Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Golden Hawk Sabre to fly again

How times change (bloody link no longer works and hasn't been replacd-- MC, Aug. 15, 2009]:
The Sabre was the RCAF's last fighter armed with guns alone. 1184 Sabres [emphasis added!!!] flew with various units from 1950 until 1970, in Canada and Europe...
[Update: Photos added]


Now we'll have this one:
Aviation took off in Canada almost 100 years ago when the Silver Dart rose from frozen Bras d'Or Lake near Baddeck, N.S.

The Feb. 23, 1909, flight was the first controlled, powered flight by a heavier- than-air machine in Canada.

The kite-like craft was built by the Aerial Experiment Association, led by Alexander Graham Bell, who maintained a summer home in Baddeck.

Fifty years later, an aerobatic team known as the Golden Hawks was formed to celebrate the anniversary of the first flight, along with the 35th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The team flew gold-coloured F-86 Sabre jets [more here from the Canada Aviation Museum] and from 1959 to 1963, they were a fixture at airshows. The team was supposed to fly for only one year, but its popularity kept it going for three more, until budget cuts sealed its fate.

Now, Canadian aviation history is being revisited in the Vintage Wings of Canada hangar at the Gatineau airport.

To mark Canada's centenary of flight, along with the 50th anniversary of the Golden Hawks, Vintage Wings technicians and volunteers are re-creating a Golden Hawk F-86.

The fighter, christened Hawk One, like the organization formed to bring it to life, will be a part of air shows and flying demonstrations across Canada throughout 2009.

Project leader Lt.-Col. Steve Will, former leader of the Snowbirds aerobatic team and a CF-18 squadron commander, credits Tim Leslie with the idea of resurrecting a Sabre as a centennial project.

Mr. Leslie is a former military pilot and now a test pilot with the National Research Council. He is also vice-president and chief of operations at Vintage Wings, which was created by entrepreneur and aviation enthusiast Michael Potter to help educate Canadians about the country's flying heritage.

Mr. Leslie and Lt.-Col. Will discussed the idea for months as the concept evolved.

"Once plans were firmed up, I broached the idea to Mike during a dinner and we reached a handshake agreement over a bowl of mushroom soup," said Lt.-Col. Will.

Mr. Potter, who never envisioned adding a jet to his collection, said Hawk One "is a very special mission, a very specific mission."

"The idea was first brought to me to mark the centenary of flight in Canada and, as well, to pay tribute to the Canadians who flew Sabres -- while they are still with us," he said.

Vintage Wings became the lead sponsor of Hawk One.

"We are providing the aircraft and it will fly as a Vintage Wings aircraft, but will be leased to Hawk One for $1," Mr. Potter said.

He said the Vintage Wings technical team, headed by maintenance manager Andrej Janik, is still looking for volunteers with experience working on Sabres.

Those interested can check the volunteer page at

The Sabre was acquired in 2007 from an owner in the United States. After it was flown to the Gatineau airport, the jet was taken apart to begin its reincarnation as a Golden Hawk.

Hawk One will come together as the type of Sabre built by Canadair of Montreal -- long since absorbed by transportation giant Bombardier.

The fuselage and engine are Canadian, but the wings are from a U.S. F-86-F, because they were used to replace the original wings, which were damaged in an accident.

Civilian and military personnel have donated hundreds of hours to rebuilding the aircraft, Mr. Potter said.

Military experts have helped with such things as the ejection seat system, because only they have the expertise, he said, stressing that the work is done on the individuals' own time.

Mr. Potter said he expects the Sabre to be test flown by late summer or early fall.

On Feb. 23, 2009, Hawk One is to fly over Baddeck to mark the anniversary of the first flight and the beginning of centennial observances.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, one of five pilots who will fly Hawk One, hopes to be at the controls.

He also intends to fly the Sabre during Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa and at the Canadian National Exhibition airshow in Toronto...

