World’s Ugliest Airplane Retires: Where’s It Going?

Avionics test bed is ready to rest.

Sabre 50

Sabre 50

Rockwell Collins has decided to bid adieu to its well traveled and much beloved North American Sabreliner 50 avionics test bed, an airplane the company has owned since 1976. The airplane has been used over the decades for testing a variety of groundbreaking avionics developments, including early satellite communications, radio altimeters, the first Mode-S transponder, the company's cutting-edge Pro Line 4 avionics system, as well as various FMS, radar, autopilot and approach system hardware.

The test airplane was a body double for the Beech Starship during development of that innovative airplane’s equally cutting-edge avionics system. Considering its significance in aviation history, the Sabreliner’s final destination is a fitting one.

A one-of-a-kind model, the airplane was originally purchased in 1964 by another company, which used it for more than 20 years and put more than a thousand hours on it before Collins adopted it. The callsign N50CR stands for the model number, the Sabreliner 50, and the “CR” is for both “Collins Radio,” and “Cedar Rapids,” the home of the company now known as Rockwell Collins.

Soon N50CR will call McMinnville, Oregon, home. There it will reside in the world class Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, home of, among many remarkable airplanes, the Hughes H-4 Hercules, better known, of course, as the Spruce Goose.