HISTORY OF 428 WING'S F86 MARK 5 SABRE AIRCRAFT
More than fifty years ago, its design was considered to represent the best single-seat fighter jet in the western world. Today it sits passively atop a 15-foot pedestal, banking slightly to the left, as if at the start of a 670 mile-per-hour turn; a visual reminder of, and memorial to, all airmen who served and died for Canada.
Although equipped with six 50-calibre machine guns, and eight 5-inch rockets or 2,000 pounds of bombs, the CF86 Mark 5 Sabre jet at Peterborough's Riverview Park and Zoo never saw combat.
It first flew on May 6, 1954 after assembly at the Canadair factory near Montreal. Six days later, it was an operational fighter/trainer at CFB Clinton near Goderich on Lake Huron. There it helped Canadian pilots and ground crews master a new technology called radar. In April 1957 the aircraft was stationed at CFB Chatham where it was used to train pilots in actual battle scenarios.
By April 1957, Sabre #23245/8 was decommissioned and sold to a war surplus store near the Chatham base. Three members of 428 Wing, Alf Dawson, Gord Wilson and Vince Strano, went to see if the plane would be suitable as a memorial, and returned satisfied after purchasing the aircraft for $4,500.00, much less than the $360,000.00 it cost the government to build it.
The wings were removed and loaded with the fuselage onto a flatbed tractor-trailer donated by Eddie Redmond, manager of TPT, to bring the F86 to Peterborough where it was stored at Reid's Transfer, to be cleaned and the Roundel markings installed. Most of the work was done by John Murray, a 428 Wing member. Central Steel made an adapter so the aircraft could be mounted on the pylon, as well as steel supports placed within for extra support and safety. Another Wing member, Stew McLaren, did the write-up for the plaque. Our F86 Sabre was erected on June 5, 1971, with a total cost for purchase and installation: $4,500.00
Kirby Painting and General Contractors repainted the aircraft in July 1991, including an acid wash, primer and urethane top coat. Total cost: $5,300.00
On October 9, 2008 the beginning of the removal of the F86 from its pedestal took place, and after 2 days during which the wings had to be cut away with torches, the fuselage and wings were finally loaded on a flat-bed transport and taken to be refurbished by "Flying Colours" at the Peterborough airport.
On June 6, 2009 our F86 had been returned to the Riverview Park and Zoo, and a re-dedication ceremony was held, with Lt. Col. Laure Hawn, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defense, as our guest speaker. The 428 Wing Re-dedication Committee organized this prestigious event, and members Peter Ayotte, Bill Judge and Bob Ough, performed MC duties. Other special guests were MP Dean Del Mastro, Ontario Group President Sam Newman, as well as many county and city officials and nearly 400 Wing members, guests, contractors and the public. After the ceremonies, all were invited back to the Wing for refreshments. What a wonderful and fitting way to celebrate 2009 as the 100th Anniversary of Powered Flight in Canada!!
The plaque at the base reads:
That in another time
Young men become Airmen
To fly in foreign and hostile skies
Some did not
Those who died
By those who live
* * *
Erected in Memory
of All Airmen
of Peterborough and District
by 428 Wing
Royal Canadian Air Force Association
June 5, 1971