FLYING THE DANGEROUS EARLY HARD WING "H"S

By Dick Hefton

The later model F-86Fs came out with a hard wing to make them faster and more controllable at altitude. The pilots who flew them, however, had all kinds of trouble because of no stall warning and higher final approach speeds. Then came the F-86F-40s with their extended wings and leading edge slats which were praised as the final answer. I flew earlier F-86F-25s with slats so I was not aware of the difference. Stu Childs worked the tests at Edwards and swore by the F-40 wing's changes.

In the meantime, the "H"s were under construction at Columbus. I imagine the contract for the hard wing was still in effect and North American delivered the first F-86Hs that way. Fo rwhatever reason, my squadron got them as did the other units at Nellis, Cannon and George who took deliveries in 1955.

As for speed, the early hard wing F-86H was outstanding although I do not know whether the later models with slats were any slower. But I can tell you the early "H"s were killers in the traffic pattern as had been true for the later "F"s with hard wings.

I had a reputation for tight patterns and often had to slip rather drastically to put the bird on the end of the runway. I did a heavy legged slip one day coming back fror a chase ride, and my "H" snapped a half-roll and reverse on me before I could catch it. I held off on the power, which was wrong, and it snapped again, this time all the way over to the left, inverted.

At this point I had only one chance, I simultaneously went full stick forward, rolled easily to the right, and went to the firewall with the throttle. Those who fiew the "H" knew how instantaneous its power response was. So with this combination, and the fact that I had some altitude, which was the condition that invited the slip attempt in the first place, I nursed my mush out over the Joshua trees and made a new pattern. Fred Gray, who was on mobile, came over the radio with a breaking voice and told me, "Don't ever do that again." That amused me just enough to bring me back to reality. I then made a nice, neat, wide pattern.

I briefed our squadron on the need to treat that baby nicely when so cose to the ground at low airspeed and high-load situations. I guess it did not take because I lost a student on a repeat of his T-10 ride on that same runway about two weeks later. We were making separate pattems. When I saw him start his turn onto final, I looked down to check my gear. When I looked back up, he was not wjere he was supposed to be. I looked further down and he was making the red ball. He had pitched slightly inside my break, which I worried about, but I thought it may have been more my own tentative attitude following my recent brush with the snap. When he was in the midst of a good turn to final, I thought his situation was under control. I was wrong again

1 got out of the Air Force a few months later and went back to school. I came close to getting back into the "H" with the Reserves, but things did not work. I did not get dose to another "H" until the late ':60s when the Massachusetts Air Guard flew their "last of the Sports Models" complete with whitewalls. Theirs, incidentally, had slats.


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