Chasing Arrows: An Avro Arrow Story

At Springbank airport in Calgary, a small group of dedicated volunteers work to recreate a National legend, the Avro Arrow. Canada’s greatest aircraft that never was.

Backstory:

On August 29, 1949, the Soviet Union conducted their first successful nuclear test, beginning the decades-long nuclear arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States. Canada, emerging from the Second World War as the second most powerful aircraft manufacturer in the world. There was nothing we couldn’t do. When the threat became Soviet bombers crossing the North Pole, we rose to the challenge, designing an airplane so advanced, so ahead of its time, that it would require designing everything, from the engines to the avionics, from scratch. The Avro Arrow was the West’s defender against nuclear aggression from the Soviet block, but all that changed on one fateful day.

The day the Arrow was unveiled to the public, the Russians launched Sputnik. The West assumed that it wouldn’t be long before they armed their rockets not with satellites, but with nuclear warheads. The stunning realization was that even the most advanced airplane couldn’t catch a missile. Even though the bomber-threat was still real for many more years, this set in motion a series of events which destroyed all traces of a Canadian National icon.

The Story:

The CBC film, the Arrow, inspired a group of hobbyists in Calgary, Alberta, to design and build an exact replica. After a series of setbacks, they settled on a 60% size Arrow, the maximum allowable by Canadian rules. Based on original blueprints and collected documents, the Arrow II is being constructed from advanced materials in a hanger at Springbank airport in Calgary.

Even more incredible than the actual plane, is the dedication of the volunteers who are creating it. No-one in the world has such an advanced, ambitious, fast home-built aircraft, faster than many civilian planes. One by one, the volunteers relate the moment they became “hooked” on the story of the Avro Arrow, and when it became irresistible to work on the Arrow II, to try to right a historical wrong. It is an attempt to re-live one of our proudest moments, a golden age when Canada briefly had the most technologically advanced aerospace industry in the world.

Nuts and Bolts of the Film:

With interviews with some of the best-known historians, the stage is set to transport us back to the paranoia and fear of the Cold War, when Canada spent 40% of its national budget on defence. The genesis of the Arrow, the excitement, the cancellation and destruction, the disappointment.

Then the stories.

Many of the guys working on the Arrow remember the exultation of its first flights. Some even saw it fly as children. Once the story gets hold of you, you can’t shake it: the idea that Canada has some unfinished business. It was more than just a plane that died when the plane was cancelled on Black Friday 1959, it was a people’s dream.

Most of these guys have a sense of anguish that the Arrow was cancelled when the threat it was intended to protect against continued to exist for decades, and Canada was forced to purchase American-made defence systems instead. On the other hand, some suggest that as beautiful as it was, the plane’s cancellation paved the way for our defence budget to be better spent on other things that Canada values, such as health care and social programs. Then again, why can’t we have both?

The Team:

Our team consists of Noah Leon (who has a wealth of experience working on low budget documentary films, as well as in the corporate world), Patrick Saad (a great corporate and event filmmaker in his own right, clear headed and skilled at business and organization), and Denise Lodde (former CTV reporter in Montreal), and Frank Orlando (creative director for Orlandomedia.ca) We are located in the greater Montreal area, except Frank, who is located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.