Cock­pit Re­port: Nan­chang CJ-6

Take a Nan­chang and fit a 385hp M14P en­gine, and you al­most have a fighter. But it took over three years and the owner stopped count­ing at £20K...

Pilot - - CONTENTS - Words: Bob Davy Pho­tos: Keith Wil­son

Many of us who own and op­er­ate mil­i­tary train­ers such as T-6s, Chip­pies and Tigers qui­etly han­ker for a WWII fighter such as a Hur­ri­cane or Spit­fire−but we can’t af­ford it. What to do? Make what you’ve got go bet­ter maybe? Lighter weight? Big­ger en­gine?

For me the idea of putting a Rus­sian ra­dial in a Nan­chang CJ-6 was com­pelling. The very first time I climbed into one in 1996 I had just flown a punchy Yak-52 with a sim­i­lar all up weight but with the much more pow­er­ful 360hp Ve­deneyev M14P en­gine. On the first take­off in the ’Chang I aborted be­cause I thought there was a par­tial power fail­ure! I tried again and fi­nally got it air­borne on an up­hill grass strip, un­der­whelmed by the long take­off roll, poor ac­cel­er­a­tion and climb rate. But then we lev­elled off, the ASI crept past the 240km/h point where the Yak-52 lived… and kept on go­ing, and go­ing, all the way up to 300. That’s 162 knots−186mph! I could not be­lieve the speed of the thing, nip­ping at the heels of those early WWII fight­ers. (At sea level a MKI Hur­ri­cane would top out at 250mph−ed.)

Af­ter I landed I started look­ing around the ’Chang air­frame a bit more closely: fully re­tractable gear, flush riv­ets ev­ery­where, and a clever wing like a Jodel’s or a Robin’s, with the outer pan­els at a lower in­ci­dence to re­duce liftin­duced drag in the cruise. Even then, more than twenty years ago I was think­ing to my­self what if it had the Rus­sian en­gine− af­ter all both units are al­most ex­actly the same weight and size (both come from the same grand­par­ent, the 260hp Rus­sian Ivchenko AI-14R.) I knew they had been do­ing the con­ver­sion in the USA

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