On October 4, 1957, the first Arrow was unveiled in front of 12,000 people at the Avro plant in Malton.
Onlookers were awestruck by the plane’s appearance: “Its swept-back delta wings and early electronic flight controls gave it the look of tomorrow,” journalist Ian Austen has written, “as did its blinding white, matte black and Day-Glo orange paint.”
The CF-105, also known as the AVRO Arrow, was a jet interceptor aircraft designed, built and flown in Malton (now within the City of Mississauga) between 1957 and 1959. The plane was hailed as being ahead of its time, and became a source of National pride in Canada.
The story of the Arrow began in 1952, when the Royal Canadian Air Force looked to develop a new jet fighter / interceptor capable of extremely high level performance with advanced weapons and flight control systems which could also function in all weather conditions.
The RCAF turned to A.V. Roe of Canada. A.V. Roe produced the CF-100 (“Canuck”) fighter, Canada’s first all-weather jet interceptor. The CF-100 served the RCAF until the 1980s.
In 1953, the CF-105 Supersonic Interceptor project began, and the formal production and prototype testing began in 1954.
Dubbed the “Arrow”, ultimately five jets soared the skies above Mississauga (RL-201, 202, 203, 204 & 205). These five Mark I Arrows powered by Pratt & Whitney J75 engines, were the only Arrows to fly. By early 1959, the first Mark II Arrow, RL206, was nearing completion and was to be fitted with the more powerful Orenda PS-13 “Iroquois” engine.
Had it flown, RL-206 was expected to have broken the world flight speed and altitude records; but it never had the chance. On Friday, February 20, 1959, Prime Minister Diefenbaker announced the cancellation of the AVRO Arrow program. Amidst rumours and ominous news warnings which cited escalating production costs, the federal government ordered that all traces of the program – planes, parts and plans – be destroyed. The day became known as “Black Friday”.
In the days and weeks after the cancellation, the five flying Arrows were unceremoniously cut into scrap, and the nearly finished RL-206 and all in-production Arrows were dismantled. It is estimated that over 50,000 people lost their jobs as a result of layoffs and plant closures.
The story of the AVRO Arrow continues to fascinate historians and enthusiasts to this day. There are many books that look at different aspects of its development and destruction, and many more that investigate the conspiracy rumours.
The story of the AVRO Arrow is a story that refuses to stay quiet, to disappear.
Explore Heritage Mississauga resources on the AVRO Arrow: