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The Sabre Dance

This terrible video has brought in many emails and commentary.  This is just a sampling:  (New comments are at the bottom of this page.)
 
From Don Eastman:  

"When I was a student at the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB in 1962, our instructors show this film to the Test Pilot Classes to illustrate the effect of over rotating or pulling into too high of a angle-of-attack in century series fighters. The story of the crash was an F-100 from George AFB was making touch and go landings at Edwards AFB and did a go around. The irony of the crash was that the pilot did not die from the crash or fire, but from drowning when he barfed into his face mask. The end of the film, which was not in the video showed the cockpit sliding out of the flames and didn't burn. Some of this may be of interest to your viewers. Our modern fighters sure have changed this over rotation situation at higher speeds."


From Craig Middaugh:

"Here is some information on the F-100 Crash. The aircraft in question is F-100C 54-1907 flown by Lt. Barty Brooks on Jan 10, 1956. The landing gear would not extend and the pilot was attempting to land on a foamed runway at Edwards AFB. While trying to make a slow approach, the aircraft entered a undesirable nose high attitude and despite the application of full power, Lt. Brooks was not able to get back into the flight envelope. Commonly referred to as the "Sabre dance", the swept wing of the Super Sabre made it susceptible to control problems when it approached stall speed which cost the lives of many pilots during the operational career of this aircraft."


From Bill Dye:

In the early 70's I worked for Rockwell International on the Space Shuttle. There were lots of ex- North American guys there (obviously) and most had worked on the early jets, many at Edwards. I remember mentioning this crash that was in a few Hollywood films (the one in your video section). One guy (aero engineer on the F-100) told me that they were testing something else . . I want to say B-52 landing tests but I can't remember. They had a bunch of cameras on the end of the runway for these tests. The F-100 (chase plane) called in and had some sort of problem and wanted to land. He was advised to eject but wanted to 'bring her in'. Someone had the presence of mind to turn on the cameras that were for the other test (I think they knew that bringing her in wasn't a good idea . . . The rest is history. I have no idea if what this guy told me is true . . But it's the hear-say that I recollect.


From Wikipedia, via Matt Fay:

This article is about the uncontrollable upward movement of the F-86 Sabre. Sabre Dance is the name given to a particularly dangerous behavior of swept wings, which became apparent in the USAF with the introduction of the F-86 Sabre. When a swept wing starts to stall the outermost portions tend to stall first. Since these portions are behind the center of gravity, the overall lift force moves forward, pitching the nose of the aircraft upwards. This leads to a higher angle of attack and causes more of the wing to stall, making the problem worse. A large number of aircraft were lost to this problem on landing, leaving the plane tumbling down the runway.

The most notorious incident was the loss of F-100C-20-NA Super Sabre 54-1907 during an attempted emergency landing at Edwards AFB, California on January 10, 1956 which was caught by film cameras set up for an unrelated test. The pilot fought to retain control as he rode the edge of the flight envelope, but fell off on one wing, hit the ground, and exploded with fatal results.


From Mike Helm:

Great site!!!  This looks very similar to the training film we saw on weather days during USAF Pilot Training in 69-70. The old heads called it the "Sabre Dance." It was shown to impress upon us what happens when you run out of airspeed, altitude and ideas all at once. It was purportedly a film of a bad landing where the pilot came in too slow, tried to stop a high sink rate with a high angle of attack, realized that wasn't working, hit the burner too late to try to fly out of it, and crashed. Had to keep the airspeed up on the Hun; it was very underpowered. Word was also that the pilot survived the crash but died from asphyxiation when he vomited into his mask. Bummer. The guy right ahead of me in my class got the only F-100. I got an A-37 in which I did a Vietnam tour followed by a couple of years in the Maryland ANG before getting out. Hope this helps. Mike Helm


From Ed Lloyd:

I just viewed the film "Sabre Dance" and the comments following.............. As Paul Harvey says " now for the rest of the story".

The real truth of the story is......... the pilot flying the F-100 C was a low time in type assigned to the 1708th Ferrying Wing at Kelly AFB. The time frame was around mid 1950s. Lt. Barty Brooks, known as Barney Brooks was assigned to ferry, F-100C, 54-1907 from Palmdale to points east. The F-100C had no wing flaps and landed pretty hot comparatively speaking. Another feature of the F-100 was the nose gear strut would rotate 360 degrees when the scissors pin was removed.

When towing the aircraft it was common practice to remove the scissors pin. Lt. Brooks missed this on his preflight. On departure from Palmdale, when the gear was retracted, he got an unsafe nose gear. His wingman observed that the nose gear had rotated 90 degrees and would not go in the well. The nose gear door was open. This set the stage.

The flight elected to hop over the mountain northeast of Palmdale and land at Edwards AFB due to the long runway. Edwards was geared up for some B-47 / B-52 tests or emergency. When Lt. Brooks appeared in the area with his emergency, the runway was foamed in the center to help with the nose gear problem if it did not straighten on touchdown.

He made his approach and proceeded to slowly get behind the power curve. He was attempting to reach the foamed area on the runway and over rotated, got too slow and basically stalled the aircraft.........the rest is history. I flew the F-100C,D,F and if flown properly, it was an honest, solid flying airplane. It brought me through 320 combat sorties in VN. Now "you know the rest of the story"...........

Good Day

Ed Lloyd, Col. USAF (Ret)


More from Ed Lloyd:

Jay, I just viewed your web site, quite a surprise in seeing the various suites dedicated to specific aircraft.  If you ever expand into the jet age in a big way, suggest you consider the 'Super Sabre Suite'.

You know we flew that bird from the early 50's, through the cold war period, on into the 70's when it was finally retired. We sat nuclear alert all around the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons uploaded. Each was "one way trip" into Russia.

Not much if anything has been told about the F-100's role in deterring the Russians from taking bold steps during the cold war. They knew we were prepared to dump nuclear weapons all over their country. The F-100's would have been the first in.........never to return.

Ed Lloyd


New 4/19/06  From Bill Haynes:

"Join my compliments of your video site to all the others I'm sure you've received. The newly formed Super Sabre pilots group is enjoying your 'Sabre Dance' video, especially."

"But some of the 'expert' opinions on that incident are way off the mark. That's OK, as long as others like Col. Ed Lloyd straighten it all out at the end."

"I flew the F-100 on 187 combat missions in Vietnam and loved every minute of it (well... almost!). The statements about it being unstable or difficult to land must be from those who had only a flight or two in it, or perhaps are merely quoting hearsay."

"I was a student at the Edwards Air Force Test Pilot School when this poor guy was killed, and the story from Col. Lloyd agrees with what we were told at the time. We also heard that the pilot, who had very little time in the bird before being turned loose to ferry it, was hyperventilating (breathing hard and fast) due to stress. The F-100 had us on 100 % oxygen all the time because of possible fumes in the cockpit pressurization air, and hyperventilating 100% O two can make you pretty dizzy."

"The guys who laid the foam also contributed by starting it at the very beginning of the runway, causing this inexperienced pilot to believe he had to set it down right on the runway threshold. The saddest thing of all is this: There was no need to foam the runway nor do anything unusual, as an unlocked nose wheel on an F-100 will track just fine when you let the nose down after touch down. I also question that anyone ever told him to bail out."

William Haynes

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