Let the Arrow Die Already

The CBC seems determined to promote and extend the myth of the Avro Arrow with our Tory government's latest decision to cancel Canada's participation in NASA's mars rover program.

"The rover decision has the companies threatening to take their operations south of the border, which observers fear could lead to a brain drain of Canadian designers and scientists similar to the one suffered in the wake of the abrupt cancellation of the Avro Arrow fighter-interceptor program in 1959."

"After the Diefenbaker government axed the Arrow, many of the Avro Canada engineering and technical staff left Canada for the U.S. to become lead engineers, program managers and heads of engineering in NASA's manned space programs Mercury to Apollo, which led to the first man on the moon in 1969."

Of course what they don't mention is that by the time the Arrow was built missile defense became the prime concern for Canada. Hence the Bomarc missile defense program. Also Egypt, and India had tried similar routes as Canada did with high speed jet fighter development only to cancel them for the same reasons. However there were no "Diefenbaker's" in any of those countries at the time.

The Arrow is a classic example of cool engineering run amok. Sometimes engineers become obsessed with what cool stuff they can do, and they never stop and ask themselves "should we really be doing this?... Does this make any money?" Ask Chrysler about Engineers run amok.

The plane ended up costing almost 5 times what it was planned. And there is no way the protectionist "made in the USA" America would have ever bought them. The plane would have been an economic disaster and phased out soon after it was built.

The gravy train had to end. And it did - spectacularly. Welfare for space nerds is great, but a country like Canada can't afford like the US does. But I shouldn't speak so fast, apparently the Tories do like welfare for nerds, but only when it has the chance of producing some tangible results.

Also this story cleverly dismisses the debate we should be having about what Canada's role should be in space? Should we be joining the NASA effort or not? Or should we rather be trying an alternative model based more on the commercialization of space?

All good questions. All worthy of answers. All won't be asked in this climate of "Arrow" mythology when it comes to Canadian aerospace.

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