Former pilot flew Sidney’s landmark jet

During the early 1960s, powerful new jets were being flown in Canada and overseas by the military

Saanich’s Dennis Jaques flew the exact F-86 Sabre that sits atop a pole on Fourth Street in Sidney.

During the early 1960s, powerful new jets were being flown in Canada and overseas by the military after decades of propeller aircraft that once dominated the sky. One pilot of such aircraft recalls high-stakes flying in Europe during the Cold War, passing so close to Soviet planes that one might have been able to wave hello.

You can see one of those jets – the F-86 Sabre – on display outside the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Association building in downtown Sidney. In fact, that jet aircraft was once a training aircraft and was flown by some of the best pilots the air force could muster.

One of those pilots is Saanich’s Dennis Jaques. He actually flew the Sabre that now sits atop a pole, a static display, in Sidney. Jaques and a group of his pilot colleagues gathered in Victoria this past weekend for a reunion of F-86 aviators. For him, when he discovered that he had actually flown the aircraft on display in Sidney, it brought back a lot of memories.

“I was in Sidney a while back and saw the number on the plane – 060,” Jaques told the PNR. “I checked in at the (ANAVETS) office and asked if it was a made-up number. Nope, they said, it was the real number.”

It was the same Sabre jet that Jaques flew during his training Chatham, New Brunswick in 1959.

Jaques, who lives in the Royal Oak area of Saanich these days, attended Royal Military College in Ontario in 1955. After he graduated in ’59, he was sent to Gimli, Manitoba for conversion training – from prop aircraft to jets.

“I started in Harvards and Chipmunks,” he said of the prop-driven aircraft he flew while at RMC.

He learned jet engines and how to fly them on T-33 aircraft in Manitoba. He would eventually be selected to train on what was then the state-of-the-art jets of their day, the F-86 Sabre.

“It was one of the best,” he recalled about the plane, noting that Canadian pilots of the day won awards among their allied forces using the Sabre.

It was a unique aircraft, he said. It was a fighter jet that used both machine guns and missiles – one of the last modern jets to rely almost exclusively on its cannons. These days, Jaques said, most jets rely on missiles to do the work.

After training in New Brunswick, Jaques said he was posted to 1 Fighter Wing in France. It was a stressful time, he said. The U.S. and the Soviets has squared off over Cuba and then, while he was in Europe, the Soviets cut off Berlin. The Berlin Crisis, said Jaques, saw the west airdrop supplies to people in the divided German city.

“We flew air combat patrols at 50,000 feet along the border of West Germany,” he said. “And the MiGs (Soviet jet aircraft) flew on the other side.”

He said he and his unit spent the entire summer of 1962 on alert – they had to be on the base, just in case.

During that time, he said neither side crossed the line, and there were no shots fired. A good thing, considering that a single incident could have turned the Cold War hot.

Jaques praised the Sabre for its performance at the time. It was a U.S.-built plane, modified with a Canadian engine. He said that allowed the jet to fly higher and faster – something he and his fellow pilots were very proud of. It would eventually be replaced by the CF-104.

Following his tour in Europe, Jaques was posted back in country to Ottawa for administrative work. He would eventually find himself with material command, working with computers. Jaques said he recalled the IBM computers they used at the time – all with 40K memory.

“You had to be very efficient when programming,” he laughed.

Jaques would retire from the military in the mid-1960s and would eventually retire for good in Saanich. Yet, he recalls his pilot days fondly and takes part in the odd Sabre pilots reunion, like this past weekend in Victoria. They happen every three to five years, he said, depending on who is doing the organizing. The previous one, he said, was held in Edmonton. They tell stories about their flying days – some true, some not-so-true. But there’s always someone there to set the story-teller straight.

“It’s a good remembrance,” Jaques said. “I tell my grandchildren when they ask, that flying the Sabre was like driving a Formula One race car.”



Just Posted

Cycling Without Age raises funds for program

Free rides for seniors coming to Sidney

SidFest raises $1,500 for youth clinic

For the sixth year, SidFest has been an opportunity for talented high… Continue reading

Tanner’s Books owner is running for Sidney mayor

Cliff McNeil-Smith says managing growth is his top priority

Feast of Fields settles in for the summer of 2018

Vancouver Island Feast set for Kildara Farms in North Saanich on Aug. 26

CREST technology goes digital

System handles one call every four seconds

New stage highlight of Brentwood Bay Festival

Peninsula Country Market vendors and music accompany start of summer celebration

5 fun things to do this weekend in Greater Victoria

Car Free YYJ, family fishing, Sooke bluegrass, walk for cancer and a mascot’s birthday

Sidney painter also a preacher

Patrick Chu opens new studio; off to China this month

B.C. NHL prospect expected to make ‘full recovery’ after incident in Calgary

Jordy Bellerive was injured in a reported house fire Saturday night

BC Lions defensive back Marcell Young levels streaker in home opener

Young hit the fan near one of the 45-yard lines

Police: Taxi driver who hit 8 Moscow pedestrians fell asleep

Two Mexican World Cup fans were among those hit

B.C. VIEWS: Orphans of our urban drug culture neglected again

Child advocate Bernard Richard leaves B.C. with harsh message

From marijuana beer to pot cookies, Canadian companies creating cannabis edibles

Manufacturers think that edibles will do well with users who don’t want to smoke or vape

Privacy lawyer warns against victim blaming in recent sextortion scams

Perpetrators get sexual photos of the victim and threaten to share them with friends and families

Most Read