Most of the museum’s Sabre was built as a P-86A-1-NA (C/N 151-38433). It was the second production model delivered to the USAF in 1948. It served in the USAF as 47-606, assigned as a chase plane at Edwards Air Force Base in California It flew as a chase plane for various high-speed rocket-propelled aircraft such as the Bell X-1 and the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket. Test pilot legends Chuck Yeager and Pete Everest are known to have flown this very aircraft.
The P-86 became the F-86 in 1948 as part of a general redesignation of Pursuit aircraft to Fighter aircraft. In January 1955, #606 was assigned to the California Air National Guard. After it was retired from military service, it had several owners and is carried at least one civil registration as N57865. In 1990 the aircraft was donated to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. In 1997, the Calgary branch of the SPAADS (Sabre Pilots Association of the Air Division Squadrons) purchased the remains of this aircraft from the Museum of Flight.
The aircraft was restored using parts from Canadian-built Sabres and is finished in the factory fresh "at home" markings used on RCAF Sabres in Canada. The number 23175 was chosen because "23" was the prefix serial number on all Mk. V and VI RCAF Sabres; the "1" recognizes #1 Air Division of the RCAF which was the European organization of the RCAF and "75" honors the 75th Anniversary of the RCAF in 1999 when the restoration was completed.
The real #23175 was a Sabre Mk.5 (c/n 965) that joined the RCAF on March 18, 1954 and served with 413 "Tusker" Squadron of #1 Air Division until 1957. It was struck off strength on May 26, 1960.
On April 4, 1949 Canada joined NATO and committed itself to supporting the aerial defense of Western Europe. In August 1949 a manufacturing agreement was signed between North America Aviation (NAA) and Canadair of Montreal to build the Sabre in Canada.
North American Aviation first flew the Sabre in October 1947. Canadair built 1,815 Sabres of which 1,183 served in the RCAF. The first six Canadian examples were designated the Canadair CL-13 Sabre Mark 1. These were identical to the NAA F-86A-5 and were powered by the 5,200-pound thrust General Electric J47-GE-13 engines. The first aircraft flew on August 9, 1950 and was piloted by A.J. "AI" Lilly. A few days later he became the first person to break the sound barrier over Canada. At the height of the Cold War, Canada provided 300 F-86 Sabres in 12 squadrons to NATO as part of the European air defense force against the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. Sabres were built in 5 more versions by Canadair, the most numerous being the Mk.V and Mk.VI.