Discussion:
The liberal chopped record-breaking jet which still haunts a country
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Bradley K. Sherman
2020-06-20 11:27:21 UTC
Permalink
A decade after the end of World War Two, Canada built a jet
which pushed technology to its limits. But its demise showed why
smaller nations found it difficult to compete in the Jet Age.
I
In the early years of the Cold War, Canada decided to design and
build the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world.

Canada is well known for its rugged bush planes, capable of
rough landings and hair-raising take-offs in the wilderness.
From the late 1930s, the North American country had also started
to manufacture British-designed planes for the Allied war
effort. Many of these planes were iconic wartime designs like
the Hawker Hurricane fighter and Avro Lancaster bomber.

Ambitious Canadian politicians and engineers weren’t satisfied
with this. They decided to forge a world-leading aircraft
manufacturing industry out of the factories and skilled
workforce built up during the war. Tired of manufacturing
aircraft designed by others, this new generation of Canadian
leaders were determined to produce Canadian designs. Avro
Aircraft, the Canadian airplane maker created after the war, was
the company that would deliver their dream.

Freed from the set ways-of-thinking of Avro’s more established
rivals, the firm’s engineers were able to work on revolutionary
jet fighters, commercial airliners, flying saucers and even a
space plane. They placed Canada at the technological cutting
edge of the new Jet Age.

In so doing, these engineers challenged notions of what small
countries like Canada could achieve in the hi-tech industries of
the day, even if convincing politicians to stump up the cash for
them was an altogether trickier business.

Then came the Arrow. On 4 October 1957, 14,000 people watched a
large hangar on the outskirts of Toronto open to reveal a
beautiful, large, white, delta-wing aircraft. The plane was the
Avro Arrow interceptor. A third longer and broader than today’s
Eurofighter Typhoon, the Arrow could fly close to Mach 2.0
(1,500 mph, or the maximum speed of Concorde), and had the
potential to fly even faster. It was Canada’s Can$250m
(US$1,58bn today) bid to become an aviation superpower.

The project was genuinely ground-breaking. Avro’s engineers had
been allowed to build a record-breaker without compromise. But
Canadians would soon discover that the supersonic age had made
aviation projects so expensive that only a handful of countries
could carry them out – and Canada, unfortunately, wasn’t one of
them.

The advert for Avro Aircraft celebrating the “first 50 years of
powered flight in Canada 1909–1959” had only just been printed
when on “Black Friday”, 20 February 1959, the loudspeaker of the
Avro Aircraft factory on the outskirts of Toronto crackled to
life. Thousands of workers heard the company president announce
“that f------ prick in Ottawa” (the newly elected Canadian prime
minister John Diefenbaker) had cancelled the entire Arrow
programme. Later that day, 14,500 skilled men and women lost
their jobs. Many of these engineers joined the brain-drain to
the United States. The "Avro group" of 32 engineers playing
critical roles in Nasa's Apollo programme, which – ironically –
beat the Soviets in the race to land a man on the moon.

Ken Barnes was a senior draftsman on the project to build the
revolutionary plane when he heard the bad news. Like many
Canadians, Barnes was appalled by the decision to cancel the
Avro Arrow. When Barnes was told to destroy the blueprints, he
hid them in his basement. There the designs stayed until
Barnes's nephew discovered them after his death. It was a
revelation that made headlines across Canada last year and
fuelled hopes of another miracle, that perhaps one of the planes
had somehow escaped destruction.

If the mass layoffs was an act of brinkmanship by the company,
then it didn't work. In a move which shocked Canada, the cutting
up of the Arrow prototypes took place in front of the silent
factory. The moment was captured in a grainy black-and-white
photograph which continues to haunt Canada. Three years later
the Avro Aircraft company would be gone, with a total loss of
around 50,000 jobs.

"You won't find many other countries that are so invested in an
aircraft that never saw service," says Erin Gregory, curator of
the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. “For Canadians, there is a
sense of missed opportunities. Then there's the idea that we are
a vast country with a small population and an innovative spirit
that punches above its weight in many areas and the Arrow was
one of those. It was the height of aviation technology, and Avro
was the high-tech aviation firm in Canada. Yet, their government
foils them."

