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Vedeneyev Engines

We are undoubtedly the world leaders in the sale of these engines, both new and overhauled. Over the last twenty years, we have sold more than five hundred engines to customers all over the world, indeed, even back to Russia. The last new engine from Russia was manufactured in 1993/4, although small amounts of engines have been made subsequently from unused, old-stock parts, but increasingly more and more overhauled parts have been incorporated, but our view is that there are no ‘new’ engines that have been made for the last four years, and, almost certainly for the future. Having said that small amounts of the large Russian historic production was distributed throughout Russia, and bought by people such as ourselves and then sold on, so there is still a certain number of unused, but old stock engines available. In terms of these engines, we would point out that the initial conservation was good for six years, and then extended for ten. Beyond this it is prudent to remove two cylinders; check the engine internally; reassemble and re-conserve. To read ‘An Introduction to the MP14P for flat-engined pilots’ by Fred Abramson.

Background and history

Under the Soviet system of aircraft design and production, Design Bureaux had the responsibility for designing aircraft/engines, which they would test until acceptance and then manufacturing would typically be given to a separate manufacturing plant. The principal product of the Vedeneyev Design Bureau has been the M14 family of engines, but these were originally designed as the AI-14 by the Ivchenko Design Bureau at Zaparozhye in the Ukraine . The AI-14 was originally produced in the late 1950s as a 260hp engine until the Soviet authorities made the decision to pass all piston-engine development to Ivan Vedeneyev, who had set up his own Design Bureau in Voronezh . In the meantime Ivchenko concentrated on a range of turbine engines, which they continue today.

Vedeneyev’s first engine was the AI-14RF, which produced 300hp and this in turn led to the M14P, which was introduced in its Series I form in the early 1970s. This produced 360hp, and Series II came out in the early 1980s, still delivering 360hp, but with a variety of small internal improvements.

Under the Soviet system (above) the actual manufacture of these piston engines was given to the Voronezh Mechanical Plant (VMP) a huge State controlled organisation, also in Voronezh , making a variety of aerospace products, including the Buran space-shuttle.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the lavish funding which Vedeneyev (also known as OKBM) and VMP previously received stopped, as did the requirement for large numbers of engines. This made little difference to VMP, for whom the production of piston aircraft engines was a relatively small part of their business, but created a significant problem for Vedeneyev, for whom the design of engines represented approximately half their business – the remainder being aerospace gearboxes. It is fair to say that we kept the business afloat during these difficult times with overhaul and spare parts business.

There was continuing large scale production of engines in the early 90s with the last completed engine being manufactured by VMP in 1994. However they still had large numbers of major components and have continued to produce small numbers of engines since then from these pre-existing components and subassemblies.

It seems that all activity at Vedeneyev has now stopped.

Technical Description

The M14 series of engines is recognised as being one of the finest light aircraft engines of all times. They are:

  • Extremely lightweight for their power.
  • Very tough and reliable – the Russians operate generating sets in Siberian oil fields powered by M14Ps, which are expected to run for 20,000 hours before overhaul.
  • Fully ‘inverted’ with the ability to run in any attitude.
  • Dry-sumped, which ensures good lubrication at any attitude.
  • Economical, despite their power – as little as 40 litres of fuel per hour at economical cruising.
  • Currently the most powerful light aircraft engines available today – in versions up to 450hp.
  • Beautifully made incorporating such items as roller-cam-followers and roller-rocker arms.

The Romanian involvement

Under Soviet agreements, Aerostar in Romania was designated as the production plant for Yak-52 aircraft and their sister company Aeromotors (now called Motorstar) was given licence to produce M14P engines for these aircraft. It is difficult to be sure, but it would seem to us that most Yak-52s were made for the Russian Air Force/DOSAAF in Russia and that the vast majority of these aircraft were fitted with Voronezh M14P engines from VMP, which were shipped to Romania for installation. However Yak-52s for other customers outside Russia usually have Romanian-built engines.

