North American (Rockwell) Sabreliner

Like the Lockheed Jetstar, this aircraft originates from a request of the US armed forces for the Utility Trainer Experimental (UTX) programme. North American responded with model NA-265, designated T-39 in military service. It was named Sabreliner due to the similarity with the F-86 Sabre jet fighter,with respect to the wings and tail. North American also produced a civilian version of the Sabreliner. In 1973 North American merged with Rockwell Standard into Rockwell International, which continued developed and production until the early 1980s.

The Sabreliner family is the only aircraft with low, swept wings, two jet engines mounted to the rear fuselage and horizontal stabilisers attached to the fuselage. Most aircraft with engines at the rear fuselage have a cruciform tail or a T-tail. Also striking is the shape of the cabin windows: except for the largest versions they are triangular!

All Sabreliners have the same cockpit windows, with the distinctive eyebrow windows of which two are more "roof" windows.

The location of the horizontal stabiliser - fixed to the rear fuselage - is unique for aircraft with jet engines at the rear fuselage.

Different versions

To differentiate between the different subtypes of Sabreliners you have to look at

  • the length and height of the fuselage
  • the shape of the engine nacelles
  • the shape of the cabin windows
  • the number of wheels on the main landing gear
  • the shape of the wings

NA-246/NA-265 Sabreliner
NA-265-40/NA-282 Sabreliner 40, 40A & 40R

This is the short version of the civil Sabreliner, with two or three triangular cabin windows on each side. The Sabreliner 40R is not much more than a 40 with a modern interior. Sabreliner 40A is the marketing name for a Sabre 40 with lighter avionics. It should have three cabin windows compared to possibly two on the regular Sabre 40, but we have also encountered Sabre 40As with three windows...

The Swedish military use the Sabre 40 designated as Tp86.

A Sabreliner 40R touching down. Note the three triangular cabin windows.

T3J, T-39A, CT-39A, NT-39A, T-39B, T-39D, CT-39E, T-39F and T-39N

These US military Sabreliners all concern the short body variant and are thus similar to the Sabre 40. On the outside there are hardly distinctive differences. The T-39A and CT-39A (of the USAF) seem to have two cabin windows though, while the other versions (of the US Navy) have three. T3J is the pre-1962 designation of the T-39D.

A CT-39A of the USAF, with two cabin windows. Note the cross bars in the air intake, typical for the JT12 engines.

The US Navy versions of the short body Sabre, like this T-39G, have three cabin windows. Unique for a bizjet it has an air brake behind the nose gear.

NA-265-50/NA-287 Sabreliner 50

One Sabreliner 60 was built with a radar nose for testing. This version is designated Sabreliner 50. Compared to the normal Sabre 60 it has just two or three cabin windows on each side, instead of five.

Sabreliner 50, a Sabreliner 60 with a radar nose.

NA-265-60/NA-306 Sabreliner 60 & Sabreliner 60A

The Sabreliner 60 can be seen as a lengthened Sabreliner 40 and therefore has five triangular windows on either side (although some examples have less). Furthermore, the aircraft retains the small diameter JT12D turbojets it their cross bars.

(C)T-39G is designation for the Amerikaanse military variant of the Sabreliner 60, used by the US Navy for Undergraduate Flight Officer Training or transport.

The Sabreliner 60A is a modification of the original Sabre 60, wing the Raisbeck Mark V supercritical wings. These wings have a larger span (nearly one metre on each side), no leading edge slats, streamlined guides for the trailing edge flaps and a small wing fence halfway the leading edge.

Full view of the Sabreliner 60, with five cabin windows.

Wings of Sabreliner 60A. Note the small wing fence in the leading edge and two streamline bodies at the back of the wings.

Wings of Sabre 60, with leading edge slats along most of the span.

The US Navy T-39G has five cabin windows, just like the civil Sabre 60.

NA-265-65/NA-465 Sabreliner 65

The Sabreliner 65 has the same fuselage as the Sabreliner 60, but different engines. Therefore the easiest way to recognise the Sabreliner 65 from the 60 is by its larger diameter TFE731 turbofan engines. In addition, the aircraft has the same new wings as the Sabre 60A.

Sabreliner 65, a Sabreliner 60 with a turbofan engines.

Detailed view of the Sabre 65's Raisbeck Mark V wings, with deployed flaps.

NA-265-70/NA-370 Sabreliner 75

To give the passengers more headroom the fuselage height of the Sabreliner 75 is larger than that of the Sabreliner 60. Also new are the rectangular windows instead of triangular ones, as the two wheel main gears. Furthermore, it retains the engines and wings of the Sabre 60. 

Sabreliner 70, with rectangular windows and a higher cabin. Not visible is the cross bar in the air intakes, typical for the old turbojets.

NA-265-80/NA-380 Sabreliner 75A & Sabreliner 80A

In comparison with the Sabreliner 75, from which the 75A is clearly derived, the 75A has General Electric CF700 engines, like on the Falcon 20. You can see this if you look at the front of the engine, because then you can clearly see the ring that separates the fan inlet from the core inlet. Also, the engines have the typical “tabs” at the exhaust, which you can also see at the Falcon 20.

The Sabre 80A is a Sabreliner 75A with the wings of the Sabreliner 65, so with streamlined guides for the flaps, wing fences and no leading edge slats.

The Sabreliner 75A with its bigger engines than the Sabre 75, its and clean wings.

The Sabre 80A combines the fuselage and engines of the 75A with the wings of the Sabre 65.

Details of the CF700 engines of the Sabre 75A, with separate inlets for the core and fan part.

Confusion possible with

IAI1125 Astra


Given the triangular cabin windows on most Sabreliner versions and its low mounted horizontal stabiliser confusion is not likely. You might mistake a large cabin Sabre 75A or 80A for an Astra though, especially as the nose is comparable. But there are probably enough characteristics to keep them apart easily.