"POP THE CLUTCH"

by Pat McGirl

This is my favorite Sabre story, and it concerns the F86H model, the last of the 'sports jobs".

It was a cold day at Nellis Air Force Base in January 1959 where I landed during a cross-country trip. I wanted to refuel prior to returning to Van Nuys Airport, California, 'Home Plate' of the 115th TFS/California Air National Guard. The Nellis Line Chief was anxious to get me on my way and asked if he could roll out the air and electric start cart. I told him that I was having a problem with my F-86H accepting air, and I needed three men on each wing to push the bird forward and get it rolling.

The Line Chief gave me a very questioning look, sort of a "Who are you kidding Bub?" look. However, after gathering some nearby mechanics, the Chief was ready to comply with my unusual request. Again he looked at me as if I were a little strange. I guaranteed that I would be gone after this unusual ground maneuver. As the Nellis ground troops began pushing me forward, my wingman yelled from his cockpit - "Pop The Clutch!"

I immediately hit the brakes, simultaneously hitting the fuel/air starter switch. low and behold, the beast came to life breathing fire! My wingman started his Sabre in the conventional manner, and we were on our way. To this day I know a Nellis ground crew that hates F-86H pilots. But when I waved, they all laughed, and everyone got a kick out of the gag.

The F-86H was among the greatest of all the Sabre variants. It could give (and has!) the F-16 a 'go' today - with the right driver behind the stick. I flew the F86A, E, F, and H with both the California and Puerto Rico Air National Guards. We picked up several F86Hs from North American Aviafion that had only two to three hundred hours on the airframes. Did they ever fly well! These Hs were definitely some of the best of the "Last Of The Sport Jobs!"


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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