Naval Military Aircraft: North American F-86 Sabre, Images by Les Clark and PHOTOVAULT®

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Span: 37' 1" in
Length: 37' 6"
Height: 14' 8"
Maximum Speed: 690 MPH at sea level
Service Ceiling: 50.000 Feet
Range: 1,270 Miles

A Pilots Memoirs on flying the F-86

I am writing to you after viewing your web site. I had no idea anyone still cared for that old bird. I flew the F-86 for years. I was in the Korean war, as well as flying commercially for years. I really miss the Sabre. What a fine old gal she was. Thank you for keeping her alive for a new generation.

I was assigned to the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in the early fifties. Our main task was to achieve and maintain Tactical Air Superiority over the Korean Peninsula. We patrolled what was then known as "MiG Alley". Our main resistance was from the Russian built MiG-15. We also encountered a wide variety of other aircraft. Mainly propeller driven craft. Historically, it was US and NATO allied forces against North Korean and Chinese forces. Let me tell you, contrary to official doctrine, we flew combat missions against Russian pilots. There was no mistaking that Caucasian face behind the oxygen mask.

As is common to give Russian military planes a nickname, we called the MiG-15 "Fagot". It was a worthy opponent. The MiG-15 was an aerodynamically superior aircraft to the Sabre. It could out turn us, had a slightly higher top speed, and was able to hold more "g's" on the wing.

The one big advantage we had was our training. We were simply superior pilots to the North Korean and Russian fellows we flew against. We also had superior firepower. Four guns per ship. And a higher rate of fire. We mostly flew in wings. Usually 4 to 6 jets. I remember the Sabre had a an ineffective heater. It was not uncommon to feel like you were freezing to death, at least until were you spotted by the enemy. Then it got quite warm in the cockpit.

The Sabre was able to turn about 650 mph. I flew a new model to 660 mph once. We would sometimes push them past specs. This was stupid and foolish. We were young and invincible. Looking back, I wonder that none of us were killed by having a jet come apart underneath us. Flight was smooth. There was a great 360 degree view from the bubble canopy. I particularly liked the later model F-86E. She was agile, very responsive to the stick. This was all before fly-by-wire. Later on I flew some of the fly-by-wire test aircraft at WPAFB (Ohio) in the 60's. The F-86 was as close as it got to feeling like fly-by-wire. She was a tight bird. Always quick on the stick. Not forgiving. If you made a mistake, she went right with you. Buying the farm was easy for a new pilot. Especially at 600 miles an hour.

We lived in steel quonset huts. Pretty nice. Air conditioners. Plenty of food. And always something going on. One day a pilot got a telegram, he had become a new daddy. A baby girl. We painted his jet pink. The next AM early we had a scramble to intercept MiG's. He screamed when he saw his plane. The joke was kind of ruined. I have always wanted to ask the NK pilots what they thought when they saw a big pink Sabre coming at them.

I miss the ole bird and I hope this gives you a flavor of what the F-86 was like.


Col. R. Grey USAF (ret)

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