One of the most advanced airfract of its time, the Avro Arrow, built by A.V. Roe Canada/Avro Canada, was a delta-winged interceptor type aircraft built in the mid-1950s, and notoriously cancelled in 1959 before final production due to a variety of reasons. The ship has had an enduring legacy in Canadian history, and Doug Pengelly from ToroLUG has put together a series of several models of the plane, including some unconventional modifications of the LEGO bricks by Pengelly, who scorched several bricks in order to get his desired effect. Coupled with an airport built by Jason Martyn, the scene really comes to life and tells the story of Canada’s most legendary aircraft.
At the beginning of the Cold War, the Canadian military was concerned about long range bomber strikes from Russia that would leave the nation vulnerable. Following the development of the CF-100 Canuck, Avro Canada was given the commission to design a new model of aircraft that would be better suited to intercept potential Russian incursions.
In reviewing the shortcomings of the Canuck, the team at Avro took this as an opportunity to develop a state-of-the-art aircraft that would have the potential to be the world’s fastest, and potentially most advanced. Due to several changes in engine suppliers, a new Canadian-designed engine, known as the Iroquois, was developed by Avro subsidiary Orenda Engines. Together, these technical marvels were the culmination of great efforts from tens of thousands of Canadians who were a part of the project, though at a great cost – coming into the hundreds of millions of dollars as the advanced design costs ballooned.
In 1957, newly-elected Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, making good on a campaign platform, threatened to reign in the spending on a number of projects, including the Arrow. In addition, with the changing nature of the Cold War in the late 1950s and the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the need for interceptors such as the Arrow was further questioned. Shortly after being elected, Diefenbaker signed the NORAD agreement with the United States, further amplifying political pressures to alter course towards surface-to-air missiles.
The team at Avro had a successful test flight in 1958, achieving speeds of Mach 1.98. Some design team members believing that this was not close to pushing the limits of the aircraft. With a major review coming up in March of 1959, the team was hopeful that their hard work would pay off and attract international buyers, thus justifying the high development costs. However, in February of 1959, Diefenbaker cancelled the program, citing rising costs and the changing military and political climates as the reason. Due to Cold War fears, all models of the ship, as well as all designs, were ordered destroyed. Aside from a few smuggled parts and schematics, the Avro arrow was lost. So were tens of thousands of jobs that were attached to the project, effectively bankrupting A.V. Roe Canada – which at the time was the third largest business in the country.
Following the cancellation, a team of several dozen of the top scientists behind the Arrow were recruited by NASA to become lead engineers, program managers, and heads of engineering in their manned space program which was under development – a further testament to the Avro and the greatness of Canadian ingenuity and scientific prowess.