Akary’s Sabre to make UK flying display debut at Midlands Air Festival

The Midlands Air Festival have announced that Europe’s only F-86 Sabre will be joining the line up for their 2024 event.

The aircraft in question is owned by Frédéric Akary and based in Avignon, France. It is an ex-German Air Force CL-13B Sabre Mk.6 – a re-engined Canadian licence-built variant which is often considered to be the pinnacle of the F-86 family in terms of power and performance. Formerly operated as a civilian warbird in the USA, it was shipped to Europe in 2019 but has rarely left France since then; its sole previous trip to the UK was in 2022, where it appeared on static display at the Royal International Air Tattoo.

This will be the first time that a Sabre has flown at a British airshow since Golden Apple’s Duxford-based F-86 was sold to the USA in 2014.

Since its first edition in 2018, the Midlands Air Festival has made a name for itself securing rare display items from abroad – particularly classic jets. Headline-grabbing appearances included the first air display by P-47D Thunderbolt “Nellie” after it was repatriated to the UK in 2018, a rare flying display by a Folland Gnat in 2019, a Belgian OV-10B Bronco in 2022, the first full flying display in eight years Vampire WZ507, also in 2022, and the first post-Shoreham overland British airshow appearance by the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight at the 2023 edition, when their J-35 Draken headlined the final day of the show.

Sadly, the hotly-anticipated Draken display was cut short due to air traffic control hold-ups enroute to Ragley Hall, leaving the aircraft short of fuel by the time it started its performance. The organisers have therefore booked the Draken again for the third and final day of the 2024 Midlands Air Festival; combined with the Sabre, this immediately makes the show one of the most keenly-watched events of the 2024 UK season, with organisers hinting that there are more to come. “The air display has more jets taking part next year than any other year,” they promised on Facebook, with “more exciting news to come in the new year.”

Due to restrictions on swept-wing jets at overland airshows, introduced in the wake of the 2015 Shoreham Airshow crash, both jets will likely be limited to non-aerobatic displays.

The Midlands Air Festival will take place from the 31st May-2nd June 2024 at the Ragley Hall estate near Alcester. The Sabre will fly at the show on the 1st and 2nd of June, while the Draken will perform on the 2nd of June only, in what the organisers are branding “Super Sunday”.