Monday, March 16, 2009
One of the nice things about going flying in the spring is spotting the season's first rare airplane among the antiques or former warbirds that had been hangared all winter. On the first pleasant Sunday in March, their owners often roll them out into the sun to preen and shake their feathers, getting ready for summer air shows.
Yesterday, shortly after rolling the hangar door down on my little Cessna 150 at Westosha Airport in Wilmot, Wisconsin, I spotted this colorful Yakovlev Yak-52, an aerobatic trainer that introduced many fledgling Red Air Force pilots to combat maneuvers beginning in 1976. In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, scores of surplus Yaks were exported to the United States and sold for a song, as they still are (a typical price is $50,000, actually quite low as airplanes go). They're not at all uncommon in American skies, especially at aerobatic contests, but at country airports they're still rare enough to turn heads.
This Yak-52 -- apparently newly painted in her original colors -- looks a little like a mantis on steroids with that long and skinny landing gear, necessary for the big paddle-blade propeller to clear the ground. Her pilot had just started the engine in a huge cloud of exhaust, nearly blown away at the time I snapped the photo. The propeller's whirling briskly, but the camera stopped it with a 1/4000 sec. shutter speed.
Ta-pocketa-pocketa . . .