Could You Fly a Sabre?
The challenge of handling a 1950s MiG killer.
- By Paul Hoversten
- Air & Space magazine, November 2011
(Page 2 of 2)
For most U.S. civilian owners and pilots, the first available Sabres arrived in a group from Canada in the 1970s, along with several CT-33 Silver Star trainers. Both fighters and trainers had been manufactured by Canadair under license and flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force. (Almost all of the 1,000 privately owned military jets in the United States have been imported from other countries, which flew them in their air forces. Sabres, for example, were flown by 31 countries besides the United States and Canada, including Britain, Germany, Italy, Iran, and Pakistan.)
Dale “Snort” Snodgrass, the U.S. Navy’s highest-time F-14 Tomcat pilot, has flown both an F-86F and the Canadair CL-13 Mark 6 at airshows. “The Canadair Mark 6 is the ultimate version of the F-86,” he says. “It has a slightly shorter wing, so it rolls a little faster. But with the shorter wing, it also turns a little slower.” He adds: “It also has a much more powerful engine.”
The first Sabres North American built in the late 1940s flew with a General Electric J47-GE-13. Though it was a step up from the piston engines of World War II-era fighters, the J47 was rated at just 5,200 pounds of thrust. On its Mark 6 variant, Canadair installed the Orenda 14 engine, giving the Sabre 7,200 pounds of thrust. “Quite a margin there,” says Penney.
At transonic cruise, the pilot of either model will need to be mindful of the slightest control inputs, says Sugden. “Little tiny changes in pitch and roll produce rapid changes in altitude and bank angle. The F-86 is pretty stable, but at high speed it’s very sensitive,” he says.
Which makes it all the more jaw-dropping that a young Air Force mechanic, who’d barely flown in a small propeller aircraft, would take one up and live to tell the tale. “It would not be unbelievable, but I wouldn’t recommend it,” says Penney. His advice: If you don’t have the training, leave the flying to those who do.
Paul Hoversten is the executive editor of Air & Space. He also wrote “D’oh! 10 Goofs in Space.”