There is an old Canadian joke that says the best thing that
happened to America was the cancellation of the Arrow
“Canadians aren’t sitting around every night reliving the glory
days of the Arrow,” says Amy Shira Teitel, a Canadian
spaceflight historian and author of Fighting for Space: Two
Pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight. “But
Canada is obsessed with Canadiana, and the Arrow was
revolutionary. It was a Mach 2 jet on par with the United
States, and it was Canadian, made in Malton, Ontario. Then there
was the weird decision to cancel it with no warning: ‘We failed
to sell the plane to either Britain or the United States, so
let’s destroy it and pretend it never happened.’”

There is an old Canadian joke that says the best thing that
happened to America was the cancellation of the Arrow. Many
Canadians did make the next step and instinctively blame their
southern 'frenemy' for the failure of the programme.

But the controversy and conspiracy theories hid a critical
truth. “Hi-tech defence projects are very expensive,” says Joe
Coles, publisher of Hush-Kit, an aviation blog. "Without a large
guaranteed order from your nation, they are usually
prohibitively so.”

“By the time it was cancelled, the cost of the programme had
ballooned to an astonishing Canadian $250m,” says Gregory. "That
was an extraordinary amount of money in the 1950s, especially
for a country as small as Canada. Given that millions of more
dollars were still needed, it was a pretty easy cut to make."

The Arrow was a reflection of the unique company that built it.
Avro Aircraft was born of the British strategy of using “shadow
factories” to disperse the production of planes, tanks and other
armaments in the build-up to World War Two. During the war, the
factory produced iconic aircraft such as the Hawker Hurricane
and the Lancaster bomber. With victory approaching, the Canadian
government minister CD Howe believed it was of “utmost
importance” to use this opportunity to establish a Canadian
aircraft industry. Avro’s engineers rose to the challenge. In
1949 came the C-102 Jetliner, Canada’s first jet plane, North
America’s first passenger jet, and the world's second jet
airliner. One year later they rolled out Canada’s first – and so
far, only mass-produced – jet fighter, the CF-100 Canuck. Though
the company shared a name with the makers of the Lancaster
bomber, it was in fact a subsidiary of Hawker.

Avro’s hush-hush Special Project Group pioneered flying saucer-
shaped vertical take-off and landing aircraft like the Avrocar.
Another group was working on the Space Threshold Vehicle to take
a man to the edge of space and back. A feasibility study for a
supersonic transatlantic airliner was ready by the time of the
Arrow's cancellation.



"Avro was both incredible in its achievements and central to the
nation's aspirations to become an aeronautical powerhouse," says
Randall Wakelam, a history professor at the Royal Military
College of Canada. "The government intended to take Canada from
being a small-time assembler of aircraft designed in the UK or
US to become an international-level manufacturer the equal of
other nations."

Ottawa’s decisions didn’t always help the manufacturer. In 1950
the Cold War turned hot when North Korea invaded the South. CD
Howe demanded that Avro cancel the Jetliner project and
prioritise the manufacture of the Canuck. In a foreshadowing of
the fate of the Arrow, American interest in manufacturing the
plane was ignored and workers cut up the Jetliner prototype.

The Arrow was so advanced that Canada didn't have all the
facilities for testing it
Then in 1954, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) published
requirements for a new fighter. The Arrow won, but quickly grew
into a complex project that pushed forward the edge of
scientific knowledge, Avro’s ability to manage it and the
government’s ability to afford it. The interceptor had to be
able to fly and fire at 50,000ft and speeds over Mach 1.5. It
had to be to operate in the harsh conditions of the Arctic and
be able to fly the long distances that this required.

