Monday 8 August 2016

From the Silver Dart to the Avro Arrow

J. McCurdy pilots th eSilver Dart over Baddeck Bay circa 1909 courtesy

Everyone knows that Alexander Graham Bell was responsible for the first telephone call in Canada.  However, many do not know his connection to the first successful flight in Canadian history.  It was in 1909 that the Silver Dart made its pioneer flight across the Bras d'Or Lake in Nova Scotia, the culmination of years of work by the Aerial Experiment Association started by Alexander Graham Bell.

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Silver Dart's flight, Canada Post issued a stamp.  In the foreground sits the Silver Dart.  In the background are three delta winged aircraft which resemble the Avro Arrow, an aircraft decades ahead of its time.   In an effort to defend the Canadian Arctic from Soviet bombers, the RCAF was looking for an aircraft that would fly "faster, higher and further" than any other aircraft.  The Victory Aircraft Company had built dozens of bombers during the Second World War (

Victory Aircraft, Toronto, Ontario circa 1941 to 1945 courtesy

Purchased by a British businessman, it was renamed A. V. Roe.  By 1949, it built a jetliner which delivered airmail from Toronto to New York City at record speed.  However, with the onset of the Korean War, the project was scrapped.  In 1957, the sleek Avro Arrow was unveiled at the Toronto plant in front of a crowd of 12,000.  Its timing, however, was disastrous:  the Soviets launched the unmanned Sputnik on the same day, leading some to conclude that manned flights were a thing of the past.  The Space Race was on.

Furthermore, only a week after the Avro Arrow debuted, John Diefenbaker was elected Prime Minister.  Distrusting the Avro Arrow executives, and chafing at the hefty price tag for production, he announced the program would be cut.  The end was swift.  Elwy Yost, a TVO movie critic who used to work at A.V. Roe, said that when officials came to shut down the program, he felt like he was back in Nazi Germany. Workers were whisked away from their desks.  The Arrow was chopped into pieces, all traces of the aircraft destroyed -- Canada's broken dream.


                                 Avro Arrow unveiled at A.V. Roe Plant in Toronto circa 1957                                                              courtesy

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