Three, two, one, the sonar is submerged and more than half a century later the underwater search for the free-flight Avro Arrow models begins.
The expedition called Raise the Arrow began on Friday morning at Quinte’s Isle Campark Marina with the launch of the ThunderFish autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) into Lake Ontario.
“The Arrow was meant to be the future of aviation – by finding and retrieving these marvellous examples of Canadian advanced technological design, this project is a proud reminder of what we as Canadians have done and what we Canadians can do,” said John Burzynski, leader of the expedition and president and chief executive officer of Osisko Mining.
The ThunderFish AUV created by Kraken Sonar Inc., a team of scientists and archeologists from Newfoundland, is state-of-the-art technology that will survey the bottom of Lake Ontario to locate the missing nine free-flight test models of the Avro Arrow.
The Avro Arrow models were launched at Point Petre in Prince Edward County over the lake using booster jets between 1954 and 1957 to test the flight design before the CF-105 Arrow was produced.
The models were approximately one-eighth of the size measuring three metres long by two metres wide.
“These things are there, it’s just an application of the technology and the effort to go find them. This is the first time that a real production type surveys been applied in this area and we are pretty sure we will find them,” said Burzynski.
Locals from the park gathered along the shoreline to catch a glimpse of the ThunderFish AUV entering the water.
“I’ve been fascinated with aircraft all my life. I was around 10 years old when the Avro Arrow development began and ended tragically. The fact that I was just a kid when all this took place, I have been able to keep that memory and to be fortunate enough to be here to witness this today means a lot to me,” said 69 year old Belleville resident, Larry Mason.
Over the next several weeks the Raise the Arrow team will be surveying a 100-square-kilometre grid area in search for the artifacts. The project is entirely funded by a group of Canadian mining companies and financial institutions.
“This is a very sophisticated machine — If you were to drop a coin from the surface to 100 feet of water, you would be able to tell if it was heads or tails,” said Scarlett Janusas, project archaeologist.
Several attempts to locate the models have failed in the past but Janusas is confident that this time will be different. The only concern expressed is the state that they might find the models.
“They could be completely destroyed from the impact, that’s a possibility but I would suggest that most of the steel bodies would still be in-tact,” said Janusas.
If the expedition proves successful the found artifacts will be housed in the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa and the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton.
“It’s a reminder of what Canadians did technologically back in the 50’s, the reason why the story resonates with so many people is because it’s living history. There are a lot of people that worked on the program that are still living,” said Burzynski.
The Raise the Arrow project will be collecting data through the ThunderFish AUV over the next several weeks with hopes of uncovering pieces of lost Canadian History.