Photo of North American Sabre Mk. 6

 Click on one of the thumbnails below to access the 4 photos of this aircraft.

  • Status: On display
  • Airworthiness: Static display
  • Type: Fighter
  • Built: 1956
  • Serial Number: RCAF 23651
  • Construction Number: 1441
  • Current Markings: RCAF 23651
  • Length: 37 ft 6 in
  • Wingspan: 37 ft 11 in
  • Power: 7275 lbs thrust
  • Engine: 1 x Orenda 14 Turbojet
  • Maximum Speed: 606 mph
  • Cruising Speed: 489 mph
  • Range: 1,486 miles



Aircraft Description

North American Aviation started to design the F-86 Sabre in 1945, using swept wing technology captured from the Germans. The XP-86 first flew in October 1947 and it exceeded the speed of sound in a dive in April 1948. An early production F-86 broke the world speed record (671 mph) later the same year. During the Korean War, US Air Force F-86s shot down over 790 Russian MiG-15s, with few losses to themselves.

In 1948, the RCAF chose the F-86 Sabre as its next day fighter. The aircraft was to be built in Canada by Canadair in Montreal. The prototype flew from Dorval in August 1950 and production started (Mk. 2) soon after in the fall. The Sabre entered RCAF service in the spring of 1951 and equipped nine squadrons serving in both Canada and Europe. 350 Mk. 2s were delivered to the RCAF during 1951-2. The RAF ordered 370 Sabres from Canadair in 1951 and, as the RCAF required additional fighters, an improved version (Mk. 4) came into production. Eventually 438 Mk. 4 Sabres were built. Most Canadair Sabre Mk. 2s and Mk. 4s served with the 2nd Tactical Air Force in Europe.

The RCAF wanted the Orenda engine installed in the Sabre from the start. Consequently in 1952, the Sabre Mk. 3 was developed powered by an Orenda 3 engine. In June 1953, this aircraft piloted by the famous Jacqueline Cochran broke three air speed records at Edwards AFB, California.

All Sabres built between 1953 and 1958 (Mk. 5 & Mk. 6) were powered by Orenda 10 or 14 engines and both versions served with thirteen RCAF squadrons in Europe and Canada. The Canadian public best remembers the Sabre as the aircraft of the RCAF Golden Hawks aerobatic team, which gave spell binding flying displays in the 1960s. The RCAF retired the F-86 Sabre from fighter operations in 1963, but continued to use it in other roles till 1968.

A total of 8861 F-86 Sabres were built between 1947 and 1958; 1815 of them in Canada.

The Museum's Sabre rolled off the production line of Canadair Limited in Montreal on January 5, 1956. On May 3, 1956, it was officially taken on strength by the RCAF as 23651. In June 1956, the Sabre was sent overseas to serve with the NATO forces of 2 (F) Wing, assigned to 421 Squadron, coded as AX-651, based at Grostenquin, France. Following maintenance and refurbishment at Scottish Aviation Limited in Prestwick, Scotland, the Sabre was transferred to 1 (F) Wing, to serve with 439 Squadron, located at Marville, France.

While in Europe, a team of Golden Hawks pilots were on a mission to find low-time, well-maintained, and suitable Sabre airframes for immediate shipment back to Canada, and 23651 was one of the aircraft selected. A total of twelve Mk. 6 Sabres were chosen as the best of the lot from the overseas squadrons and were airlifted back to Canada via a RCAF C-130 Hercules at the end of December 1960.

The Sabre was checked out by 6 RD (Repair Depot) at Trenton and prepared for modifications and painting for its makeover. When it was rolled out, it was now a gleaming member of the RCAF Golden Hawks aerobatic team. It was assigned to F/L Lloyd Hubbard as number 3, at the left-wing position, for the 1961 season.

Sabre 23651 remained the personal aircraft of now S/L Hubbard in its new role as the lead for the 1962 and 1963 Golden Hawks seasons since he was familiar with all this aircraft's quirks and handling characteristics. On February 7, 1964, the Golden Hawks were officially disbanded. Sabre 23651 was officially retired with 1066:15 hours on the airframe.

After its official retirement from the RCAF, the aircraft was turned over to No. 6 RD (Repair Depot) at Trenton and was made into a unique static display. Some of the original aircraft skins and panels on the port side of the fuselage were removed and replaced with plexiglass panels to display the interior of the armament and engine bays areas. It was then donated to the National Aeronautical Collection (now Canada Aviation and Space Museum) and was loaned to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in July 1998. In October 2022, ownership was transferred to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

© Canadian Warplane Heritage 2022