By Alex Bowling* 

(April 2021 with updates)

In the late 1950’s, during the peak of the Cold War, Canada was set to unveil the fastest, highest flying, most advanced long distance interceptor jet aircraft in the world. The Avro Arrow was poised to be Canada’s greatest military achievement with testing and simulations pushing the jet faster than Mach 2 and as high as 70,000 feet.

The Avro Arrow; the pinnacle of Canadian national pride
and national disgrace. (Photo: Don Rogers, public domain)

Then, in February 1959, the Diefenbaker government abruptly halted the Arrow, fired the 15,000 employees involved in the project, ordered the destruction of all research, development and production technologies and even had prototypes intentionally sunk in Lake Ontario.

The official reason was that the Arrow project was over budget. The real reasons were that if the Arrow succeeded, it would a) embarrass the United States who was already reeling from the recent success of the USSR’s Sputnik project and b) eliminate Canada as a customer of US military aviation technologies. Basically, Diefenbaker buckled under pressure from the United States and destroyed the Arrow.

The Avro Arrow is simultaneously one of Canada’s proudest technological achievements, while one of its most profound national disgraces. To this day, the truth to why the Arrow project was destroyed is unresolved but certainly will remain forever debated. For many Canadians, this was Parliament at its weakest, submitting to the pressures of the White House at the very moment Canada was set to assert herself on the international military aviation stage.

During the testing phases of the Arrow, models were launched from a remote corner of Prince Edward County. At Point Petre, testing was also conducted on the Arrow’s “Iroquois” jet engine, built by another Canadian company, Orenda.

Orenda Ring

Today, part of that testing facility still exists. Within the trees and brush of Point Petre lies the asphalt ring and tether-pole which were used to test the Iroquois engine. The engine was placed on a trolley, attached to the pole in the middle, and ignited. As the engine spun around and around the ring, researchers were able to gather data.

Yesterday, wanting to explore the gravel roads and dirt trails around Point Petre, I decided to find that ring. And there it was, overgrown but still occasionally visited, a testament to Canada’s greatest technological achievement and simultaneously weakest political moment.

The tether pole to which the Orenda Iroquois engine was attached during testing                                   

Who knows what Canada’s military future may have looked like if Diefenbaker hadn’t scuttled the Arrow. Certainly those involved in the project found themselves scattered across the globe looking for work. If you want a little taste of history, a connection to something that almost once was, then head to Point Petre and walk, or ride, around the Orenda Ring.

*Alex Bowling is a life-long cyclist and writes about his travels and the things he sees at 


Flashback February 2022:

Danger, Death, Discovery webinar

Alex shares his personal connection with the Avro Arrow stories in the Flashback February webinar (starts at 35:03).** In the late 1950’s, Point Petre was selected by the Canadian military as the testing ground for the ground-breaking Avro Arrow. Like Leon, Alex Bowling grew up hearing the stories about this fascinating aircraft. Alex talks about the Arrow and his personal rediscovery of The Orenda Ring where the Arrow engines were originally tested. In November 2021, Alex brought participants in a South Shore Stroll to see the hidden ruin in person. He reveals his explorations and research about this intriguing part of Canadian Cold War history. Click here to watch Alex'

The Orenda Ring now falls within the recently created Monarch Point Conservation Reserve, which is under the management of Sandbanks Park and the MECP. The ring has also been vandalized within the last year (2023/24). It appears someone has attempted to cut down the central tether pole.

** This is a fragment of a webinar titled "Danger, Death, Discovery" organized by South Shore Joint Initiative as part of Flashback February 2022.

A fascinating look at cultural, architectural, economic and Cold War history centred in the western area of our South Shore. For centuries, the waters of Lake Ontario’s eastern end have been recognized as an extremely dangerous place for shipping and boat travel. Author and historian Marc Seguin tells us about the Point Petre lighthouse (1833) with its specific and highly unique design. Local Milford resident Leon McConnell relates the tale of his great grandfather’s grisly discovery in 1902 on the shores of Soup Harbour.

View the full webinar here: