01 July, 2016

Profile 120: "Stuff Dad Used to Do." F-86D Sabre as flown by "Pete" Aspinwall, 83rd FIS

This is a shorter-than-normal post as the personal story behind the airplane belongs to a family that isn't in-it for the notoriety.

Nevertheless, have a look at the F-86D Sabre above.

Historically, the D-model of the Sabre is a quirk of Cold War thinking. The jet served its days guarding America against the expected Russian aerial invasion that, of course, never happened. And when I write "Days", I am referring to the time-scale of all-things-airplane.

First accepted by the USAF in 1951, the F-86D was mustered out of service by 1956 and disappeared from Air National Guard units by 1961. Compare that to the almost FORTY YEARS of service the F-16 has provided!  In the scope of things, the Dog—nicknamed not because of doggish performance but because it distinguished the D model from the rest of the Sabre lineup—was just a blip on the aerial calendar.

However, it’s here and that means it’s worth attention.

To start, look closely at the nose. See if you can imagine part of the under-fuselage suddenly lowering to reveal a brace of twenty four 2.75" diameter Mighty Mouse rockets nestled in their launch tubes. The idea was that the pilot would fire said rockets as kind of an aerial icepick based on pilot acumen and a carefully coordinated ground-control-radar plot.  Nowadays, with internally-guided missiles, the idea is awfully clumsy. But then? It was the best solution to counter the desperate image of red-starred invaders crossing the West Coast.

The Might-Mice roar!  I can't imagine how well this weapon would have worked in aerial combat
but if we don't try stuff out, we'll never learn.
Source:  USAF
Another point of note—mash your nose against your screen and look at all those stencils! You can’t read any of them on my artwork but realize that they reflect the growing complexity of 1950s tech.    

To get your head around what that compared against the venerable WWII P-51 Mustang, though each airplane occupied similar space (size-wise) a fully loaded Dog was nearly 20,000lbs while the Pony was half that.   So where did all of that 'weight' get stuffed?  Basically into every nook and cranny and therein lies the reason for all the stenciled warnings and notices.  

Every red dot is a stencil.  But, this picture shows off the 83rd FIS color scheme nicely, including the
white tail.  Modelers take note:  The "stenciled" font for the aircraft number is not the more rounded
font of the Dogs that came straight from the factory.
Source:  The Sabre Pilots Association
Ok.  Pull your face off the screen and note the color scheme. Though this Dog is appears to be wholly clad in aluminum, the tail is actually painted white.  I've tried to make it dingy as a result of the typical level of soot and grime that belched from those early jets but the fact remains, tonally, the tail and body are very similar. 

Now, note the blue chin—not quite sure why they did it but it looks cool.  Many thanks to the Sabre Pilots Association for making me realize it wasn’t black but blue—it’s good to talk to people who were actually there and not try to rely on black and white photos!

Yes!  It's 950!  I'm jealous of anyone who ever got to see this sight as part of their job.
Source:  The brain-trust of The Sabre Pilots Association

Yet, the most poignant point of this post is the title, "Stuff Dad Used to Do."

Soon, this print will go up onto a wall at a prestigious military museum as a modest memorial to the men who did their duty in those nervous days of Duck and Cover. The artwork was commissioned by the pilot's son who, now as a single-father, realizes the burden that parents have in making sure the future is, as well as can be expected, protected.

And so, the title.  Granted, it's a personal thing that makes most sense to the sons and daughters of military pilots.

But, I think it applies to anyone who stands on the shoulders of today, looks down and realizes the ladder of life is not made of metal and stencils...but flesh and bone.