Category Archives: Avro Arrow

440 Squadron Reunion Update, CF-100 Nostalgia and CANAV’s 30th Anniversary

Last summer I attended a wonderful 440 “Bat’ Squadron reunion in Ottawa. A few weeks later I received a scroll naming me an honourary member of 440’s alumni. Very nice … not your everyday surprise!

You can find the reunion write-up “Typhoons and CF-100s: 440 Squadron Gets Together in Ottawa, September 2010,” here.  So have a look if you haven’t yet.

Since then, 440’s old timers organized a hugely important event across the pond and here is that story compiled by Cliff Cassidy from CF-100 days. It’s really encouraging to see that there’s still some genuine interest in Air Force heritage, at least at the grassroots (“old boys”) level. Take a peek at Cliff’s excellent presentation here.

All of today’s CanForces squadrons should check out what the 440 alumni have done — inspiration (let’s hope) for all of you in uniform. Every squadron has much to be proud of — so why not take that idea off the back burner and get a history project going!

Since we were just speaking of the CF-100… In 1981 I established CANAV Books. My first title was The Avro CF-100. Here I am, 30 years later on August 12, 2011, still hard at it, this very day sending CANAV’s latest book to the printer. I think I might just go out on the front porch, sit me down and celebrate with a brewski.

Yesterday one of Quebec’s best-known aviation historians dropped by to do that very thing — it was Robert St-Pierre Day on the porch! While I was putting the CF-100 book together, Robert was establishing a new aviation history society — “Canadian Roundel Wings”. People joined and the good word about Canada’s aviation heritage had another outlet.

Once The Avro CF-100 was off the bindery, I headed down for a book signing in Montreal. Robert and some of his pals organized a quick little do right in the main terminal at l’aéroport Dorval. Lots of interested people flowed by and a few books even were sold. It was a real hoot when a federal cabinet minister, allegedly with an interest in aviation, came through the terminal. He and his flunkies stopped to look over the book display. Naturally, not ever having bought a book in his life, the minister went away quite cheesed when he couldn’t get himself a freebee … he was insulted when I wouldn’t give him one! Sad to say, but at CANAV we still don’t know a heck of a lot about entitlement — too busy working for a living. Well, the case of the cheesed-off minister was just  the funniest moment and guess what … it sure hasn’t gotten any better since. Just try selling a Canadian aviation book to any Ottawa mandarin, political or military.

At The Avro CF-100 launch, Dorval Airport, 1981: Robert Nault, Robert Sapienza of KLM, CANAV's Larry Milberry, Robert St-Pierre, Marc-Andre Valiquette, and Gerry and René Vallée.

Robert showed me this black and white snapshot taken at Dorval that day 30 years ago. Aren’t these old photos just the best for bringing back happy memories? Here we aviation guys stand: Robert Nault, Robert Sapienza of KLM, moi, Robert St-Pierre, Marc-André Valiquette, and Gerry and René Vallée. Just great, and thanks, Robert. We haven’t aged a bit, right! Marc-André actually has grown up to be an author and publisher, and recently produced three excellent volumes covering Avro Canada.

Hope your summer goes well … Larry Milberry

P.S. … big news coming next week!

CF-100 trivia for February 29, 2012:

Today one of CANAV’s fans reported that he had ordered a used copy of The Avro CF-100 from a web dealer. At $29.00 he got a great deal. Here’s his report via e-mail:

Hi Larry … I got it about an hour ago. So guess why it took me an hour to write! I looked at every page, photo, etc. Awesome!

Thanks very much for your help, and especially for writing this book in the first place. My copy is virtually in mint condition, with only minor damage to the dust jacket.

