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The CF-105 Avro Arrow

Overview

The Avro Arrow was a Canadian built interceptor which started it's life as a political entity and ended it's life as the same. I was always keenly interested in this plane. The fact that it was Canadian was one reason, but it also was an interceptor of striking design.

It has taken many years to find the true political reasons why this plane was built and why it was finally cut up as scrap metal in April of 1959. There have been many stories written about the Arrow and I won't go into lengthy detail with such limited webspace. Many of the earlier books and documentaries on the Arrow brought a romantic and sometimes very one sided view of this plane's demise, I hope to bring a little more balanced recount.

ARRW_02.jpg (26776 bytes)

Click on the galleries to the left see more of the Arrow

History

The CF-105 Avro Arrow was built at the A.V. Roe Canada plant located in Malton, Ontario. It was to be the replacement for the durable but aging Cf-100 "Canuck." The CF-100 began development in 1947.

Prior to it's actual construction the A.V. Roe company had been aggressively promoting it's new jetliner. It had secured orders from Howard Hughes to begin construction on a fleet of planes for his airline.

The Canadian government stepped in and said that the full production facilities would be needed for the Arrow. The potential sales of the Avro Jetliner came to a halt. Pre production of the CF-105 began in 1953

One fact that seemed to elude the political entities of the time was that research and development costs money. Supersonic flight was in it's infancy and there were many obstacles to overcome for the flight designers of the time. It's no surprise that costs went over anticipated budget.

The end of the Avro Arrow came in April of 1959 when the five completed planes were cut into scrap.

It was long believed that the Canadian Government ordered this to be done. It is now believed that the then very frustrated president of the A.V Roe company ordered this himself. Many of the 14,000 workers directly involved as employees or subcontractors went on to become employed in the American Space Program.

Frustrated Canadians had long looked for scapegoats in the demise of the Arrow. Often fingers were pointed at the U.S. saying that the United States had some political reason for encouraging the cancellation of the CF-105 program.

Recently released documents show the opposite, in fact. It is reported that the U.S. Government of the day, although not willing to buy any Arrows themselves, had offered to purchase some and then give them back to the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force.) There is no doubt that the Canadian politicians of the day found this politically unacceptable. I wonder in retrospect, why from a purely financial view, this was not done.

 

The Arrow Design

The defining role for Canadian Forces aircraft of this type and it's NATO role was interdiction and identification of potential hostile aircraft. The CF-105 Avro Arrow was designed to fit such a role. It was a tail-less, shoulder mounted delta wing design. Twin engine, two seat cockpit. All completed planes were painted "flash white", typical for nuclear capable aircraft of that day. Some of the design innovations were the chisel-like wedges controlling the boundary layer on the engine intakes.  Notches on each wing controlled laminar flow across the large delta wings. Variations of these are quite common on modern aircraft. The "knife edge" thin wings typical of the CF-105 were and are used by many designs of supersonic and trans-sonic aircraft. Speed brakes were hinged on the lower fuselage just aft of the ordinance bay. Ease of service and maintenance, quick loading of ordinances had been designed into the Arrow. When fitted with the Iroquois engines, the Arrow was designed to achieve speeds near Mach 2.5.

Specifications

Take off weight ; (during testing) 67,000 lb. average

Height; 21' 3" to top of tail fin, Cockpit 14' 6" from the runway surface

Length; 77' 9.65"   Width; 50' 0"   Wing area; 1,200 square feet

Landing gear track; 25' 5.67", Nose gear 30' 1" separation

Engines; Two Pratt & Whitney J-75 P-3

Upgrade; Two Orenda Iroquois (20,000 lbs. St., 25,000 lbs. St. afterburning) These engines were tested but never fitted. (approx. 40 % more thrust than the J-75's)

Speed; Take-off: 170 knots, Landing: 168 knots

Max speed; Mach 1.5 during testing, estimated top speed Mach 2 with J-75 P-3, estimated top speed with Iroquois Mach 2.5+

Range estimated 1000 nautical miles

The Arrow #6 fitted with the Iroquois engines and 5,000 to 6,000 lbs. lighter than it's five predecessors never rolled from the assembly floor.

Design Problems

As with several of the supersonic aircraft of the day, the Arrow, because of it's supersonic delta wing configuration, was subject to a high take-off and landing speed. Coupled with it's rather delicate and complex landing gear, this made for a difficult mix. There was one rear landing gear failure during testing. I would not consider this unusual or major, however, for this type of aircraft. The Arrow also sat at a very high angle of attack on the runway. This was also typical for aircraft of it's type. It's easy to look at today's aircraft and spot these difficulties with the CF-105. They did not have much experience with supersonic flight at that time, let alone variable geometry or computer technology. Remember also, that this was at the height of the cold war. Technical information was not shared easily even between allies.

Conclusion

The CF-105 was a successful design and airframe, with some inherent, but not unusual difficulties for aircraft of it's type and time. It's too bad that the politicians of the day did not have the foresight or guts to make the decisive decision when they had to. It leads me to ask these questions;

What if, the Arrow program had never been started and the successful Avro Jet Airliner had been produced and sold profitably in quantity?

What if, the Canadian government had reached an agreement with the U.S. government, swallowed it's pride, allowed the U.S to purchase then give back to Canada some CF-105 interceptors (as the United States had offered) and made a satisfactory political arrangement for the financing of the production of a squadron of CF-105 Arrows?

The net result of poor decisions was that the government by becoming involved squandered a profitable jet airliner contract, wasted a lot of taxpayers dollars, then when a rescue plan presented itself, failed to act to salvage some of it's research and development cost. It basically left the average Canadian worse off than he or she was before getting involved with the Avro Arrow. It's too bad these remarkable planes were cut up, but reality tells us that they would have not been flown regularly as the test prototypes.

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Wings Over The Pacific was updated November 10, 1998