Don’t, whatever you do, confuse the original US Air Force F-86 Sabre with Australia’s variant, the CAC 27 Avon Sabre. Why? Because RAAF had by far the superior model.
Here, a bit of explaining is needed. The original Sabre began its development at the latter stage of WWII, but it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t going to meet requirements. Sent back to the drawing board, it was significantly redesigned to incorporate a swept wing and flew for the first time in October 1947. Whatever they did worked: it quickly broke the sound barrier in a shallow dive, making it – arguably –the first aircraft in the world to achieve the feat.
Fast-forward into the ’50s, and Australia handed Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) the task of building its version. Its edition, though, featured a far more powerful Rolls Royce Avon RA.7 turbojet engine, revised cockpit layout, ability to carry cannons over machine guns and a bigger fuel capacity. The result was the Avon Sabre.
The prototype CAC CA-26 Sabre Mk 30 (A94-101) flew on 3 August 1953, piloted by Flight Lieutenant Bill Scott. But less than three weeks later, Scott scaled the aircraft to 12,800 metres, slammed it into a dive and, at 11,000 metres, broke the sound barrier for the first time in this country. In total, 112 Avons were built, and for 10 years, they remained the jewel in the crown of RAAF’s fleet before being phased out and replaced by the Mirage.
HARS Aviation Museum has its own, A94-901, the second Avon Sabre built and the first after the prototype. It served in several squadrons and was part of the No. 76 Squadron RAAF Black Panthers Aerobatic Team from 1961 to 1965, based at Williamtown. It remains there on loan as part of the Boeing de Havilland collection.