the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the original Avro Arrow — which happened March 25, 1958 — they say it will still be about another five years before theirs is ready to take flight. 

Many call the combat jet one of the most advanced to be built in Canada, with aerodynamics and technologies considered years ahead of the time.

Designed by A.V. Roe Canada in Malton, Ont., the Avro Arrow was built to intercept Soviet bombers that might have entered North American airspace during the Cold War.

Only a few of the jets were constructed, however, before a controversial federal government decision killed the program in February 1959.

For the last two decades, volunteers at the Avro Museum of Springbank Airport have been diligently building a replica, dubbed the Arrow II.

Engineering work was started in 1997 and construction began in 2007, which has continued for more than a decade.

Museum president Paul Gies says the project had attracted some of the best and the brightest minds from around the world.

"In terms of Avro itself, it serves as a lesson how fast great things can be lost, great capabilities can be lost," he said.

A model of the Avro Arrow hanging at the museum. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Using old designs, some modern materials and painstaking engineering, they're hoping to have their jet — scaled to two-thirds the size of the original — flying within another five years.

Museum treasurer Michael Ward says once complete, they plan to take it to public events and airshows as a way to bring Canadian aviation history to life.

"This, of course, is the most fabulous aircraft that was ever built or designed in Canada," he said.

"Back in 1958 it was leading edge and it still compares favourably, even with aircraft today in terms of performance and technology."

When complete, the replica will be able to reach speeds of 925 kilometres an hour with a ceiling of 8,500 metres. 

Museum president Paul Gies says they have been working on the replica for 20 years. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

The museum was moved to its current location about three years ago so construction could continue.

"Because the size of the equipment and the space we need to build it requires a hanger this size," said Ward.  

Bert Furlong with the Canadian Aviation Historical Society call the Arrow a significant part of Canada's aviation heritage.

"The Americans, the British, everybody was just standing there saying these Canadians are doing something that is just remarkable," he said.

The public can also get a look at the progress of construction during open houses being held from noon to 3 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month.