60 Years Ago Canada Had it All and Gave it Away
by Manfried Starhemberg
60 years ago Avro Canada's Jetliner created a sensation by flying from Toronto to New York in half the time usual for even the most advanced piston engined planes of the time. It was the second (by two weeks) pure jet in the world, being narrowly preceded by Britain's Comet. That same year it flew from Chicago to New York in one hour and 40 minutes at 459 miles per hour. At this time, United States pure jet technology was only in the early drawing stages. In light of the many problems the Comet experienced, the C-102 Jetliner should have and probably would have been the rightful sucessor of the venerable DC-3.
The Jetliner flew flawlessly for two years without one single problem in its operation. However, the project was abandoned even while TWA and the United Strates air force were placing orders of 30 and 20 units respectively. Canada's "brilliant" Cabinet minister C.D. Howe argued that any aircraft which needs sandbags for stability was not viable. Every aircraft of that time used sandbags to test weight distribution and stability. The designer, James Floyd, was awarded the Wright medal for his brillant design, the first non North American ever to win this Nobel prize of aviation.
In a further grievous act of stupidity, the original CF-EJ-X was scrapped even after having received another firm order from National Airlines and great enthusiasm from the U.S.A.A.F. We did not even allow a museum to have it and even an invitation to keep it at the Smithsonian Institution was denied. Today, all that is left of this magnificent Canadian machine is the nose which can be seen at the National Aviation Museum.
I am certain that the good people at Douglas, Boeing and Lockheed must have been laughing their heads off at the time.
And then - well seven years later, precisely on February 20, 1959, we did it again; we scrapped the Avro Arrow.
As the Toronto Daily Star reported on this "day of Infamy in Canadian Aviation": Diefenbaker Decides "Scrap the Arrow"
The text reads:
Ottawa, Feb,20 - The federal government has scrapped the Avro Arrow and its Iroqouis engine, Prime minister Diefenbaker announced in the House of Commons today. At the same time, the prime minister made it clear that the government has no alternative air defence system planned to take the place of the supersonic jet interceptor.
By the end of the day the 14,000 employees of A.V. Roe and the Orenda engine companies were out of work.
What could have been the greatest moment in the history of Canadian technology became the greatest aviation tragicomedy of all time. Almost 80 percent of the laid-off pool of aviation talent were snapped up by U.S.companies, a loss we were never able to recoup.
And what of the Arrow? It flew faster and higher than any other intercepter then built. For the first time, Canada was poised to take a position of leadership in the global aviation field. To add insult to injury, the government also decided to shred all documents pertaining to plane and engine and to destroy the fleet altogether. We have not one single Arrow to show the world today.
Considering the fact that subsequent governments have had to purchase all their planes such as the CF-18 Hornet from the U.S., and that we are now poised to spend billions on a new strike fighter program, I say it serves them right....