To achieve these goals, the Avro engineers created the first non-
experimental fly-by-wire control system (a system that replaces
the conventional manual flight controls of an aircraft with a
computer-controlled system) in an aircraft and a navigational
computer that used real-time telemetry. They used new materials
in its airframe, and, at a sister company, designed and built
the new powerful, lightweight, supersonic Iroquois engine. To
make the most of its capabilities, the interceptor spawned a new
weapons programme called Astra (nicknamed "Astronomically
Expensive"), and a new missile.

The Arrow was so advanced that Canada didn't have all the
facilities for testing it. Instead, the engineers had to use
facilities in the USA such as the National Advisory Committee
for Aeronautics (NACA) supersonic research centre at Langley
Park, Virginia. The Canadians and their aircraft impressed their
American colleagues – a calling card that had lasting
consequences for the future of humanity. In 1958 NACA became
Nasa.

“The Arrow was an extremely high-performance, hi-tech fighter,”
says Coles. “Its designers had made very few compromises to keep
its costs down, and it was very much the 'gold-plated' solution.”

The Arrow achieved another first. It was the first time that
engineers built prototypes of such a sophisticated aircraft
using production tooling rather than handmade by engineers. This
process meant that it was a mere 28 months from the first
drawing of the Arrow to its rollout, and by February 1959 the
production line was up and running.

By the time the loudspeaker crackled into life on Black Friday,
there were five flying prototypes. There was another fitted with
an Iroquois engine nearly ready to fly and another four in
various states of assembly. In the factory were the majority of
parts for the production aircraft. Proposals for a Mach 3 and a
hypersonic – Mach 5 – version of the Arrow were on the drawing
board, as was a "zero-length launch Arrow", which would blast
into the air from a raised launch pad like Thunderbird 1 from
the science fiction television series.

“Problems had been brewing, if not publicly discussed, for many
months before Diefenbaker made his decision,” says Wakelam. “The
issue of whether to keep going or abandon the project was caught
in the warp and weft not only of national pride and
technological advancement but also in the economics of jobs,
limited federal budgets, scarce markets and shifting threats.”

A huge contingent of the engineers who made up Nasa's Space Task
Group were from Avro, and they laid the foundation for Nasa’s
Spaceflight Center – Amy Shira Teital
As with the Jetliner, Diefenbaker’s government ordered all the
prototypes broken up despite the offers from the United States
to buy all the completed planes, as well a request from Britain
to use some of the aircraft for research into supersonic flight
The rest of the Arrow project fared no better. The government
had cancelled the Astra system already. One Iroquois engine was
given to Britain to help its supersonic airliner project. Yet,
the government didn't pursue the project, despite commercial
interest.

However, Nasa didn’t waste any time. They first approached
Avro’s engineers within hours of the project’s cancellation. The
32 men they chose went to work on projects like Mercury, Gemini
and Apollo. Jim Chamberlain, ex-chief of technical design, led
the Gemini mission and was one of the leading advocates for the
Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR). Owen Maynard, a former senior
stress engineer, was the man most responsible for the design of
the Lunar Module.

A huge contingent of the engineers who made up Nasa's Space Task
Group were from Avro, and they laid the foundation for Nasa’s
Spaceflight Center,” says Amy Shira Teitel. “Canadians are way
too modest to say I did it, but a lot of the people who made the
critical decisions in the Apollo-era were Canadian.

“I think getting to the Moon without those brains would have
looked very different.”

Apollo wasn’t the end of their mission either. The Avro group
went onto influence the Space Shuttle programme and the
International Space Station.

Not long after “Black Friday”, rumours started to spread that an
Arrows had been smuggled to safety by one of the test pilots. By
comparing the first pictures of the destruction of the
prototypes outside of the Avro factory with later ones, it
appeared that prototype RL-202 had disappeared. There were
witnesses as well. Canadian writer, June Callwood, who lived
near the plant, claimed to hear an Arrow taking off the day of
its cancellation. Then in 1968, Air Marshall Wilfred Curtis, a
wartime hero and the man in charge of the Arrow programme
refused to answer when asked in an interview if an Arrow had
been smuggled to safety.

