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Private MiGs by Dave Sutton
The Champlin Fighter Museum
The Texas Airplane Factory
Nasa Testpilot flies MiG-21
Sierra Hotel, Inc.
Happyness is a Hot Jet

Private MiGs

From: Dave Sutton (

Dear friends,

A few days ago I posted a question regarding the MiG-17 and wanting to correspond with anyone who had engaged these aircraft in Viet Nam or elsewhere. I noted that I own and operate a MiG-17F in the USA and that I had experience flying the MiG-21 series in the USA as well, and offered to give information on the flying qualities of these two aircraft if anyone was interested. I received volumes of personal EMail wanting information, and rather than responding to each individual, as much as I would like to, I thought I'd post an article on this for the newsgroup. To tie into this: I and my firm are solidly entrenched in the business of operating surplus military jet aircraft in the United States. I would appreciate any questions or observations from our newsgroup readers on any subject about this category of aircraft being operated in the USA, UK, or elsewhere. Many people do not realize how many of these aircraft are owned and operated by civilians, and I think that this thread may proove to be quite interesting in the weeks to come.
The MiG-15, 17 and 21 are now available to collectors of jet aircraft in good quantity at what seems to be very low prices. I have seen MiG-15's advertised for $35,000, 17's for $40,000 and 21's as low as $20,000. The reality is twofold: First, it is indeed possible to own and operate these aircraft as civilians. Second is that it takes BUCKETS of money to really do it right. The MiG-15/17 series will have you spend about $100,000 to get one safely flyable and the 21 will cost twice that. I know all of this for a fact, having had at one time in my hanger 4 MiG-21's (a PF, U, UM & US for those who care) as well as a series of MiG 15/17 aircraft. There is a fanasty element involved with many people seeing themselves in the cockpit of their own fighter, and while it is possible you better already be seirra hotel in jet aircraft before even thinking of having one for your own. A better choice for the average pilot might be one of the trainer jets on the market, Fouga Magister-Jet Provost type which will provide a lot of fun with a good safety margin.
Anyway, on to the meat, a pilots eye view of the Mig series:
The MiG-15/17 can be considered for most intents one type. There are currently four basic varients available as follows: MiG-15 either Chinese or Polish manufactured. (single seat fighters). MiG-15UTI trainers, mainly Polish. MiG-17F either Chinese or Polish once again, and the JJ-5 trainer, a 2 seat MiG-17 manufactured only in China. Basic differences between the 15 and 17 are the wing, 10 degrees greater in sweep, much thinner and with a higher critical mach number in the 17 compared to the 15. The 17 fighter has an afterburning VK-1F engine with all of the others, including the JJ-7 MiG-17 trainer having the less powerfull VK-1 sans burner. All of these engines are really reverse engineered Rolls Royce Nene engines, the Brits having had the good grace to sell the Soviets engines at the beginning of the cold war. Having had experience with all 4 of these I observe that the nicest airplanes are the ones from China (!!). Don't ask me why, but their stuff is of much better fit and finish than the European stuff. I know it is weard and does not fit in with most peoples pre-conceived ideas but it is true. (and my own personal MiG is a Polish Lim-5 which a MiG-17F fighter, so I have no axe to grind).
Flying qualities are as follows:
The MiG-15 is a simple, durable, and decent aircraft in most all respects. It is fairly agile, has adequate power, and good overall handling. It does however have some drawbacks, in that the wing has a fairly low critical mach number and that it does some rather untidy things if the wing is pushed to high speed. Also, it has a propensity to depart from controlled flight in high G/high alpha flight as some fairly good pilots have found out to their immortal dismay while doing low level display flights. The 15UTI trainer is popular for those who would like to carry a friend to show off to, the only drawback is that it is UGLY with a capital U. The MiG-17 is wonderfull. The aerodynamics of this greatly improved wing make it a very different animal than the 15. The additional power of the burner is nice too, but the wing is what really makes the differance. The 17 is transsonic and shows no adverse flight characteristics in high speed flight, yet is more predictible in the high G high Alpha regime than the 15 ever was. The drawback to the 17 is that you have to be truly selfish to have one, they virtually all being single seat fighters and all of the afterburning ones being single seat. There are to my knowlage only two JJ-5 trainers in the USA, and only one is flyable the second having been damaged in a landing accident. All in all the MiG-17 is the most exciting airplane I have ever flown, and that includes a lot of types through some stuff that is rather higher in performance than the 17. This is truly the aerobatic porsche of the fighter world available to the non military pilot.
The MiG-21 is a completely different beast as all of you know. It is an analog to the F-104 in that it is a Mach-2 fighter, initially designed for short range day visual flight. They are a lot more complex to maintain, but can be done with some care. The flying characteristics are fairly straightforward, but I do not consider them to be "pleasant" to fly. The pilot really works, and the thing is just not happy below Mach-1. Look at the wing loading and you'll see why. It has VERY short range, and when the engine is started you are basically in a fuel emergency situaton before you launch. I am glad that I have had the opportunity to fly the 21, but it would not be the first one out of the hanger for a sunday flight.
I think that as weapons the two aircraft probably filled their missions fairly well. The 21 certainly influenced later fighter design in that it was a fairly simple light weight (everything is relative) machine of adequate but not outstanding performance. The MiG-17 is the absolute pinnicle of first generation jet fighter design. It is interesting that Col. Tomb, NVAF, the North Vietnamese high ranking ace, preferred the 17 to the 21 for ambushing american aircraft, partly because of the cannon carried by the 17. In fact the retention of cannon in the 17 influenced US thoughts regarding missile only armed aircraft with the results that we now have reverted to having installed cannon in all of our fighters. So the influence of both the 17 and 21 can be seen today in such designs as the F-16 which was our first lightweight fighter for domestic consumption (the F-5 being an export fighter). In my mind, fighter design should have been frozen with the MiG-17 and the F-100. Everything after that has been more systems VS systems rather than pilot VS pilot. Yes I know that pilots do the job (remember who I am!), but fly by wire does take some of the edge off.
I'll look forward to seeing how the community picks up this discussion. I'll be happy to engage in friendly debate for the edification of all. The best responses will get a bottle of private label "MiG Pilot Vodka, the Spirit of Flight" for the bar. Check 6, I may just be there!

