|Early Queen's | The Dojo | Gallery of Photos | Map | Black Belts | Past Members | About Queen's|
HMCS Kingston cruises past Kingston on Lake Ontario on Tuesday, on it's way toward Prince Edward County, where it will search for old models of the Avro Arrow on the lake bottom.
NAVY takes up hunt for Avro Arrow
Thursday June 24, 2004 - The Kingston Whig Standard - Page 1.
Ships to scour Lake Ontario for remnants of Canada's legendary jet fighter by Derek Baldwin
Two Canadian warships have arrived in Kingston waters on a hunt for historical gold in Lake Ontario.
HMCS Kingsyon and HMCS Glace Bay, 55 meter long coastal defence vessels, cruised past Kingston on Tuesday and will focus their search in coming days in waters off Prince Edward County.
The ships, outfitted with high tech underwater scanning gear, a remote vehicle and the navy's best divers will launch an ambitious underwater expedition in search of nine jet fighter aircraft models believed to lie on the lake bed.
The models of the ill-fated Avro Arrow are important given they're virtually all that remains of the dream to dominate the skies with made-in-Canada jet fighter technology some say was ahead of its time in the 1950's.
The mission marks the first government-backed attempt to find the models, baby Arrows that historians and treasure hunters view as priceless gems awaiting restoration and display in museums across Canada
Many private expeditions have failed to find teh models, believed mired in the lake bottom since the 1950s
The models, three metres long and two metres wide were launched over the lake during design and test phases.
Electronic data recorded from the models helped Arrow designers tweak elements of the planes radical design.
As the models screamed through the air at nearly twice the speed of sound, the data furnished military and aviation scientists with reliable data on teh planes stability that helped in the creation of teh full sized aircraft hand-crafted by more than 14,000 workers at A.V.Roe plant in Malton Onatrio.
The plane turned heads around the world when its swept wing design was launched into the skies over Ontario in 1957.
Less than two years after its rollout, then prime minister John Diefenbaker ordered the 11 existing planes assembled in the Malton plant - five of which were airworthy - destroyed.
Should on or more intact models be recovered, it would be as close as anyone can come to resurrecting an Arrow.
The two warships are en route to a patch of search waters to be plumbed in early July using sonar devices hat will sweep the featureless lake bottom for signs of the models.
Lt.-Cmdr Scott Healey, commanding officer of HMCS Glace Bay and a Kingston native, said yesterday that Martime Forces Atlantic is throwing all it can muster at the sunken treasures to identify and retrieve the items from the lakebed.
The ships will be assisted by the Trinity route survey office and the Canadian navy's fleet diving unit from the Atlantic region.
"We do have all the gear aboard we'll need," said Healey in a cellphone interview with The Whig Standard from aboard the HMCS Glace Bay.
"We're just waiting for some clarification on personnel issues."
Following routine navigation and training exercises in the lake, including a Canada Day weekend visit to Kingston, Healey said both ships will embark on a systematic three day sweep of waters where the mini-Arrows are believed to have spalshed downafter being fired from a Canadian Forces launch pad at Point Petre in the southwest corner of Prince Edward County.
"We want to be on station for Monday (July 5 2004)," Healey said "We will have the side scan ready first thing Monday morning."
After conducting their sweep and registering possible targets below the lake surface, Helaey said they'll send in remote operating vehicles ot investigate hits registered by the sonar.
The unmanned remote vehicle is called the Phantom S4 and can plunge into very deep waters via expert manipulation from the surface. Live camera images will be relayed from the Phantom to monitors aboard the navy vessels.
"We'll do Phantom diving in the lake the next day." Healey said.
When the Arrow program was scrapped in 1959, workers were ordered to hack apart the existing jet fighters.
All things related to the Arrow were also ordered destroyed, including tool dies, design speifications, blueprints and castings.
The destructive reach of the Canadian government and military didn't extend to teh baby Arrows believed buried 70 metres deep in Lake Ontario.
Lou McPherson, 89, is a retired A.V.Roe welder who worked with the company for 27 years.
In an interview yesterday with The Whig, he remembered vividly from his Downsview home the disbelief of his fellow workers as he followed his orders and began cutting the planes to pieces with a welding torch almost 50m years ago.
He cut the nose of one plane completely off, an act that only days before the order would have seemed unthinkable .
"I hated the job of cutting them up, but we were ordered to do it," he said
"The planes were cut to pieces and I never save a single piece for a souvenir. We certainly had a good cutting time, shall we say."
McPherson said he never understood why a single plane was not saved for posterity.
"Why they never saved one for a museum I'll never know," he said.
He's glad to hear that that the Canadian military was "finally coming to it's senses to save at least something of the Arrow. It would be nice to find them (model Arrows), clean them and put them in a museum. They have a good museum in Trenton and it's nearby The RCAF museum would be a good place for people to remember the Arrow."
Not only is the RCAF Memorial Museum near the underwater location of the baby Arrows, it's also on the grounds of CFB Trenton, he only runway where the Arrow landed away from Malton on it's many test flights.
