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Monday, 15 December 2014 16:58

Behind The Surname Yakovlev – The Yak-52 Part 1

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Behind the Russian surname Yakovlev lays a history of planes and aviation. Alexander Sergeyevich Yakovlev, member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was an aeronautical engineer who designed the Yakovlev military aircraft. Being the founder of the Yakovlev Design Bureau, he developed large numbers of fighter aircrafts used during World War II.


Before World War II started, Alexander visited places such as Italy, England and Germany, in order to study and improve his skills as an aircraft developer. During the war, he helped supervise the evacuation of aircraft factories to the east, and the organization of production, while continuing as head designer of his Bureau.

One of the aircrafts that outstands is the all-metal Yak-52, a descendant of the single-seat competition aerobatic Yak-50. It is powered by a 268 kW (360 hp) Vedeneyev M14P 9-cylinder radial engine. Originally designed to be used as a military trainer, the aircraft shares a number of features with the early post-war fighters.  As an example of this, it is worth mentioning the cockpit tandem layout, tail design, tricycle landing gear, fuselage mixed construction, inner flaps, controls position, access panels on sides of the fuselage, and even the location of the radio antenna.

Aleksandr Sergéyevich Yákovlev

The aircraft allows inverted flight for as long as two minutes as it has inverted fuel and oil systems. The empty plane weights 998 kg and it is easy to fly and land, being very convenient for aerobatics. It has been used many years in international aerobatic competition up to the Advanced level. The load factor is +7 and –5 Gs. The roll rate of the aircraft is around 180 degrees/second and is capable of almost every maneuver in the Aresti catalog (the document enumerating the aerobatic manoeuvers permitted in aerobatics).

Like most Soviet military aircrafts it is easily commanded in rough surroundings and settings. The minimal maintenance and the inexpensive replacements, as very cheap pneumatics, are reasons for being a very convenient choice for aerobatics. Engine starting, landing gearflaps, and wheel brakes are all pneumatically actuated. The operating pressure is between 10 and 50 bars (145 and 725 psi) and an emergency circuit is reserved for lowering the undercarriage if the normal supply is exhausted or the compressor fails. Additionally both main and reserve bottles can be charged from a port on the ground with compressed air, usually from a Scuba type air bottle. The ground steering/braking arrangement, especially, takes some adjustment for flyers accustomed to hydraulics, because the plane uses differential braking controlled by rudder pedals and a hand operated lever on the control stick. The tricycle landing gear is retractable, but it remains partially exposed in the retracted position, affording both a useful level of drag in down maneuvers and a measure of protection should the plane be forced to land "wheels up."

The Yak 52 has been an excellent choice for aerobatic pilots who wanted to progress up to advanced level in the last decade. It’s reliability,  “cheap price and operation” were the main reasons that explain why there are so many of them still competing. Due to the amount of Yak 52 still in service and flying worldwide, in 2008 the FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) decided to throw a World Aerobatic Championship only for YAK-52 aircraft types. The Russian Anton Berkutov made history winning the first championship and since thenm, this championship is being held every two years in a different airfield around the world.


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