Enhancing the performance of the M14P engine and the development of the M14PF

The M14P family is certainly one of the World’s legendry aircraft engines, to a certain extent because of its exceptional record in world-class aerobatic competitions, but also because of its charismatic noise and high-power output for its weight. As the only radial engine in recent production, it also has a great deal of historical interest. The Russian National Team began asking for more power and the result was the M14PF in which the power is increased to 400hp by changing the supercharger gearbox so that the supercharger is turned at 10.5 times engine speed rather than 8.25. This therefore uses the same supercharger and other systems, but turns the supercharger impeller at an extremely high 30,000 rpm in order to produce the higher levels of boost necessary for greater power. The PF engine is now well-proven after some 20 years in service. In- service testing was done with the Russian National Team and the engine was principally used in competition aircraft, such as the Sukhoi, but now has much wider application in other Yaks. The PF is currently cleared up to 500 hours TBO, with the only proviso that the normal 100 hour checks are done at 50 hour intervals. We hope that this will be extended. We have now sold more than 100 ‘PF’ engines to customers all over the world and we are now fitting them to all Yaks types, both to achieve higher performance for aerobatic aircraft, but over 60% of the Yak-18Ts we sell are fitted with ‘PF’ engines to enhance take-off and climb performance as well as high altitude cruise. We have found PFs to be very reliable in practice, indeed on a statistical basis, somewhat more so than standard M14Ps. In the USA where engines can be operated ‘on condition’ several PFs are well over 1,500 hours with many over 500 hours.

Production M14PF engines

Most of the M14PF engines that we have sold have been from unused, but old-stock M14P engines, which we have bought and returned to Vedeneyev, who disassemble and convert these engines; reassemble; run on test beds and then passed to us and sold.

Financial problems of Vedeneyev/OKBM

At the end of 2004, it became clear that there were serious financial problems with the company. Because of this production was reduced to very small amounts, and the company was placed in a form of protective bankruptcy, similar to the US ‘Chapter 11’. However in 2006, Vedeneyev was purchased by FK System – a major Russian group with a wide variety of interests, including the control of Kamov Helicopters. They have injected considerable amounts of fresh capital; reorganised the business and in doing so changing it from a Soviet style organisation into a much more modern and competitive business. However in the recent financial crisis, FK Systems then had its own major financial problem and finally OKBM ceased production.

The requirement for 450hp

The Russian Air Force issued a requirement for a high-performance two-seater training aircraft powered by a piston engine, to take over from the Yak-52. Sukhoi proposed the Su-49 – a tricycle retractable and extraction-system equipped version of the Su-29. Yakovlev proposed the Yak-54M, a similar modification to the Yak-54 aerobatic aircraft. In both cases the requirement was for a 450hp engine given the greater weight of the aircraft. The potential engine requirement was going to be large and clearly of interest to both Vedeneyev/OKMB and VMP.

The requirement for more power in sport aircraft

In 2002 we could see that there was a real market for an engine that changed a single seat Sukhoi from having a power-to-ratio of just under 1 to over 1, which could totally transform the aerobatics that were possible. We discussed this with Vedeneyev, and over a two year period, with our funding, they developed the M14R, essentially an M14P gearbox and crankcase, but with a totally re-designed supercharger and accessory case section. We had initially intended to use fuel injection, but for a variety of reasons 450hp was available with a carburettor, which meant that this was not necessary. Also it was felt that the engine would not be considered for use by the Russian Air Force if a non-Russian fuel-injection unit was used and at that stage there were no suitable Russian versions available.

The M14R in service

We have sold a number of M14R engines, although the first 3 engines suffered identical failures in the bushings of the supercharger drive shafts, which were turning at much higher speeds and under greater load. In all cases the engine continued to run and the aircraft landed safely. However this led to a re-design of the defective bearings, which were changed from bushings to roller bearings and after significant amounts of testing, the engine was put back in production, albeit slowly. We put as much pressure on Vedeneyev as possible, since we had considerable demand for these engines. The capability of the M14R engine is demonstrated by the fact that overall victor of the 2007 World Aerobatic Championships was Ramon Alonso of Spain flying his M14R equipped Sukhoi Su-31 aircraft – there can be no tougher test of an engine. As of 2011, we don’t think that more M14R will be provided, due to the failure of Vedeneyev.

