"I thought to myself, well, I had to make these decisions; I know people blamed me for a lot of it; but I did what was right in my opinion."
(Interview #61, April 5 1967. ACC 74-1 Box 6)
The Canadian aircraft company A.V. Roe was a world leader in development and design. Avro's post-war achievements included the CF-100 jet fighter (1950), which served Canada in NATO for a decade, and the Avro Jetliner (C-102) which flew in August 1949; this was the first jet airliner in North America. Despite the Jetliner's innovative design, and interest from foreign buyers, it never went into production; government Cold War priorities pushed instead for high CF-100 production.
The Avro Arrow (CF-105) supersonic, twin-engined, all weather interceptor, began development in 1949 and was accepted by the Liberal government in 1953 as the eventual replacement for the Avro CF-100. In addition to the airframe, the Arrow's "Iroquois" engine and the fire-control and missile systems were also being developed in Canada. In 1958 the Canadian fire-control and missile program was cancelled. In 1959, the government cancelled the Arrow project and ordered all planes scrapped. Avro laid off 14,000. Many of the highly skilled former employees were to emigrate to the U.S. where they played important roles in the space program and covert aviation development. Many Canadians still believe the cancellation was a landmark in the loss of Canadian technical leadership and independence.
The reasons given for the Arrow's cancellation are diverse and depend on whom is asked. Rising costs, and the perceived shift from a Soviet bomber to an ICBM threat, are reasons central to the supporters of the scrapping. Pressure from the U.S. is commonly mentioned by opponents of the cancellation.
Repeated attempts had been made to sell the aircraft to the United States, but the U.S. had its own fighter program and was at the same time promoting the nuclear-tipped Bomarc anti-bomber defence missile. After the Arrow, the Canadian government was to purchase American fighters and install the problematic, and soon defunct, Bomarc system.
In perhaps the most heated controversy in his career, George R. Pearkes, as Minister of Defence at the time of the cancellation of the Arrow, made key decisions regarding Canada's defence system. Dr. Reginald Roy recorded interviews with Pearkes and other military men who commented on the Arrow project. George Pearkes never wavered in maintaining that he had made the correct, though very difficult, decision. The transcripts and tapes of Dr. Roy's interviews are part of the Special Collections holdings at the University of Victoria.
To read excerpts of George Pearkes's interpretation of events influencing the cancellation of the Avro Arrow and his decisions, click here.
To link to an Avro Arrow Home Page about performance specs, interviews with key players and a history of the project, click here.
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