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B.C airforce vet makes surprise reunion with jet he trained on in 1959

F-86 Sabre jet outside ANAVETS in Sidney holds special for Saanich resident Dennis Jaques
The F-86Sabre that sits outside ANAVETS Unit 302 was flown by Saanich resident Dennis Jaques.

After decades of flying propeller aircraft, the 1960’s saw the dawn of the jet era.

One of those jets – the F-86 Sabre – was flown by pilots like Dennis Jaques. They were the best pilots Canada could muster, and some recalled memories of their high-stakes flights in Europe during the Cold War.

“We flew so close to Soviet planes that we could have waved hello to their pilots,” said Jaques.

So, it was quite the surprise when Jaques, who hailed from the Vancouver Island community of Saanich, gathered with other F-86 aviators recently and learned that the very aircraft that he had trained on was now sitting on display outside the local Army Navy & Airforce Veterans In Canada museum in nearby Sidney.

"I was in Sidney a while back and saw the number on the plane - 060," Jaques said. "I checked in at the (ANAVETS Unit 302) 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.

The plane was originally located at Royal Roads University but, in 1972, it was moved to Sidney because of potential salt spray damage at its original location.

It now soars over a Sherman Tank and a four-inch naval gun, which are also on display along with a handsome memorial bronze statue honouring vets.

"It was one of the best," said Jaques. “It was a unique aircraft … 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 most jets rely on missiles to do the work.”

"I tell my grandchildren when they ask, that flying the Sabre was like driving a Formula One race car."