By Jim Carter

I had a most unusual experience in the late 1950s while flying the Sabre Dog from Buckley Mr National Guard Base with the 120th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the Colorado Air National Guard.

We were flying south of Denver on a routine night interception training mission. It was a beautiful winter evening after arecent snowfall. I was the second Sabre of three, flying a "snake trail" formation with a five mile separation. The panoramic view with Denver's lights in the background made it difficult for me to concentrate on my radar scope and instruments.

As we passed through 10,000 feet and completed our climb check, there was a loud BANG in my aircraft, not unlike what a compressor stall sounds like in an F-100's J57 jet engine, something I would later experience many times in the Super Sabre. I instinctively throttled my engine back and carefully checked my instruments. Everything was normal. I notified our flight leader about the problem. Hc called for a circling join up and instructed the third F-86 to visually check my Sabre. Number Three reported everything was normal, and so we resumed our mission and completed a simulated attack and re-attack on a T-33 target ship. After flying the intercepts, we returned to Buckley for an instrument approach and a few low approaches before landing. While parking my Sabre, a crew chief frantically signalled me to cut the engine. After shutting down, I quickly joined a group of excited mechanics standing around the nose of my aircraft. To our surprise, there was a pefectly formed hole, four inches in diameter, in the bottom lip of my F-86D's air intake! With its inward impact, however, the hole was very difficult to see unless viewed directly from the front. Further investigation showed that a bird strike, probably by a nighthawk, had also done extensive damage to the lower forward section of the fuselage, all the way back to my Sabre's nose wheel strut.

I know bird strikes occur frequently on low level routes and in traffic patterns, but a hit like this at night at 10,000 feet was something out of the ordinary! Fortunately, the strike did not take out my windscreen and me with it, or go into the air intake and damage the Sabre's rather fragile J47 jet engine.

No portion of this article may be used or reprinted without permission from the President of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association or the editor of Sabre Jet Classics magazine.

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