Draughtsman Ken Barnes wasn’t the only Avro employee who
smuggled out a piece of the Avro or priceless document on “Black
Friday”
Fuelled by the discovery of ejector seats from the Arrow and
other artefacts in the United Kingdom, “Arrowheads” started to
wonder if one of the jets had been smuggled to safety in the
United Kingdom. These discoveries, in turn, prompted according
to one report, an eyewitness to recount an incident at an RAF
base in Kent in the 1960s when a white delta-wing aircraft with
no national markings or registration landed. Was it the Arrow?

Draughtsman Ken Barnes wasn’t the only Avro employee who
smuggled out a piece of the Avro or priceless document on “Black
Friday” – and, perhaps, rather than seeing these artefacts as
evidence that there is a lost Arrow waiting to be found,
together they add up to a missing aircraft.

After losing his job, Barnes eventually ended up on the Canadian
team which designed the robotic arm for Nasa’s Space Shuttle.

“In the end, despite what some may say, it wasn’t US pressure
that killed the Arrow,” says Coles. “It was the sobering
budgetary requirements of this Canadian super-fighter.”

Yet, Avro Aircraft may have faced the same fate even if the
Arrow programme had continued. “You just need to think about the
vast number of aircraft you see at the ‘boneyard’ in Pima,
Arizona,” says Gregory. “All those American firms were churning
out new designs all through the Cold War because they were fed
contracts by the government. The United States can afford that,
but I just don’t know what contract the Canadian government
could have given to Avro to have carried the company into 60s,
70s and 80s.”

Yet, one element of Canada’s war time vision has been turned
into reality. “Canada has the fifth largest aerospace industry
in the world,” Gregory adds.

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200615-the-record-breaking-
jet-which-still-haunts-a-country
M I Wakefield
2020-06-20 13:26:54 UTC
Permalink
A decade after the end of World War Two, Canada built a jet which pushed
technology to its limits. But its demise showed why smaller nations found
it difficult to compete in the Jet Age.
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200615-the-record-breaking-jet-which-still-haunts-a-country
Another nail in the coffin of the Arrow was Sputnik.

The Arrow was designed to intercept bombers, but the priority of that
mission dropped way down once people realized that the Soviets could just
lob missiles.
Jim Wilkins
2020-06-20 17:09:23 UTC
Permalink
A decade after the end of World War Two, Canada built a jet which pushed
technology to its limits. But its demise showed why smaller nations found
it difficult to compete in the Jet Age.
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200615-the-record-breaking-jet-which-still-haunts-a-country
Another nail in the coffin of the Arrow was Sputnik.

The Arrow was designed to intercept bombers, but the priority of that
mission dropped way down once people realized that the Soviets could just
lob missiles.

================================

The Arrow was naturally ahead of -existing- aircraft, otherwise why bother,
but distinctly mediocre compared to developmental aircraft in other nations,
most notably the Mach 3 Soviet MiG 25 and these US interceptors:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_YF-12
AKA the SR-71 Blackbird.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_XF-108_Rapier
"The program had progressed only as far as the construction of a single
wooden mockup when it was cancelled in 1959, due to a shortage of funds and
the Soviets' adoption of ballistic missiles as their primary means of
nuclear attack."
The XF-108 wasn't wasted, it evolved into the A-5 and its radar and missile
went to the F-14.

The closest plane that survived was the US Navy's A-5 that you likely never
heard of.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_A-5_Vigilante

Sweden took the prize for a small nation succeeding with a world-class
fighter.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saab_37_Viggen
"Development work on the type was initiated at Saab in 1952 ..."

