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16 september 1958

After yesterday's look at the birth of the Cessna Citation, today we look at another mid-20th-century business jet. It was on this day in 1958 the North American Sabreliner (Later known as the Rockwell Sabreliner) made its first flight.

The North American Aviation Sabreliner prototype, N4060K, during its first flight

The Sabreliner had the (less known) model number NA-265 assigned to it. The name Sabreliner was chosen for the aircraft due to the similarity of the wing and tail to the North American F-86. After a 4 1/2 year test program the GE YJ85 turbojet-powered Na-265 received its type certificate. The development o the aircraft was not just as a business jet, it was also in response to the UTX design request from the US Airforce. The UTX program called for an aircraft capable of performing the personnel transport as well as a trainer for Air Force pilots on non-flying postings, to remain proficient.

In its passenger transport role, it had a crew of two pilots and space for four passengers in a "club seating" arrangement The military version was designated as the T-39A, identical to the NA-265, except its engines, they were P&W JT12A-8 turbojet engines.

North American Aviation T-39A-1-NA, 62-4478, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

During the certification of the civil version, the US Air Force ordered the T-39a-1NA in production, this slightly bigger production version of the civil test aircraft had a capacity of carrying up to 7 passengers. For the civilian market, 10 different variants of the Sabreliner would be developed.

Some were only made as an experimental platform with one airframe produced, while other versions made it to full production. Differences ranged from improved engines, higher cabin, more cabin windows to a version with a supercritical wing.

Sabreliner 75, displaying higher cabin roof than earlier variants

The T-39 series evolved into 12 different variants, all with a mission-specific configuration. This range from a US Navy transport version to a US Air Force Electronic Warfare trainer for F-105G Wild Weasel crews. With 22 different versions the general specifications for the Sabreliner, either in its military or civil field of operation differ a lot. Below is an overview of the specifications of the Sabreliner 75 (a.k.a. Sabreliner 80). One of the last civil versions to be developed;


  • Exterior Height: 17 ft 3 in

  • Wing Span: 44 ft 8 in

  • Length: 47 ft 2 in


  • Rate of Climb: 4500 fpm

  • Normal Cruise: 489 kts

  • Economy Cruise: 417 kts

Power Plant

  • Engines: 2

  • Engine Mfg: General Electric

  • Engine Model: CF700-2D2 4200 lbs take off thrust


  • Cabin Volume: 444 cu ft

  • Door Height: 3 ft 9 In

  • Door Width: 2 ft 3 In

  • Internal Baggage: 47 cu ft

  • Passengers: 8-10

Operating Weights

  • Max T/O Weight: 22800 Lb

  • Operating Weight: 13600 Lb

  • Payload Useful: 9200 Lb

  • Max Payload: 1820 Lb


  • Normal Range: 1985 nm

  • Max Range: 1897 nm

  • Service Ceiling: 45000 ft


  • Takeoff Distance: 4420 ft

  • Landing Distance: 2525 ft

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