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North American F-86 Sabre Owners’ Workshop Manual

by Mark Linney, Zenith Press, Minneapolis, Minn., 2011, $28

The legendary F-86 Sabre faced off with the MiG-15 along the Yalu River in one of the few purely fighter-versus-fighter campaigns in history. The story of how American Sabre pilots overcame initial disadvantages to achieve a resounding victory has been told, but until now readers haven’t had a easy-to-use guide to the inner workings of the most numerous American jet fighter, which became one of the best-loved warplanes.

This book offers a detailed look inside the Sabre, beginning with the splendid cutaway drawing by Mike Badrocke that graces its cover. The publishers call this volume “an insight into owning, flying and maintaining the legendary Cold War jet fighter,” but in reality it is a book for modelers. The 250 color and black-and-white photos include some rare images, such as the straight-wing XP-86 mock-up, and a lot of close-up shots of the workings of the F-86A.

To give us these intimate glimpses of the mechanical workings of the Sabre, this manual concentrates on the day fighters in the series (F-86A, E and F), although not the later F-86H, which is in many respects a different airplane. As a subject for much of the text and most of the photos, Mark Linney chose F-86A serial no. 48-178, operated by Golden Apple Operations at Duxford and seen in 25 to 30 airshows a year, mostly in Britain. Number 48-178 is typical of the early Sabres that went to Korea to confront MiGs in December 1950. Today it is reportedly the world’s oldest airworthy jet.

Linney, who flew Harriers and Tornados in the RAF, drives an Airbus A340-300 today, in addition to piloting jets, including the F-86A, at airshows. In contributing to this series of manuals, which covers topics as disparate as the Douglas DC-3 and the Tiger tank, he does a good job of telling and an even better job of showing: Literally every panel of 48-178 is removed for the camera, revealing the Sabre in a state of undress such as never seen before. Apart from putting 48- 178 under a microscope, the photos cover Sabre development and the Korean War.

From describing a “hung start” to chronicling an air battle, this is a rich and detailed look at an aerial legend. Less satisfying are appendices about surviving Sabres and other variants such as the F-86D interceptor—add-ons that are a little too rudimentary to be as helpful as the main text.


Originally published in the September 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.