Canada deserves a Participant medal but they were far from the lead, and
designs much better than the Arrow were also abandoned.
Alan Baker
2020-06-20 17:24:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by M I Wakefield
A decade after the end of World War Two, Canada built a jet which
pushed technology to its limits. But its demise showed why smaller
nations found it difficult to compete in the Jet Age.
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200615-the-record-breaking-jet-which-still-haunts-a-country
Another nail in the coffin of the Arrow was Sputnik.
The Arrow was designed to intercept bombers, but the priority of that
mission dropped way down once people realized that the Soviets could just
lob missiles.
================================
The Arrow was naturally ahead of -existing- aircraft, otherwise why
bother, but distinctly mediocre compared to developmental aircraft in
other nations, most notably the Mach 3 Soviet MiG 25 and these US
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_YF-12
AKA the SR-71 Blackbird.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_XF-108_Rapier
"The program had progressed only as far as the construction of a single
wooden mockup when it was cancelled in 1959, due to a shortage of funds
and the Soviets' adoption of ballistic missiles as their primary means
of nuclear attack."
The XF-108 wasn't wasted, it evolved into the A-5 and its radar and
missile went to the F-14.
The closest plane that survived was the US Navy's A-5 that you likely
never heard of.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_A-5_Vigilante
Sweden took the prize for a small nation succeeding with a world-class
fighter.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saab_37_Viggen
"Development work on the type was initiated at Saab in 1952 ..."
Canada deserves a Participant medal but they were far from the lead, and
designs much better than the Arrow were also abandoned.
You need to look a lot harder into this.

The first flight of the MiG 25 was almost exactly 6 YEARS after the
Arrow. (March 6, 1964 vs March 25 1964)

The YF-12 was a speculation that you could take a plane designed for
pure high speed and make it into a fighter. And it first flew 4 YEARS
after the Arrow. The project to build the A-12 (the original airframe)
wasn't begun until after the Arrow had already flown.

Sorry, but the Arrow was in the air doing it when the planes you
mentioned were still only proposals.
Jim Wilkins
2020-06-20 18:44:00 UTC
Permalink
"Alan Baker" wrote in message news:rclgo7$1u6$***@dont-email.me...
.....
Sorry, but the Arrow was in the air doing it when the planes you
mentioned were still only proposals.

====================
Neither the airframe nor the engine were "doing it."

The engines were cancelled because they had been discovered to be dead ends
based on outdated theory. I didn't understand the details.

The airframe became directionally unstable above Mach 1.5, which is why the
pilot aborted the speed run before reaching full throttle and Mach 2. That's
a fatal design flaw for a project already way over budget.
Alan Baker
2020-06-20 19:03:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Baker
.....
Sorry, but the Arrow was in the air doing it when the planes you
mentioned were still only proposals.
====================
Neither the airframe nor the engine were "doing it."
Really?
Post by Alan Baker
The engines were cancelled because they had been discovered to be dead
ends based on outdated theory. I didn't understand the details.
The airframe became directionally unstable above Mach 1.5, which is why
the pilot aborted the speed run before reaching full throttle and Mach
2. That's a fatal design flaw for a project already way over budget.
Your sources for these claims?
M I Wakefield
2020-06-20 20:34:36 UTC
Permalink
"Jim Wilkins" wrote in message news:rclfsl$sem$***@dont-email.me...

"M I Wakefield" wrote in message news:rcl2qv$et2$***@dont-email.me...

The Arrow was designed to intercept bombers, but the priority of that
mission dropped way down once people realized that the Soviets could just
lob missiles.

================================

The closest plane that survived was the US Navy's A-5 that you likely never
heard of.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_A-5_Vigilante

================================

I remember the model of that one; bombs were dropped by ejecting them from a
ventral port, between the two engines.
Alan Baker
2020-06-20 17:16:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by M I Wakefield
A decade after the end of World War Two, Canada built a jet which
pushed technology to its limits. But its demise showed why smaller
nations found it difficult to compete in the Jet Age.
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200615-the-record-breaking-jet-which-still-haunts-a-country
Another nail in the coffin of the Arrow was Sputnik.
The Arrow was designed to intercept bombers, but the priority of that
mission dropped way down once people realized that the Soviets could
just lob missiles.
That was the line we were sold by the Americans, certainly.