Diligencia Vis Celeritas (Power, Accuracy, Speed)

Dave Sutton, President, RED STAR AVIATION
Sales, Support & Training in the aircraft of Eastern Europe.

The Champlin Fighter Museum


Dear fellow Russian aviation enthusiasts:

I was in Mesa Arizona on a corporate flying trip recently, and had an opportunity to visit two museums on the airport, and see some interesting Russian Aviation items at a third location as well. In order:
First I visited the Arizona wing of the Confederate Air Force. This has no Russian aviation items, but is a nice display anyway. In residence there were a B-17 and CASA license built version of Heinkel 111, both open for inside inspection. This is more of a working restoration shop than a museum, so the inside of the hanger is very much a work in progress. There was also a B-25 undergoing restoration, a T-6, Beech C-45, Grumman Albatross, DC-4, and 2 Canberra jet bombers recently flown there fom the UK. A very nice collection of aviation artifacts is on display. This is a nice museum, and is worth planning 1-2 hours, depending on how long you want to look at the inside of the He-111 and B-17.
The second stop was at the Champlin Fighter Museum. I identified myself to the staff of the museum as a MiG and Yak owner, and I was rewarded with a behind the ropes, open the cockpit and climb-in tour of the collection. I was later hosted by Doug Champlin, the collection owner, who delighted me by staying an hour after closing to show me the restoration shop and behind the scenes areas. This is a private collection and is the worlds best private collection of fighter aircraft. There is a fabulous collection of WW-I aircraft, and a nearly complete collection of WW-II fighters including a Diamler-Benz powered Me-109 and a Focke-Wulf 190D. The collection so large that I will not attempt to describe other than the Russian airplanes on exhibit.
First, there is a Yak-9 fighter, which is an original WW-II version, not the Allison powered ones being made new at this time. The airplane was discovered in Siberia in very poor condition four years ago, and Mr. Champlin had it restored in Russia over a two year period. It is authentic in every respect. I was allowed to sit in it, and I was amazed to find that the cockpit was in many ways very similar to my Yak-50 and Yak-52, with all of the magneto switches, gear and flap controls, clock, engine guages, etc identical. I was even more surprised that there are a number of cockpit guages which are identical to those in my MiG!! It seems that if it works the first time, these items are not ever redesigned. The paint scheme was ollower grey with light blue/grey camoflage and blue belly, a classic scheme and also the same as my Yak-50. This was a real pleasure to me, to be able to sit in this actual combat veteran of the Great Patriotic War.
Second, there is a Bell King Cobra wreck, currently stored outside. This is a wreck recently recovered from the Kuril islands, and is a Russian lend-lease aircraft. The aircraft is in very poor condition, but clearly shows the Soviet "Red Star" markings on the remains of the wings. It is the intention of the museum to restore this aircraft to flying condition in the future.
For more modern aircraft there are 4 MiG's. There are two MiG-15 fighters, both of Chinese manufacture. One is displayed outside, along with a Russian tank in running condition, and the second is inside. Inside a special hanger is the "aces" collection, pairing US aircraft with the Russian aircraft that they met in combat in Korea and Viet Nam. First, a F-86 is displayed opposite the second MiG-15. This is very interesting as a size comparison. The MiG-15 is LOTS smaller, or should I say the F-86 is lots bigger. Second, there is an F-4 displayed against a MiG-17 and a MiG-21. Again the size differance is enormous. The MiG-17 is a rather rare one, as is is a early Russian manufactured non-afterburning version. This aircraft was donated by the government of Morrocco. Next to it >

Transfer interrupted!