The project has a proposed budget of $2.5 million, in cash and donated services. The task of raising the funds is in the hands of a team led by Bill Coyle, who can be reached at

Flying a jet fighter is expensive. The fuel bill alone for 2009's estimated 200 hours of flying will be at least $300,000.

"We're more than half way to our fundraising goal, thanks to the efforts of Bill and his team," Lt.-Col. Will said.

"(The year) 2009 is an extremely significant year for Canadian aviation," Mr. Leslie said.

"It will take a lot of time, money, and effort to properly recognize the importance of the first powered flight in Canada ... as well as to recognize the many successes Canada has enjoyed in aviation during the past 100 years," he said.

"I certainly hope others will share in Michael Potter's passion to recognize this historic event and support this endeavour."

Hawk One will make several appearances with the Snowbirds.

"We hope to have a heritage flight -- with the Snowbirds, Hawk One, the demonstration F-18 Hornet and a Tutor painted in Centennaires colours," Lt.-Col. Will said. The Golden Centennaires team was formed in 1967 to mark Canada's centennial.

Hawk One also will make solo appearances between big airshows...
Disclosure: I was born on the day the Sabre first flew (as the XP-86); been a fan ever since :).

Update: CL-13 Sabre Mk. V in Golden Hawk livery at the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum (h/t to Jack MacLeod).


Blogger arctic_front said...

Hmmmm, Expected budget of 2.5 million.

Canadian museum of human rights in Winnipeg,
150 million and climbing.... most of which is Taxpayer's money and they haven't even broken ground yet.

Where would you like your tax dollars spent?

I'm just askin'

10:20 p.m., May 21, 2008  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

You know where my vote would go, Arctic Front...

10:50 a.m., May 22, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh to hear the sweet sound of a Gold Sabre roaring overhead . . . and such wonderful memories of air shows at Rockliffe as a kid.

It will be wonderful.

Don't get me going on where my tax dollars are spent once they reach Wonderland on the Rideau.

11:20 a.m., May 22, 2008  
Blogger Lemon said...

Cool - when I was a kid, I was one of those who unpacked the old de-commissioned Sabres for their reassembly and shipment to the USA for an ignoble end - as target drones.
I wonder if any of the old mechanics who kept them in the air are still living.

1:40 p.m., May 22, 2008  
Blogger wheatie said...

The Golden Hawks "dive-bombed" our elementary school in the '60's!!
Our one room-eight grade rural school was regularly used by the Hawks as a target for low flying entries and rapid ascent skyward trickery. Beautiful birds. Our sole teacher, when hearing the Hawks approach, would always order us on the ground or under our desks, away from the windows!!! We had defacto recesses very very frequently. We loved it!!. Unfortunately at least one parent complained and it was never to happen again. Our school was a few miles from Mountain View's mothballed air base, in Prince Edward County in eastern Ontario.

PS to "arctic front" -Virtually all of the Cdn HR Museum's first $150 million was from private donations. The gov't was not involved until serious money was already on the books.

1:47 p.m., May 22, 2008  
Blogger Chris in Ontario said...

Pic there of the one @ CWH in Hamilton.


12:19 p.m., May 23, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

I don't remember the year, but the "Golden Centennaires and the Red Knight" entertained in the Lakehead (maybe it was 1967?).
The Red Knight flew a "widow-maker(?)" and the centennaires were the equivalent to the snowbird's aircraft.
A local enthusiast flew a "Spitfire".

3:23 p.m., May 23, 2008  
Blogger Ted said...

Art...the year was in the early 60's possibly 1963...the Spit pilot was John Patterson and the crowd was entertained by the Golden Hawks.

6:58 p.m., October 05, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was there (Rockcliff) for both the '63 and '64 shows. Noteworthy that the Hawks' planted their Sabre 5's on that 3,500ft. runway after the show - IN TRAIL! They taxied up to where we were before shutting down. At the '64 show I planted myself on the tail of the Mossie (just a squirt of 9 years old) and enjoyed the "Goldielocks" T-6 (errr..Harvard) team.

11:21 p.m., January 19, 2009  

Post a Comment

<< Home