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!