The Military Aviation Preservation Society (MAPS) recently acquired another rare and historic aircraft to add to its collection.

The Military Aviation Preservation Society (MAPS) recently acquired another rare and historic aircraft to add to its collection. The new plane is an early model F-86A “Sabre” jet, manufactured by North American Aviation at its Inglewood, Calif. plant in August 1949.

The F-86 was the first American swept wing fighter to go into production. It evolved out of a straight wing U.S. Navy design and went into production in the late 1940s. At the time of its introduction it was the best American jet fighter and was assigned to protect high-priority targets such as Washington, D.C. and nuclear production facilities.

The F-86 jets were produced in the United States and under license in Japan, Italy, Australia and Canada. Eventually, 9,860 planes were produced and more than 30 nations had pilots flying them.

The last F-86 jets were retired from service in 1994 by Bolivia.  

The MAPS plane, serial number 48263, took part in the 1949 Thompson Trophy Race to Cleveland and finished first in its category. The plane’s pilot was Capt. Bruce Cunningham and he won the race despite damage to his rear tail control surfaces.

The plane was then assigned to the 2757th Air Base Squadron at Cleveland until transferred to the 4th Fighter Wing. Eventually, it was shipped to Korea when the unit deployed there in December 1950. The aircraft served for 15 months in Korea, flying numerous missions against Russian-built Mig-15’s over “Mig Alley” in Northwest Korea.

The Mig-15 was a contemporary of the F-86 and both planes had similar characteristics. During this time frame the MAPS plane was involved in at least one combat with a Mig-15. This occurred on February 3, 1952 when Lt. W. A. Todd claimed a Mig damaged after firing 600 rounds of .50 caliber machine gun ammunition at the Russian aircraft.

 Following the Korean War the F-86 was returned to the United States and assigned to a variety of Air Force and National Guard units until retired in 1956. It was then loaned to the New England Air Museum at Windsor Locks, Conn. until it returned to the Air Force Museum in Dayton in the late 1990s.

In 2014, the plane was loaned to the MAPS Museum for restoration and placement with the museum’s collection.

 “The Air Force Museum wanted MAPS to take this historic aircraft,” said Kim Kovesci, MAPS Museum Director. “They saw the results of the restoration we did on the F-86D and felt we were the best museum to undertake the project. There were a lot of other museums that also wanted it but they chose us. This aircraft has a great pedigree. How appropriate it is for her to now be back in Northeastern Ohio at MAPS?”  

 The F-86 will undergo restoration at the museum’s restoration facility located at the MAPS complex of Massillon Road in Green. Currently, it can be viewed, diassembled, in the outside collection. When it is restored, it will join the F-86D, an F-86D cockpit and a Mig-15 trainer in the main display hanger to form one of the more extensive “Sabre” jet displays open to the public.

 At the present time it is believed that there are only six F-86A models on display in the world. One is in flyable condition at the British Imperial War Museum at Duxford. Five others are on display at various locations in the United States. With the addition of this “Sabre” jet to the MAPS collection, a rare and significant piece of aviation history will be able to be viewed by local residents.