Canada may not be known for its jet fighters now, but in the 1950s it was working on an aircraft that many people say represented the state of the art – it was the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow, better known simply as the Avro Arrow. Unfortunately the program was scrapped by the federal government in 1959, and all six completed (or near-complete) aircraft were ordered to be destroyed. Although those planes are long-gone, a project has recently been launched to retrieve nine scale models from the bottom of Lake Ontario.

The project is being carried out by the OEX Recovery Group Incorporated, funded by Osisko Mining Inc. and Osisko Gold Royalties Ltd., along with various other financial partners. It will be utilizing a ThunderFish Autonomous Underwater Vehicle and an AquaPix Synthetic Aperture Sonar system, which will be operated and supplied by Newfoundland-based Kraken Sonar Inc. The search of the lake should begin later this month.

The free flight models were launched by booster rockets over Lake Ontario in a series of flights between 1954 and 1957 to test the aerodynamics of the aircraft design, prior to a production model being built. They reached supersonic speeds, and transmitted flight data back to ground crews as they flew, before ultimately landing in the lake and sinking.

One of the Avro Arrow free flight models, mounted atop a booster rocket(Credit: Kraken Sonar Inc.)

The models have sat at the bottom of Lake Ontario ever since, evading previous reclamation efforts due to what Osisko describes as inadequate funding, water depths, search area size and the amount of metal debris on the bottom – the area was used as an artillery range in the 1930s, and is now littered with the remains of over 600 missiles.

This time around, it is hoped that the advanced technology being used will lead to success, along with research carried out in conjunction with the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) to narrow the search area as much as possible.

While the actual Avro Arrow itself was 24 meters long with a 15-meter wingspan (79 x 49 ft), the models were just 3 meters long by 2 meters wide (10 x 6.5 ft). Nonetheless, their historical value is significant.

"For Avro Arrow historians, the roughly one-eighth size models are something of a holy grail, since they were the flying replicas of the actual aircraft and the last step from design testing prior to production of the actual flying jets," Osisko states.

When and if they're found and raised, plans call for the models to be displayed at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa and the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton, Ontario.

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