M9F engine

VMP began looking at ways of achieving the requirements for the Sukhoi Su-49 and for political reasons a bond had already been established between VMP and Sukhoi for this engine. A major problem was that the Su-49 has hydraulic rather than pneumatic systems and therefore the engine has to have a hydraulic pump as part of its ancillaries. Vedeneyev/OKBM had previously developed an engine called the M14B (360hp) for the Antonov An-14 ( a small utility aircraft), which had been totally re-designed to accommodate a hydraulic pump behind the supercharger. VMP decided that this engine should be the basis of their higher power engine, which they called the M9F, indicating that it is radically different from both the M14B and indeed the M14P. Inevitably, with two design teams working towards the same goal their results have been similar, although very different in detail. Indeed, we have bought/sold/overhauled a number of M14B engines and, although superficially very similar to M14P, it is interesting how many detailed differences there are. In 2003 Sukhoi decided to upgrade the Su-26M into the Su-26M3 and this aircraft was fitted with the M9F engine. This combination of engine and airframe has won almost every world and European Championship since then. We had an exclusive arrangement with VMP for the supply of M9F engines, and have done all we can to get regular supplies. However VMP received, in the middle of 2007, an order for 120 new M14P engines, principally for 60 new Yak-18T aircraft for the Russian Ministry of Transport. This has meant that their energies were totally directed to this big contract and we are not sure when more M9F engines might be available. However we have sold a number of them; one powered an American-owned Su-26M which won the Freestyle gold medal at the 2007 World Championships – certainly the most demanding element of the championships. The requirement for the Su-49 was 450hp and it is intended to achieve this with the M9F with fuel injection becoming the M9FS. The Russian system which has been developed is electronic, injecting fuel into each separate intake under high pressure. It also has a mechanical reversion, so if the electronic system fails, the engine will continue to run, albeit giving less power. I have seen the fuel injection system demonstrated showing an almost instantaneous reversion to mechanical injection, with the engine giving approximately 15% less power but clearly running perfectly well. Starting the engine is significantly simplified with no need for a primer and what is particularly impressive is the engine’s ability to go from idle to high power settings with none of the normal hesitation. It is intended that the fuel injection will be offered as a stand-alone alternative to the carburettor, giving enhanced power but also considerably improved economy. We now suspect that it will never be commercially produced.

M14R v- M9F

Of course both Vedeneyev/OKBM and VMP say that their high-powered engines are better than the other! Both have been very thoroughly developed and the real difference is that the M14R has a more radical impeller and diffuser design, as well as turning the impeller at higher speeds. Conversely the M9F is probably stronger in the supercharger area by virtue of larger bearings and reinforcement to take the hydraulic drive from the rear of the engine. BUT, more recently we have been unable to obtain any more of M9F or M14R engines and sadly have no reason to believe this will change.

M14PF with Barrett Pistons

However, we have now developed a more powerful version of the M14PF using the superb Barrett Pistons with a higher compression ratio (8.2 to 1) which produces a reliable 440/445 horse power and is a much better alternative to M9F or M14R where so much emphasis was placed on high supercharger pressures, rather than on correcting the basic weakness of the piston design as has been done with these new engines of ours.

Exchange PF supercharger assemblies

With this procedure we sell the entire rear of the engine – that is everything behind the crank case including all of the ‘PF’ conversion kit built into the supercharger and all ancillary drives. This conversion is a straight ‘bolt-on’ conversion, although the engine needs to be removed from the aircraft and all accessories (magnetos, carburettor, oil pump etc) need to be removed. Finally the carburettor needs to be readjusted to cope with the different mixture requirements of the PF. We offer this conversion at Euro 4,500 on an exchange basis for the old unit. The new unit is totally zero-timed and comes with an EASA “Form 1”.

Exchange gearboxes

The original M14P has output shaft with radial splines to mate with corresponding splines on the Russian V-530 propeller. Most PF engines have been intended for use with the German MTV-3 and MTV-9 propellers and so have been delivered with American SAE flanges. However, MT now makes propellers with both Russian and Western flanges, so effectively these are interchangeable. We can supply fully overhauled gearboxes incorporating either flange for Euro 3,000 on an exchange basis.

Electric Start

For those interested we can also offer conversion of M14P to electric start rather than air start.

Overhauls

Please see the separate description of our engine overhaul business.

Our overhauled engines come from Aerometal in Hungary, who are the oldest established and largest overhauler of the AI-14 and M14 families of engines in the world. Aerometal will overhaul engines for our customers, and we also keep a stock of engines available for quick delivery to our customers. Typically we will always have in stock AI-14RA; M14P; M14PF (400hp) engines. In addition we have in stock gearboxes (with both Russian and SAE flanges); PF (400hp) supercharger assemblies; overhauled governors / magnetos / compressors.

