ADA-Avro Arrow-An Aviation Chapter In Canadian History pg3
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Avro Arrow-An Aviation Chapter In Canadian History pg3
was the Arrow Cancelled?
the Record Straight: The Designer's View by
Flawed Plane and an Inept Corporation"?
The Historian's View by Margaret
tested in a B47 but never in an Arrow,
the Iroquois engine was
19 feet long, four feet in diameter and
composed of some 20% titanium alloys overall.
With a 1:1 weight to thrust ratio, it would
have given the Arrow better than Mach 2
to problems in acquiring a suitable engine,
Avro decided to fit the first five aircraft
with the Pratt and Whitney J75, which would
give the Avro subsidiary, Orenda Engines,
time to complete development of the lighter
yet more powerful Iroquois engine. The
Iroquois was approximately 19 feet long
and four feet in diameter. To reduce weight,
it employed fewer compressor stages and
was composed of some 20% titanium alloys
overall. In producing the rotor blades
from titanium, Orenda's subcontractor,
Canadian Steel Improvements, patented a
process of precision casting.
At a combined 60,000-Ib thrust for an approximate 60,000-Ib
aircraft, the Iroquois would have provided a 1:1 thrust to weight ratio. This
would have given the Arrow a better than Mach 2 speed and perhaps Mach 3, limitations
due to structural heating, not lack of power.(5)
On November 1, 1957, dry thrust runs at over 20,000-Ib were demonstrated. Twelve
days later, the Iroquois was flight tested on a B47 and proved that it alone
could have powered this aircraft. Like the airframe, the Iroquois pushed the
state of the art in engine technology. Unfortunately, it was never flown in the
good as it was, the Arrow was not without
some problems. During the flight test program,
two significant accidents occurred. The
first, on flight number 11, involved failure
of the left main landing gear to extend
properly, causing the aircraft to veer
off the runway. During an approach landing
of the second Arrow, all wheels on the
main gear skidded, with subsequent tire
burst. The aircraft again veered off the
runway. The resulting investigation showed
that on this touchdown, the elevator had
moved down, causing some backlift. This
caused the pilot to overcorrect by applying
too much braking pressure too soon, locking
Other problems included failure of the nose gear door to retract
and malfunctions with indicator lights and switches. Each was corrected in turn
as the Arrow continued to meet and exceed specifications.
Jan Zurakowski, principal test pilot, stated that handling
characteristics and performance agreed well with estimates. In flight number
seven, he flew at 47,000 feet at Mach 1.52, while climbing. He indicated he was
still accelerating and showing excess thrust available, and that handling was
good. Pilot jack Woodman, the only military pilot to fly the Arrow, said the
aircraft was "...performing as predicted and meeting all guarantees."
1958, Canada had an aircraft industry that
was among the best in the world. Many foreign
engineers emigrated to Canada specifically
to become part of "The Team." After cancellation,
both Britain and the United States eagerly
sought to get the Avro Arrow for research
In 1959, the brain drain reversed. Many Avro engineers went
to NASA, including John Hodge who became associate flight director, Project Mercury,
flight director, Gemini, and later flight director, Project Apollo. Likewise,
Jim Chamberlin became head of the Space Task Group's Engineering Division. Jim
Floyd, P.Eng, the man who largely conceived the overall program and who was vice-president
of engineering at Avro, returned to Britain where he was consultant on the Concorde
and other leading edge, high technology projects. Others went to McDonnell, Boeing
and other aircraft manufacturers.
Back at Avro, the remaining 200 engineers continued on in various
projects. One of these was the Avro- car, an experimental all-wing vertical take-off
vehicle, completed for the U.S. Air Force. In 1962, Avro closed its doors, leaving
a legacy of concepts and ideas, including a vertical takeoff CF-100, a supersonic
transatlantic transport, a spaceplane concept, and monorail- testimony to the
advanced thinking of one of the best engineering teams ever assembled.
Recently, some newspapers carried a story of one reporter's
flight in an F/A 18. In it, he exclaims how far Canadians have come in aircraft
technology, just 79 years after J.D. McCurdy's first flight in Nova Scotia. We
were there 30 years ago with a wholly Canadian product, the most powerful aircraft
in the world.
Flawed Plane and an Inept Corporation"?
