Former 167th Airlift Wing Fighter Jet Finds New Home

  • Published
  • By Sherree Grebenstein
  • 167th Airlift Wing
FRONT ROYAL, Va. - A F86-H Sabre Jet flown more than 45 years ago at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg has a new home.
The renovated fighter jet is now on display in front of the Front Royal-Warren County Airport in Virginia. On Sept. 13, 2008, a brief dedication ceremony was held for the F86-H as former West Virginia Air National Guardsmen based in Martinsburg gathered for it.
Al Ogden, who retired from the 167th Airlift Wing as a major in June of 1969, piloted the fighter jet from 1958 until mid-1961 as a young first lieutenant. Ogden traveled more than 1,500 miles from his home in Columbine Valley, Colo., to speak at the dedication.
Ogden credited Cecil Artrip, the crew chief assigned to the aircraft with spearheading its restoration efforts. As crew chief for the aircraft, Artrip was responsible for its maintenance and operational readiness.
"He did a lot of the restoration of the airplane," Ogden said. "I think it's his labor of love."
The names of the pilot, 1st Lt. A. Ogden and crew chief, SSgt. C.F. Artrip, are stenciled on the left side of the canopy of the one-seat fighter jet which rests on 2 foot by 2 foot concrete slabs which are four inches thick. The concrete slabs are on a circular pad along with brick and sand. Red, white and blue bricks circle the base of the display and 12 solar lights encompass the 40 foot by 40 foot perimeter.
Artrip, who lives in Hanover, Pa., estimated that he's spent about $10,000 out of his own pocket over four years restoring the plane to its former condition.
"This is one of the fastest airplanes ever made," said the former crew chief, noting that the F86-H Sabre Jet was considered in its time to be the "most powerful."
"It was a dream to take care of it because so few things went wrong with it," Artrip said.
Adding: "It's just too much memory to let go to waste."
Ogden told those gathered for the ceremony that the fighter jet was originally given to the local fire department in Front Royal, Va., by Don Moyer, who had restored it after acquiring it from the military. However, it was later vandalized and ended up "buried in the woods."
Kenneth Evans, a retired senior master sergeant from the 167th Airlift Wing, who now lives in Winchester, reportedly discovered the fighter jet in the woods. Ogden said the former crew chief helped retrieve it. Evans would later help with its restoration efforts as well.
"It needs to be seen," said Donald Leight, a former senior master sergeant and crew chief at the 167th Airlift Wing who also assisted in the restoration efforts.
"They were like shiny silver dollars," Artrip recalled of the F86-H Sabre Jet.
And just how did the one now on display in Front Royal, Va., get the nickname of Howdy Doody?
Fellow Guardsmen thought Ogden looked too young at 25 to fly the fighter jet not to mention that he also bore a slight resemblance.
During the time assigned to #22044, the former 167th Airlift Wing pilot estimated he logged 270 hours in Howdy Doody.
"This here plane is beautiful and it never fired a shot in anger," Ogden told those gathered.