Avro Ar­row re­cov­ery no lame-duck mis­sion

Ottawa Sun - - COMMENT -

The fate of the Avro Ar­row, ig­no­min­iously scrapped in 1959, has al­ways prompted the ques­tion: What if we’d kept the pro­gram?

“Would Canada still be com­pet­ing in mod­ern fighter de­sign of our own air­craft to­day?” Richard Mayne, di­rec­tor of Royal Cana­dian Air Force His­tory and Her­itage, re­cently won­dered aloud.

Good ques­tion — and it’s rel­e­vant even in mod­ern times, as the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to botch mil­i­tary pro­cure­ment. There’s a great deal of nos­tal­gia about the Ar­row, the so­phis­ti­cated in­ter­cep­tor de­vel­oped in the 1950s to counter po­ten­tial Soviet at­tacks in the Arc­tic. Peo­ple still get into pas­sion­ate ar­gu­ments about whether the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment of that era was right to put an end to it.

But set aside the pol­i­tics, both past and present, for a mo­ment. There’s a project un­der­way that all Cana­di­ans should rally be­hind. Re­cently, a sub­ma­rine be­gan scour­ing 64 square kilo­me­tres of Lake On­tario to try to find nine mod­els of the fa­mous fighter jet. The ini­tia­tive is part of Canada 150 cel­e­bra­tions.

These mod­els are some­where in the depths, hav­ing crashed af­ter be­ing fired out over the lake in the 1950s from a mil­i­tary base. Us­ing mil­i­tary-grade sonar, the re­searchers are hop­ing to find them (and may well stum­ble across two other plane crashes and ship­wrecks from the 18th and 19th cen­turies).

What a fas­ci­nat­ing glimpse into our his­tory. And what a won­der­ful way to raise aware­ness of our past mil­i­tary his­tory and tech­no­log­i­cal prow­ess.

Should the mod­els be re­cov­ered, they’ll be put on dis­play at the Canada Avi­a­tion and Space Mu­seum here in Ot­tawa, and at the National Air Force Mu­seum of Canada, just down the high­way in Tren­ton. Let’s wish these mod­ern-day sal­vagers suc­cess.

Of course, the mod­els are un­likely to be in one piece, so there will be a whole process of fig­ur­ing out how they can be brought back to the sur­face with­out sus­tain­ing fur­ther dam­age.

Some may ques­tion the logic of scop­ing out the bot­tom of the lake for a fighter jet model that’s been down there for some six decades. But we don’t. This is a bold and pa­tri­otic un­der­tak­ing.

A great na­tion should make the ef­fort to ex­plore its past, re­cover its ar­ti­facts and cel­e­brate its his­tory. We need to re­cover and re­vere sym­bols of gen­uine achieve­ment.

Who knows what the searchers will find; maybe noth­ing. But it’s a wor­thier ef­fort than, say, check­ing out a gi­ant rub­ber duck. It speaks to both our avi­a­tion past and our fu­ture.

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