On the playground of Palm View Park in West Covina, California,
there is a swept-wing jet that local children have been enjoying for many years. I myself flew many imaginary missions there
as a child in the 1960s. It wasn't until many years later that I realized that this was an actual aircraft--
The F-86 Sabre was the first swept-wing jet fighter. It carried a single
pilot and was designed by North American Aviation of Inglewood, California. The F-86D was an all-weather interceptor version
of the famous F-86A. The F-86A demonstrated it's superiority over the MiG 15 during the Korean War. For much of the 1950s,
the F-86D was the backbone of United States mainland defense. The F-86D Sabre set two world's speed records. The first
was 698.505 miles per hour on November 19, 1952. The second was 715.697 miles per hour on July 16, 1953. Both records
occurred at a 3-km course at Salton Sea, California.
The Sabre at Palm View Park is a F-86D-40-NA Sabre. It is serial number
52-3784. Three hundred of this D-40 series were produced under the fourth contract between the government and North American
Aviation (901 NA-190, Specification NA51-710A, contract AF-6202) dated March 6, 1952. Total California built F-86 Sabres of
all types numbered 5035 aircraft. The United States total (including California) was 6210 aircraft. West Covina's F-86D
Sabre currently has the tail number 6303 painted on it. The original tail number was 23784--along with FU-784 near the nose.
The City of West Covina is required to send 35mm photos to the Aircraft Disposition Office at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona
on a yearly basis to "ensure the condition of the static display properly represents the United States Air Force."
Sabre 52-3784 was first assigned to the 326th Fighter Interceptor Squadron
at Grandview AFB in Kansas City, Missouri. This squadron was part of the 328th All-Weather Fighter Wing. The longest portion
of the Sabre's flight career was spent at Grandview. During this period the aircraft was sent to Fresno, California for upgrades
under "Project Pullout". Most notably, the F-86Ds had a drag chute fitted to shorten landing distances. Also, several technical
repairs and upgrades were taken care of at this time--including a complete IRAN--inspect and repair as needed. In May
1957, the 326th converted to F-102As. The Sabre was next transferred to the 13th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in Sioux City,
Iowa, which was part of the 53rd All-Weather Fighter Wing. The Air Defense Command began F-86 phase out in 1957. After just
a few months in Sioux City, Sabre 52-3784 was flown in for storage at McClelland AFB in Sacramento, California.
After a year in storage, the Sabre found new life with the Air National
Guard. In December 1958, it was assigned to the 196th Fighter Squadron (ANG) at Ontario, California. This squadron was one
of the first to receive Sabres in 1953. It was also the very last to give them up, converting to F-102As in early 1965. It's
quite likely that Sabre 52-3784 occasionally flew over the very park where it would eventually come to be displayed.
In early 1961, the West Covina Junior Jaycees were planning several improvements
to Palm View Park. They received a generous offer from North American Aviation of manpower and equipment to transport the
F-86D Sabre from Ontario International Airport to West Covina. Arriving at West Covina, it would be presented to the city
by the United States Air Force and the Jaycees. The Jaycees cut through substantial red tape in obtaining the plane and securing
the proper permits and permission to place it in the park. The Sabre's electronics and jet engine (General Electric
J47-GE-17B) were removed in anticipation of the move. In May 1961, the Sabre was finally on its way. It's final trip was by
road--compliments of the North American Aviation transportation department.
The aircraft took a circuitous drive from Ontario through the cities of
Pomona, Walnut, Industry, La Puente, and then finally arriving in West Covina. Just imagine what a sight the aircraft must
have been traveling along those Southern California roadways! Finally at Palm View Park, the jet unceremoniously got stuck
in the soft dirt, but was soon placed in it's final home. For more than four decades, this aircraft has delighted countless
children. My hope is it will continue to do so for many, many years!
Palm View Park F-86D Sabre Jet
N 34° 04.954' W 117° 55.085'
1340 E. Puente Avenue
West Covina, California
In service to our country.
The above photo of
the Palm View Park Sabre Jet was taken in July 1955 during a rocket meet in Yuma, Arizona.
Special thanks to Elliott P.
Smith, former 1st Lt USAF and Airborne Electronics Officer of the 326 FIS at Grandview AFB.
Palm View Park F-86D Sabre Jet circa 1962. Click the photos to enlarge.