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F-86 Sabres XD707 and XD730, Kinder Scout
22 July 1954. Four RAF Sabre jets from No 66 Squadron had taken part in “Exercise Dividend” practicing air defences against a simulated attack on Britain by Soviet nuclear bombers. It was a huge undertaking, the largest since the war and a total of 6 aircraft across the country were lost that day, two of them here on the northern flank of Kinder Scout in the Derbyshire Peak District.
Upon completion of the exercise the jet fighters were heading back to base at RAF Linton-on-Ouse. Split into pairs, Flying Officer James Desmond Horne led Flight Lieutenant Alan Green down through dense cloud at around 6pm.
The Sabres were seen tearing above the Kinder Reservoir, apparently unaware of the steeply rising plateau directly in front of them. It appears F/O Horne saw the slope at the last instant and pulled up sharp.
It is not known exactly what happened next, but at least one of the aircraft hit the corner of the plateau and then both jets tumbled out of control, down from the plateau edge and onto the moor below. Perhaps F/O Horne had clipped the ground and brought the other down, or Fl Lt Green, in suddenly having to react to his section leader’s wingtip going vertical, had just got too close in the haste? Or perhaps both aircraft simply failed to clear the hill side? No-one knows for sure. Their bodies and the wrecked aircraft were discovered 3 days later by a hill walker.
I once had the opportunity to speak with a former USAF Colonel who used to fly F-86 Sabres, he said generally they were about 10 feet apart when flying in formation – and that at a cruising speed of 500 mph.
Grid references from Pat Cunningham, “High Peak Air Crash Sites”
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You can follow the trail from the point of impact on the plateau down to Black Ashop Moor, there are fragments all the way down over a distance of about 1km.
SK 06926 89664 – Impact site
SK 07268 90236 – Wings, engine, landing gear.
SK 07300 90100 – Debris, electrical components
SK 07548 90390 – Engine in boggy area
Below; The impact site.
Looking back along the line the aircraft tumbled onto Black Ashop Moor from the Kinder Scout plateau. The two Sabres struck the higher ground right above the corner having pulled up sharply from the other side in an attempt to clear it. The wreckage is spread over a good kilometre from the impact site.
The crash site was not discovered until 3 days later when a passing hill walker noticed a partially opened parachute billowing in the wind.
Below; Propped up fuselage sections
Looking towards the north-eastern corner of Kinder Scout.
XD 727, another F-86 Sabre from No 66 Squadron.
© Crown copyright 2010
No 66 Squadron lost two pilots flying in formation over the area a few years earlier, when
Gloster Meteors WA791 and VZ518 crashed on Black Hill in 1951.
For a long time the engine in the lead photo was upended in the bog. It’s good to see it has been hauled out.