Classic Fighters of America: F-86F Performs First Engine Run

Every system in the aircraft either thoroughly overhauled or newly-fabricated, and the entire wiring system is brand new. Photo by Mike Killian.
Aircorps Art Dec 2019

On Monday, May 3rd, Doug Matthews’ North American F-86F-30 Sabre (52-5116) performed its first engine test at the Classic Fighters of America facility in Titusville, Florida. We have been following this restoration project for some time now, and it is clear that the workmanship is of a very high calibre. While Classic Fighters had hoped to have the Sabre flying last year, the global pandemic definitely caused significant delays. Even so, as often happens with warbird restorations, the last 1% of the project is often the hardest part.

Crew Chief Phil Ricker (Ret USAF) checking the systems one more time before performing the first engine test. Photo by Mike Killian.

Commenting on the recent milestone, Doug Matthews remarked: “The engine is the General Electric J-47 GE 27 with only 15 hrs on it. It took three tries before having a successful ignition – probably because of air in the lines – they had to prime the lines and there is no bleeding procedure. It’s a tricky procedure because you have to meter the throttle due to a very basic fuel control. You have to carefully bring the engine to the desired RPMs, and then throttle up to idle. Today we brought the engine to half-power for a limited amount of time. Tomorrow, we will have another engine test, this time a little longer and a little higher. Only two squawks: The hydraulic pressure gauge is not working and the generator wouldn’t come online. Overall a pretty successful test!”

As recounted in previous articles HERE, Doug Matthews acquired F-86F-30 52-5116 in 2013. This fighter served in the U.S. Air Force initially, before undergoing reconditioning for service in Argentina. It joined the Argentine Air Force as ‘C-119’ in November, 1960, and flew with that nation until its withdrawal from use in 1986. Around 1989, Rick Sharpe re-imported her into the USA, but she passed through a number of hands before Matthews acquired her, including the Commemorative Air Force (last owner). In seeking a suitable F-86 for his needs, Matthews was keen to find an example similar to the one he flew for a while on the air show circuit, F-86F 53-1201 which wears the livery of the famed Skyblazers aerial demonstration team, forerunner to today’s USAF Thunderbirds.

Doug Matthews’ Classic Fighters of America has conducted the restoration from their base in Titusville, Florida. Matthews decided to paint the airplane to resemble F-86F 51-2910 BEAUTEOUS BUTCH II, one of the Sabres which famed jet-ace Captain Joseph McConnell flew from Suwon Air Base during the Korean War with the 39th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing. McConnell is credited with shooting down sixteen MiG-15 jet fighters during the conflict, while damaging an additional five examples, making top Ace of the Korean war.

Captain Joseph McConnell posing in the cockpit of his F-86 shortly after downing his 16th and final enemy aircraft during the Korean War. (USAF image)

Every system in the aircraft either thoroughly overhauled or newly-fabricated, and the entire wiring system is brand new. This F-86 features faux .50 caliber machine guns, a modern ejection seat and an all glass/Garmin instrument panel, topped off with a special treatment paint scheme taking three months to complete. The Sabre will become a magnificent contributor to the air show scene once she finally flies!


1 Comment

  1. Nothing in this world of flying legends makes our hearts beat faster than to see a genuine Korean warbird that has stood the tests of time and in time we’ll see this magnificent jet fighter take to the skies and perform at our nations airshows maybe this year if things go the way they are planned out to be and for the owner its a dream come true all in all.

Graphic Design, Branding and Aviation Art

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