49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron

History of the Unit

Before: 49th FIS from 1941 to the Sabre era:

In January 1941, 49th Pursuit Squadron (PS) was activated at Hamilton field in California under 14th Pursuit Group. Later the unit moved to March field, CA. At this time 49th PS was equipped with Curtiss P-40, Seversky P-43 and Vultee P-66 aircraft. Whilst in California the squadron converted on to Lockheed P-38 fighters.

49th PS transferred to Mills Field, San Francisco in February 1942, but did not stay long; on 1st July, they left California for shipment to England. Once in theatre, 49th PS was assigned to 6th Fighter Wing, 8th Air Force and based at Atcham in Shropshire. A further move, this time to Tafaraoui in Algeria occurred in November 1942, the unit still flying P-38s. On 9th September 1945, with the war over, 49th PS was inactivated.49th Pursuit Squadron was re-activated on 20th November 1946 at Dow Field, Bangor, Maine with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. In 1947 the unit was re-named 49th Fighter Squadron in line with the USAF re-designation of 'pursuit' aircraft to that of 'fighter'. 49th FS later received Republic F-84G Thunderjets. On 2nd October 1949 the squadron was again inactivated. Finally, in October 1952, 132nd Fighter Interceptor Sqn (FIS) at Dow AFB was returned to State control and 49th FIS was re-activated with most of the personnel from 132nd FIS. The squadron was flying Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars at this time and Commanding Officer was Maj. Reginald "Pappy" Hayes.

Enter the Sabre:

Assigned to 4711th Defense Wing and based at Dow AFB, Maine, 49th FIS was operating the F-80 Shooting Star in early 1953. The unit's first Sabre, 51-13174, was assigned from the North American factory on 2 February that year and by 7 April a total of 21 had been assigned. All of this batch were F-86F-20 models, used in the day fighter role. Almost immediately, the unit lost one of its Sabres, 51-13250 being written off after an accident on 6 May. A further machine, 51-13141, had been damaged at Dow during the previous month, but was dispatched to the Mobile Air Materiel Area for repair and later returned to the squadron. However, by the end of 1953, 49th FIS had lost five of its Sabres in accidents.


49th FIS F-86F-20 s/n 51-13273, 1954.

To make good these losses, further aircraft (again F-86F-20 models) were assigned in from other units, starting in November 1953. Some of these came directly from 56th FIS at Selfridge AFB, Michigan, as well as 18th FIS at Minneapolis; further deliveries were made into 1954 from the Warner Robins Air Materiel Area. During the summer of 1953, Maj. Al Cummings replaced Pappy Hayes as CO. In March 1954, Major Jerry Kuntz took over as the 49th FIS commanding officer; sadly, Kuntz committed suicide in June 1954 and his place was taken by Maj. John Bell.

With a large amount of aircraft now held by the squadron, a number of Sabres were transferred out for overhaul in April 1954, but with the impending arrival of F-86Ds for the unit, all of the F-86F aircraft began to be ferried out from September of that year; by this point there were 31 F-86Fs on strength. First aircraft were sent direct to Warner Robins AFB, where they were overhauled for further USAF use, but from mid-December, aircraft began to be reassigned from Dow AFB to 3595th Combat Crew Training Wing at Nellis AFB in Nevada. There they were used to train future Sabre pilots on the F-86F. By February 1955, the last few F-86Fs remaining with 49th FIS were flown out for overhaul at McClellan AFB in California, but the unit's final F-86F, 51-13129, did not depart until mid-March, when it was assigned to 3595th CCTW at Nellis.

49th FIS F-86D-50 s/n 52-4284, 1956

With the withdrawal of the F-86Fs, 49th FIS converted onto the F-86D-50, the first of this new version arriving at Dow in September 1954, though the last 'Sabre Dogs' for the unit were not assigned until May 1955. By this time, a number of modified F-86D-31 had also been assigned, though many of the latter only remained with the squadron for a few months. On 5 November 1955, 49th FIS moved its F-86Ds into Hanscom AFB in Massachussetts, reassigning concurrently to 4707th ADW control.

49th FIS F-86D-50 s/n 52-10155 at Yuma 1956.

Although 49th FIS undertook a Yuma detachment for rocket firing during February 1956, the squadron was heavily involved with the Lincoln Laboratory's Cambridge Research Center (CRC). The main task for 49th FIS at this time was in testing CRC's Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system which was being developed for Air Defense Command procurement and its airborne component was installed into F-86L aircraft (F-86Ds modified with 12-inch span extension and SAGE equipment).

As a result, many 49th FIS F-86D aircraft flew with SAGE components that represented the first phase of F-86L development. It was thus sensible that 49th FIS would become the first USAF unit to receive converted F-86L aircraft, although it seems that the first few, which arrived in early August 1956, had only received airframe modifications and did not possess the full suite of electrical equipment. Thus, when CRC installed the SAGE avionics at Hanscom these aircraft were only finally redesignated as F-86Ls in October 1956. In the meantime, during June 1956, 49th FIS had been reassigned to 32nd Air Division control. The last of the squadron's initial batch of F-86D-50 aircraft were flown out to North American's conversion line at Fresno and they in turn became F-86L aircraft.

