L-39 Albatros, Aero

L-39 Albatros

The Aero L-39 Albatros is a high-performance, jet trainer aircraft developed in Czechoslovakia during the 1960s to replace the standard WarPac L-29 Delfín trainer. The L-39 is a straightforward low-wing jet aircraft with tandem seating. The large, D-shaped overwing jet intakes are an easy recognition feature; they were designed to reduce the risk of FOD when using rough airfields. 2828 were delivered, the majority to the USSR.

It was the first turbofan trainer produced, and was later updated as the L-59 Super Albatros. The design is still produced in an evolved state as the L-159, while more than 2,600 L-39s still serve with over 30 air forces around the world. The Albatros is versatile, seeing duty in light attack missions as well as basic and advanced pilot training, and is the most widely-used jet trainer in the world. The L39 is also used by the largest civilian aerobatics team flying jets, the Breitling Team.

Type: L-39C Albatros
Designer: Aero
Country: Czechoslovakia
Function: trainer
Year: 1971
Crew: 2
Engines: 1 * 16.85kN Ivchenko AI-25TL
Wing Span: 9m46
Length: 12m13
Height: 4m77
Wing Area: 18.80 m2
Wing loading: 250 kg/m²
Empty Weight: 3459 kg
Max.Weight: 4700 kg
Thrust/weight: 0.37
Speed: 754 km/h (at 4000 m)
Rate of climb: 22 m/s
Ceiling: 11500 m
Range: 1000 km
Armament: 1290 kg of stores on four external hardpoints

The L-39 Albatross succeeds the L-29 Maya/Delfin. The L-39 basic and advanced jet trainer first flew on 4 November, 1968. They were followed by ten pre-production aircraft. It was the standard jet trainer for the Soviet Union, and Czechoslavakia from 1971 to 1973. The aircraft is the standard jet trainer for former Warsaw Pact countries. The L-39 was exported to 16 countries. The newest recipients of these aircraft are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bulgaria, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Romania, Syria, and Vietnam. From 1971 to 1999 a total of 2921 units of L-39/59 family were delivered and unrivalled more than 4 million flight hours were flown at users all over the world.

A contract for delivery of 12 new L-39C jet trainers was signed by Aero Vodochody in Sana´a, Yemen Republic capital, at the end of February 1999. The contract, which is result of several years intensive negotiations, covers also delivery of spare parts, logistics, pilot and ground crew training and service support.

The L-39 is a low-wing aircraft with tandem seating and a classic all-metal airframe, it is equipped with a three-point hydraulically operated retractable landing-gear. Trapezoidal wings have fuel tanks on their tips. The wing has double-slotted flaps with a takeoff deflection of 25° and landing deflection of 44°. The fuselage consists of two construction parts - the forward and the rear one. The rear fuselage and tail are removable. The electronic equipment and oxygen system are located in a dielectric nose cover. In L-39, the canopy of the cockpit is hinged to the right. In newer development types L-59 (originally L-39MS) and L-139 it is hinged hydraulically upwards to the rear.

The power plant is an Al-25TL by-pass double-shaft turbojet engine with max. static thrust of 16.87 kN. The engine is started by a Saphire 5 single-shaft gas turbine. The types with maximum takeoff weight of 5,700 kg are equipped with a more powerful DV-2 engine with max. thrust of 21.57 kN. There is a classic mechanical control system with power transmission over levers and pull rods from both pilot posts.

The electrical equipment is powered by the main generator (9 kW) from an accumulator enabling autonomous operation. The electrical net includes inverters (115 V and 3x36 V). Radio equipment of the aircraft consists of radio, communication, radionavigation and identification devices. For the training of landing and approach, a RSBN-5S close navigation system and ILS landing system are used. The aircraft is also equipped with the RKL-41 radio compass, RV-5 radio altimeter, MRP-56PS marker and an identification device.

L-39ZA is equipped with a sight with a camera gun and a two-barrel 23mm quick-firing Gsh-23 gun, which is installed under the fuselage. Besides training tasks, it can also be used for tactical air surveillance. The L-39C version has two wing pods, L-39ZA and L-39ZO have reinforced wings with four underwing stations on which they can carry bombs, rockets, or two short-range air-to-air missiles. The L-39MS has higher performance and modern electronic equipment and avionics.

Over the years, different versions were built:

Operational history

While newer versions are now replacing older L-39s in service, thousands remain in active service as trainers, and many are finding new homes with private owners all over the world. This is particularly evident in the US, where their $200,000-$300,000 price puts them in range of moderately wealthy pilots looking for a fast, agile personal jet. Their popularity has even led to a purely L-39 'Jet Unlimited' class at the Reno Air Races. As of mid-March 2006, there are over 250 L-39s in the US Federal Aviation register.
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