In the Cockpit
Flying and maintaining the Aero jets today
The L-39 and its family have built up a sterling reputation for reliability and adaptability, not to mention fine handling, during a long and distinguished service career. Aviation Classics spoke to some of the pilots and engineers of the Czech Air Force who operate the L-39 and -159 today, and to Aero’s own team of test pilots to discover the reality behind the reputation.
The training system for jet pilots of the Czech Air Force is a straightforward one, simplified by their ability to use the L-39 in both basic and advanced training roles. Aviation Classics visited the 21st Tactical Air Force Base at áslav which is home to three flying squadrons and the 214 Maintenance Squadron, 215 Security Squadron and 216 Logistics Support Squadron. Of the flying units, 211 Squadron operates the Saab JAS39C and D Gripen, 212 Squadron flies the Aero L-159A ALCA, while the unit we were lucky enough to visit, 213 Squadron, operates the Aero L-159T1 and L-39ZA in the advanced training role. Here we met 1st Lieutenants Radek alud and David Byrtus, both flying the L-39ZA, who explained the training programme and the roles the Aero aircraft were used for by their unit and others in the training system.
Radek and David began by explaining that student pilots begin their training at the Aviation Training Centre ( CLV) at Pardubice. Since 2004, the CLV has been part of LOM Praha s.p., a government owned company set up using the 34th Air Force Base School as a basis to provide elementary and basic flying training for both fixed and rotary winged students. Here, the first aircraft a student flies is the piston engined Zlin Z- 142C, on which they complete 70 hours of elementary flying training. Those selected for fast jet training then move onto the Aero L-39C, spending the next two years flying 200 hours on the type. This comprehensive basic flying training syllabus teaches the student all he needs to fly, but from this point on the focus is learning to use an aircraft in operational roles, which is where 213 Squadron with its advanced and weapons training syllabus comes in. ˇ 213 Squadron took onzits current form on December 1, 2013, after a reorganisation of the Czech Air Force. This logically concentrated the L-39ZAS of 222 Squadron based at Námestˇˇ nad Oslavou with the L-159T1S of 212 Squadron ˇ based at Cáslav into a single unit. The new unit was intended to complete the training of students from the preparing them for the operationalc units of the air force in an efficient and cost effective way, while also simplifying the logistics and maintenance support required for the aircraft. The student begins his advanced training on an aircraft he already knows well, the L-39, but in this case, the four L- 39ZAS on 213 Squadron’s strength. The L-39ZA is fitted with a twin barrelled 23mm cannon under the forward fuselage and can carry a range of unguided rockets and bombs, so during the two years they