Hansen’s F-86 Sabres: Aviation history at Mojave Air and Space Port

by Cathy Hansen, special to Aerotech News
Al Hansen has owned three Canadair CL-13B Sabre Mk.6 F-86 Sabres through the years. All came from Flight Systems, a company that was active at Mojave Air and Space Port in the 1970s and 1980s.

I thought the North American F-86 Sabre was the most beautiful airplane I had ever seen, and I never dreamed that I would marry a guy who would own three of them!

I have always loved machines: cars, airplanes, trains, helicopters, trucks, you name it! I enjoy the sound and feel of horsepower.

Al Hansen’s F-86E nose-to-nose with a MiG-15 at Mojave Airport, now the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Photograph by Cathy Hansen)

I grew up listening to my dad and brothers talk about engines, and I learned to identify different aircraft when I was only four years old. I remember vividly seeing a photograph of an F-86 Sabre on the front page of the newspaper in 1950. The headline proclaimed the victory of the first American jet to down an enemy MiG-15. U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bruce Hinton shot down the first MiG-15 with an F-86A, on Dec. 17, 1950.

First flight of the U.S. Air Force XF-86A was Oct. 1, 1947. It was the first swept-wing fighter for the Air Force. On Sept. 15, 1948, the F-86A Sabre set a new world speed record of 670.9 miles per hour.

During the Korean War, F-86 models A, E and F engaged Russian MiG-15s. By the end of the war, 792 MiGs were lost and only 76 Sabres —the victory ratio was 10 to 1.

Comparisons between the F-86 and MiG-15 were always made by the pilots on both sides. The MiG was able to fly higher and always had the advantage for the start of battles. The MiG had a better rate of climb, and thrust-to-weight ratio. Also the armament was superior, as they carried one 37mm and two 23mm cannons, compared to six 50-caliber machine guns in the F-86.

An FJ and the F-86 flying in formation. (Photograph courtesy of Dr. Rich Sugden)

Russian pilots later admitted that the F-86 had better fuselage aerodynamic form, gained speed faster in a dive, and had a lesser sink rate when recovering from a dive.

The F-86 Sabres that Al has owned were built by Canadair and had the Avro Orenda-14 engine with 7,500 pounds of thrust, more power than the American version with the J47 turbojet. They also had the full flying tail. An all-flying, one piece slab stabilizer replaced the conventional stabilizer-elevator unit.

Originally, F-86 Sabres were designed and built by North American Aviation, but Canadair Ltd. of Canada signed an agreement with North American in August 1949 to build Sabres.

Hansen’s first Sabre N80FS, built in 1958, is now owned by Dr. Rich Sugden of Wyoming. He restored it to the South African color scheme. Sudgen also purchased the very rare airworthy U.S. Navy FJ-4B Fury N400FS from Larry Mockford many years ago. Sugden sent us a photo of the two aircraft flying together.

This particular aircraft was used by Tracor to tow targets and still had the pod underneath the rear of the fuselage. This aircraft had been used by the West German Luftwaffe before Tracor obtained it.

Two-hundred-and-twenty-five Sabre Mk 6s were supplied to the West German Luftwaffe, and the type became the primary day fighter of the newly formed German air arm. Ironically, the first operational unit was Jagdgeschwader 71 “Richthofen,” initially commanded by Maj. Erich Hartmann, highest-scoring ace of all time (352 kills during World War II). He accepted the first of the unit’s Sabre Mk 6s on June 6, 1959.

Al Hansen painted his Sabre in a civilian paint scheme that reminded him of LeRoy Penhall’s F-86. Leroy gave Al his first ride in a jet trainer, a T-33, many years ago. Al said that this paint job was kind of like a toast: “Here’s to my friend, LeRoy.” (Photograph by Cathy Hansen)

Al painted his Sabre in a civilian paint scheme that reminded him of LeRoy Penhall’s F-86. Leroy gave Al his first ride in a jet trainer, a T-33, many years ago. Al said that this paint job was kind of like a toast: “Here’s to my friend, LeRoy.”

The second Sabre was sold to Yank’s Air Museum, along with an F-100C. Hansen delivered the F-86 to Yank’s in Chino. The F-100 was disassembled and loaded onto a truck.

Just recently, Hansen sold N38453 to Greg Colyer, well-known for performing in air shows with his T-33 ‘Ace Maker.’

The aircraft that graced the flight line at Mojave Air and Space Port for many years is now being overhauled at Planes of Fame in Chino, Calif.

We have many fond memories of seeing these beautiful aircraft flying in our Mojave skies and are confident you will see Colyer’s Sabre at future air shows.

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