SABRE D TALES
(Or How The Big One Got Away)
by Don Jabusch
by Don Jabusch
Most of the stories we are prone to tell involve flying the Sabre day fighter, the A, E, F, or H. There are some of us who, although we may have been less than enthusiastic with the prospect, flew the F-86D with some sort of skill and perhaps even a bit of pleasure
I recall one day going in to McGee-Tyson with two eager young pilots for a weekend of fun. As we approached the field I asked the tower if we might do a pitchup type of pattern and we were promptly granted permission. We descended on the initial approach to about 100-200 feet, Then, at the threshold of the runway, did a fan break up to the downwind and came in for our landing. Although my two wingmen had never done this sort of thing before (and neither had I!), their spacing turned out pretty well. As we were rolling out after touchdown the tower came through with "I haven't seen anything like that since World War 2!" It made me feel good that it was close enough that the guy could at least recognize what we were up to.
I was an aviation cadet from Class 50-B, and was assigned to Selfridge AFB upon graduation. Ten of my class went there, with seven going to the 61st Squadron, and the others going to the 62d and 63rd Squadrons. Doug Stewart was given the job of ascertaining that we could indeed fly jet fighters. We were not without some skill and I don't believe we crashed any airplanes. But it was still a chore for l/Lt. Stewart to make sure we did whatever the group thought was necessary to go on to squadron operations. For us in the 61st, it meant continuing to fly the F-80A Shooting Star as our squadron had yet to receive any Sabres. So we flew red-tailed rehabs from Alaska (ex 4th FG birds), and were happy to do that We even took a few over to O'Hare, Orchard Park AFB then, to stand alert. We were to repulse any air attack that might be precipitated by the onset of the Korean War, which started around that time.
From Seifridge I went to Korea. And from Korea I was assigned to Nellis in mid-1952. There were two Training Command F-86D training locations for most of the life of the D - Tyndail AFB, Florida, and Perrin AFB, Texas. I soon found myself in the D program at Tyndall. At the time, engine problems with the D made each flight something of a challenge, or at least an adventure. However, I don't recall ever having a serious problem flying the D. I do recall vividly my first close up look at the D and thinking, "My gracious, that's a big machine!" I hope you realize I cleaned up that quote so it was printable. When the D school was started at Perrin in early 1953, I went there to be an Instructor Pilot (You may notice that I moved around a lot It seems I couldn't hold a job!) By 1955, we (the gang at Perrin) had a rocketry team which I was a member. And we had outscored the team from Tyndall, which resulted in our representing Air Training Command at the WorldWide Air Force Rocketry Meet at Yuma.
The radar systems in our airplanes were all 'peaked up', and off we went to see if we could repeat our Tyndall win. As the meet went along, we got our share of hits on the rag (target sleeve), so that by the last day of the competition we were in second place, and only 600 points behind the leaders with one mission left to go - MINE!
I had been called off my last pass on a previous mission so I still had one chance to get us that needed 601 points. Those of you who participated in any of the rockety meets may remember at you took off with a T-33 chase, and you raised the 'hood' shortly after takeoff, flying the gauges for the rest of the flight. I was flying the COs plane (Colonel Thomas Whitehouse), as it was deemed to have the best radar at that point in the game, being able to get Contact' and 'lock-On' at a reasonable distance.
Steering seemed to be normal during the intercept. But when I called at the 20 seconds point the chase pilot delayed several seconds before giving me the "Clear!" signal. This bothered me a bit, but at least I was cleared to fire so I pressed on and waited until the fire control system was ready to fire the rockets.
It did in due time, and shortly thereafter the T-33 chase pilot called out, "He knocked the target off!". Since you scored a hit if one of your rockets hit the tow cable, I had gotten us the needed points and we were crowned the champs. Since the team we were trying to beat was a bunch of weenies flying F-94Cs, that made it all the better. I was sorely tempted to do a roll after hearing the chase pilot's excited call, but I was afraid he'd say I hadn't been 'under the hood'. So I gave up on that and headed for home.
Back on the ground, the team met me at the airplane with a fifth of scotch and much fanfare. However that was soon dampened by the chase pilot and a judge coming to look at my airplane. The chase pilot pointed up at the vertical tail of my Sabre. L0 and behold, there was a tear in the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer. According to the chase guy, I had clipped the tow cable with my airplane rather than shooting it off. With that obvious rip in the vertical tail, I couldn't very well argue about it We got second place, which was pretty impressive. But it was a pretty glum bunch of jocks that returned to Perrin.
We got a rousing welcome from the base when we arrived. But it sure would've been nicer to have brought the big one home
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