Canadian John Hodge, left, with astronaut Al Shepard and Flight Director Chris Kraft. NASA.
There was nothing particularly different about February 20, 1959. For the workers at the A.V. Roe plant in Malton, Ontario, it was just another Friday working on cutting-edge aircraft before the chilly winter weekend. Then, out of nowhere that afternoon, the plant’s public announcement system crackled to life. A.V. Roe’s President Crawford Gordon’s angry voice addressed the workforce as one.
“That &$@#* prick in Ottawa,” Gordon began before dropping the bombshell: Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and his Conservative government had just cancelled the Arrow project. Effective immediately, all plans were to be destroyed and finished planes’ expertly engineered fuselages cut up and sold as scrap metal. In an instant, 14,525 people lost their jobs; following down the supply chain with contractors and subcontractors, the number affected was closer to 60,000. February 20, 1959, became known as Black Friday in the Canadian Aviation industry.
The Avro Arrow — properly the CF-105 — wasn’t just the pinnacle of Canadian aviation engineering; it was remarkable on an international scale. The Arrow was an experimental, delta-winged, supersonic interceptor jet that was more technologically advanced than anything ...