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The Triplets
The Triplets

The Cold War Museum operates three L-39ZAs obtained from Bulgaria. The "triplets" went down the assembly line in Prague together, served in the Bulgarian VVS together and are now stationed outside Dallas Texas together. It's unusual to see three nearly identical L-39s in their original colors together in one place.

The museum also has a Ukranian L-39C nearing certification. As compared to the ZA model, the C model is slightly faster (about 20 knots, top end) because of weight and drag considerations.


[edit] Overview

Designed in 1966 by the Czechoslovakian manufacturer Aero Vodochody as a successor to their L-29 Delphin, the L-39 first flew in 1968 and entered full-scale production in 1972. The Soviet Union reportedly made a U.S. F-5/T-38, downed over North Vietnam, available during the design — which may account for the similar appearance to the American trainer.

Approximately 2,850 L-39s were produced during the Cold War for use by over thirty Soviet satellites and allies (although 75% of the aircraft went directly to Russia and the Ukraine) where they were used to train two generations of MiG pilots. The Albatros was produced in greater numbers than any other jet trainer in history, accumulating an unprecedented four million flight hours. Still the primary military trainer for many countries around the world, the L-39 has a reported sortie availability rate of 99.6% and an in-flight MTBF of over 300 hours.

An excellent combination of Soviet-style rugged simplicity and Czech ingenuity, the L-39 incorporates an APU starter, pressurized cabin, anti-skid wheel brakes, automatic anti-ice/defrost, speed brakes, a gyro-compensated gun-site, anti-G and oxygen systems, air-conditioning/suit-ventilation, and power seats.

The later ZA (light attack) variant, of which 247 were built, features a 23mm chin cannon, beefed-up landing gear, and a reinforced wing for carrying additional weapons/stores on four hard points.

Unusual among jet aircraft, the L-39 is capable of operating from unimproved (grass/dirt) airfields.

Over one hundred and fifty of these jet trainers are currently flying in the U.S. with a hundred more awaiting restoration and certification.

[edit] Status

[edit] Bord 909

  • Airworthy, flying, No longer with the museum

[edit] Bord 107

  • Airworthy, flying, No longer with the museum

[edit] Bord 109

  • Airworthy, flying, No longer with the museum

[edit] Anecdotes

The L-39 has an absolutely diabolical set of training devices in the back seat for the instructor to choose from. Nearly anything can be failed at the flip of a switch, and worse, things can be partially failed — try flying an ILS when the instructor has set the DG to be only a dozen degrees off course. I would be flying along and my attitude indicator would just roll over, dead... I'd say, 'Did you do that?' and from the back seat I'd hear my instructor laughing manically, 'I love this plane!' ~ Jon

It'll go straight up and straight down at over 400 mph. Anything you've seen in the movie Top Gun, the L-39 will do. ~ Roma

The L-39 is an amazingly responsive plane and easy airplane to fly... in fact, it's just like a video game, only when you roll it, your spare change winds up on the ceiling. Well, that, and you only have one life to work with. ~ Jon

I've spun the L-39 twice. Once on purpose, once not on purpose. What I learned is that you don't want to spin the L-39. ~ Roma

The Czechs got their airplane building technology from the Germans in WWII. In fact, the best-all metal gliders in the world, Blahnik gliders, are built by the Czechs. The L-39 is basically a four ton Czech glider with stubby little wings and a jet engine. ~ Jon

[edit] Specifications (L-39ZA)

[edit] General characteristics

  • Crew: 2: student and instructor
  • Length: 12.13 m (39 ft 10 in)
  • Wingspan: 9.46 m (31 ft 0 in)
  • Height: 4.77 m (15 ft 5 in)
  • Wing area: 18.8 m² (202 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 3,459 kg (7,625 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 5,700 kg (12,560 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1× Progress/Ivchenko AI-25TL turbofan, 16.9 kN (3,800 lbf)

[edit] Performance

  • Never exceed speed: Mach 0.82
  • Maximum speed: 750 km/h (400 knots, 470 mph) at 4,000 m (16,000 ft)
  • Range: 1,000 km (540 nm, 620 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 11,500 m (37,730 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 22 m/s (4,330 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 250.0 kg/m² (51.23 lb/ft²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.37
  • Take-off roll: 530 m (1,700 ft)
  • Landing roll: 600 m (2,000 ft)

    [edit] Armament

    • Up to 1,290 kg (2,840 lb) of stores on four external hardpoints, including:
      • AAMs (K-13) missiles
      • 7.62 mm machine-gun pods
      • free-fall and cluster bombs
      • rocket launchers
      • drop tanks

    [edit] Gallery

    [edit] Historical Photos - Bulgarian Service

    [edit] Video

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