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New trail route would honour national legacy and local history of Avro Arrow

A crowd of people gathered on tarmac around the Avro Arrow at its unveiling in 1957. – Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada/PA-210520

Council gave its support for a new driving and walking trail route that honours the story of the Avro Arrow and its connection to Prince Edward County, Belleville, Quinte West.

Chris Palmer, Supervisor of the County’s Museums & Cultural Services, told council Tuesday night that the route would cover more than 150km and explore the Arrow’s “national legacy and local history” as stated in its promotional tag line.

Driving stops are to be encouraged at the National Air Force Museum of Canada at Trenton, the County’s Mariners Park Museum, Monarch Point Conservation Reserve, Macaulay Heritage Park, Base31 and Belleville’s Regimental Museum. A walking tour plan of the test models site is being made with the South Shore Joint Initiative.

County staff will also work with the communication departments at Belleville and Quinte West in preparation for a launch in the spring or summer of 2024 – the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Palmer states there are no financial considerations yet as efforts so far have been funded by the partners’ allocated budgets, grants and sponsorship. Road signage may be requested after the launch has been in place for a year, if necessary.

A product of the Cold War, the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow was a supersonic delta-winged interceptor jet aircraft designed and built in the 1950s by A.V. Roe (Avro) Canada.

It was one of the most advanced aircraft of its era and broke four speed records in 1958.

Before the Arrow could enter military duty with the Royal Canadian Air Force, the $400 million (some estimates much higher) program was suddenly cancelled by the Diefenbaker government on Feb. 20, 1959 – called “Black Friday” by more than 14,000 laid off workers.

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker stated that if the production of the jet continued “the defence that would be available to Canada by 1962 would be ineffectual” given current development of missiles in the U.S.S.R. and the threatened buildup of nuclear weaponry.

The full truth of the cancellation (budgetary or for political reasons) is not clear and continues to be debated.

All the six completed aircraft were to be cut apart with blowtorches and blueprints, models, designs and machines destroyed. However, some items were smuggled out of the Malton facility by workers.

What also remained were nine one-eighth scale Arrow models that were launched off Point Petre in Prince Edward County during the testing phases.

The most recent efforts to recover the models involved a four-man “Raise the Arrow” crew with side-scan sonar scanning the lakebed, led by John Burzynski, executive chairman, CEO and director with Osisko Mining and expedition leader with the OEX Recovery Group.

He wanted to find and recover the models to remind future generations of when Canada was on the verge of aviation greatness.

The team searched Lake Ontario from 2017 to 2020 where the majority of the free flight test models were originally launched from 1954-57.

A smaller, earlier Delta Test Vehicle was discovered in 2017 and brought to the surface in 2018 and is now on display in Ottawa at the Canadian Aviation & Space Museum.

However, the team had set out to find one of the final five test models which were almost identical replicas of the completed Avro Arrows.

In Sept. 2020, a sonar image from the lakebed matched the blueprints for the fuselage of one of the final five. The Project was working on a method to recover that piece and to find other pieces of the same wreck and hopefully other models and artifacts. Once found, they are to be housed in the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa and the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton.

Search finds one Avro Arrow model off shore of Prince Edward County

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