Well, its not everyday you expect to find a fighter parked in someone's driveway. But in 1990 my friend Peter Stephens drove me to the house of a friend of his in Papakura - and there in the driveway was an F-86F Sabre. The owner's name was Peter Pippen, and he had the aircraft there following a static display at an airshow. The forward fuselage was in the drive, the rear fuselage was in the backyard, parts of the tail were leaning on the garage. The wings and engine were apparently stored with a local panelbeater. When I got over the shock, Peter Pippen gave us a good look at (and chance to photograph) the aircraft - and explained how it came to be in his yard.
Peter has not been able to tell me much about the history of the aircraft. However, a Sabre enthusiast from the UK, Duncan Curtis has provided me with some background. Serialled 52-4904, the aircraft was the 600th F-86F-30 built (c/n 191-600), and is one of 2540 Sabres built by North American. Records show that in January 1955, it was serving with the 450th Fighter Day Squadron at Foster AFB, Texas. The 450th came under control of the 322nd Fighter Day Wing. '904 saw a brief stint at Eglin AFB, Florida from 16th-22nd March 1955, when the squadron underwent gunnery training, then back to Texas. She then returned to Eglin for another gunnery camp from 19th April to 2nd May 1955. On 27th May 1955, the aircraft was then sent to the Warner-Robins Air Materiel Area at Robins AFB, Georgia, for depot work, returning to the 450th FDS on 4th August 1955. Between 19th August 1955 and 21st February 1956, '904 was with 802nd Air Base Group at Smoky Hill AFB for transient maintenance, before passing to the Sacramento Air Materiel Area at McLellan AFB, California for work, prior to being dropped from the USAF inventory.
The Sabre then was alloted to Military Assistance Program 7F040 (Philippine AF) on 28th February 1957, and passed to the San Francisco port of embarkation on 5th March that year. Following transport by sea, the aircraft then arrived at 2723rd Air Depot Group at Kisarazu, Japan on 23rd March, and was lost to Military Assistance on 29th July 1957. In Philippine AF service, '904 served with the 'Limbas' aerobatic team, and was named 'Hot Stuff'. The last F-86Fs were retired from the Philippine AF in 1980.
The aircraft is nearly complete, although many of the cockpit fittings were removed prior to its disposal. The images below show the forward avionics and gun bays - the weaponry has been removed of course. The main problem with restoring the aircraft is the need to rebuild or replace the wings due to corrosion in the spars. When I talked to Peter recently, he told me that the remainder of the airframe is fine, although the work he has done since acquisition had been confined to corrosion control and limited tidying of the aircraft. Since I viewed the aircraft it has been moved into warehouse storage.
The North American F-86 has no formal links with New Zealand. Peter purchased this aircraft because he wanted a warbird and the chance to obtain one was there. Unfortunately he and his partner were unable to obtain the necessary parts to proceed with a restoration, and the aircraft was sold to an American collector who had two others of the type in May 1997, and has subsequently been exported.
Last Update:- 27 September, 1998
© 1997-98 Phillip Treweek, all rights reserved