The Windsor Star

August 10, 1998

Search to begin for Avro Arrow models

Canadian Press / Belleville Intelligencer

TRENTON, Ont. (CP) - An expedition to recover nine one-eighth scale models of the legendary Avro Arrow jet fighter was to hit the water Monday. The models of the Canadian-developed supersonic jet were fired into Lake Ontario in 1955 aboard Nike rockets.

Data from the test-model flights were used to help the Arrow crack the sound barrier in 1957, capturing the imagination of Canadians. But the expectations of the nation didnít last long.

Less than two years after its inaugural flight, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker ordered the destruction of 11 Arrows - five of which were airworthy.

Diefenbakerís long arm couldnít reach the baby Arrows, which lie in 67 metres of water that Arrow Canada Recovery í98 of London, Ont., hopes to conquer over the next few summers.

"We know this will take a while. We just hope we donít have to drain the lake to find them," team leader Bill Scott quipped.

A scouting party arrived in Trenton Sunday to begin preparations for as many as three preliminary dives to check equipment and take soil samples from a silt bed running through the lake bed of an area they believe contains the models.

Mountains of painstaking research and countless hours of preparation have already narrowed the search to a five kilometre patch of water, 25 kilometres west of Prince Edward County, off Point Petre.

It was here nine of the 11 models were piggybacked on Nike missiles and sent skyward by engineers of the Avro Aircraft division of A.V. Roe Canada Ltd. Two more were fired off Wallopís Island, Va., into the Atlantic Ocean where salt water would have consumed them over four decades.

The Nike missiles enabled the scale models to reach speeds of up to Mach 2.6, or about 3,050 kilometres an hour.

"In about two and a half seconds the model was gone," said Scott.

Each model, he said, was built precisely to one-eighth scale and had 23 sensors on board which recorded air flow at supersonic speed and transmitted the data back to scientists.

The models - more than three metres long with a two-metre wingspan - were also tracked on radar, a crucial piece in the puzzle of rediscovery, said Scott.

Combined with other mathematical calculations derived from records smuggled out of the Malton facility, group researchers also interviewed as many as 180 former Avro employees, engineers and historians to cull details surrounding the models.

Without the data, it would have meant searching hundreds of square kilometres of Lake Ontario.

"A lot of the radar plots arenít good," Scott said. "What is helpful is when we overlapped these against dates and models, we tracked them almost perfectly. It took us quite a long time to decipher this puzzle."

Now, at the end of the paper trail, the hunt for the real historical gold can begin.

"Very little of the Arrow remains today," said Scott. "Thatís what makes these models so important. There were lots of papers smuggled out by the employees but there is very little physical remains of the plane."

In fact, only the nose cone of Arrow 206, an Orenda Iroquois engine and a handful of remaining pieces exist in Canadian aviation museums Monday.

Lou McPherson, 83, of Downsview, Ont., worked at Avro for 27 years. When word came that the planes were to de destroyed, he was ordered to cut the planes into pieces where they stood.

"It just broke me up to do it. I hated the idea of cutting up this dream we all had. But we had to do it," said the now-retired welder.

"We just started cutting. When I dropped the nose off with the arc welder, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said I just caused $1 million damage. It was like a bad dream."

After the initial dives, the expedition will begin in earnest by late this week with as many as 28 divers taking to the water in sophisticated wetsuits.

Detecting the models on electronics should be easy if their location can be pinpointed because they were milled from one solid piece of magnesium alloy. And given that they are in cold fresh water, damage should be minimal.

Costs could run as high as $4,800 a day. Canada Trust is accepting donations in aid of the effort at any of its branches.

(Belleville Intelligencer)

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