10 November 2007

From lonely storage to renewed life

Yak-50 in flight. Its classic lines echo Alexander Yakovlev's WW2 fighter design heritage.

February 2007 Yak-50 serial number 853101 stored inside Yak UK's hangar in Little Gransden. Registered as G-CBPO, the aircraft had not flown since 2002. Prior to restoration and life in the UK, 853101 had been noted as a derelict aircraft (by an aviation enthusiast) at an airbase in Odessa-Lyman, Ukraine, after serving as 59 Blue with DOSAAF (USSR military flying club). I bought the aircraft from Mark Jefferies (Yak UK), who in turn had bought it from the UK-based owner.

The original cockpit layout was unchanged from the time of manufacture. Note the Russian Baklan 5 VHF radio beneath the switch bank.

April 2007 Out of a dark and dusty hangar and into the light. The Russian registration RA-44476 remained on the aircraft from the time it had previously been on the Russian register. The UK registration G-CBPO had not been painted on - presumably because the owner hadn't bothered to do so.

Note how far the cockpit is set back from the nose; limiting forward visibility while taxiing on the ground. The cockpit position is similar to that of the Spitfire and Corsair.

June 2007 The bird was disassembled for an overhaul and complete repaint in Lithuania.

September 2007 In Lithuania, 853101's wing feathers were removed and the paint stripped for a complete structural inspection and repair as necessary exercise.

Similarly, the bird's fuselage was stripped of equipment and paint. No major structural problems were found during the non-destructive testing and inspection of the airframe.

Some rivets around the undercarriage attachment box were found to be loose and were replaced. A small skin crack was also repaired with a doubler strip as seen in the photo.

The engine was completely disassembled for cleaning, overhaul and repainting. Note the patches of rust on some components. Mark's comment was that it's important for scheduled annual inspections to be performed even though an aircraft may not be flown much.

October 2007 Fuselage in the paint shop with the primer coat applied.

Fuselage after the dark grey on medium grey camouflage pattern was applied.

Then the WW2 era Soviet red star was applied. Other markings were to follow.

Underside view of completed wing feathers with the undercarriage wheel recess visible.

Fuselage with the rest of its markings applied. Note the mechanic inside the cockpit area. He is assembling the various electrical lines, mechanical controls and pneumatic lines leading into the cockpit. Another mechanic is working on the remounted engine.

Repainted tail feathers. All the control surfaces (ailerons, elevators and rudder) were re-covered with Ceconite fabric. Note the hefty flanges and bolts attaching the rear base of the vertical fin to the rear end of the fuselage.

The business end of 853101. A nine cylinder, 10 litre capacity, 360 hp radial engine, the Vedeneyev M-14P and its other 400+ hp versions are popular aerobatic engines of choice today. Note the big brown container mounted on the engine firewall. It's the engine oil tank!

Overhauled and repainted engine with the propeller, spinner and cooling shutters attached.

Twin fuselage fuel tanks located between the engine firewall and cockpit. Total capacity is 127 litres.

Two air bottles, one for normal use and the other for emergency undercarriage extension. The pneumatic system is used for starting the engine and powering the retractable undercarriage.

Undercarriage uplock mechanism. The rectangular reddish block is the microswitch to detect undercarriage position (retracted or extended), while the grey and black cylindrical block is the actuator for releasing the undercarriage uplock.

This is my all time favourite office. Note there is a hole (left of control stick) for one more instrument to be fitted - an air-switch flight hours meter. I changed the cockpit and panel layout by replacing the Baklan radio with a Becker radio and transponder combination in a new housing (below switch bank), adding the flight hours meter, moving the accelerometer (G-meter) from the top of the glare shield (left of the compass) to the right side of the instrument panel (above the primer's oval knob). This cleared the view over the nose.

853101's nose with the top engine cowling attached and the bottom cowling in the foreground.

Yak-50 serial number 853101 out of the workshop and before being shipped to me in Australia.

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