The Historian's View
years ago, the Canadian public was cheering the
launch of an aircraft that made headlines around
the world. Three years ago, one of Canada's foremost
historians, Dr. Desmond Morton, principal of
Erindale College, University of Toronto, described
the Avro Arrow as "a fatally flawed weapon,
on a par with those earlier monuments to our
military-industrial blundering, the Ross rifle
or the MacAdam shovel." In an article in the Toronto
Star, he said: "Politicians, our professional
scapegoats, took the blame for aborting a design
whose irnperfections should have been obvious
to a first-year engineering student."
In The Illustrated History of Canada, a text which most
Canadian school-children will read, Professor Morton claims that then Prime Minister
John Diefenbaker cancelled the Avro Arrow, not because guided missiles had made
it obsolete, but because it was "a flawed plane and an inept corporation."
In A Military History of Canada, Dr. Morton refers to "crippling
design flaws in a reputed triumph of Canadian engineering. The Arrow's Mach-2
speed depended on carrying its missiles in a belly pack. Opened for action at
high speeds, the rocket pack acted like an air brake-or threatened to tear off."
The basis for Dr. Morton's claims of technological flaws are
the presumed effects if the Arrow's weapons pack had been lowered during flight.
Yet, as several engineers have since informed Dr. Morton, it was never designed
to be lowered in flight, only on the ground. Engineer Paul Campagna comments: "The
scenario of instability previously described (by Dr. Morton) in fact occurred
on the CF-100, Mark IV prototype. The author seems to have gotten the two aircraft
Were the engineers who designed the Arrow no better than Dr.
Morton claims they were-or was he himself the victim of misinformation? And if
he was misinformed, why? Like any journalist, Dr. Morton won't name his Ottawa
sources, who, he says, "believed there was a lot more to the story than they
were able to tell." He admits that he "was misled" about the design for the weapons
pack, but contends that there were other problems which would still justify the
description of the Arrow as "a magnificent airplane that had major flaws." He
maintains that since the plane's weapons and avionics systems "were being bought
off the American shelf" and had not been tested in flight, their incorporation
would have caused major problems "that would have involved considerable redesign."
In this interview with Engineering Dimensions' editor
Margaret McCaffery, Professor Morton explains why the story of the Arrow is itself
ED: Do you think you
will change your account of the
Avro Arrow in subsequent editions
of your books?
Morton: I may reflect
on this controversy. Particularly
when you're dealing with contemporary
history, you've got a very partial
access to sources. You have people
alive with very strong feelings
and knowledge, which they may or
may not share.
ED: Would it be fair
to suggest that your sources wanted
to see an opinion expressed that
the cancellation of the arrow was
the fault of the company and the
Morton: They may have,
although that wasn't how I approached
them. I simply wanted to know if
there was more to this than defenders
of the Arrow have said. The problem
with the Arrow is that it has become
another myth of absolute perfection.
When the politicians came to make
their decision about the Arrow,
though they had a lot of faulty
information, they also had some
facts, some of which we know, some
of which we don't know. When I
look at the story of the Arrow,
which was only a quarter of a century
ago, there's a great deal that's
hidden. I'm denied access to what
went on in Cabinet, in the Prime
Minister's Office, in the Department
of National Defence. What I'd like
to see come out of this, and what
I suspect my sources would like,
would be access legislation being
used to open up all the records
related to the Arrow, including
the decision to destroy the prototypes.
Who precisely ordered the destruction of the existing prototypes
and why? It was an act of extraordinary vandalism and vengefulness and no one
has formally taken responsibility for it. I'm told there were American arguments
that the aircraft was flawed-although that may be the same sour grapes attitude
that you've suggested. I think it was a tragedy that the opportunity to perfect
it was never achieved.
ED: Did you ever speak
with Mr. Floyd, who was vice-president
of engineering at Avro during this
ED: What do you think
his response would have been?
Morton: Oh I know what
it is, because I've received a
copy of the letter he and a group
of engineers sent to the Toronto
Star. That's one of the reasons
why I wrote the Star article-to
see what response I'd get, who
was willing to talk. I've learned
a great deal since then.