49th FIS F-86L-60 s/n 53-785, 1958

A few incidents punctuated life once the F-86Ls arrived; Paul Scoskie, the 49th FIS historian recalls that Ray Cartmell was the crew chief on one aircraft that ruined the accident free record of the unit,

"The 49th was about to achieve a 25,000 hour accident free record when a hard landing tore off the right wing of Ray's plane, F-86L FU 254. The CO, Lt. Col Robert Damico, was furious. After that, according to Ray, they lost two more planes due to a fuel control problem."Although the burden of SAGE testing had been completed by early 1957, a number of 49th FIS F-86Ls were bailed temporarily to CRC during the year; a number of other aircraft were permanently transferred out to ANG squadrons from April 1958. On 1 August, 49th FIS was placed under the command of Boston Air Defense Sector.

49th FIS F-86L-60 s/n 53-4056, personal mount of 1/Lt R.S Douglas, 1958

Finally, on 1 July 1959, the 49th FIS tag was transferred 'less personnel and equipment' to an F-89 Scorpion unit at Griffiss AFB. Concurrently the F-86Ls at Hanscom took over the 465th FIS tag. After the Sabre:Once transferred to Griffiss AFB, 49th FIS flew the F-89J Scorpion only briefly until August 1959 when the unit received its first McDonnell F-101 Voodoo.

Aircraft assigned to 49th FIS:
F-86F-20 - 'initial' batch - direct from factory:

51-13137, 51-13141, 51-13174, 51-13208, 51-13209, 51-13216, 51-13219, 51-13222, 51-13225, 51-13241, 51-13250, 51-13251, 51-13253, 51-13256, 51-13264, 51-13271, 51-13273, 51-13275, 51-13281, 51-13282, 51-13283. (21)

F-86F-20 - 'attrition' batch:

51-13071, 51-13072, 51-13078, 51-13080, 51-13083, 51-13084, 51-13095, 51-13112, 51-13176, 51-13185, 51-13316, 51-13332, 51-13334, 51-13335, 51-13337. (15)

F-86D-50 - 'initial' batch - direct from factory:

52-4205, 52-4238, 52-4243, 52-4273, 52-4279, 52-4284, 52-4291, 52-4293, 52-4302, 52-9993, 52-10052, 52-10058, 52-10066, 52-10078, 52-10079, 52-10084, 52-10108, 52-10111, 52-10113, 52-10121, 52-10124, 52-10133, 52-10155. (23)

F-86D-31 - from conversion lines:

51-6018, 51-6033, 51-6035, 51-6075, 51-6143. (5)


50-521, 50-529, 51-2974, 51-3006, 51-3065, 52-4139, 52-4175, 52-4227, 52-4237, 52-4287, 53-679, 53-689, 53-691, 53-710, 53-727, 53-749, 53-757, 53-785, 53-815, 53-820, 53-823, 53-846, 53-864, 53-892, 53-896, 53-906, 53-924, 53-931, 53-949, 53-1004, 53-1005, 53-1040. (32)

49th FIS Accidents - F-86F:

51-13141 accident at Dow 06Apr53, repaired
51-13208 accident at Maxwell AFB 15Dec53?
51-13219 written off in accident 02Aug53
51-13222 written off in accident 03Mar54 after spin 1 mile southeast of Levant ME
51-13241 written off in accident 26Sep53
51-13250 written off in accident 06May53
51-13281 written off in accident 23Dec53, Lt Lang ejected OK and found in tree

Accidents - F-86D:

None known.

Accidents - F-86L:

'254'? wing ripped off in heavy landing - repaired?

Preserved ex-49th FIS aircraft - F-86F:

51-13283 Taiwan AF Academy Museum, Kangshan, Taiwan
51-13082 McClellan AFB collection CA

Preserved ex-49th FIS aircraft - F-86D:

51-6018 Karup AB, Denmark
51-6033 Tomakomai, Japan
52-4243 donated to Birmingham AL 24Mar61 for display
52-10052 donated to Monroe NY 22Aug63 for display
52-10133 Tyndall AFB, Florida
52-10155 New Mexico Institute of Mining Technology, Socorro NM

Preserved ex-49th FIS aircraft - F-86L:

51-3006 delivered to Hunter 01Dec60, donated to museum 19Apr61
51-5938 Appleton American Legion WI 01Nov60
52-4139 New Mexico Institute of Mining Technology, Socorro NM
53-658 Florida Museum of Military Aviation, St Petersburg
53-820 New Mexico Institute of Mining Technology, Socorro NM
53-892 Royal Thai AF Academy, Don Muang AB, Thailand
53-896 China Lake ranges CA
53-924 donated to Urbandale IA for display
53-1005 New Mexico Institute of Mining Technology, Socorro NM
53-1040 owned by AMCEP Inc., Tucson AZ



Click here to return to the website devoted to the former Duncan's Sabre Website