Our current pricing for engines:

Our current pricing for engines is under Engines for Sale

Plug Conversion Kits

We have European exclusivity for the installation of the superb automotive plug conversions, and have EASA and CAA approval for this for all aircraft with these engines on both Sukhoi and Yak aircraft. A weakness of the Russian high tension ignition is that it uses relatively thin wires forced into a metal conduit and over time, the insulation tends to deteriorate allowing cross sparking between wires. Also, the Russian sparking plugs are very ‘old technology’ having been designed some 50 years ago. The Automotive plug conversion uses racing car-type silicone leads and the latest type of sparking plugs. These provide easier sparking; cooler running; slightly greater power and are the best conversion one can do on these engines for the money.

New technology pistons

Anyone who has had experience of the M14 family of engines will know that they are one of the world’s leading aircraft engines, with a very high power-to-weight ratio; an extremely proven design and great reliability. Having said that, one area of “weakness” is the pistons. This is not in any way because they are weak or sub-standard, but simply because the aluminium that is used has a very high rate of thermal expansion. So in order to allow for sufficient clearance when extremely hot, it means the pistons have very substantial clearance when cold. This leads to a number of negative aspects, such as high oil consumption; blow-by, particularly when cold which dirties the oil; the need for very strong piston rings, to cope with the expansion, which means more friction and therefore greater heat. Unfortunately the standard piston is the only piston that is certified, and that is an issue in most European countries where non-certified components are not normally allowed. However there are two improved versions of the pistons, both of which we are currently fitting to engines that we overhaul These are:

BPE pistons from Barrett Performance Engines (USA)

These start with a completely different piston “blank”, from American racing car technology, which expands at almost exactly the same rate as the cylinders, so cold clearance can be very tight, while still having sufficient clearance when hot. This leads to considerable advantages:

  • Oil consumption is approximately 20% of standard pistons.
  • Oil remains clean.
  • There is significantly less “plug-fouling”.
  • The engine has less piston friction so it gives a bit more power and runs cooler.

These pistons have been tested at length by Barrett in the USA, both on test-beds and in very arduous use in air-show Sukhois and other aircraft. By virtue of our long relationship with Monty Barrett, we have European exclusivity for these pistons, and install them in engines that are being overhauled by Aerometal, our partner. They are available in either the standard compression or a higher compression version (8:1). The latter, when installed in the M14P, will typically give an increase of 20/25hp in itself. Barrett were initially reluctant to permit use of the PF supercharger with the high compression piston, but greater experience has meant that they now are happy to recommend this combination. So an engine thus equipped will typically give 430hp, together with all the various other advantages above. Unfortunately, as we say above, we cannot make these engines and certify them with a European “EASA” Form 1. However we are installing a lot of them for people for whom the intrinsic advantages are worthwhile, but of course these engines are principally sold outside Europe.

SPC pistons from Motorstar in Romania

Motorstar continue to make the M14P in small quantities, and were of course the manufacturer of a large number of M14Ps for the Yak-52s manufactured by Aerostar, their sister company next door. They have been working on the same problem, and have developed the SPC piston, which has now been in use for several years. This uses the same Russian “blank”, so does have the same disadvantages of the high rate of expansion. BUT it has much better technology piston -rings, and utilises only three piston rings rather than five. So this means that oil consumption is typically reduced by 35/40%; the engines run cooler and give slightly more power. Importantly, because the original blank is the same, we can manufacture engines using SPC pistons and give them EASA Form 1s, to be completely legal for aircraft in Europe. So, according to customer requirements we can fit either BPE or SPC pistons, and we are delighted to discuss particular requirements for any specific application.

