McClellan F-86F Restoration

Long-term resident at McClellan in California, F-86F s/n 51-13082 is now being restored to static display standard by a team from the Aerospace Museum of California. Crew Chief on the Sabre is Dick Gold, who has a long association with the type:

"As a young child, I would beg my older sister to drive me the 7 miles from our home to the end of Runway 16 Right at Van Nuys Airport. There I would spend hours watching the aircraft taking off and going directly over my head. I was especially interested in the Sabres flown by the 146th Fighter Wing that was located at the airport. Both the 115th and 195th Fighter Squadrons were based there. As I watched and listened to their mighty roar, I imagined myself at the controls of one of those awesome jets. It was there that I made up my mind that someday I was going to fly one. Well some 11 years later I got out of the regular Air Force as an aircraft mechanic and joined the 115th . The Sabres were long gone but I still wanted to fly so within a month I was off to Flight Engineer School and four months later was flying the C-97 transports that were now stationed at Van Nuys. Several of the Sabre pilots remained with both the 115th and 195th flying the C-97’s so I got to fly with them and hear some of their stories about how great it was to fly the Sabre."

"Although many of those pilots and most of the maintainers have taken their final flights, some are still going. One of those is Col. Larry Powell who was the Commander of the 195th FS and as soon as we are ready, I hope he will be the one to unveil our newly painted and restored 195th F-86F 51-13082."

As detailed below, the Museum's F-86F spent a good many years displayed outside at Gaviota and Goleta and those years took their toll. By the time the Sabre arrived at McClellan, all traces of its former identity had gone as Dick Gold relates,

"It arrived with a very basic white or silver paint job with US Air force on the fuselage, stars and bars and the tail number. After arriving at McClellan it was repainted to resemble the famous “Boomerang” that John Conroy flew coast to coast. The paint job was close but not exact! Also sometime after arriving at McClellan, the seat, rails and armor plate were removed by someone who remains unknown. There may have been other cockpit stuff removed at that time. As you can see in the pictures, there’s not much left. Fortunately the aircraft exterior remained in pretty good shape."

‘082 in her 'California Boomerang' 115th FIS CA ANG colours, prior to restoration starting.

"Since taking over the Crew Chief job some 3 years ago, I have replaced the nose gear tire and wheel, added a missing lower nose gear door and linkage, and the nose gear steering damper. I have been collecting cockpit parts for almost three years and will begin to start that part of the restoration once the exterior is done. Prior to paint, we have some minor sheet metal repairs and need to replace some missing screws and fasteners."

"Our goal is to have her painted and ready to show by the first week of January [2011] (weather permitting) and start the cockpit once she’s inside the museum “showroom”. As there’s really only room for one inside the cockpit, we will pre-assemble most of it then start installation." As Dick mentioned, the restoration team are going to paint ‘082 in an overall silver colour scheme representative of 195th FIS F-86As. The silver-painted (rather than natural metal finish) scheme is not inaccurate either: the CA ANG squadrons were unusual in having silver-painted F-86s in-period.

This is how ‘082 should look after restoration.


December 2010 Report


These recent cockpit shots show how comprehensively the interior has been stripped out over the years. With luck this situation will soon change.

The major task of sanding the aircraft has now been completed and because the aircraft will be displayed outdoors and sprayed silver overall, this process will not go back to bare metal. Even in this state it is easy to appreciate how good the general condition of the aircraft skin is.

Above left: The sanding process begins and (right) many hours of elbow grease later the surface is almost flatted down. Below: The sanding completed. Metalwork repairs are next on the agenda.



Service History of 51-13082:

Aircraft s/n 51-13082 with construction number 176-13 was built as an F-86F-20 at the North American Aviation (NAA) Columbus, Ohio factory in 1952 and was declared available on July 21st. The aircraft was then accepted on August 27th 1952 and delivered to the US Air Force on September 5th that year under Air Defense Command (ADC) Project 2F-678. As such the aircraft was quite unusual since most F-86s were built on the West Coast at the Inglewood, California plant. However with the bankruptcy of the Curtiss- Wright aircraft company the large government-owned factory in Columbus became available and NAA moved in. The F-86F was the first NAA product to be built at Columbus and was followed by numerous F- 86H and FJ Fury fighters.


Fresh from rollout at Columbus, F-86F-20 s/n 51-13070. The McClellan Sabre was just twelve places behind it on the production line.

First unit assignment for ‘082 was with 126th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Wisconsin ANG at Truax AFB on 3 September 1952. The 126th had been ordered to active service on March 1st 1951 and redesignated from 126th Fighter Squadron (Jet) the following month. The squadron was initially part of 128th Fighter Interceptor Group, flying F-80A Shooting Stars, but with active duty assignment its parent organization became 31st Air Division in February 1952 as part of the USAF ADC commitment. F-86Fs began arriving at Truax in April 1952 and the squadron then moved to Mitchell ANG Base on November 1st 1952.

With release of 126th FIS from active duty on December 1st 1952, 51-13082 was simultaneously reassigned to 432nd FIS, which gained the role and assets of the Guard unit. All the Sabres departed the WI ANG at this time and like many ANG squadrons returned to State control, the 126th took a step backwards and began flying the F-51D Mustang.

Meanwhile ‘082 had been reassigned to 432nd FIS at Truax AFB on December 1st 1952. However, with the squadron starting to convert to F-86D interceptors in June 1953, the aircraft’s time with the squadron was short: on July 7th that year, ‘082 was transferred out to 18th FIS at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport.


