F-86 plane moved to SJAFB for refurbishing
By Matt Caulder
Published in News on February 20, 2014 1:46 PM
The F-86 Sabre, which sat behind the Goldsboro Police Department, is hauled up North Center Street in downtown Goldsboro Thursday morning as the aircraft makes its journey to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base for renovations.
The moving of the F-86 Sabre fighter jet from the Goldsboro Police Department to Seymour Johnson Air Force base in the wee hours of the morning made for quite a spectacle as the plane, loaded on a flatbed trailer, made its way down Ash Street.
The jet will be refurbished at the base and then returned to downtown, although an exact new location has yet to be determined.
The last time the jet was moved in 1993 it was rolled from Herman Park on its own landing gear to its site outside the police offices, where it has sat for decades.
A convoy of police cars and Goldsboro Public Works vehicles set out at 2 a.m., traveling down Center Street to Ash Street before heading down to Piedmont Airline Road and on to the base. Three police cars drove ahead of the plane, with two bringing up the rear.
The plane, traveling at about two miles per hour, arrived at the base fence at 4:30 a.m.
In the driver's seat for the move was Columbus "Junior" Taylor, a 30-year veteran with the city of Goldsboro.
"It's just another day at work," he said. "It's not the heaviest thing I've ever driven, but it's definitely the widest."
With a 37-foot wingspan, moving the jet down what became a two-lane road at times proved no small feat.
Public Works Director Jose Martinez credits planning ahead for the smooth ride.
"It couldn't have gone any better," he said. "We went out and we measured three or four times. We knew the corner from Center to Ash would be tight and we backed up a couple times and made it through."
During the course of the trip only two non-powered overhead wires had to be lifted to allow the tail to slip under them.
The top of the tail of the jet was about 14 feet off the ground.
"The joke was that a squirrel had run across the first line because we thought we were clear all the way down," Martinez said. "So when it happened again it was that squirrel's cousin. The guys were out there laughing and joking and that is always a good sign when you are working and still laughing."
City Manager Scott Stevens rolled out of bed to watch the show.
"You know, I just figured on coming out to see what was going on," Stevens said. "But once you're out here looking at it, it's hard to leave."
A trailer was positioned alongside the base fence at the end of Piedmont Airline Road and the plane was lifted over by a crane to be moved into a hangar, where it will be refurbished by members of the 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron.
Two straps were placed under the belly of the plane and attached to a crane which lifted the jet.
Guide-ropes were attached to the three wheels of the plane to maneuver it into position to be lowered onto the waiting trailer.
The plane touched down safely on the base's trailer just after 7 a.m. and was strapped in before continuing on to the hangar.
While most people were tucked away in their beds the Combs family was out in force to see the plane rolling down Ash Street, for the second time.
"We wanted to come out and see it again," Cindy Combs said. "We saw it coming back from Piedmont Airline Road last time and wanted to watch it again. We read about it in the paper. It's our heritage."
Charles Combs Jr. had an idea for a new location for the plane as well.
"They can put it in our yard," he said.
Mrs. Combs agreed, saying, "Right next to the flag pole."
The plane will most likely return to the police department despite plans to expand the complex, Stevens said.
"With the complex at least a year away we'll most likely put it back at the complex and then decide where to put it later once we begin on that expansion," he said. "I could see it being at the multi-sports complex coming up or on display somewhere where more drivers would see it coming in."
Prior to the jet's being on display at the Police Department, it was on display at Herman Park. It was loaned to the city by the Air Force through Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1970.