Propellers

The Russian V-530 propeller cannot transmit more than 370/380hp, and if an engine with greater power is installed, then one should go to the MTV-9-250/260 prop. The following important points should be noted:

  • The standard ‘Lycoming’ SAE 6-bolt flange is at the limits of reliability with 400hp and unlimited level aerobatics.
  • The Russian flange is safe in excess of 500hp since the bolts are larger and the radial splines provide better location for the hub on the flange.
  • MTV-9 propellers are made with either Russian or Western flanges at the same price, as are the 250 or 260 blades.
  • The original propeller blade profile was called the –27. We were looking for propellers for the M14R, and did not want to exceed 260cm for reasons of ground clearance on a normal Sukhoi and therefore asked MT if they could provide a propeller capable of transmitting more power but with no increase in diameter. The result has been the –29 wide chord blade, which will transmit 450hp at 260cm diameter.
  • In practice we have established that the –29 blade gives significantly enhanced performance over the –27 blade even with 360-hp. Depending on the performance parameter, this ranges from +2% to +13%.
  • Finally, in terms of choices, MT offers a standard and also a ‘large’ spinner for this propeller.
  • (We have a separate information sheet on MTV propellers for Sukhoi and Yak aircraft).

 

Running Costs – Sukhoi & Yak

Prospective owners of these aircraft are of course interested to know what genuine running costs for these aircraft are. For their benefit we have prepared the following guide – and we would emphasise it is real-world and not designed to flatter the aircraft.

Having said that there are a lot of variables, particularly in areas such as insurance; fuel consumption, and of course maintenance. However, we hope the following will be a useful guide.

General

Overall the cost of running Sukhoi/Yak aircraft are broadly similar, although you should note the following points:

  • The retractable aircraft will inevitably be more expensive to insure because of a recent spate of wheel-up landings. The more passenger seats you have the more expensive third party insurance will be.
  • Aircraft such as the –52 and –18T, which are somewhat more complex, with retractable undercarriage, flaps etc, will be a bit more expensive in maintenance
  • Pure aerobatic aircraft will have higher insurance costs.

We have based our calculations on approximately 100 hours per year, which seems to be fairly average. Obviously if you do, as some owners, 250 hours, the costs become a great deal less, while a reduction to, say 50 hours, inevitably will bring a significant rise.

Fixed Costs

Capital and Depreciation

Fortunately these Russian aircraft are very well made and seem to suffer relatively very little depreciation. In terms of the capital costs, strict accounting should obviously account for the capital, but few private owners would do this.

Insurance

This is one of the greatest of the variables, but hull insurance will typically be between 2% and 3.5% of the hull value, depending on the pilot’s experience and also, critically, if the aircraft is retractable.

In addition, third party insurance will vary greatly on the amount of third-party cover – some people have as little as a Euro 500,000 which we feel is too low, while others go as high as Euro 15/20million. Inevitably this greatly affects the actual premium but this will range from approximately Euro 2,000 p.a. for a single seater to about Euro 5,000 per annum for a four seater with a good level of cover.

Hangarage

We would emphasise that it is not necessary to hangar any of these Russian aircraft – they are designed to be left out in the open and are very well corrosion-proofed. However hangarage will vary, and can be up to approaching £3000 p.a. in the London area, and as little as £600 p.a. for an aircraft outside at a rural airfield.

Periodic

These aircraft do not have maintenance according to the passage of calendar time in the sense of western ‘Annuals’. They have repetitive 50, 100, 200 and 300-hour checks. It should also be pointed out that they are designed to be used fairly continuously and the operating practice with these aircraft used to be one of a great deal of use and then being left in the back of the hangar for a couple of years. In terms of Western usage, the aircraft are required to have a 100-hour check every year, even if they have not done this many hours. This is really because this is an obvious precaution because of the aircraft’s relative complexity, or in the case of aerobatic aircraft, it is simply prudent.

Our maintenance work is done by Russian Engineering at White Waltham Airfield. They operate on the basis of fixed costs for scheduled maintenance (click here for current rates). Please note however, that these hours, obviously varying for different types of aircraft, are calculated on the basis of an aeroplane that is in perfect condition – i.e. one that has just come from having a check done! Obviously they will make an extra charge for other factors – such as having to clean the aeroplane before we can begin work; inability to undo rusted bolts; plus of course any ‘snags’ that are told to them or that are discovered.

For aircraft registered in Hungary work can be carried out in Gyor, Western Hungary; at White Waltham Airfield, or by any approved engineer elsewhere.

In addition one should budget about an additional £2,000 per year (ie 100 hours) to cover all other wearing items such as tyres, brakes and other exceptional maintenance.

