The story of design, construction, completion, and destruction of the Avro Arrow has captivated Canadians for decades. The West Parry Sound District played a large and an indispensable role in that story.
View Avro Arrow artifacts up close on Tower Hill.
Pictured is a “Pitot Tube” from the Avro facility in Malton. It was the “probe” on the nose of the aircraft. Its main function was to measure airspeed. This particular one was likely intended for installation on one of the 31 Arrows on Avro’s assembly line on Black Friday. It is on loan from the Canadian Aviation Museum.
The story of the Avro Arrow begins just after the Second World War. The atomic bomb initially brought peace, having been used, controversially, to end the Pacific Theatre of the war. In the hands of ally-turned-adversary The Soviet Union, it began a new global conflict – The Cold War. The Soviet Union had developed their own nuclear weapons and began building long-range bombers capable of delivering them to targets throughout Europe and North America. In response, Canada and other countries hostile to the Soviets began to develop aircraft that could intercept and destroy the attacking Soviet bombers.
The first such Canadian aircraft was the CF-100 Canuck, built by A.V. Roe Canada Ltd., later Avro Canada. It entered into service in 1953 and remained an integral part of the Canadian Air Force until 1981. Given that the process of moving an aircraft from conception to completion took years, and that the Soviets were developing newer, more advanced long-range bombers, The RCAF asked A.V. Roe to design a successor to the CF-100 before the Canuck itself was operational.
In July of 1953, Avro’s proposal was accepted and work on the CF-105 Arrow began. This new interceptor would need to be faster than its predecessor; indeed, it needed to be supersonic-faster than the speed of sound. This required a stronger, more powerful engine. Initially, Avro had decided to use one of three UK-designed and manufactured engines; however two of the three engines were scrapped during the Arrow’s development phase. This gave Orenda Engines, a subsidiary of Avro, the opportunity to provide the Arrow with a world-class jet engine; it is also where the Parry Sound District makes its appearance in the legend of the Arrow.
The organization that would become Orenda Engines was established during the Second World War. In order to lessen its dependence on the United States and Britain, Canada endeavored to create a Crown Corporation dedicated to developing and manufacturing jet engines. Thus, in March of 1944, Turbo Research was formed. The government did not remain in the business of jet engine manufacturing very long. Shortly thereafter, the government sold Turbo Research to Avro who assumed all engine design plans and development at their Malton facilities.
Due to a larger, more urbanized population, Malton was deemed unsuitable for jet engine testing and development. The former DIL (Defense Industries Limited) facilities in Nobel were recommended as an ideal location for testing the Chinook and Orenda jet engines.
In November of 1946 Avro formally took control of facilities. Roy Smith, one of the founders of the museum, was among the first employees.
Since the engines initially slated for use in the Arrow were unavailable, Avro tasked Orenda with creating one. Orenda was more than up to the task and designed and developed the Iroquois Engine between May and December 1953. Testing of the Iroquois Engine at the Nobel facility began on December 19, 1954. At its peak, the Orenda Nobel Test Establishment employed 125 people.
The Iroquois engines were scheduled to be installed in the Avro CF-105 Arrow by the spring of 1959. Unfortunately the Arrow program and the Iroquois were cancelled on February 20, 1959, a day known as “Black Friday” among those who worked on the projects.
The Iroquois Engine was the most advanced in the world at the time of its production and would have broke and set many records as a part of the Avro Arrow.
While the cancellation of the program was unfortunate enough, Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s decision to destroy everything associated with it – aircraft, engines, and blueprints – added insult to injury. As a result, very few artifacts from the Arrow remain. One of the few places you can see some up close is right in Parry Sound, at the Museum on Tower Hill.
If you are interested in learning more about the story of the Avro Arrow you can visit the Museum on Tower Hill. From January 9 to March 31 their exhibit “The Avro Arrow: A Dream Denied” will be presented. It details the fascinating story of the Arrow and the contributions from the West Parry Sound District to one of the greatest examples of Canadian ingenuity and innovation.
The museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information visit our website at www.museumontowerhill.com or call us at (705) 746-5365.