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Requiem for a Giant: A.v. Roe and the Avro Arrow

by Palmiro Campagna

Numerous books have been written about the rise of A.V. Roe Canada and its development of the Avro Arrow supersonic interceptor plane, raising the question: can another book about the subject add anything significant to the story? The author of one of the existing books on the Arrow answers that question in the affirmative. Palmiro Campagna, the aviation expert who wrote 1992’s Storms of Controversy, has returned to the subject with Requiem for a Giant.

Campagna’s goals here are similar to those he pursued in his earlier book: to examine, through the study of declassified documents, what really happened to the doomed Arrow project and, by extension, A.V. Roe Canada. He also examines the Diefenbaker government’s involvement in first supporting the company’s military program and then shelving it.

Campagna fills in more of the story by investigating a new batch of declassified government documents. But it’s to his credit as a writer and expert that Requiem for a Giant succeeds as a piece of general Canadian industrial, business, and military history and as a work for die-hard aviation buffs.

Campagna concisely lays out the background of the Avro story in the book’s early chapters before moving on to the new secret documents. The documents contain loads of detailed information about specific types of aircraft and project costs, and hint at the political involvement that underscored the whole affair.

Of particular interest are the book’s appendixes. The general-history crowd gets a questions-and-answers section detailing the highlights of the company’s history. And for the true Avro buffs, annotated copies of the declassified documents bring the inner-circle flavour of the book to life.