Direct Operating Costs

For a big engine, these aircraft can be surprisingly economical, and at 200 kph (say 120 mph) can be down to 10 gallons an hour (45 litres). However full throttle operation will be well over 20 gallons an hour (90 litres), although such is the power available, that even during aerobatics full power is seldom needed. A good average is about 16 gallons per hour (68 litres).

In terms of oil, the Vedeneyev is designed to use oil, and oil consumption is considerably affected by the type of flying. Inevitably aerobatic flying will throw out oil – i.e. not burnt in the engine, while every start will always use a fair amount of oil. Therefore in aerobatics an aeroplane doing a large number of short flights can easily use over 3 litres an hour. On the other hand a very good engine in the cruise can use as little as ½ litre per hour, and certainly 1 to 1½ litres an hour does not indicate that anything is wrong with the engine.

Reserve

Again few private owners bother to build in a ‘sinking fund’ for future engine replacement etc. This is also complicated by the fact that increasingly, these engines are allowed to operate on a ‘on condition basis’, which dramatically extends their TBOs. Therefore the following figures can be greatly reduced – possibly even halved. However on an hourly basis, based on the strict 750 and 500 TBOs of new and overhauled engines, the hourly cost per engine hour is approximately Euro 40. In addition Euro 5 per hour should be budgeted for the propeller (for an UK overhaul), or Euro 5 per hour for an MT overhaul, although, since this is at 1,000 hour intervals, most owners will run into the 6 year TBO before the 1,000 hour. The only other item is therefore about Euro 2,000 every 8 years to replace all the flexible hoses – this figures is for a Yak-52; it’s down to about Euro 1500 for a Sukhoi with a simpler system.

Lifetime Extensions

Sukhois need a Lifetime Extension every 6 years or 600 hours, which involves disassembly; ultrasonic tests of all composite parts and magniflux testing of all metal parts. The cost in addition to an annual (the obvious time to do it) is approximately £6,000 in the UK or Euro 5,000 in Hungary.

For Yak-52s in the UK , they require a Lifetime Extension every 600 hours or 15 years. Cost is about £4,000, again on top of an annual.

Yak-50s, but again only in the UK , need a similar procedure every 100 hours.

Summary

In cold light, these figures might seem quite high, but the practicality is that they will usually be less per hour than many exceedingly boring aircraft!

Vedeneyev – history

Vedeneyev, established by Ivan Vedeneyev, is one of the smaller Design Bureaux of the former Soviet Union and is based at Veronezh.

The Bureau’s staple product has been the M14 family of aircraft engines, which was in fact originally designed by Alexander Ivchenko, at his factory at Zaparozhye in the Ukraine. His first well-known engine was the AI14, itself the basis of the current Vedeneyev M14 engine.

The AI14 was originally produced in the late 1950s as a 260hp and it was from this basis that Vedeneyev developed the M14P as Ivchenko moved into a range of turbo-fans and turbo-prop engines.

Vedeneyev’s first engine was the AI14-RF, producing 300hp, and this in turn led to the M14P, which has become the most numerous variant. This in turn has led to helicopter variants, (the M14V), as well as more powerful versions including the latest M14PF engine producing 400hp, originally designed for the Sukhoi SU-31, but now being used for a variety of upgrades for other aircraft originally equipped with the M14P engine. We funded the development of the 450hp M14R engine, of whichi 6 were made before the collapse of the company.

In addition Vedeneyev have produced a variety of experimental engines – including horizontally opposed and in ‘X’ formation. As it happens the Bureau’s largest product is of precision gearboxes for aerospace use, of which they are the leaders in Russia.

It seems that all activity at Vedeneyev has now stopped.

 

Yak – history

Alexander Yakovlev was born in Moscow in 1906. He won a prize of 200 roubles with his first original design when he was only 18. This was a glider, and his next design, a two-seat biplane with a 60hp engine broke an endurance record and won him a job with an aeroplane manufacturer. He started his own company and by 1935 had designed what is now recognised as the first modern Soviet trainer, the UT-2, which came with an aerobatic variant, the UT-2. The UT-2 cruised at 160 mph on 160hp.
In the late Thirties, Yakovlev won a design contest for fighter aircraft with his I-26, later called the Yak-1. His company went on to manufacture an estimated 30,000 aircraft by the end of the war. The Yak-1 could reach 363 mph. The last of the wartime line, the Yak-9 was considered by many to be the finest fighter of the second world war. The name ‘Yak’ conjures similar emotions for Russians as ‘Spitfire’ does for the British – both nations faced the Nazis under very grim circumstances and had excellent aircraft to do it with.