Best regards … John

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History is where it pops up

C-FETE is Beaver No.1204, delivered new circa 1959 to Father W. Leising of the missionary order Oblates of Mary Immaculate at Fort Smith, NWT. Later owners included North Coast Air of Prince Rupert and Odyssey Air of Richmond, BC. Several accidents marred the career of  OMI/ETE through the years, but each time it returned to the air better than before. You can find the history of nearly every Beaver at Neil Aird's amazing website dhc-2.com. (Larry Milberry)

C-FETE is Beaver No.1204, delivered new circa 1959 to Father W. Leising of the missionary order Oblates of Mary Immaculate at Fort Smith, NWT. Later owners included North Coast Air of Prince Rupert and Odyssey Air of Richmond, BC. Several accidents marred the career of OMI/ETE through the years, but each time it returned to the air spiffier than before. Here, it takes off on September 8, 2009 from Downsview, the place of its birth decades earlier. You can find the history of nearly every Beaver at Neil Aird's amazing website dhc-2.com. (Larry Milberry)

While the photogs were fussing about getting their Arrow-Snowbirds pix this day, a few realized that there was another bit of good history cooking at Downsview. As some beautiful Q400 regional airliners and Global Express bizjets waited on Bombardier’s flight test ramp, a solitary Beaver came rumbling out for takeoff. Minutes later it took off nonchalantly behind a fresh-off-the-line Global Express. Two fabulous airplanes manufactured at Downsview, but half a century apart.

 A "green" Global Express (the 363rd example) blasts off on a test flight from Downsview on September 8. This grand bizjet contrasted totally with our pair of iconic Canadian "time machines" -- the Avro Arrow and the DHC-2 Beaver. (Larry Milberry)

A "green" Global Express (the 363rd example) blasts off on a test flight from Downsview on September 8. This grand bizjet contrasted totally with our pair of iconic Canadian "time machines" -- the Avro Arrow and the DHC-2 Beaver. (Larry Milberry)

Photo ops and variations on a theme

Planes overflying Arrow

On September 8, 2009 the Canadian Air & Space Museum invited some local aviation history fans to Downsview airport for a photo op. Since the Snowbirds still were in town following the CNE airshow, CASM curator Paul Cabot arranged for the team to do some fly-bys over his museum’s gleaming CF-105 Arrow replica.

With the Arrow basking in the sunshine, the Snowbirds appeared out of the north to make their first pass. Shutters fired madly. Here’s one of my shots that friend Andrew Yee (of Weather Channel fame) photo-shopped to fine effect, cleaning up some crud and getting the sky looking wonderful. (Everyone photo-shops these days, just the way the old fogies used to do photo retouching by spotting and dodging in the darkroom, then air brushing their prints — nothing new under the sun, except that it’s now a “no fuss, no muss” process.)

The idea for the "set up" at Downsview was inspired by this famous Golden Hawks scene, shot by the RCAF at Calgary in July 1960. You can see the drama in this view -- the lower the formation, the more exciting the photo. But you can't always have it your way when you're behind the lens. Someone else is calling other shots, but do the best with what you get and hope for a bit of luck. 

The idea for the "set up" at Downsview was inspired by this famous Golden Hawks scene, shot by the RCAF at Calgary in July 1960. You can see the drama in this view -- the lower the formation, the more exciting the photo. But you can't always have it your way when you're behind the lens. Someone else is calling other shots, but do the best with what you get and hope for a bit of luck.

Yet another variation on the theme: this shoot was set up at Comox on April 9, 1990, while the Snowbirds were in spring training under team lead LCol Dan Dempsey. I shot this one using a steam-powered 35-mm Pentax SLR. James Jones cleaned up this old Kodachrome for your enjoyment.  

Yet another variation on the theme: this shoot was set up at Comox on April 9, 1990, while the Snowbirds were in spring training under team lead LCol Dan Dempsey. I shot this one using a steam-powered 35-mm Pentax SLR. James Jones cleaned up this old Kodachrome for your enjoyment.

Apollo 11 40th Anniversary

The set-up at the Apollo 11 celebration at the CASM. The museum's full-scale CF-105 Arrow mock-up looms majestically to the side. (Andrew Yee)

The set-up at the Apollo 11 celebration at the CASM. The museum's full-scale CF-105 Arrow mock-up looms majestically to the side. (Andrew Yee)

July 20, 2009 was a red letter day at the Canadian Air and Space Museum at Toronto’s Downsview airport. Hundreds of history-minded fans gathered at the museum to reminisce about that unforgettable day 40 years ago when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped from their lunar excursion module onto the moon’s surface — the first “men on the moon”.

Astronauts Bondar and Tryggvason, who did so much to make Toronto's Apollo 11 event such a success. (Andrew Yee)

Astronauts Bondar and Tryggvason, who did so much to make Toronto's Apollo 11 event such a success. (Andrew Yee)

The crowd at the CASM included Canadian astronauts Roberta Bondar (STS-42 1992) and Bjarni Tryggvason (STS-85 1997). Veterans of Avro Canada who attended included the great James C. Floyd, chief design engineer of the Avro Canada Jetliner and CF-105 Arrow.

The renowned James C. "Jim" Floyd answers questions and signs autographs. Then, Jim with Roberta Bondar. His aviation career began in the pre-war and wartime UK doing engineering on the Anson, Lancaster, etc. Then he emigrated to Canada, where he led the design teams on the Avro Canada C.102 Jetliner and CF-105 Arrow. When the Arrow was cancelled, he returned to the UK to a new challenge as a pioneer designer on what would evolve into the Concord. At age 95 Jim continues to be enthusiastic about aerospace, especially regarding Canada's future role. (Larry Milberry)

The renowned James C. "Jim" Floyd with Roberta Bondar. His aviation career began in the pre-war and wartime UK doing engineering on the Anson, Lancaster, etc. Then he emigrated to Canada, where he led the design teams on the Avro Canada C.102 Jetliner and CF-105 Arrow. When the Arrow was canceled, he returned to the UK to a new challenge as a pioneer designer on what would evolve into the Concord. At age 95 Jim continues to be enthusiastic about aerospace, especially regarding Canada's future role. (Larry Milberry)

From aboard the International Space Station, Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk sent his own message via video downlink; and former Avro Arrow team member John Hodge, later a top NASA mission controller, spoke to us live via Skype connection. Representatives of the aerospace community reflected on Canada’s illustrious aviation and space heritage, then mused about what the future might hold. Apogee Books publisher, Robert Godwin, em-cee’d the whole thing.

The overall scene at the CASM -- July 20, 2009. (Larry Milberry)

The overall scene at the CASM -- July 20, 2009. (Larry Milberry)

Along with spaceflight historian Chris Gainor and Ross Maynard (son of Owen Maynard, an Avroite who excelled at NASA after cancellation of the Arrow), Bondar, Tryggvason and Floyd fielded questions from many enthusiastic fans. Their podium was flanked on one side by the CASM’s magnificent Avro Arrow mock-up, on the other by the airworthy replica of the Silver Dart, which Tryggvason had flown at Baddeck in February.

The Silver Dart replica, the same machine that Bjarni Tryggvason flew at Baddeck on February 22, 2009. Created by the AEA2005 association under Doug Jermyn, this world-class replica has been touring Canada. Soon it will settle in at the CASM for a stay of about two years, then will find a permanent home in the Alexander Graham Bell Museum at Baddeck. (Larry Milberry)

The Silver Dart replica, the same machine that Bjarni Tryggvason flew at Baddeck on February 22, 2009. Created by the AEA2005 association under Doug Jermyn, this world-class replica has been touring Canada. Soon it will settle in at the CASM for a stay of about two years, then will find a permanent home in the Alexander Graham Bell Museum at Baddeck. (Larry Milberry)

A few hours after everyone had dispersed from Downsview, came some nifty “icing on the Apollo 11 cake”. At 2207 hours the ISS, with the Shuttle Endeavor docked to it, appeared high over Toronto in one of the best such fly-overs ever enjoyed in these parts. Among the crowd of 13 astronauts aboard the ISS were Canadians Bob Thirsk (TMA-15 and on a 6-month ISS mission) and ISS visitor Julie Payette (STS-127). Thanks to the CASM, July 20, 2009 certainly goes down as one of the top dates on Canada’s Centennial of Flight calendar.

