Sur­vivors

Air­craft on dis­play

Aviation Classics - - CONTENTS - Words: Tim Call­away

The leg­end lives on in no un­cer­tain terms. Both the L-39 and its pre­de­ces­sor, the L-29, are to be found on dis­play around the world where they are pop­u­lar ex­hibits; part of the avi­a­tion her­itage of an amaz­ing num­ber of coun­tries.

It has been a fas­ci­nat­ing jour­ney de­tail­ing the history of the Aero com­pany and its two most fa­mous air­craft, but the story had one last sur­prise for me, and one I had not con­sid­ered un­til it came to com­pil­ing this list. Con­sid­er­ing the thou­sands of L-29s and L-39s built, there are not that many pre­served in mu­se­ums as a per­cent­age of the num­ber built. Then it struck me. Of course there aren’t, peo­ple are still fly­ing them! The L-29, be­ing older, ap­pears in more mu­se­ums than its sleeker younger brother, but the fact of the mat­ter is that both types are still ei­ther in ser­vice in their orig­i­nal role or have be­come pri­vate air­craft, the L-39 be­ing the most pop­u­lar ex-mil­i­tary pri­vate jet of our time. Both air­craft have be­come suc­cess­ful air rac­ers and air dis­play air­craft, ei­ther with aer­o­batic teams or as solo dis­plays, but al­ways turn­ing heads wher­ever they ap­pear. This is par­tic­u­larly true of the L-39 with its sleek and el­e­gant lines, it sim­ply does not look like a trainer and its ap­peal to the fighter pi­lot in all of us is uni­ver­sal. If you look at other types of the pe­riod, the Bri­tish Jet Provost and the Amer­i­can Cessna T-37 for ex­am­ple, they do look like what they are, train­ers, and I think it is one of the fac­tors be­hind the L-39’s suc­cess in the civil world that it does not. As was men­tioned ear­lier, what­ever you do in an L-39, you do look re­ally good do­ing it. Three other fac­tors have added to the civil­ian suc­cess story of the L-39. First is its han­dling, both in the air and on the ground. It is a joy to fly, talk to any­one who has flown one and you will soon be in­volved a blur of wav­ing hands and sparkling eyes as the ‘there I was…’ sto­ries are re­told. It is also a plea­sure to work on, the ease of ac­cess to the air­frame and its sys­tems and the well de­signed lay­out have en­deared the L-39 to engi­neers as well as pilots. The sec­ond fac­tor is its re­li­a­bil­ity. L-39s from the first pro­duc­tion batch are still fly­ing to­day, and with the up­grade to the new Wil­liams FJ44 en­gine be­ing of­fered to civil own­ers as well as the mil­i­tary, these tough, rugged air­craft are likely to be fly­ing for sev­eral more decades. The last fac­tor has to be the level of sup­port from the man­u­fac­turer, from Aero it­self. Civil own­ers from around the world have had their air­craft over­hauled, up­graded and re-equipped by the peo­ple who know their air­craft best, the folk who built them in the first place. Tech­ni­cal and train­ing man­u­als are now avail­able in many lan­guages and Aero’s sup­port for the L-39 is truly global in na­ture. Given the un­doubted suc­cess of the L-39NG pro­gramme, this level of sup­port for ex­ist­ing L-39 own­ers is go­ing to con­tinue for many more years, which gives cus­tomers con­fi­dence in the long term avail­abil­ity of spares and sup­port, vi­tal fac­tors to op­er­a­tors in choos­ing a jet air­craft.

Suf­fice to say, the prac­ti­cal up­shot of all this suc­cess and sup­port is that well over a third of all L-39s built are still fly­ing some­where in the world, with many mil­i­tary air­craft in stor­age, be­ing cy­cled through the in-ser­vice fleet or wait­ing for the bud­get to up­grade them. Con­se­quently, there are not that many left to dis­play in mu­se­ums. As usual in com­pil­ing this list, we are aware that the air­craft move to new homes or new own­ers, and some­times it takes a while for the in­for­ma­tion to dis­sem­i­nate. This is es­pe­cially true in this case as many of the air­craft are still air­wor­thy; we ac­tu­ally found one L-39 in the US that had three dif­fer­ent homes in one year! On the sub­ject of the US list­ings, the regis­tra­tions of the 307 pri­vately owned L-39s have been cov­ered in the ar­ti­cle on page 62. Listed here are only those we are cer­tain are in mu­se­ums or are listed as be­long­ing to one. If you know of any that have moved, or even bet­ter, new air­craft that do not yet ap­pear here, then please let us know and we will pub­lish the in­for­ma­tion in the up­dates sec­tion of our web­site.

ABOVE: The Kbely mu­seum also has the nose of the de­vel­op­ment air­craft for the L-39M, which be­came the L-39MS and later the L-59. Editor

ABOVE: Im­me­di­ately be­low L-29 0010 is the L-39 X-05 pro­to­type air­craft, 3905. The Prague Aero­nau­ti­cal Mu­seum at Kbely boasts a re­mark­ably com­plete se­lec­tion of Aero air­craft. Editor

ABOVE: The latest ad­di­tion to the L-39 story at Kbely is the first pro­to­type of the L-159 to fly, 5831. Editor LEFT: One of the ear­li­est Aero L-29s pre­served is 0010, seen here on dis­play in the ex­cel­lent Prague Aero­nau­ti­cal Mu­seum at Kbely. Note the orig­i­nal po­si­tion for the land­ing light. Editor

ABOVE: Also in stor­age at Kbely is the third L-39 pro­to­type, X-03 or OK-182, which was used for test­ing the ejec­tion seats amongst other tri­als. Jakub Fo­jtík

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