The Interceptor was forced to an alternate landing because the runway at Malton was reportedly blocked due to a wheels-up crash of another aircraft.
HMCS Kingston cruises past Kingston on Lake Ontario on Tuesday, on it's way toward Prince Edward County, where it will search for old models of the Avro Arrow on the lake bottom
The Arrow landed in Trenton on Feb. 2, 1959, only 18 days before the project was abandoned.
Jim Gartshore lives near teh Trenton airbase on Highway 2.
He worked on the Orenda engines for the Arrow in Malton.
He told The Whig yesterday he still resents the Conservative government of the day for leaving such a sad legacy for Canadians to ponder.
Gartshore, 76, said he still has conversations with retired A.V. Roe friends and those retired from the Canadian Air Force, all of whom lament the loss of what they believe could've been a genesis of a major aircraft industry in Canada.
"Pretty well everyone I know is still angry about it," said Gartshore.
"They killed any chance we had at an aircraft industry here at home. No one ever explained to us why they did it. I've washed my hands of it I'm so disgusted."
Gartshore said he had mixed feelings at news of the government's attempt to retrieve the Arrows.
"It's about time. Finally they are going to start looking for those things," said Gartshore. "I don't know why they've waited so long."
His son Dave Gartshore, has grown up listening to the tales of the Arrow's death and said he's facinated about the unwillingness of Canadians to forget the plane.
Dave Gartshore spent a great deal of time and money in a race with other private groups from Toronto and London, ON to find teh first documented mini Arrow.
In 1999, he was reported to have found one of the Arrow models in deep water about seven kilometres off the south east tip of Prince Edward County.
His video footage of the metal anomaly discovered on the lakebed by side scan sonar was confirmed by so-called Arrow experts who compared the images to known blueprints of the models.
Last fall, Gartshore teamed up with experts from the well-known shipwreck hunting television show, The Sea Hunters, and revisited the site of the anomaly.
What Gartshore believed was the first baby Arrow to be found, it's now believed , was a Velvet Glove missle fired from the same Point Petre launch pad in the early 1950;s by the Canadian military
He welcomed the search by the Canadian navy to find baby Arrow artifacts that have remained so elusive for so many years.
The search, he speculated, may be underway by the military because of pressure and publicity from private searchers such as himself.
"I'm very pleased the Canadian government is finally getting around to this," he said. "All i've ever cared about is getting them up from the bottom before they disintegrate and are no longer good to anyone. I just want one of these to be in museums for our younger generations to remember what happened so many years ago."
Gartshore says he has made several to pitches to the National Defence to find the Arrows and put them on display at RCAF Memorial Museum in Trenton.
The models are made of magnesium and titanium alloys, metals that that can disintegrate if exposed to water for long periods of time.
There were other special characteristics of the models,especially given the limited aeronautical science of the time.
Every model was built to one-eighth scale, weighed about 224 kilograms (500 pounds) and contained two dozen sensors that transmitted critical data, such as air flow along all the aircraft surfaces, back to scientists on land before the models crashed into the lake.
To shoot skyward, the models were piggybacked on missles that generated about 45,000 pounds of thrust and propelled both model and missle to a velocity of 2,500 kilometres per hour.
When launched, the models were tracked using an FM telmetering system, cameras and radar.
In an interiew from his Ottawa home last night, one of Canada's leading Arrow experts and authors,Palmiro Campagna, said that data suggests the models could lay in waters eight kilometres to 40 kilometresfrom teh launch pad.
"It's akin to to searching for a needle in a haystack." said Campagna, whose latest of many books on the Arrow,"Requim for a Giant, A.V.Roe Canada and the Avro Arrow, was released in April.
He qquestioned whether the military will be able to find any of the models using side scan sonar because the technology records the images in a sideways fashion. The Arrow models may be buried and not easily detected by the sonar.
He suggested that the military might be better off to use what is called a magnetometer, a device that is also towed behind the ship but has a greater siacovery ability because it can detect metals even if they are buried in the sandy lake bottom.
Campagna said he was excited to learn that the military is finally investing time and energy to help find a vital piece of Canadian history feared lost forever. "People think Diefenbaker put an end to the Arrow, but it was the military that ordered everything destroyed.We don't know what the reason was to this day. Everything was destroyed except a few pieces we see in museums and the models if they still exist in Lake Ontario.
The irony of the military ramping up to search fpr the models wasn't lost on Campagna. "After destroying the plane in it's infancy", Campagna said, "it is very ironic the military is trying to recapture lost history to undo the wrong."
Even if the search is successful and every model is found in Lake Ontario there will always be some Arrow models that may never be found.
While nine were shot into Lake Ontario from 1954 to 1957 at the Canadian Armament Research and Development Establishment at Point Petre, two others were fired into the Atlantic Ocean from Wallops Island range in Virginia. Those two models have never been found, Campagna said.