ED: It's been suggested
that there's more on file in Washington
about the Avro Arrow than there
is in Ottawa. With the U.S. Freedom
of Information Act, wouldn't it
be easier to get information from
Morton: Yes, but I was
led to believe that if I saw what
was on file in Washington I would
have an even more hostile view
of the Arrow. Arguments were certainly
put up for the U.S. not to buy
it. It would be inherently improbable
that they would try to suppress
a good aircraft to produce an inferior
one. They would be more likely
to try and acquire the technology
ED: In an ideal world,
what kind of access to information
would you want?
Morton: Our Access to
Information Act is a very imperfect
document; in fact, it's worse than
no access legislation. At several
points in the '70s, beginning with
the first cabinet order on access
and ending with the Access to Information
and Privacy Act, researchers found
themselves pushed out of information
sources that they had been able
to use before. While the government
of the day could proclaim in glowing
terms that they had opened the
books, in each case they had not.
The downside of a freedom of information act is the fear that
people will prune the records. As a historian, in contrast to journalists, I
would rather have the record complete and postponed for 20 years, than have it
destroyed and available tomorrow.
Was the Arrow Cancelled?
recently declassified U.S. Deputy Secretary
of Defense memorandum dated June 1, 1960 says:
to the NSC (National Security Council) paper (December
1958) and following a visit of the President to Canada
in July 1958, Canada took the following actions with
the understanding that her defense industry depended
largely upon the U.S. channelling defense business
into Canada; cancelled the CF-105 and related systems
contracts; decided to make maximum use of U.S. developed
weapons, integrated into NORAD; worked with U.S.
toward a fully integrated continental defence."
exactly transpired at the July meeting with the President?
The Defense Production Sharing Arran- gements were
signed at this time. Was the Arrow program, because
of its rising costs, a bargaining chip for less expensive
American goods? Was the program effectively cancelled
shortly after this July, 1958 meeting?
Oddly enough, after its first successful flights, a media campaign
attempted to discredit the aircraft.(7) Perhaps
the reprieve until February 20, 1959, was to allow the flight test program to
prove how poor the aircraft really was, making cancellation more palatable and
logical. The opposite proved to be the case. Could this be why Arrow number six
was never allowed to fly and break that speed record? Could this be why six of
the most advanced aircraft ever built, along with all memory, had to be erased?
And how well did the defence sharing arrangements program work?
The same memorandum continues:
last quarterly meeting of the Production Sharing
Policy Group was held on 25 May (1960). Despite
all efforts, over the period 1 January 59 through
31 March 60, Canadian defense business in the United
States almost doubled that placed in Canada. Canada
is not satisfied with these results, nor do they
appear acceptable from our view."
the reasons for cancellation, the loss to Canada's
engineering community and aviation industry remains
incalculable. It is clear from international reports
of the day that the rest of the world was highly impressed
with the Avro corps of engineers and the Arrow. Thirty
years later, it is time for Canadians and Canadian
engineers to look back and be proud of this magnificent
forget to read the next installment:
Down the Arrow: A 30-Year Retrospective"
Floyd, P.Eng., designer of the Avro Arrow,
provided valuable assistance in preparation
of the article and supplied photographs of
the Jetliner. Other photographs courtesy Department
of National Defense and Arnold Rose, P.Eng.
Paul Wilkinson, Aircraft Engines of the World,
Washington: Paul Wilkinson Publishers, 1958, pp. 108,
109, 182, 183, 311.
2. The Arrowheads, Arrow, Erin: Boston Mills Press, 1986, pp.
3. William Gunston, An illustrated Guide to Future Fighters and
Combat Aircraft, New York: Arco Publishing Corps, 1984, pp. 1-35.
4. John Adam, "How to Design an Invisible Aircraft", IEEE Spectrum,
April 1988, Vol 25, Number 4.
5. J.S. Butz, "Iroquois Based on Supersonic Efficiency" Aviation
Week, July 29, 1957, pp. 26-27.
J.S. Butz, Canada Seeks U.S. Defense Contracts" Aviation Week,
March 2, 1959, pp. 25-27.
6. Robin Ludlow, "Canada's CF-18' A bat out of hell'," Ottawa
Citizen, Saturday March 19, 1988, Section H, pp.H1.
7. K.Shaw, There Never Was An Arrow, Ottawa: Steel Rail Publishing,
1981, pp. 66-111.
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ADA-Avro Arrow-An Aviation Chapter In Canadian History pg3