by Sid Yahn
The North American F-86F was the first jet fighter aircraft to undergo IRAN (Inspect and Repair As necessary) at the Air Asia facility located at Tainan Air Base, Taiwan. At the time I was flying Republic F-84Gs with the First Fighter Wing of the Chinese Air Force, which was also located at Tainan AB.
In late 1955 or early 1956, Air Asia obtained the F-86 IRAN contract. However, they had no qualified jet pilots available to test fly the aircraft. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to perform this task.
Air Asia was not a U.S. military organization. Therefore, U.S. Air Force authorization had to be obtained before I could fly these aircraft. On 27 December, 1956, I received the required authorization along with the additional AFSC of 4331 - Flight Test Maintenance Officer.
On 31 December 1956, the first F-86F, no. - 040, which had completed the IRAN program at Air Asia, was test flown. In total I flew sixty one Air Asia test flights. In addition I had the good fortune to fly the acceptance check flights for the Chinese Air Force. After an aircraft was accepted, it was then flown to the appropriate Chinese air base and assigned to a squadron.
I was active military, therefore no additional monetary compensation of any kind was received for these flights. Initially, a few flights proved to be `interesting'. But after several flame-out landings, an inflight fire, a high altitude canopy separation, etc., things began to smooth out.
As the program matured, and the workers moved down the learning curve, the Air Asia IRAN facility turned out an excellent product. It was not difficult to look at F-86s on a Chinese Air Base flight line and point out the aircraft that had been through the Air Asia IRAN facility. They looked like new aircraft, they smelled like new aircraft, and they flew like a new aircraft!
My association with the Air Asia IRAN program ended in the Spring of 1958 when they hired a former military jet pilot and I returned to the United States. At the time, few if anyone, could foresee the significant role that Air Asia IRAN activities would play during the period of the Vietnam conflict. I like to think the 1956 F-86 IRAN program helped to form the foundation of this larger Air Asia effort.
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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