Destruction of a Dream: Valiquette’s new book

Avro Book MAV Rev.A Attention Avro fans: Marc-Andre Valiquette has just released his new book Destruction of a Dream: The Tragedy of Avro Canada and the CF-105 Arrow. This is Vol.1 of a 3-part series and you’ll notice right away what a very good job Marc-Andre has done. First of all, this 96-page, large format soft cover is extremely attractive. Nice lay-out and a top-notch production job. You’ll find many new photos and new takes re. the well-worn Avro Canada story. Marc-Andre starts in National Steel Car days in 1938. So you’ll see something about Lysanders and Ansons, then Lancasters. A nice Jetliner section follows, then lots about the CF-100 and into the Arrow era. Various stillborn projects also are covered, including the CF-103. You’ll read about CF-100 topics that I never even heard of while researching my own CF-100 book 30+ years ago, e.g. a photo of a CF-100 carrying a Genie rocket (which later armed the F-89 and F-101). This is really a decent effort all ’round and is even in both official languages for your edification (this in no way detracts from the book’s appearance, so not to worry). On top of all this, the book is only $20.00! So order today from CANAV. Send your cheque for $20.00 + $10.00 for Canada Post + GST for a total of $31.50 (CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto ON M4E 3B6). If you follow Canada’s great aviation heritage, let alone the Avro saga, you’ll be happy you did this for yourself. Have fun! Larry Milberry, publisher

Fantasyland: The Arrowmaniacs Strike Again

Canada sure has its mythology under many a banner. Aviation myths involve Billy Bishop shooting down 72 enemy planes in WWI (not), the Beaver being the world’s greatest bushplane (not) and the Avro Arrow being the greatest everything ever made by anyone in the universe (not).

No one with any sense can besmirch the reputation of a Billy Bishop – read The Brave Young Wings, for example, to get a taste of the war in the air 1915-18. Anyone who died, got wounded, cracked up, or somehow survived in that cauldron of death is a special hero in my books. The only argument is with the statistics and some odd details. These things were manipulated by the generals and their PR lackeys far behind the lines where they were suffering no lack of anything – there was no mud but there were clean underwear, silk sheets and booze. These people could make Donald Rumsfeld look like a beginner at fact-twisting, and they didn’t need a Blackberry (no shortage of very effective, hi-tech communicating devices in WWI). Billy Bishop certainly scored high, but not likely anywhere near 72. But it suited “Colonel Rumsfeld i/c propaganda” back there to say that Bishop did so do all that and should have a Victoria Cross. Explanations for this are in the best of books, such as mentioned above, Canadian Airmen and the First World War, etc.

Of course, the 1948 Beaver is a tremendous little workhorse. Who would say no? But not even 2000 Beavers were ever built. Meanwhile, the DC-3 or Beech 18 had been working the bush since the late 1930s, and far exceeded the Beaver in numbers alone on every continent! Then came the Cessna 180/185. Well, Beaver, please stand aside.

The ultimate bushplane in my view has to be the Antonov An-2 biplane: more than 10,000 built, service since 1947 on all continents, incalculable loads carried, current presence still in the many hundreds if not a few thousand, production life from pre-Beaver to post-Beaver, on and on. However, mention this in Canada and you make a new brigade of furious enemies wishing you every malevolence imaginable: “Puleeze, keep the facts to yourself, we Canadians prefer our myths!”

Then comes our beloved Arrow, Canada’s grandest aviation tall tale, and one that never goes away. Wonderful technology project that it was, it wasn’t to be and for all the good reasons. Even so, Arrow silliness again crops up in this April 3, 2009 Toronto Star article. Not surprisingly, the perpetrator is an academic – ironically, when it comes to history, these folks can be pretty sloppy with the facts.

