A few weeks ago I participated in the four-day C.A.H.S. (Canadian Aviation Historical Society) annual conference in Kingston. Twelve speakers entertained and informed the attendees, who were treated to a tour of CFB Trenton’s vast facilities.
As if all that wasn’t enough, I also enjoyed the informal banter about various aviation topics. The most persistent aviation mystery came up. No, it wasn’t the 1937 disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Electra. Nor was it the unsolved mystery of Air Malaysia’s Boeing 777 flight MH 370, which vanished in 2014.
It was really entertaining to share the buzz about what may have happened to the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow. According to the official story, the last flight of the Arrow took place on February 19, 1959. ‘Black Friday’, the cancellation of the program, took place the next day.
Here are some of the not quite confirmed stories about the Arrow. “Arrow number six took off in the middle of that very night.” According to the hairdresser of a neighbour’s cousin, “The last Arrow is stored in an old barn somewhere near Gravenhurst – or Gimli, Manitoba.” According to one reliable but unidentified source, “Each of the employees hid parts of the plane in their lunch boxes as they left the plant on Black Friday.” There are persistent rumours that, “There is a team of ex-Avro employees assembling those components to get Arrow 25206 to set a new world speed and altitude record.”
Then there’s the question of, “Who killed the Arrow?” Officially, it was John Diefenbaker. There’s a credible rumour that on the next anniversary of Dief’s death (August 16, 1959) a restored CF-105 will make a sonic boom on a low-level pass over his grave. Others say that it was the jealous Americans that killed it, because the Arrow’s omni-role superior performance would embarrass them. There’s another story that’s going around: “NASA, Boeing, Tupolev and Dassault were trying to hire all the Avro employees.” Sure sounds credible to me.
A floor cleaner’s uncle, who used to work at the Cornwall Domtar mill, claims he knows what happened to the Arrow program. On a promise of confidentiality, he shared this gem with me: “The CF-105 was hurriedly put into production. Three hundred were manufactured. In groups of three, they are poised for flight from camouflaged hangars spread from coast-to-coast. That’s why the Russians have never invaded Canada. Instead, they turned on Ukraine.”
Some day, the true story of the Arrow will be published. In the meantime, here’s an absolutely true factoid I can share with you: Arrow test pilot Jan Zurakowski used to drive a two-door, green, 1957 Chevrolet to get to work.
How do I know that? One day in 1958, I was hitchhiking to Toronto’s Malton Airport. He stopped and gave me a ride.