by Ralph D. Waddell, Jr.

In the Spring of 1958, the US Air Force transferred thirty-eight F-86D-35s to the Royal Danish Air Force. The aftcraft had undergone total rehab and were delivered as zero time' airframe and engine. They had been 'cocooned' in a rubberlike sheeting and were transported to Denmark aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier. There, they were towed from the dock in Aalborg, Denmark, to the Royal Danish Air Base north of the port city.

Five pilots and fourteen maintenance men were sent TDY from the 86th Fighter Interceptor Wing in Germany, to assist in the delivery of the aircraft and in the training and checkout of the pilots and ground crews of two Danish fighter squadrons - the 726th and 727th Eskadrilles. Prior to the conversion, the 726th had been flying the Gloster Meteor NF-11 all-weather intercep and the 727th was flying Republic F-84E Thunderjets.

I was one of the five pilots sent to the Danish base. I was with the 496th FIS at Hahn AB, Gemany. The others were Glen Noyes and Jerry Lawhorn from the 526th FIS at Ramstem, and Russ Grant and another pilot from the 525th FIS at Bitburg. The unidentified pilot returned to Germany shortly after we arrived in Denmark. He was involved in the 525th FIS conversion to the Convair F102A, that had just started. Glen Noyes was the Commander of our little detachment. The maintenance men all came from 86th FAV resources. They were joined by a small group of aircraft, engine, and electronic techni representatives from the various companies that built the F-86D.

The first order of business was getting the 'cocooned' aircraft flying, and start training the ground crews. Flight crew training began as soon as the flight simulator was available. As the aircraft were made ready, they were test flown by our pilots, then turned over to the ROAF crews. We then started the Danish pilot checkouts. The transition was mostly uneventful. The 726th Squadban Commander was the first pilot to checkout in the F-86D. I flew chase on his first flight and it went very well. The new pilots were all very anxious to get their 'Mach Buster' pin. On an early checkout mission, we chased them through the Mach, and the North American Tech Rep met them on the ramp to award them their pins.

In early Fall, Glen and Russ returned to their squadrons in Germany. I took over the detachment. Jerry and I stayed until the end of December. By this time we had two RDAF pilots who had just completed transition at Perrin AFB, Texas. They were immediately incorporated into the training cadre. We continued to fly maintenance test flights and transition chase flights. By December, we were ready to turn over all flight training operations to the two Danish fighter squadrons, and Jerry and I returned to Germany in late December 1958.

Due in very large part to the early efforts by the 86th Wing, and Glen Noyes' planning preparation for the transisition, the conversion program went very smoothly. We had very few aircraft incidents. However, in the late Fall, we did lose an aircraft. As many of you may remember, the canopy latching handle on the -35 model, was on the floor. A student pilot, with an RDAF pilot flying chase, was maneuvering when his flight suit became 'involved' with the latching handle. The canopy suddenly left the aircraft - and the student decided to follow the canopy!

In subsequent years, the Danish Air Force received additional F-86D aircraft from the US. They also modified their 'Dogs' in various ways, including installation of the Martin-Baker ejector seat, and the inclusion of AIM-9 Sidewinder launch equipment.

I could not have asked for, or received a better assignment than the six months of temporary duty in Denmark. The work was great. And the Danish people, both military and civilian, were a delight to be around and work with. I haven't been back to Denmark since then, but I sure look forward to a return trip someday.

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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