________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 7 . . . . November 23, 2007


Who Killed the Avro Arrow?

Chris Gainor.
Edmonton, AB: Folklore Publishing, 2007.
256 pp., pbk, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-894864-68-8.

Subject Headings:
Avro Arrow (Turbojet fighter plane).
Canada-Politics and government-1957-1963.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

**** /4


David Golden, who in 1959 was deputy minister of defence production, told the CBC for its 1980 documentary: "As a fighting instrument of war, which must include an aircraft, an engine and a sophisticated fire-control system, then of course there never was an Arrow." His statement remains one of the most controversial comments about the Arrow, and indeed was used as the title for the documentary. Although blunt, this statement contains a great deal of truth for those who were charged with building Canada a weapons system that would defend Canada and the U.S. from Soviet bombers.

There are many books on the Avro Arrow. Eight dealing with the subject have already been reviewed in CM. Do we, therefore, need another one? After reading Chris Gainor's account, one must say yes. It is the best account of the story this reviewer has seen.

     Author Chris Gainor is a skilled writer and the perfect choice to write another book on the Arrow. Prior to this book, he wrote Canada in Space: The People & Stories Behind Canada's Role in the Explorations of Space and many other articles and books on space. He is a member of the Canadian Historical Society and has the historian's nose for a good story. His text shows an enthusiasm for his subject that is almost addictive. His book is well researched and accurate. The result is a telling of the Arrow story that is a cut above the rest. Who Killed the Avro Arrow? could be used for classroom support or for recreational reading. Teachers will find many ways of using this book in the classroom to teach lessons on, among other things, Canadian history, political issues, defence, the Cold War, how fiction becomes fact, and the role of the media in distorting the truth.

     Who Killed the Avro Arrow? has a number of teaching aids, including a selection of acronyms used in the book. Examples include IGY for the International Geophysical Year, 1957-58 and SST for Supersonic Transport aircraft. This is a useful addition to the book, of considerable value to young readers. In addition, there is a table of contents and an excellent Notes on Sources, which will be helpful to any student wishing to learn more. There is a handful of functional black and white photographs scattered throughout the book.

     The book has 45 chapters, some only three pages long. It is divided into two parts. Part One, the largest; The Story of the Arrow, deals with, along with other topics, the history of Canada's aviation industry starting in 1907, the Cold War, and the brief life span of the Arrow. It retraces a story that has been told before, though not as well. Part Two, Who Killed the Arrow? discusses the reasons for the plane's demise. It is arguably the most interesting and useful part of the book because of its conclusions which differ from most opinions on the subject.

     One interesting chapter in Part One, “The Miniseries and the Models,” reviews the 1997 TV miniseries The Arrow starring Dan Aykroyd. Gainor shows how the CBC spent $7 million of taxpayers' money on what those knowledgeable about the Arrow called a work of "dramatic fiction" which "departed from the true story in many respect.s. This is indeed sad because the fiction, for many viewers, became fact; a fact that once imbedded in the Canadian consciousness has become difficult to remove. For many Canadians, therefore, myths, legends and outright lies have become the truth.

     What many readers will find most interesting are the reasons Gainor gives for the Arrow's cancellation, a fact that still upsets Canadian nationalists. Gainor shows that their outrage is misplaced because what many believe is not the truth. His reasoned approach raises the bar on the Arrow story, and, as a result, there will not likely be another book on the subject, at least for younger readers.

Highly Recommended.

Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher lives in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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