From my Good Buddy, Mike “Pockets” Gantwerger from Canada.
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…… 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.
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.
On 20 February 1959- the Avro Arrow’s cancellation was announced. The day became known as “Black Friday” in the Canadian aviation industry
The government… has made a thorough examination in the light of all the information available concerning the probable nature of the threats to… North America in the future years, the alternative means of defence against such threats, and the estimated cost thereof. The conclusion arrived at is that the development of the Arrow aircraft and Iroquois engine should be terminated now.
Prime Minister Diefenbaker addressing the House of Commons, 20 February 1959
On Black Friday all Avro Arrow aircraft were attacked by chainsaws and blow torches which reduced the sleek supersonic interceptors to small bits of metal….all blueprints, paperwork , correspondence, microfilm and any paper trail even remotely associated to the Arrow project was destroyed.
The sad irony of it all is, two years after black Friday, the RCAF took possession of 66 used McDonnell F-101 Voodoo jet fighters from the United States to fill its need for a supersonic interceptor.
Due to the sudden loss of their jobs, Thirty-three Avro engineers and scientists were recruited by NASA, and went on to help develop the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.
That day, Canada lost a lot more than 6 Jets….it lost a piece of its soul.
There is a myth that perpetuates to this day that one of the test pilots stole an Arrow before it was destroyed, and flew it to an undisclosed location. Some believe that somewhere in Canada is a barn that houses the last remaining Arrow. Truly the stuff of legends.