High-tech search fails to unravel Avro legend
Miniature replicas of famed 1950s plane remain hidden deep under Lake Ontario
Friday July 7, 2004 - ABOARD HMCS GLACE BAY — Out on Lake Ontario this week, one of the world's smallest and most devoted groups of True Believers engaged in a search whose significance might be compared to the hunt for the Ark of the Covenant -- or at least one of Jimi Hendrix's lost guitar picks.
The hunt involved two Canadian navy minesweepers, a torpedo-shaped sonar rig, and a remote-controlled underwater vehicle that probed the lakebed with a precision verging on the proctological.
The object of this far-reaching quest? Nine miniature replicas of the Avro Arrow, the Canadian-built supersonic jet that was scrapped in 1959 and has haunted the national imagination ever since.
"There's never been anything like it in Canada since," said Bill Coyle, a 71-year-old engineer who helped run the Arrow test flight program back in the 1950s.
Mr. Coyle was among a handful of Arrow enthusiasts invited to join the Canadian navy this week as they carried out the most well-equipped and comprehensive search ever mounted for the sunken models, which have defied years of underwater hunting by Arrow enthusiasts -- but after three days, on the water, the navy also came up empty-handed.
The models, which are one-eighth the size of the real aircraft, have become something of a holy grail for Arrow enthusiasts, who see them as the last connection to the lost jet, which has a legacy that is the aviation equivalent of actor James Dean's: It died young, did not leave a pretty corpse, and has left the never-ending question of what might have been.
The plane, which flew for the first time in 1958, and was designed to intercept Russian bombers attacking North America over the North Pole, briefly made Canada a world leader in military aviation.
But in 1959, John Diefenbaker's Conservative government cancelled the project and ordered that all 11 of the completed aircraft be cut up for scrap.
Before the program was ended, the remote-control models, considered expendable, had been fired over the lake from a test range and left where they splashed down.
Like all dead legends, the Arrow's inaccessibility has only added to its allure -- and increased the value of artifacts associated with it.
"Finding the models would be an incredible achievement," said Peter Zuuring, a former engineer who heads the Arrow Alliance, a group of enthusiasts devoted to preserving the plane's memory (and perhaps resurrecting the aircraft itself by raising $50-million to build a brand new one).
This week's hunt by the navy offered the best chance yet of finding the lost models. While past searches were carried out from tiny, runabouts, the navy brought two full-sized ships equipped with state-of-the-art electronics.
The ships spent three days combing a 40-square kilometre section of the lake where the models were believed to be.
The search was conducted using techniques similar to those used in the hunt for the Titanic.
It began with a methodical scan of the bottom by HMCS Kingston, using a sophisticated sonar rig that produced startlingly clear images showing everything from small rocks to a schooner that may have sunk more than 100 years ago.
Each "object of interest" discovered was reported to HMCS Glace Bay, which carried a Phantom Remotely Operated Vehicle (or ROV). The ROV, which carries powerful lights and video cameras connected to the ship by cables, provided crystal-clear images of the bottom.
Despite the technical firepower, the search failed to turn up the missing models: By the time it ended last night after three days, the ROV had examined a length of anchor chain, several million zebra mussels, four booster rockets, and a number of rocks that were shaped vaguely like the wing of an Arrow.
"We did our best," said navy spokesman Captain Paul Doucette. "Where it goes from here, we'll have to see."
A number of explanations have been offered for the Arrow models' elusiveness. One is a miscalculation of the possible landing sites. Using flight data from the 1950s, engineers calculated that the models most likely splashed down within a 40-square kilometre area southeast of Point Petre, but acknowledge that shifting winds may have caused them to fall farther out.
It is also possible that the models have deteriorated so much that they are impossible to spot on the lake bottom, even with the most sophisticated equipment available. Their wings, for example, were made of magnesium, which decomposes rapidly in water. Nancy Binnie, a scientist with the Canadian Conservation Institute who went on the search this week, said that even if the models are discovered, recovering them will be a lengthy process that will call for the kind of kid-glove treatment that is accorded to fragile artifacts such as the Shroud of Turin.
"You're not just going to go down there and grab them," she said. "Think of them in the same terms as a lace kitchen curtain. You have to prepare for the worst."
Even the most fanatically devoted Arrow buffs acknowledge that the models could never be recovered.
"We're dealing with a lot of water and some very small objects," said Bob Saunders, the son of an Avro engineer who has devoted his adult life to the preservation of the Arrow legend and the search for the models. "It's not easy," he said. "I know. I've spent a lot of my own money on it. I just hope no one ever tells ever my wife how much."
Lake-bottom search: Launched on the back of missiles; miniature test versions of the Avro Arrow could reach speeds of Mach 2.6, about 3,000 km/hour. Their flights were short. They would disappear beneath the waters of Lake Ontario within a few seconds after takeoff. Recover efforts are under way to find nine of these test models at the bottom of the lake. The planes should be well-preserved by the cold, fresh water.
The test models were launched east over the lake from missile ranges on Point Petre.
Two ships, the HMCS Kingston and the HMCS Glace Bay are covering the search area.