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14th of August 1947

We all heard the name Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier in 1947. But the name Bentleigh (Flt. Lt. Bentleigh, Royal Australian Air Force) is far less famous. Non the less he was the man that broke the sound barrier in the sky above Avalon (Victoria, Australia) for the first time over Australia in an Australian built F-86 Sabre On this day in aviation history in 1953.

The North American F-86 Sabre (Sabrejet) was the first swept-wing fighter that could counter the Soviet MIG-15 swept-wing fighter. They regularly faced off during the Korean war.

The highly popular fighter was produced in great numbers, and production would only come to an end after 9860 aircraft (all versions combined) rolled off the production lines in different parts of the world.

The F86-A flew its way into the record books for the first time in September 1948 when USAF pilot Richard L. Johnson reached a speed of 583 knots (unknown at which altitude) (1080 kph / 671 mph)/ A Canadian built F-86 Sabre (the Mk 3 version) broke the sound barrier on the 18th of May 1953 piloted by Jaqueline Cochran, making her the first woman to break the sound barrier. The F-86 was built in many different versions and the family tree below gives a nice overview although more than 30 versions were produced altogether!

A total of 29 nations used the F-86 over the course of the aircraft operational life. Italy provided 5 F-86 aircraft to the United Nations in 1963 for the UN operation in the Congo.

Currently, it is estimated that around 50 F-86 aircraft are owned (and a large part of them) flown by civil owners. With all the different variants it is difficult to give an overview of the specifications for all aircraft, so below are the specifications of an F-86F:

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1

  • Length: 37 ft 1 in (11.30 m)

  • Wingspan: 39 ft 1 in (11.91 m)

  • Height: 14 ft 1 in (4.29 m)

  • Wing area: 313.4 sq ft (29.12 m2)

  • Airfoil: root: NACA 0009-64 mod.; tip: NACA 0008.1-64 mod.[93]

  • Empty weight: 11,125 lb (5,046 kg)

  • Gross weight: 15,198 lb (6,894 kg)

  • Max takeoff weight: 18,152 lb (8,234 kg)

  • Fuel capacity: JP-4 fuel:- 437 US gallons (364 imp gal; 1,650 L) internals + 2x 200 US gallons (170 imp gal; 760 L) drop tanks

Powerplant: 1 × General Electric J47-GE-27 turbojet engine, 5,910 lbf (26.3 kN) thrust


  • Maximum speed: - 687 mph (1,106 km/h, 597 kn) at sea level at 14,212 lb (6,446 kg) combat weight - 678 mph (589 kn; 1,091 km/h) / M1.02 - 599 mph (521 kn; 964 km/h) at 35,000 ft (10,668 m) at 15,352 lb (6,964 kg) - 597 mph (519 kn; 961 km/h) at 21,148 ft (6,446 m) - 599 mph (521 kn; 964 km/h) at 22,835 ft (6,960 m)

  • Stall speed: 124 mph (200 km/h, 108 kn)

  • Range: 1,525 mi (2,454 km, 1,325 nmi)

  • Combat range: 414 mi (666 km, 360 nmi) with two 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs and 2x 200 US gallons (170 imp gal; 760 L) drop tanks

  • Service ceiling: 49,600 ft (15,100 m) at combat weight

  • Rate of climb: 9,000 ft/min (46 m/s) at sea level

  • Time to altitude: 30,000 ft (9,144 m) in 5 minutes 12 seconds

  • Lift-to-drag: 15


  • Guns: 6 X 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M3 Browning machine guns (1,800 rounds in total)

  • Rockets: a variety of rocket launchers; e.g.: 2 Matra rocket pods with 18 SNEB 68 mm rockets per pod

  • Bombs: 5,300 lb (2,400 kg) of payload on four external hardpoints, bombs were usually mounted on outer two pylons as the inner pairs were plumbed for 2 200 US gallons (760 L) drop tanks which gave the Sabre a more useful range. A wide variety of bombs could be carried (max standard loadout being two 1,000 lb bombs plus two drop tanks), napalm canisters and could have included a tactical nuclear weapon.

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