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Research Library
EDWARD J. HORKEY
NORTH AMERICAN AVIATION


Without Ed Horkey and the work he did at North American Aviation, Inc., it is likely that many of us would not have enjoyed so many thousands of hours in the F-86 Sabre, as well as the T-6 Texan, P-S 1 Mustang, F-82 Twin Mustang, B-45 Tornado, and F-100 Super Sabre. Born in 1916, Ed graduated from the California Institute of Technology with advanced degrees in mechanical and aeronautical engineering. He began working at the Guggenheim Aeronautical Wind Tunnel, then went with North American in 1938.
There he was active in such fields as aerodynamics, thermodynamics, and wind tunnel and flight-testing. In all, he spent fifty nine years in aerospace and related technologies. He had a giant impact on North American aircraft, and probably will best be remembered for his leadership in developing the laminar flow airfoil (a major reason for the success of the P-51), and the “all-flying tail” used on all models of the F-86 except for the “A”. The “all-flying tail”, more than any other single feature, may well have provided the Sabre pilot with the margin needed to defeat the MiG-1 5 in the skies over Korea.
Ed’s many contributions included the manufacture and sale of drop tanks, pylons and ejection mechanisms, connectors, and plastics. He held several patents and had patents pending. In later years at North American, he worked in the Space Division as Director of Apollo Ground Support Equipment.
Ed believed in personal contact and observation of the military customers who used North American equipment. He made many trips to organizations in the field, to see first hand what the problems were. One of these trips was to Korea with the first shipment of F-86Es. He was accompanied by George Welch, the legendary North American Chief Engineering Test Pilot at
that time.

After watching the Sabre operations at K-13 (Suwon), he was heard to remark, “I never realized we built the F-86 to be used like this!” He was particularly impressed with the 5000x200 foot runway with no taxi strips, requiring the returning Sabres to land on one side of the runway and taxi back on the opposite side as other Sabres were landing. Ed Horkey also visited the USS Midway during the Carrier tests of the XFJ-2 Fury, which was essentially a modified F-86E. He wanted to see how the Fury stacked up against the Grumman F9F-6 Cougar and Vought F7U-3 Cutlass.
In “retirement”, Ed could always be found at the Reno National Air Race, and at the EAA gatherings at Oshkosh - and always near his beloved P-51 Mustangs.
Most recently, Sabre pilots will remember that Ed was the principal
speaker at the Sabre Jet dedication in Freedom Park at Nellis AFB, during the 9th Reunion of the Sabre Pilots Association. At that time, Ed reviewed how the F-86 was born, and he made one fact very clear - the F-86 Sabres that flew in Korea were the key to preventing a Chinese Communist victory in 1953.
In August 1996, the North American Aircraft Division’s annual reunion honored the F-86 Sabre. Held at the Santa Maria (CA) Museum of Flight, the event also honored Ed Horkey for his contribution to the F-86 program.

A fund was established in Ed’s name, and it was agreed to dedicate his technical papers, writings, and memorabilia as part of a new wing of the Museum of Flight. Sadly for all of us, Ed Horkey was not present. This
renowned engineer and friend of fighter pilots in general, and Sabre pilots in particular, died on 28July 1996. He will be missed, but never forgotten for his memory will be seen in every flying F-86 ar P-51; and forever in photographs of those great machines. THANKS ED!
A special note of recognition and thanks to Santa Maria Museum of Flight member John Henderson, former Tech Rep for North American Aviation and close friend of Ed Horkey for providing this account of his many achievements. Mr. Henderson is the current Museum Conservator of Ed Horkey’s North American Aviation’s Technical and Research Documents contained within the Edward J Horkey Memorial Research Library located in the Museum’s Early Aviation Hangar (Formerly a Hangar Movie Prop for the Walt Disney Movie “Rocketeer”).


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