The first postwar design was the Yak-18 of 1946, a two-seat tandem trainer with a 160hp radial engine, variable pitch propeller and retractable undercarriage superficially similar to the earlier UT-2, but a much more advanced aircraft. This was a huge success, adopted by flying clubs and military alike. Yuri Gagarin learned to fly in one, and the type was manufactured in China under licence as well as in the USSR.

Throughout the Sixties, this Yak-18 was gradually developed into something that in the end looked very like the Yak 50, the Yak-18PS. The process involved lightening the airframe; virtually doubling engine power; dispensing with the second seat; the adoption of a new flat-bottomed wing design; and a tailwheel undercarriage in place of a nosewheel. The aeroplane was a world-beater at the time, but was recognised to be demanding to fly, largely because its antecedents as a military trainer meant that it was overbuilt, and heavy on the controls.

The Yak 50 emerged in the mid-Seventies as a complete re-design, but with a similar configuration to the 18. It had more power; a smaller, lighter airframe; a wing section designed to enhance inverted flight; and a semi-monocoque metal-skinned construction. Alexander Yakovlev’s son, Sergei, carrying on in the footsteps of his illustrious father, was one of the two designers.

The new Yak was a brilliant success. In the 1976 world contest, Yaks took the first two places, and five of the ten top positions. Yaks took all five of the top places in the women’s contest! At this stage the Yak 50 was competing with Zlin 50s and Pitts Specials. The Zlin and the newer, lighter and smaller monoplanes were, however, more agile machines and gradually they edged the Yak 50 out of its top position.

Although the Yak 50 is now outclassed at World level competitions, it is one of the most charismatic aircraft of all time, being a delight to fly; having the looks, performance and sound of a Second World War fighter, yet with affordable operating costs.

Meanwhile, Yak had developed a new aerobatic trainer, the Yak 52. This was barely seen in the West until the collapse of Communism because it was designed for training rather than competitions at the international level. The aeroplane was produced in large quantities, and was used by both the military and by the many flying clubs sponsored by a government that, despite its failings in other areas, at least smiled on sports aerobatics. So many 52s have been exported that there are now more Yak 52 aircraft in the West than in Russia. The aeroplane’s lineage as a military trainer is evident. It is widely admired for its predictability and lack of vices in flight and its rugged serviceability. It has the charm and style of a warbird, and you can take a friend along – and it is a fraction of the price of anything remotely comparable. Its nosewheel configuration has endeared it to pilots trained in Pipers and Cessnas.

The Yak 18T, another post-war design, is a four seat retractable aeroplane designed for cross-country work. It has excellent short field performance and is stressed for aerobatics. Modified and updated for Western use, the 18T is an excellent all-round performer, comfortable and spacious inside, with good endurance, load-carrying and cruise performance.

In 1982, a new design emerged from Yak, the 55, designed expressly for unlimited level aerobatics. Various improvements were made to it over the next few years, resulting in a machine that was easy to fly and an impressive performer, although marginally outclassed by the new Sukhoi Su26. The 55 remains highly competitive at Advanced, where, alongside the Zlin 50, it looks set for a long-term future.

The very latest Yak, the SP-55M, has just become available. From early reports, it seems set to challenge the Sukhoi designs for top-level aerobatics.

Sukhoi Design Bureau – History

Sukhoi Design Bureau is generally accepted as being the leading Fighter Design Bureau of the former Soviet Union, although ironically, probably less well known in the West than MiG, principally because the Soviet Union kept the Sukhoi aircraft for their own use, only selling Migs to the Warsaw Pact and other ‘friendly’ nations.

The range of aircraft has been most impressive and included an all-titanium Mach-3 bomber of extraordinary sophistication, which was actually cancelled by Kruschiev in the mistaken belief (although shared with a variety of contemporary Western politicians) that there was no future in manned aircraft!

