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Progress on the Sarnia Sabre Restoration Project

By Mark Seibutis, EAA 670580

It's been a few months since we announced our project to restore the venerable Canadair F86 Mk. 5 Sabre - Golden Hawk that has stood guard over the Royal Canadian Air Force Memorial in Germain Park, Sarnia, Ontario. Now that crops are planted, weather has warmed, and equipment (crane) has become available, we're back at it.

Volunteer Rick West loosening those bolts

We have been working on separating the wings from the centre section. As you can see, there are lots of hex head bolts to be removed (120) with just enough room to turn them one flat at a time while heating the barrel nuts with a torch.

Some had to be eventually cut with the torch (approximately 12) as the bolt heads split and were too far gone from being exposed to the weather for 40 years. Needless to say, it took two full days of work for the crew to remove them all and separate the wings. This job would have been impossible for us without the crane.

The centre section has now moved closer to home so we can refurbish it and repair and modify the mounting system to make her easier to service when on the pedestal - not to mention bird and critter proof. We also had a farm wagon donated that needed some work so we could modify it to a Sabre part mover and give support during body work. The fellows got that fixed and ready quickly. You can see it in the background in this shot of the centre section finally being lifted clear.

Others have been working on fundraising and finding sponsors of materials, etc. We gave the parts the once-over and feel confident she has plenty more good years ahead of her. When we finish the centre section mods and corrosion proofing, the centre section will go back under the forward fuselage section, and then that assembly will get mounted on the wagon. Then we can get started on fuselage body work and installing the new canopy.

The volunteers working on this part of the project were myself, Rick West (Zulu hat), Dennis Smith, and Jim Blackman (crane owner/operator). Although older, the farm wagon is an adjustable spread type and will be perfect for our modifications. It was donated by Bruce Bond. I wish I could think of a way to describe the effort required to get those bolts out without destroying them and then the relief as each came loose.

Although the job is putting the talents of a great many people to use, we are using Rick's equipment maintenance and aircraft building background to guide the overall effort. You can see him turning wrenches on the bolts. Also, you can see the old pylon mount in the bottom of the hole in the centre section. The steel plate it was made of contributed to the corrosion on the bolt barrel nuts - that and the fact that the fairings which covered the upper bolt slots were missing (probably left off 40 years ago).

Centre section separated

The fact that this plane is one of the original Golden Hawks team aircraft makes saving her that much more important. Try as we might, we won't be able to finish her for this year's Battle of Britain ceremony for Sarnia's 403 Wing RCAFA, over which the Hawk has proudly stood guard for 40 years. We are now aiming solidly for September 15, 2014, which will also be the city of Sarnia's Centennial Celebration.

To volunteer, donate, or enquire about progress, you can contact me via e-mail.


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