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Aero celebrates 60 years of Czech jet aircraft production

Source: Aero Vodochody

Successful jet journey from Delfín to Engéček. Aero, a traditional Czech manufacturer with a centuries-old tradition, is celebrating 60 years since the start of serial production of its own jet aircraft. In 1963, the first serial production of the L-29 Delfín was produced. In 2023, the serial production of the new L-39NG trainer aircraft will start. Over six decades, 6,700 trainer jets have rolled off Aero's production lines.



“Currently, there are only nine airlines worldwide that are capable of producing a complete military trainer aircraft from design to final certification. Our company is one of them,” says Victor Sotona, Aero’s President and CEO, adding: “The entire process includes not only design, production, testing and certification, but also pilot training, service, and maintenance, aircraft upgrades, weapons systems integration or logistics support.”

 

Aero L-29 Dolphin

Aero’s Dolphin has one significant first. It was the first jet aircraft ever completely designed and manufactured in Czechoslovakia. Out of a total of 3,665 aircraft produced (1963-1974), Aero produced 1,943 units and the LET factory in Kunovice produced the other 1,722 units.

The two-seat L-29 measured 10.81 m in length and had a wingspan of 10.29 m. It reached a top speed of 655 km/h and had a range of 900 km. The Dolphin is one of the two most widely used jet trainer aircraft in the world.

Two L-29s even served on the US helicopter landing ship USS Bonhomme Richard as part of some combat training. The Dolphin was also used to prepare astronauts for their missions.

 

Aero L-39 Albatros

Aero produced and delivered (1971-1999) to customers a total of 2,900 units of the now legendary Albatross – still the most widely used jet trainer in the world. The first flying prototype (after renovation) is currently on display in the Aviation Museum in Kbely.

In 2020, the L-39 made its first appearance (in the Czech Republic) on postage stamps. The stamp (33 x 26 mm) was issued in an edition of 4 million. The artwork was designed by Petr Ptáček.

A crew of four space tourists trained on Czech L-39s and then embarked on a groundbreaking space mission on Elon Musk’s SpaceX Crew Dragon. He has personally piloted the Czech Albatros in the past and praised its flight characteristics.

The L-39s also made a significant mark in the globally successful film Top Gun: Maverick. The actors trained in L-39 Albatros aircraft and breathtaking aerial footage was created in a specially modified L-39 called Cinejet.

In 2022, a unique drag race between an Albatross and an F1 racing monoplane piloted by Lewis Hamilton also took place. The Albatross can be flown from the comfort of your home. It is a part of one of the extensions (Reno races) of the world’s popular flight simulator from Microsoft.

 

Aero L-59 Super Albatros

Between 1992 and 1996, 60 L-59 Super Albatros (export name) aircraft were produced in Vodochody. The aircraft combined the design features of the L-39 with more powerful engine and advanced avionics.

One of the two L-59 prototypes is on display on the Aero premises in front of the administration building. The other is used in ejection seat tests, among other things.

 



Aero L-159 ALCA

The L-159 ALCA subsonic combat aircraft was produced between 1997 and 2003. A total of 72 of these aircraft were produced in several versions. The L-159 aircraft are used by the Czech Air Force.

Although these aircraft are often called “Alky”, the Vodokhod aircraft did not refer to a type of bird, but the acronym ALCA meant that it was an Advanced Light Combat Aircraft.

The potential of the machine is also being exploited by Draken Europe. In their service, the L-159 helps in the role of the aggressor when training RAF fighter pilots, who also fly the state-of-the-art F-35s. A prototype, designated L-159 T2X, recently flew over the airfield in Vodochody. This tested new elements of the aircraft in the air in connection with work on the development and modernization of the L-159.

Former military pilot Aleš Svoboda, who became a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut backup team, also has experience with the L-159. Kateřina Hlavová, the first Czech military pilot, also flew the Czech Aero machine.

 

Aero L-39NG

The L-39NG is a new trainer aircraft produced by Aero. The start of development of the new trainer from Aero was announced in 2014. The first prototype (designated 7001) flew in December 2018.

In 2022, the aircraft received full certification in accordance with EU and NATO requirements and systems. The Enge is 11.7 m long and has a wingspan of 9.38 m. It reaches a top speed of 780 km/h and has a range of up to 2,500 km with additional tanks.

Last year, Aero also began full production of the aircraft, 19 years after the last aircraft of its own design was produced. In November 2022, a significant event in production took place, known as a marry-up. The fuselage and wing were joined, the final step needed to bring the aircraft back to life and make its maiden flight

The main advantages of the new L-39NG trainer aircraft include excellent flight characteristics, low operating costs, high reliability and service life until 2070. Aero currently has orders for 34 L-39NG aircraft. The production capacity is filled until 2025.

Among the customers is the Czech state-owned enterprise LOM Praha. So far, four L-39NGs will be used for basic and advanced training of Czech Air Force pilots at the Air Training Centre in Pardubice.



 

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