by David Cronin

I had the privilege of flying the F-86H for over eight years, and I accumulated over 1,000 hours in the aircraft. I flew with the New York Air National Guard from 1954 to 1961. In 1958, we transitioned from the F-94B to the F-86H. Our Sabres had M-39 20mm cannons which were aimed using the A-4 gunsight and APG-30 radar. In 1961, we lost our Sabres and were assigned the C-119. I then transferred to Westfield, Massachusetts where the F-86H was being flown by the Massachusetts Air Guard. These Sabres were equipped with .50 caliber guns end also used the A-4/APG30 fire control system.

In fall 1961, President Kennedy called our unit to active duty with the United States Air Force. We transferred to Phalsbourg, France in support of the 7th Army in Europe during the Berlin Crisis.

The Boston unit also was in our 102nd Wing as well as the Syracuse, New York unit. All three squadrons, with their 87 F-86Hs, staged out of Loring Air Force Base in Maine for our "High Flight" to Phalsbourg. We regrouped in Goose Bay, Labrador, then flew across the Davis Straits to Sondrestrom, Greenland, and then on to Keflavik, Iceland the next day. Then we flew to Prestwick, Scotland for the night. The next day it was across to England, finally arriving in Phalsbourg, France in the early part of November 1961.

Our mission to deploy to France was urgent. 0ur takeoff minimums were originally 5,000 feet and five miles, but while departing Goose Bay, the weather deteriorated to 300 feet and one mile in snow when 1 took off I briefed my flight, whom I did not know because they were from the Syracuse unit, for a four-ship takeoff. We broke out on top of 33,000 feet. Our flights of four departed every ten minutes.

Our year in Phalsbourg had many memorable and exciting flights. Within a 50 mile radius of our base, 40 fighter units from France, Germany, Canada and the United States were operating aircraft, from Mirages to F-104s. Every flight was an ACM adventure. We had the challenge of winter weather conditions on every recovery.

Our weapons delivery and proficiency training was accomplished at Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya as well as in France.

Among our three squadrons, we lost four aircraft and two pilots during our year overseas. This speaks very highly of the F-86H as well as the extensive experience of our flight and ground crews. Our return to the United States in August 1962 was by the same route.

I had the honor of flying this superb aircraft in all weather conditions. As a flight commander, ACM instructor, maintenance test pilot and instructor pilot, I can honestly say the F-86H was the finest aircraft I flew in my 40 years and over 30,000 flying hours.

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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