State-of-the-art supersonic fighter jet that was being developed by the Toronto-based Canadian aerospace company AVRO in the late 1950s. Soon after the start of its 1958 test-flight program,1 it was abruptly cancelled by John Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservative government on February 20 1959,2 a date that came to be known as “Black Friday” in the Canadian aviation industry. The cancellation soon became a cause célèbre, initially among the employees of AVRO, and ultimately among the national media and opposition parties. The decision has come to be portrayed – fairly or not – as a key moment when Canada unilaterally relinquished the aviation leadership that it had gained during the Second World War and, more specifically, the many R&D and other economic benefits that it entailed.
The cancellation was made more dramatic by the decision to destroy all existing prototypes of the jet, which lent the plane a quasi-mythical status.
Only Canada, it would seem, could put itself at the cusp of leading the international fighter jet industry, then make the entire industry vanish without a trace.
When the decision to end the Avro program is invoked today, it is generally to warn against narrow thinking on the part of governments that challenges Canadian entrepreneurship and innovation, relegating the country to “branch plant” [see branch plant] economic status.
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