In “Privatization of AECL Radioactive Issue for Ottawa”, Prof. Duane Bratt of Mount Royal College in Calgary, begins irrelevantly and erroneously by harkening back to the Arrow: “In 1959 the Diefenbaker government shut down the Arrow, the world’s most technologically advanced interceptor aircraft. Not only did it mean the demise of a uniquely Canadian high tech invention, but it also forced thousands of highly skilled scientists and engineers to leave the country.”

Well, talk about a crock of doggy doodoo (as I have commented before)! The Arrow was one of many similar advanced fighter projects underway throughout the world during the 1950s. Most of these aircraft concepts never reached production, and all the participant nations moved ahead. Only Canada created a myth out of its unsuccessful effort. Like the Arrow, all the other shelved projects had proved too costly or had been superseded by advancing science or geo-politics. (Two Cold War designs that did succeed in entering service were the superb US-built McDonnell F-4 Phantom II; and the SR-71 which, in speed alone, would leave an Arrow in its wake – so much for the generally unproven Arrow being the “mostest” of everything.)

Professor Bratt states that the Arrow cancellation “forced” ex-Avro workers to leave Canada — the alleged post-Arrow “brain drain”. However, nearly every worker worth his/her salt let go by Avro soon had a new and, often, better job in Canada. In researching history in the subsequent decades, I have interviewed many of these workers (and workers they were). Most moved quickly and naturally to other aviation or science-type employers, where they shone with their successes developing truly useful products for humanity — as opposed to fighters. (In the late 1950s, do you really think that the world needed yet another jet fighter?)

Development of the PT6 engine by Pratt & Whitney Canada, and of the
Dash 8 by de Havilland Canada are proof positive that fabulously important spin-off products resulted from the timely demise of the Arrow program. So the loss of the Arrow “forced thousands” of Canadians to flee the country in search of meaningful work, eh? In truth, but a handful of ex-Avro workers emigrated to the US or UK. Meanwhile, hundreds of the best minds behind the Arrow in its heyday circa 1952 to 1959 had been post-WWII immigrants to Canada from other nations. Now we’re talking brain drain, but into Canada.

Without these reverse brain-drain people there would have been no Avro Arrow. Canadians did not have the ability to single-handedly produce such an advanced airplane. Had it not been for WWII, they would still have been building wood and fabric airplanes by 1950. Typical of the reverse brain-drain genii were design team leader James C. Floyd from the UK; and Arrow test pilots Jan Zurakowski and “Spud” Potacki, and designer Waclaw Czerwinski, from Poland. Why is this important reality never mentioned in the Arrow nostalgia debates? Well, for one thing, it wouldn’t help book sales in Canada’s “Avro Arrow” publishing industry (there’s always a new Arrow book looming somewhere).

Bottom line on the brain drain? Canada gained immensely by draining brains from many countries in the post-WWII industrial boom, but contributed very few in terms of any outflow of brains to the US, etc. On top of that truth, some of the ex-Avro emigrants from 1959 returned later to Canada, as did James C. Floyd himself.

Some basic research into aviation history would reveal these and other facts – not as charming or exciting as our cherished myths, but true all the same.
Larry Milberry, publisher

PS … The never-ending lament for the Arrow includes one in the Montreal Gazette of January 23, 2012 reiterating the moronic old claim about John Diefenbaker, etc., and has the predictable anti-American crapola about some Washington conspiracy being behind the Arrow’s downfall, since Americans can’t stand anyone out-doing them, bla, bla, bla. Talk about pitiful! Here is what this simple-minded “reporter” says in the Gazette: “It was killed by John Diefenbaker’s government, presumably at the behest of Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower on behalf of his country’s aerospace industry (which hates competition).” Can you believe this garbage? Where does the Gazette find its muse? Maybe from the “Coast to Coast” loonie bins … or the National Enquirer?