by John Brown
It was near Christmas of 1958 and the weather had closed down the flying operations of the 440th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Erding AB, Germany. If the weather was at 300 feet, with a half mile visibility, the 440th FIS would usually have two flights of two F-86Ds flying GCA patterns to meet the squadron required instrument flying time. At times we would use Marseille, France, or Aviano, Italy as alternates, even though both were at the extreme end of the Sabre Dog's range.
On this day the flight crews who were not sitting ready alert were receiving the standard training briefings: operations, intelligence, regulations, and other boring material. The ground crews were busy performing whatever necessary maintenance there was.
About 10 o'clock in the morning, a flight of jets flew very low and fast over socked in Erding AB. All the pilots ran outside to see what was going on. Eho esd it? And what were they doing up in this kind of weather?
As we looked up toward the fleeing jets, a bunch of cards were floating down all over the base. I picked one up and it read:
"The RCAF 440th Fighter Squadron wishes the US Air Force 440th FIS a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."
Our ground crews said that a flight of four RCAF F-86s flew over the base, and opened their speed brakes. The cards had been packed into the speed brake bays and came floating down. The guys gathered them all up (FOD you know!), and went back to the normal routine.
Our squadron Operations Officer, Major Dave Robb, called the Erding Base Ops and asked what flight plan the Canadians had filed to get here in such crappy weather. Remember, the RCAF flew Sabre day fighters, with a very limited all-weather capability. Base Ops checked and came back with the answer - they had filed a VFR flight Plan from Zwiebrucken!
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.
Return to Classics Page