Controversial Avro Arrow flying over Niagara Falls in 1958


Published February 27, 2023 at 4:18 pm

The Avro Arrow RL-201 is shown here taking a test fight over Niagara Falls in 1958. (Photo source unknown beyond being taken by another RCAF jet)

There was a day in 1958 when a wonder of science and aviation did a fly-by over a wonder of nature.

The picture above shows the Avro Arrow RL-201 taking a test fight over Niagara Falls.

Back in the late-1950s, an Avro Arrow sighting occurred on rare occasions in the skies above. It stood out from commercial airplanes and even other military jets because it looked positively futuristic at the time.

The cancellation of the Avro Arrow jet-fighter interceptor program was one of the most controversial political moves of that time period and one that still garners curiosity to this day.

As advanced as the Avro was – and to be clear, it was light-years ahead of any country’s jet fighters at that time – it was a costly program.

The Avro project cost $1.1 billion, an astronomical figure in the late-1950. Created under Liberal Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, who ran the country from 1948 to 1957, Liberal spending later became a key issue during a federal election.

Apparently, when Conservative John Diefenbaker became the Prime Minister with a landslide majority in March 1958, he eventually cancelled the Avro Arrow project on Feb. 20, 1959, citing the costs. The day became known as “Black Friday” in the Canadian aviation industry.

Often referred to as Canada’s greatest contribution to modern high-performance aeronautics, the Arrow’s elimination resulted in the immediate dismissal of 14,000 employees at Avro Canada, including engineers who went on to work on the U.S. space program. The public then, and since, have lamented Diefenbaker’s decision.

The decision immediately put 14,528 Avro employees and nearly 15,000 other employees in the Avro supply chain of outside parts suppliers out of work.

NASA literally had recruiters in the parking lot of the Malton factory on “Black Friday,” and many workers quickly found new jobs in Florida, Houston and the surrounding areas.

On a “Historical Niagara Falls” Facebook post that included the above photo, one poster noted that his neighbour, an Avro employee, “was met at his car by a NASA recruiter and offered a job at Cape Canaveral in Florida to help with the space race and eventually the Moon landings.”

The poster added his neighbour “turned it down, not wanting to uproot his young family, but a number of folks from Avro actually accepted the offer and ended up working there until retirement.”

An Avro Arrow RL-201 on the tarmac outside the Malton factory where they were created in the late 1950s.

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