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...
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