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PAF s' Aerobatics Profile
Sixty-Four Sabres

After 1956, the date of this annual ceremony changed to 23rd March. By that date in 1957, the PAF was a little beyond halfway into its conversion onto the newly acquired Sabres, and was in possession of 64 of these fighters out of an expected total of 100. The 23 March 1957 fly-past was a memorable event in that it comprised all 64 Sabres - a sensational demonstration of the unbounded zeal and determination which the maintenance and flying personnel brought to the fulfillment of any assignment given to them.

While pursuing its operational conversion and consolidation programme in 1956 and 1957, the PAF harnessed the experience which 11 Squadron had gained in formation aerobatics on Attackers, to form the 'Falcons', a four-man Sabre team. Around this nucleus an enlarged seven-man team was soon developed with the addition of pilots from 15 Squadron. For a period of a year and a half, this group came close to becoming a standing team and performed for a host of VIPs invited by the government to visit the Mauripur-based air force units.

Towards the end of 1957, Air Headquarters conceived the first major air display on American equipment and scheduled it to coincide with a proposed visit by King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan on 2 February 1958. While brisk preparations were underway to develop a variety of aerobatic and fire power events for the planned 'extravaganza', the centre piece was to be a formation loop on Sabres. The largest aerobatic formation till then had been a nine-man diamond flown by the RAF's famed No 111 (Treble One) Squadron on their Hunters. The PAF set itself the ambitious goal of the next larger complete diamond formation i.e. 16 aircraft. The 'Falcons' were augmented by a selection of pilots from all the other F-86 squadrons located at Mauripur and after several weeks of progressive training, the team was ready for the loop. Considering the unprecedented nature of the undertaking, there was more than a small measure of good luck in that stage being reached without a mid air collision.

The overall display itself was typical of the series of progressively larger demonstrations which the PAF had been holding in the preceding years and would continue to stage into the 60s. The exciting atmosphere of such presentations, and the variety of events which the relatively tiny air force was always able to muster, was aptly illustrated in an account of this display by Humphrey Wynne in the prestigious British aviation magazine 'Flight' of 14 February 1958:

"The Pakistan Air Force put on its first all-turbojet flying display at Mauripur PAF station on February 2 before an audience of 20,000 people, including guests from the Turkish, Iranian and Iraqi Air Forces. After being welcomed by the C-in-C of the Pakistan Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Asghar Khan, the King of Afghanistan inspected a guard of honour and reviewed a line up of PAF fighters. The long line of Sabres, stretching almost uncountably to a horizon which was already shimmering with haze formed a most impressive sight with the different colours of their checkerboard squadron markings; subsequently 36 of them taxied out, leaving about the same number behind. As soon as the royal review was over, engines were started for the high business of the day.

"Already, soon after 9:20, four Sabres had taken off - flown by Flight Lieutenants A K Ayaz and S A Changezi and Flying Officers M A Iqbal and A K Yousaf - to produce a double sonic boom each; and at 9:40 they appeared at about 20,000 ft overhead, separating in a bomb-burst of bangs. Shortly after the sonic booms, the sixteen Sabres which were to do formation aerobatics took off in groups of four, followed by a single Sabre, which was to perform solo.

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