Admiring the Arrow

The Avro CF-105 Arrow first flew on March 25, 1958, following several years in development. Seen here is the initial prototype, RL 201, on final approach to Malton, Ontario after its first flight. Photo courtesy of the Royal Canadian Air Force

It was a promising, Cold War-inspired Canadian aircraft. But what happened to the Avro CF-105 Arrow? Canadian members of the PBY Memorial Foundation held their audience spell-bound as they dealt with that subject during the Feb. 28 meeting held at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s CPO club.

Jim Siggens, PBY Memorial Foundation vice-president, opened the meeting, and following the pledge of allegiance and invocation, introduced Retired Royal Canadian Air Force Maj. Svend Raun, of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Svend Raun

“Maj. Raun has been coming to the PBY meetings faithfully every month,” said Siggens. “Coming all the way from Vancouver, through the border crossing, you know, that’s quite a haul.”

Raun and his colleague, Dave Morier, gave a timeline presentation of the Arrow’s development, along with fascinating tidbits of politics and history on both sides of the border. Both men characterized the Arrow as a “beautiful airplane,” whose graceful, delta-winged design, and capabilities also attracted the interest of the United States.

“During the Cold War, the United States and Canada both feared the threat of Soviet-based long-range bombers from over the polar regions,” said Raun.

He said the Arrow featured some of the latest technology of its day — besides the delta-wings, the manufacturer also included an electronic flight control system known as fly-by-wire.

Although the Arrow completed flight tests successfully in March 1958, the launching of Sputnik a few months earlier caused policy-makers to reconsider possible threats from ICBMs, said Raun.

“It seems to many of us that the decision to downplay the role that intercept aircraft still had to play in defense was hastily made,”

Raun said. According to him, the ultimate cancellation and demise of the aircraft’s production was a controversial decision that still engenders great disappointment among many Canadians. Surprisingly enough, the U.S. Apollo space program actually saw some unexpected benefits come out of that.

PBY member Ruth Schoonover examines a model of the Avro CF-105 Arrow aircraft at the Feb. 28 PBY Memorial Foundation meeting at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island CPO club. Mealnie Hammons/Whidbey Crosswind

“When the Arrow program ended, you had thousands of talented engineers and designers who were suddenly thrown out of work. Many of them were hired at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to work on what became the future Apollo space program, which ultimately made history by putting a man on the moon,” Raun said.

Raun was also at the meeting to remind those attending that March also marks military ball month for many Canadians, and, it turns out, Americans as well. The Vancouver Garrison Officers Society-sponsored event, billed as “the largest one on the West Coast,” welcomes Canadian and American armed services, their civilian guests, diplomatic corps and police services as well as civilian personnel.

Raun serves as secretary-treasurer of the military ball committee, but he left it to his guest, Oak Harbor resident JoAnn Hellmann, to describe the event in her own words.

“This will be my tenth year at the ball,” said Hellmann,  director of the Impaired Driving Impact Panel of Island County. “If you want to attend a real, Cinderella-style ball, this is the one.

“If I could use just one word to describe this event, it would be ‘Wow,’” she continued.

The Canadian Military Ball is March 24 in Vancouver, B.C. The ticket deadline is March 23. For information, go to

The next meeting of the PBY Memorial Foundation will be 11:30 am, March 27 at NAS Whidbey’s CPO club.