Farewell to Friends – We Shall Remember Them

Posted by | January 30, 2011 | History, news, RCAF Golden Hawks, Sabre Pilots | No Comments

By Dan Dempsey, Hawk One Team Leader

As Hawk One has traversed Canada over the past two years our team has had the privilege of meeting two special groups of people – the RCAF veterans who flew and worked on the F-86 during the heydays of the Sword along with hundreds of youngsters whose wide-eyed stares have marveled at the beauty of Hawk One. Watching the jet fly has set many a young mind racing with imagination, but for the veterans it has been fifty year-old memories that have been rekindled. They too were once young…

It is a sad reality that time stands still for no one, not even the steely-eyed fighter pilot, and so it is that we have had to recently bid a fond farewell to two stalwart members of the Sabre fraternity – Don Myles and Jim McCombe. Both had a nostalgic connection to Hawk One.

Don Myles

Having joined the RCAF in 1952, Don Myles was a young fighter pilot on 441 (F) Sqn when a certain Sabre 5 arrived at No.1 Fighter Wing in Marville, France in early 1955. Bearing the RCAF serial number 23314, this was the aircraft destined to become Hawk One 54 years later. Don was among the first pilots to fly 314, doing so for the first time on March 15, 1955. He would do so numerous times over the next 16 months until the aircraft was replaced by the Sabre 6 and repatriated to Canada. In all Don would complete four operational tours in Europe during the Cold War, including a tour as commanding officer of 441 Tac (F) Sqn on the CF-104 Starfighter. In retirement in Victoria, BC, he was a regular tour guide at the BC Aviation Museum, conducting his last tour only a few weeks before he passed away on November 16, 2010.

F/O Don Myles, budding fighter pilot circa 1953. The RCAF took delivery of 1,180 Sabres between 1951 and 1956, initially manning 12 squadrons in Europe.

Sabre 23314, the RCAF fighter destined to become Hawk One. The jet served 16 years in the RCAF, including as a training aircraft for the Golden Hawks in 1962-1963.

Don reunited with an old friend in Comox in April 2009, Sabre 23314 rechristened as Hawk One.

Jim McCombe

Jim McCombe joined the RCAF in the early fifties fresh out of high school and following conversion onto the F-86 at RCAF Stn Chatham, N.B. found himself posted to No. 3 Fighter Wing in Zweibrucken, West Germany where he served on 434 (F) Sqn. Subsequently returning to Chatham to instruct at the OTU, he was destined to become a charter member of the RCAF Golden Hawks aerobatic team when he was selected by team leader S/L Fern Villeneuve to fly the right wing position on the team in February 1959. He spent three years on the team, his last as team leader in 1961. All told, Jim put in over 900 hours of aerobatic flying on the Sabre and flew in over 200 Golden Hawk airshows. He concluded his 23 year Air Force career as a search and rescue pilot in his hometown of Summerside, P.E.I.  Jim later spent 12 years with the Department of Transport and finished his flying career as chief pilot of Atlantic Airways where he continued to motivate young people to fly. Jim passed away in Halifax on January 7, 2011.

Jim McCombe’s Golden Hawk portrait photo in 1959

The famous shot of the Golden Hawks inverted over Niagara Falls on September 29, 1959. Lead – S/L Fern Villeneuve; Right Wing – F/L Jim McCombe; Left Wing – F/L Ed Rozdeba; Slot – F/L Ralph Annis.

Three of the orginal Golden Hawks (Ralph Annis, Bill Stewart and Jim McCombe) gathered at the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum in Feb 2009 to be briefed on the Hawk One project.

Jim (second from left) signing autographs with former Golden Hawks George Miller, Jack Frazer and Ralph Annis during their reunion in April 2009 at Comox marking the 100th anniversary of powered flight in Canada and 50th anniversary of the formation of the Golden Hawks.

Don Myles and Jim McCombe are characteristic of the hundreds of young men in the RCAF who stood alert during the early days of the Cold War in Europe. They loved to fly and served their country with distinction. Both were also very strong supporters of the Hawk One program.

We are proud to have known these fine gentlemen … and honoured to carry on their legacy. After all, they too once “danced the skies on the laughter-silvered wings” of an F-86 Sabre.

Per Ardua Ad Astra

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr

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