Su-27 Fighter Aircraft

The involvement of Sukhoi in aerobatic aircraft came through the brilliant designer, Slava Kondratiev, who was one of the leading lights at Yakovlev, and who indeed designed the then state of the art aircraft – the Yak-55 and –55M. He could see that the future lay in composite aircraft, but Yakovlev refused to accept that a proper aircraft could be made out of ‘plastics’ and Sukhoi, eager to show off their skills, gave Kondratiev a free hand to design a composite aerobatic aircraft, which resulted in the world-beating SU-26, and its production version the SU-26M.

The design and construction of this aircraft is in fact done by Advance Sukhoi Technologies, in fact a privately owned company, albeit with largely the same management as the (still today) majority state-owned Sukhoi Design Bureau. The aircraft are largely manufactured within the Sukhoi Design Bureau at Policarpov Street in central Moscow, where the back of the factory opens on to the old Central Moscow Airfield, which is now disused, but does give AST the ability to wheel aircraft out of the factory for immediate test flights.

Always his own man, Kondratiev began to find Sukhoi too constraining, so he left, having laid down the basis for the almost totally composite SU-29 two seater and SU-31 single seater, to set up his own design bureau, Technoavia. In the meantime Boris Rakitin took over as chief designer of AST and brought these two products to fruition. The organisation produced some 190 aircraft which have been solid literally throughout the world, as well has having been the most successful competition aircraft of all time.

Sadly, it would seem that production of these exceptional aircraft has stopped and is unlikely to restart, although all jigs, tooling etc still exist.

RGA History

Richard Goode is one of the better known individuals on the UK aircraft scene. Although he trained as a lawyer and worked for some 25 years as a corporate “headhunter”, his real love has always been aviation. Having learned to fly in 1970 he quickly became involved in aerobatics, initially with a Chipmunk before moving on to a Stampe, which in turn gave way to a Pitts Special.

With the latter aircraft he competed in his first World Championship in 1978, at the same time beginning a totally separate career as an air-show display pilot. He competed in the British Team until 1984, his best placing being 16th in the world in 1980.

Ever since competing against the Yak-50s he spent much of his time working out how to acquire such a fantastic and exotic aircraft – which at that stage, at the height of the Cold War, was a totally unattainable dream.

However, he is not a man to be deterred lightly, and pursued the Russians directly, both through the Russian trade officials in London, but also directly with Yakovlev and other organisations in Russia. However, the break came when East Germany decided to sell six of its Yak-50s, of which Richard bought four, two were kept to operate as the ‘Vladivar’ aerobatic team and two were sold on to the USA.

This involvement in Russian aircraft led to a direct approach from Sukhoi, who in 1990 were beginning full-scale production of the new SU-26M. Richard bought the first one delivered to Europe and since then has become significantly the world’s largest dealer in Sukhoi aircraft.

Richard suffered a major accident in 1984 when, doing an air display in a modified Laser aircraft, most of one wing detached, resulting in much of that year being spent in one hospital bed! Since then the pressures of business, at that stage both consulting and aviation, bought his competition flying to an end. However, he continued to operate an extremely successful air display team, which at its peak did no less than 124 air displays in one year, operating two Extra 300 aircraft and one Sukhoi.

By 1997 it became clear that the size of the aviation business needed Richard’s full attention, and the organisation’s name was changed from Richard Goode Aerobatic Displays to purely Richard Goode Aerobatics, signifying the move into aircraft sales, maintenance etc.

They were the first organisation to import privately owned Russian aircraft into the West, with two Yak-50 aircraft some 23 years ago and then imported the first Sukhoi aerobatic aircraft into Europe 20 years ago.

The business today, although small, is undoubtedly the world market leader in Russian aircraft, having sold over 400 aircraft and over 350 engines to some 18 different countries.

However, while the numbers of aircraft that have been sold are obviously a criterion of the service given, he firmly believes that they should not be judged on this alone.

He recognises only too well that the levels of factory support for such aircraft, are, by Western standards, often poor, and for this reason a great deal depends on the ability of the dealer to provide quite exceptional standards of service. He really believes that they do this and would be delighted to allow any prospective customer to speak to existing ones of that particular type of aircraft.

In order to support these Russian aircraft he established Russian Engineering at White Waltham Airfield in 1996, but passed control of the business to the owners of the airfield in 2005, although a close relationship continues.
Under this agreement Richard Goode Aerobatics sells aircraft; propellers; engines and their major sub-assemblies, while all maintenance and smaller parts sales are done from White Waltham.