In 1956 onwards the date of the ‘Pakistan Day’ annual celebration was changed from August 14th to March 23rd. By that date in the year 1957, the PAF was a little beyond halfway into its conversion onto the newly acquired F-86 Sabres, and was in the possession of 64 of these fighters out of an expected total of 100. No. 14 Squadron was the last to have received these aircrafts, hardly 4 months before the grand activity was planned with No. 5 and No. 11 having received the Sabres earlier, No. 9 was the only one left with the Furies up North to attend to the PAF’s watch and ward commitments in Waziristan for which the Sabres were not considered suitable.
Until then the conversion programme had produced about 60 pilots whose experience on the type ranged from couple of hundred hours to ten hours or less. Would the PAF consider a dramatic public introduction of its latest weapon system by staging a ‘Sabre Only’ fly-past on the 23rd March answered to that was yes all 64 Sabres.
Everything was hurried and put together to make 64 pilots with a couple of reserves by Pakistan day; the lowest experience on that day was under 2 hours of flying experience. No 14 was only 4 months old and had the least experience pilots at that time, And to top it all there were no external tanks. Therefore flying around at low level on internal fuel only, there was a little over 30 minutes in which to take 64 aircraft off the ground, form them up, fly them past and land them back.
On the Pakistan day with the engineers producing almost a miracle by lining up 100% serviceability, the pilots took off over the staged a flawless sequence that sent 16 four-ships screaming past the saluting dais at Karachi polo ground in a breathtaking spectacle. But then 64 fuel starved jet fighter on the single Mauripur Runway, one exited youngster misjudged his flare out (A maneuver preformed during the landing phase, prior to touch down, to break the glide of the aircraft and make its flight parallel to the runway).
And crash landed on the runway and blocked the runway fair and square. Where upon Karachi civil airport next door was treated to a rear spectacle as swarms of F-86 Sabres made a beeline for it, frantically jockeying for position in the landing stream because no one had the fuel to go around. The risk that was taken must have been the dying echoes of an era gone by, but the resulting achievement was spectacular to say the least and another thing which I should mention and will put the photos as well my father was Lt Col at that time and was leading the parade and that was the day I decided to become a fighter pilot.