Yak-50 – a dangerous winner
Tags: 'Attacker' class, 'Attacker' class escort carrier, 'Svetlana', 'the game was not worth the candle', +9/-6, 1923-2004, 1945, 1976 World Aerobatic Championships, 1984, 2 kills in WW2, 3100 ft min, 360 hp, 4 kills in the Falklands War, a thing of beauty, aerobatic, aerobatic competitions, Aerobatic Team of the Soviet Union, aerobatics, Air Show, aircraft, aircraft scrapped, aircraft scrapped after 50 hours, aircraft were stored, airframe, Australia, Boeing 747, center section, Compton Abbas, Cotswold Airport, CVE, CVE-15, D-91, David Morgan, David William Morgan, Derbyshire, designed for aerobatics, disposal sales, Distinguished Service Cross, Dorset, DSC, England, escort carrier, Europe, FAA, failure of the centre section, failure of the main wing spar, first flown in 1973, Fleet Air Arm, Flight Leiutenant, G limits, G-meter, G-SVET, genetics, Gloucestershire, Great Britain, Harrier, Heanor, HMS Stalker, Indian Ocean, Ivchenko Vedeneyev M-14P, jammed at +12 G, Japanese, Japanese aircraft, Kemble, Kiev, lost a wing, main wing spar, major structural problems, maximum performance, metal monoplane, monoplane, No. 809 Squadron, on the international stage, Pacific Ocean, pilot managed to bailout, RA-44459, radial engine, RAF, RAF Harrier Pilot, rocket-like climb, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Russian dominance, Russian Register, Seafire, Seafire L.(F) Mk III, Second World War, Service Bulletin, Snr., strengthening the main spar, Su-26, Sukhoi, Supermarine, team aerobatics, Ukraine, USA, USS Hamlin, Viktor Lestko, Virgin Atlantic, warbird, withdraw the Yak-50, worldwide population of 90 aircraft, WW2, Yak-50, Yak-50 Group, Yak-55, Yakovlev Design Bureau
Fragility can be a thing of beauty in a flower or a skillful work of art, but it becomes a dangerous attribute in an aircraft, particularly one which is designed for aerobatics. The Yakovlev Design Bureau produced the Yak-50 (first flown in 1973) for one thing only – to win aerobatic competitions, especially on the international stage. Powered by an Ivchenko Vedeneyev M-14P radial of 360 hp, this metal monoplane could pull 9G as it climbed skyward at an astonishing 3,100 ft min. The mount of the Aerobatic Team of the Soviet Union from 1975, the Yak-50 took first place in both the Men’s competition (Viktor Lestko) and Women’s competition (Lidia Leonova) at the 1976 World Aerobatic Championships in Kiev, Ukraine. Despite having astonishing agility, and a rocket-like climb, the Yak-50 had major structural problems.
G limits on the airframe were +9/-6, but to wring the maximum performance out of the machine, individual pilots were always pushing harder. Viktor Lestko was killed when his Yak-50 lost a wing in flight (the G-meter was found jammed at +12); other aerobatic pilots also suffered failure of the main wing spar – and at least one failure of the centre section – one pilot managing to bailout just in time. Numerous Service Bulletins were issued, involving strengthening the main spar and other areas, but the stress was so high that the Soviet Team’s aircraft were typically scrapped after only 50 hours!
It became obvious that, however effective the Yak-50 was as an aerobatic mount, the ‘game was not worth the candle’. The decision was made to withdraw the Yak-50 from competitive use in 1984. Another Yak design, the Yak-55, took over and, along with the Sukhoi Su-26, continued the Russian dominance of team aerobatics. Some aircraft were stored, and some disposed of by direct sale to new owners in Europe, Australia and the USA.
Here we see G-SVET, named ‘Svetlana’, and owned by the Yak-50 Group out of Compton Abbas, Dorset. It is just landing following a display at Cotswold Airport, Kemble, Gloucestershire. G-SVET was originally on the Russian Register as ‘RA-44459’, but now is one of small number still flying (total worldwide population varies according to which source is consulted, but is somewhere between 60 and 90). It is often displayed by Flt Lt David Morgan, DSC, an ex-RAF Harrier pilot, who, as a Flight Lieutenant, was credited with four kills during the Falklands War. He now flies Boeing 747s for Virgin Atlantic.
There is a Derbyshire connection here. David’s father, David William Morgan (1923 – 2004), was born in Heanor, Derbyshire and served during WW2 as a pilot in the RAF, before transferring to the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm in 1945. He flew the Supermarine Seafire L.(F) Mk III – with No. 809 Sqn. FAA – off the ‘Attacker’ class escort carrier, HMS Stalker, D-91 (formerly the USS Hamlin, CVE-15) in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. David Morgan Snr. shot down two Japanese aircraft. It would seem that there is something in this genetics thing after all!
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