Hunting for a Canadian Legend: the Avro Arrow Jet Fighter

“I’ve been interested in the thing since I was a kid, it’s just a piece of Canadian legend,” said Joel Shaver, a 44-year-old police officer from Ottawa. He learned about the Arrow from a family friend and has passed his passion for it along to his son, Ethan, 8, who was with him at the dock last month.

“It was something that could have been,” Mr. Shaver said. “It could have been the best plane in the world for all we know, but they destroyed it before it could have proved itself. That’s why I’m so interested in it.”

Many other Canadians born long after blowtorches were used to cut up the planes also know the story and lament what could have been, stoking the idea, sometimes verging on conspiracy theory, that the Arrow’s cancellation is an example of the United States thwarting a Canadian ambition.

And for a project that was cut down in its prime, the Arrow has enjoyed a remarkable cultural afterlife. Each decade seems to bring yet another Arrow history.

Dan Aykroyd starred in a somewhat fictionalized mini-series about the fighter plane. One museum’s collection boasts a full-size model of the Arrow while another is building a flying replica. The hometown of its test pilot has monuments to both him and the plane.


Structural testing of a Avro Arrow model for free flight in 1957.

Canada Aviation and Space Museum

Now members of Toronto’s financial community, led by John Burzynski, the chief executive of the Toronto-based Osisko Mining, have raised about 850,000 Canadian dollars to pay for the sonar search.

There had been failed efforts in the past to hunt for the models, each weighing 500 pounds and about 12 feet long and 10 feet wide. The inspiration to try again came out of a meeting Mr. Burzynski had with several other Canadian businessmen in a Chicago hotel bar about 18 months ago.

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