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Post A Ride in a Russian L-39
Created by John Eipper on 01/15/13 6:49 AM

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A Ride in a Russian L-39 (Cameron Sawyer, Russia, 01/15/13 6:49 am)

What a fascinating story from Michael Sullivan (14 January).

I flew as a passenger in an L39 jet trainer of the Russian Air Force, some years ago. It was an incredible experience. The pilot, taking advantage of the fact that as a sailor I do not suffer from any kind of motion sickness, took the craft through all kinds of aerobatic maneuvers like loops, Immelmann maneuvers, rolls, and best of all, a maneuver the name of which I don't know, where we flew in a shallow dive up to the Do Not Exceed speed of the airframe, then pointed the nose straight upwards, flying up vertically like a rocket, engine at full throttle, until all the airspeed gradually bled off, at which point we stalled, and spun out, falling like a falling leaf. It was supposed to be a lesson in recovery from a spin. Just as we lost the last of our airspeed, we popped up out of the clouds, still in a completely vertical attitude. An unforgettable experience. I surely envy Mike for having had a career which allowed him to be in and around jet aircraft his whole life.

Before being allowed to go up, I was made to spend most of a day learning how to use the ejection seat--this is why Mike's post reminded me of this experience. I had no idea that they are so dangerous. On this particular aircraft, if you fail to hold your head firmly against the headrest of the seat when it goes off, you would be decapitated. Nice! They had a training rig--a dummy ejection seat on a spring--to demonstrate the many ways you can be killed or maimed by using the ejection seat improperly.

JE comments:  Wow.  I don't think Prof. Hilton would have approved (he once cautioned me against buying a motorcycle), but this joy ride sounds like a great deal of fun.  Want your own L-39?  Here's a sharp 1984 model in Soviet livery, priced to sell at $185,900:


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  • A Ride in a Russian L-39 (Michael Sullivan, USA 01/15/13 2:33 PM)

    I have two friends that own L-39s. One not only owns an L-39 but also owns a MiG 21 and a MiG 23. He lives in Wilmington, Delaware and was a former USAF F-102 pilot. He has a Harvard MBA and has made a lot of money working with Fanny Mae.

    The other is Bob Lutz, a former Marine pilot and peer of mine as we went through Flight School together, who is heavily involved in the auto industry and is the former Vice Chairman, General Motors Corporation. I believe he had to crash land his L-39 a few years ago when the landing gear wouldn't extend.

    I was surprised to learn that there were so many foreign military prop and jet aircraft owners in the US. You must be able to afford about a 1,000 gallons of fuel per hour in a high-performance jet fighter, and then to be able to purchase replacement parts. Many of these jets are out of production, so you have to try and locate parts from all over the world or have the capability to make them. Takes a huge bank account!

    JE comments:  At around $6 per gallon of jet fuel, L-39s are not a hobby for the faint of wallet!  I calculate $100 per minute of flight time.

    Bob Lutz is one of my all-time heroes of the auto industry.  I'd be honored to meet him someday.

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