But somehow, we ended up buying Voodoos, and Starfighters, and Hornets
to fly anyway.
M I Wakefield
2020-06-20 21:04:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Baker
Post by M I Wakefield
The Arrow was designed to intercept bombers, but the priority of that
mission dropped way down once people realized that the Soviets could
just lob missiles.
That was the line we were sold by the Americans, certainly.
But somehow, we ended up buying Voodoos, and Starfighters, and Hornets to
fly anyway.
But none of them were as capable of what was wanted from the Arrow: A
long-range, high-altitude, supersonic, interceptor.

Or as expensive.
Alan Baker
2020-06-20 22:22:55 UTC
Permalink
Post by M I Wakefield
The Arrow was designed to intercept bombers, but the priority of
that > mission dropped way down once people realized that the Soviets
could > just lob missiles.
That was the line we were sold by the Americans, certainly.
But somehow, we ended up buying Voodoos, and Starfighters, and Hornets
to fly anyway.
But none of them were as capable of what was wanted from the Arrow:  A
long-range, high-altitude, supersonic, interceptor.
Or as expensive.
Careful when you make that comparison.

Most times you see it said that the Arrow was more expensive, you get
that figure by comparing the total cost of the Arrow program divided by
the number of aircraft vs the cost of acquisition of the other aircraft.

Only that doesn't work in this case.

Because you have the sunk cost of the Arrow's development in on one
side, but not the other.

So the real comparison is how much would have been spent to actually
build the Arrows vs acquiring other aircraft...

...and the Bomarc missiles (don't for get those).

Suddenly, the quite inferior Voodoo and Starfighters are that much of a
bargain.


Here's some interesting analyis:

<https://books.google.ca/books?id=VVdLDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA105&lpg=PA105&dq=cost+of+the+avro+arrow+vs+voodoo&source=bl&ots=ndnuglY2Sw&sig=ACfU3U1ufB8CCyi47uV_YKcmwCRnGnm0RQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjO7qDmtZHqAhVCHjQIHSNRB2cQ6AEwEXoECAwQAQ#v=onepage&q=cost%20of%20the%20avro%20arrow%20vs%20voodoo&f=false>




Furthermore, the Avro Arrow could have been sold to other countries.

After the Second World War and after finally retiring from the RAF (from
second in command of the whole thing), my grandfather went into the UK
civil service as "Controller of Aircraft", and I happen to know that he
had meetings with Crawford Gordon regarding the Arrow.

'Letter to Crawford Gordon Avro from John W Baker - British Joint
Services Mission - "…Your projects were of absorbing interest,
and indeed, an inspiration as a measure of the contribution you are
making to our mutual defence problems…"'

So this stuff has been of interest to me for a very long time.

History Repeats
2020-06-20 21:58:52 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Baker
Post by M I Wakefield
A decade after the end of World War Two, Canada built a jet which
pushed technology to its limits. But its demise showed why smaller
nations found it difficult to compete in the Jet Age.
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200615-the-record-breaking-jet-w
hich-still-haunts-a-country
Another nail in the coffin of the Arrow was Sputnik.
The Arrow was designed to intercept bombers, but the priority of that
mission dropped way down once people realized that the Soviets could
just lob missiles.
That was the line we were sold by the Americans, certainly.
But somehow, we ended up buying Voodoos, and Starfighters, and Hornets
to fly anyway.
This from the country who couldn't manage to keep NorTel intact either.
History Repeats
2020-06-20 21:58:49 UTC
Permalink
Post by M I Wakefield
A decade after the end of World War Two, Canada built a jet which
pushed technology to its limits. But its demise showed why smaller
nations found it difficult to compete in the Jet Age.
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200615-the-record-breaking-jet-wh
ich-still-haunts-a-country
Another nail in the coffin of the Arrow was Sputnik.
The Arrow was designed to intercept bombers, but the priority of that
mission dropped way down once people realized that the Soviets could
just lob missiles.
Obviously the USA is too stupid to accept that rationale.

B-2 Spirit bomber the world's most expensive, at over $2 billion per
aircraft.

F-22 Raptor: $350 million.
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