OL' 178 was assigned to the 196th FIS/California ANG at Ontario ANG Base in 1955. An F-86A-5, the Sabre had flown with the 1st FIG during 1950, before going to Korea with the 4th FIG later that year. Capt. Archi Nogle flew OL' 178 on her final Air Force flight in 1961.
by Archie Nogle
As the jet engine revved up on the tarmac of the old RAF base at Duxford, Englaud, I could have closed my eyes and turned the clock back to 1953, when the hair wasn't grey and the body was a little trimmer and firmer. And it was I that was climbing into the cockpit, ready to soar into an incredibly blue sky with puffy, floating, whiter than white clouds for another mission.
My fascination with flying went through the model airplane phase, wanting to fly the real thing, then being able to fulfill that dream in 1943 when I joined the Army Air Corps. I went to flying school and after seemingly endless classes and months of schooling, had the wings of an Army Air Corps 2nd Lieutenant pinned on me. It was the proudest day of my life.
At the end of WW2 I left the service to continue my education at Whittier College. Not wanting to end the thrill of flying, I joined a local reserve squadron. At the end of 1952, the (now) US Air Force recalled me to active duty, and beyond my wildest hopes, assigned me to the 63rd FIS at Oscoda, Michigan, flying the Air Force's best, the F-86F. I went through a two month refresher course at Maldon, Missouri, reporting to Oscoda in March 1953.1 had six flights in the T-Bird, and was ready to suit up for my first Sabre flight. No words can express the moments of exhilaration, fright, wonder, and awe that I felt in the next couple of hours as I raced around the wild blue yonder of Michigan skies.
I was blessed to be stationed at Oscoda, as I met and flew with the worlds best Sabre pilots. The training I received was the finest to prepare me for the combat I would soon see in KoreA. What a priviledge to know the likes of Major Bill Shaeffer, my squadron CO (3 1/2 MiGs), Capt. Ralph 'Hoot' Gibson (3rd jet ace in Korea), Colonels Joe Vaughn and Claude Bird, and others too numerous to mention here. Most had just returned from combat in Korea.
The know-how these pilots imparted to me in those months made it possible for me to complete my tour with the 35th FBS/8th FBG at K-13, Suwon, Korea I would be remiss if I didn't mention Colonel Bobby Dawson, a great pilot and friend and my CO in Korea, Colonel 'Woody' Wilmot the 8th Group CO, Bob Donahue, Bob Lilljedahl, Jim Mclnerney, Bob Fulton, Bud Laury, Bob Hafner, and Jack Swigert.
One afternoon in late 1992 1 received a call from a man who identified himself as Duncan Curtis, a reporter for WARBIRDS WORLDWIDE, an international magazine. He said that in the preparation of the coming edition on the North American Sabre, they were tracing the history of one particular F-86A, 48-178. It had been purchased by Golden Apple Trust, Ltd. in the United Kingdom. "Was I the Captain Archie Nogle, the last pilot assigned to this aircraft? And did I fly her on the last flight to Fresno?"
I assured him that it was indeed my old aircraft, and that I had made that unflattering last flight. He then asked if I could send him any information, including pictures, etc, pertaining to the aircraft. I could and DID!
My material was included in the May 1993 issue, which was dedicated to the Sabre. This particular F-86A, 48-178, had been restored to its Korean Conflict markings, and was to be flown in an up~oming air show in Britain.
In September 1994 I was asked to be present as a guest of Golden Apple Trust and its President, Mr. Robert Home, and its pilot Mark Hanna, a former RAF pilot at the Duxford Family Air Show.
It was also the Gathering Of Eagles for 1994. Brig.Gen. Robin Olds, who had also flown -178 in 1950, was a guest at the air show along with many other famous pilots from WW1, WW2, and Korea. There were many aircraft types scheduled to fly. And when my old Sabre performed on Sunday, I was asked to narrate the flight during the 30 minute show for some 35,000 spectators, who had come from near and far on this beautiful day.
It was a dream come true and surely the highlight of the trip for this 'old fighter pilot'. I really wanted to fly 'Ol -178' again, but the memories of past years had to suffice on this day. But it was a great experience to see old 48-178 flying again.
Thinking back to my Oscoda days, I will forever be indebted to Bill Shaeffer who went to bat for me when the Air Force was going to change my assignment out of fighters. He made it possible for me to stay. Being the new kid on the block, I wanted to make the best impression I could. One day while sitting alert in the hangar at the end of the runway, the scramble phone rang and I answered "This is the hot pilot on the alert line."
There was a moment of silence on the other end and then the voice said, "And just what hot pilot am I speaking to?" Of course it was Major Shaeffer. I then realized that I should have said "This is the alert pilot on the hot line." I then identified myself, knowing I had really blown it. But he just laughed.
After rotating back to the States in 1956 I joined the 196th FIS/California ANG at Ontario, California. This is where I was assigned to F-86A 48-178. Again I flew with some of the Air Force's finest including Colonel Bob Love, Korean jet ace, Colonel Don Frisbie CO of the 196th, Group Commander Colonel Arthur Bridge, GE Test Pilot Whitey van Salter, Ryan Test Pilot Lou Everet, George Uvesey, Colonel Lloyd Hutton, and test pilot Ken Viktor.
In 1961 I delivered 48-178 to the 'bone yard', an aircraft mechanic's school at Fresno, on what I believed was its last flight. On the way I detoured a little, making a flyby at Lompoc, California where my family was. Upon making the delivery of the F-86A that I had enjoyed flying, I bid her adieu, never dreaming that I would ever lay eyes on her again. It was the last '86A to leave the Ontario Guard. The 196th had transitioned into the F86D, not one of my favorite '86 models.
I transferred to the 115th FIS at Van Nuys. It was closer to my home in Lompoc, plus I got the ultimate thrill of flying the F-86H, the culmination of my 2,000 hours of F-86 time. North American had clearly saved the best for last with the '86H. It was truly a joy to fly.
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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