Mind If I Borrow It?

The day an Air Force mechanic commandeered a North American F-86

Airman George Johnson (in a T-33 in late 1955) spent hundreds of hours maintaining Sabrejets and much less time flying one. (Courtesy George R. Johnson)
Air & Space Magazine

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When the F-86 was rolling out to U.S. bases in the 1950s, North American Aviation dispatched its legendary test pilot, Bob Hoover, to show the fighter’s safe handling and flying capabilities to Air Force pilots all over the world. Hoover’s demonstrations—which included barrel rolls immediately after takeoff—were meant to allay concerns about the stability of the new swept-wing aircraft at low speeds, and to reassure pilots of the ease of flying the Sabre. Too late came Airman Johnson and his amazing one-hour flight to provide the ultimate proof.

Paul D. Mather is a lifelong self-admitted aviation nut who has never read or heard an uninteresting airplane story.


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