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Factual Arrow

Avro Arrow-An Aviation Chapter In Canadian History pg3


Paul Campagna, P.Eng.

Introduction Fuselage Engines
Company Weapons Carriage Problems
Aircraft Landing Gear Consequences
Wing Fly-by-Wire Why was the Arrow Cancelled?
  Setting the Record Straight: The Designer's View by Margaret McCaffery "A Flawed Plane and an Inept Corporation"?
The Historian's View by
Margaret McCaffery

Flight 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 speed.

The Engines
Due 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 Arrow.

The Problems
As 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 the wheels.
   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."

The Consequences
In 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 purposes.
   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.

"A Flawed Plane and an Inept Corporation"?
The Historian's View

Margaret McCaffery

    Thirty 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 confused."
   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 flawed.
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 engineering?
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 time?
Morton: No.
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 Washington?
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 for themselves.
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.

Why Was the Arrow Cancelled?
A recently declassified U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense memorandum dated June 1, 1960 says:

"Prior 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."

   What 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:

"The 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."

    Whatever 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 engineering achievement.

Don't forget to read the next installment:


Jim 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.

1. 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. 83-93.
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.

Scott McArthur




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