Monday, September 25, 2023

The Historic Sabres of Alberta

Three of the most historic F-86 airframes are on display in Alberta.  

The first is the one and only Sabre 3.  The first F-86 built with an Orenda engine, it served with Canadair, the RCAF, and was a movie star ("The Last Chase" (1981)).  But its most famous turn was as the aircraft in which Jacqueline Cochran set a world speed record in 1953 and also became the first woman to break the sound barrier.  It is currently on display at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskawin.

The second aircraft is Canadair Sabre 1.  Basically a F-86A assembled in Canada, it was the first of a long line (1,815) of Canadair built Sabres. 19101 first flew in 1950.  A few days after its first flight,  it went supersonic as the first Canadian built aircraft to do so.  Used by Canadair and the RCAF for many test projects, it now is on display at the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton.

The third aircraft is the most frustrating   Pretending to be just another RCAF Sabre is the second production F-86 built as P-86 47-606.  The aircraft was assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards, was probably flown by some guy named Yeager (and Pete Everest), and may have participated in the X-1 and D-558 programs.  It later flew with the California ANG and then ended up as a parts donor for Ben Hall's F-86A restoration.  This aircraft should have the slotted gun ports, rather than more usual gun ports seen on almost every other Sabre.  Too bad it hasn't been traded to the USAFM for a real RCAF Sabre.  Until someone comes to their senses it is on display at the Hangar Flight Museum in Calgary.

It is interesting to note that all three of these aircraft have been retrofitted with Sabre 5 "hard" wings.  No wonder modelers get confused, apparently Museums do as well!

The Air Force Museum of Alberta in Calgary also has a Sabre 5, but this is just a typical RCAF line bird that served with CEPE, 416 Squadron, and 1 (F) OTU/STU.  23338 later was sold to the US and converted into a drone.  It was shot at nine times with nine misses and given the name "Black Cat."  It was repatriated to Canada in 2015.

Modeler's Note: There have been many 1/72 scale Sabres, but the best way to a Canadian Sabre 5 is the Airfix kit. It isn't perfect...the wing fences are in the wrong place, some of the fuselage scribing is wrong, and the wheels are pretty bad...but it is a nice build, has accurate shapes and is very reasonably priced. Oddly, many online love the Fujimi kit, but its fuselage is fat and bloated, not to mention the speed brakes are square. The Hobbycraft/ Academy kit is "derived" from the Fujimi kit and suffers the same deficiencies.  We need a new tool family of F-86s in 1/72!

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