51-13082 in 432nd FIS colours.

But again this was only a short stint: within six months 18th FIS began to prepare for delivery of F-89 Scorpions and relocated to Alaska. Instead of moving north, 51-13082 instead was sent to the Warner Robins Air Materiel Area at Robins AFB, Georgia on January 4th 1954 for overhaul. On May 25th 1954 the aircraft left Robins AFB on assignment to 49th FIS at Dow AFB in Maine. It was to be another short stay.


Though this photo does not depict ‘082, it does show the typical 49th FIS colour scheme she would have worn in the summer of 1954.

‘082 passed to 3595th Combat Crew Training Wing at Nellis AFB, near Las Vegas NV on 13th December 1954. It was an interesting time for the huge training unit at Nellis, for at this point the last F-86As had only just departed and a mix of F-86E and F-86F aircraft were on strength. F-86Hs also began to arrive at Nellis in early 1955. Accidents were rife and ‘082 was lucky to survive unscathed: in a 2-year period from July 1952 the unit lost nineteen F-86Es in flying accidents.


51-13082 in 3595th CCTW colours.

On 12th January 1956, 51-13082 passed to 3525th CCTW at Williams AFB AZ and continued its crew training role. 3525th had taken on all F-86 day fighter training by this time, as Nellis concentrated on more modern fighters such as the F-100 Super Sabre. Aside from the regular USAF, ANG and AFRES crews who passed through the Williams AFB, the 3525th also began training overseas pilots on the Sabre during this period. Many of these prospective pilots would fly Sabres in their home countries upon completion of training and included students from Japan, Colombia, Pakistan and Spain.

For 51-13082, after just over a year at Williams AFB a further period of overhaul followed, this time with Pacific Airmotive at Chino CA from November 7th 1956. It seems likely that the aircraft was fitted with the extended-chord, non-slatted ‘6-3’ wing leading edge at this time: F-86Es at the training units had generally retained the slatted wing (which had better stall characteristics – a bonus in the training environment). However it is certain that ‘082 had this modification at some point in its later career and it is also certain that she left the factory with the slatted wing because the first Columbus-built F-86F to feature the ‘6-3’ modification was s/n 51-13341.

Fresh from this overhaul the aircraft then departed on assignment to 121st FIS DC Air National Guard (ANG) at Andrews AFB, MD on May 8th 1957. This was yet another short period of duty, with the squadron beginning to convert to the F-86H.


It is not known whether 51-13082 wore the full 121st FIS colours, but this rendition shows the squadron’s F-86E/F colour scheme (the squadron’s Sabres were divided into flights and the aircraft wore yellow, red or blue variations of this scheme). ‘082 probably was also fitted with the ‘6-3’ wing by this time.

And so on October 20th 1957 the aircraft was reassigned, this time to 115th FIS CA ANG at Van Nuys. The squadron was re-equipping from the earlier F-86A model at this time. Thankfully the next few years would be reasonably stable. The 115th was redesignated as a Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) on November 10th 1958 but remained under 146th Fighter Group control.


51-13082 in 115th TFS CA ANG colours.

Markings carried at this time should have complied with Technical Order 1-1-636 dated 29 November 1957, which stated that the letters ‘ANG’ must appear on the vertical tail above the radio call numbers and ‘ANG- 082’ would be painted on upper right and lower left wing surfaces. The State abbreviation and ‘ANG’ would also be applied on each side of fuselage and the data block stencil below the LH windshield would replace ‘US Air Force’ with ‘Air National Guard’.

Early in 1959 new markings were applied to Air National Guard aircraft. These markings copied changes the USAF had made during 1955 and were detailed in TO 1-1-636 dated 15 July 1959. The ‘ANG’ was removed from the tail and the ‘ANG-082’ was removed from the upper right and lower left wings. These areas were now left blank. On the fuselage, the state abbreviation followed by ‘Air Guard’ was applied. State names with six or less letters would be spelled out in full and letters could be reduced in size to fit the name in the same space. Data Block requirements were unchanged. It seems likely that some or all of these later marking changes were not applied to ‘082 because they took a while to fully come into force. By the time they did, the aircraft had passed from the active inventory.

The final service assignment of ‘082’s career occurred on March 31st 1959 but it was only a short move: this time to 195th TFS CA ANG, still at Van Nuys and still coming under 146th Fighter Group. But with the squadron briefly changing over to F-86H models (within six months the 195th changed its role to transport and converted to the C-97G Stratofreighter), the F-86E models were ferried out.


Final military scheme worn by ‘082: 195th TFS CA ANG colours applied in accordance with TO 1-1- 636.

Thus, on October 8th 1959, F-86E s/n 51-13082 was donated, probably direct to to Vista del Mar School at Gaviota CA (though more accurately the school is in Las Cruces). During its tenure at Gaviota the aircraft’s canopy was broken. Some time later it was transferred to a VFW Post at nearby Goleta.


The two photos above show ‘082 during its time at Vista Del Mar. Note that the ejection seat was still present at this time. (courtesy of Tom Noack and Roger Gresham) .

Finally the aircraft was transferred to the McClellan AFB collection, where it remains today. On arrival at the museum, the aircraft had been repainted to represent John Conroy’s ‘California Boomerang’ coast-to-coast aircraft from 195th FIS. However lately that scheme had started to look tired and along with the stripped-out cockpit, needed the attention of the restoration team from the museum.

If you can help the Museum with spare parts or assistance, email Dick Gold at:




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