Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Today's Dishonesty

The Avro Arrow might have been a good airplane, but had the project not been cancelled it certainly would not have engendered the technical infrastructure to put a man on the moon, as the Toronto Star suggests today.
The Arrow was cancelled for two reasons: cost, which the Liberals carped about for months in the House of Commons; and strategic reasons, the fact that Soviet ICBMs were replacing the Russian bomber fleet, and the Arrow was an over-the-Pole bomber interceptor. So, in an ironic way, the Star gets close to the truth. Rocketry did, in some ways, kill the Arrow.
We were never potential players in the space race. We couldn't be. We didn't have the scientists (the bulk of whom were former German V-weapons experts picked up in the last days of the war), we didn't have the economic infrastructure (either in the masses of engineers or in the physical plant needed to develop a rocket, command module system and lander), and we certainly didn't have the money. The Soviets, spending billions of dollars and possessing many of the V2 scientists, could not keep up to the US.
What was the space race really about?
1. ICBM power and technology
2. Dominance of orbital space economically and militarily
3. Propaganda
4. Science
We had no interest in the first two. We certainly would not have skewed our economy to win the space race for reasons of science and propaganda, even if we had the economic and human resources -- which we didn't.
The Star's piece is a political cheap shot.
"If it wasn't for the Tories, we would have been first to the moon!" That's a keeper.
Kind of like: "If Mackenzie King hadn't been such a wimp and Nazi-coddler, we could have knocked off the Nazis in 1938."

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Canada did have a key role in the first moon landing. The landing pads on the lunar module were manufactured by a Canadian company. We made it to the Moon before the Armstrong.

Anonymous said...

Actually the landing pads were designed by a Canadian engineer who went to NASA after the Avro Arrow folded.

Ottawa Watch said...

Some Canadian companies and some US branch plants in Canada did contribute to the project. But the idea that Canada could ever have developed the economic regime and technology to beat the Americans (and Russians) to the moon is just plain stupid.

Anonymous said...

I had one friend who's an electronic genius who was rejected by Northern Telecom (now/was/is Nortel) during campus recruiting because he didn't have any industrial experience. He's now in the United States designing satellite systems.

Ottawa Watch said...

Typical. Canadians have always failed to invest in people.

Anonymous said...

The Avro cult seems to get bigger and
bigger as the years go on.
The Liberals were set to cancel the program just before the 1957 election but didn't because of the obvious political costs.
In a lot of ways, the failure of the Jetliner is much sadder than the Arrow.
Betting on the aircraft industry has been always had a lot more to do with national pride than economic sense.

Ottawa Watch said...

True, as the bleeding of cash to Bombardier and Canadair have shown.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the importance of the Avro Jetliner over the Arrow. Agree with the impossibility of an independent, successful space program.

The article was partisan claptrap from the Star augmented by the unfulfilled dreams of an retired engineer.

Canada's aerospace industry is expected to post a modest profit of $620 million in 2009, despite declining demand for business jets, according to a recent Conference Board outlook. The real question is how much of this profit is propped up by federal government subsidy to ensure that there is a some manufacturing left in Montreal?

Stephen LaRose said...

Maybe we're not reading the same article, but what I read seemed to indicate that if the Arrow hasn't been scrapped in 1959, the Americans would never have had a man on the moon. In my opinion, this is true. McDonnell Douglas hired most of Arrow's designers and engineers and got them to work on Project Gemini. The two-man spacecraft was critical in the American moonrace plans, to demonstrate the ability to dock and maneuver the spacecraft in orbit.

And when the technician says "We could have done it for Canada," I took it to mean not "we could have landed on the moon (or forced the U.S. into providing a bigger chunk of technical work for Canada, paying for it, and maybe forcing NASA to consider Canadian pilots for orbital and lunar missions)" but "we could have had a technology-based economy in Canada."

Given that we have had successive governments that see Canada's economy as mere hewers of wood and drawers of water for Americans, I can understand his despair.

JA Goneaux said...

I'll believe the Avro myth when any of its supporters can tell me how we could afford both it AND nationalized health care...

I'm waiting....

Anonymous said...

Bristol, Dehavilland, Spar Aerospace, MacDonnel Douglas and Bombardier don't count as something towards a national history of the aircraft business in Canada? Lots happened before and after Avro.
I see David Olive is playing the same line with Nortel's firesale of assets
this morning in the Star.

http://www.thestar.com/business/article/670404

Ottawa Watch said...

I saw that.