Tag Archives: Albatros

AHF↑Inside: the CLV scene at Pardubice

The sun and clouds paint a magnificent picture in the sky over Pardubice Airbase in the Czech Republic. The student pilots in two Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros trainers approaching runway 09 have no eyes for it, and neither have the instructor pilots in the back seat of both aircraft. A nice formation landing completes the training mission, one of many of Centru Leteckého Výcviku (CLV), also known as the Czech Flight Training Center. In ten years of operations, this scene has been repeated countless times by countless student pilots from the Czech Republic and abroad.

After both L-39Cs have successfully performed their formation landing, the aircraft taxi back to the CLV flightline. Minutes before, the ground crew were staring at the fantastic duet between clouds and the sun, but now they focus their attention on the returning aircraft. The student pilots in the front perform post flight checks while the instructors sign the paperwork with an air of casual seniority. They have done this before. Afterwards, students and instructors walk the short distance to the CLV building, while a fuel truck pulls up alongside the Albatros trainers. “The most expensive part of flight training”, says a technician.

Fueling up. It’s expensive. (Image © Dennis Spronk)


Above all, CLV is the main supplier of Czech jet pilots, most of them aspiring to fly the Czech Air Force’s Saab JAS 39C/D Gripens one day. The L-39C Albatros is a proven method, as since its first flight in 1968, almost 3,000 of these sturdy trainers were built by Czech company Aero Vodochody for clients worldwide. The L-39 is an ideal trainer, with the Russian built Ivchenko AI-25TL turbofan supplying 3,792 lbs of thrust, giving the aircraft a top speed of 405 knots and a maximum range of 593 miles on internal fuel. No wonder the next two students at Pardubice eagerly await their instructors. They’re next up for a turn in both L-39Cs.

CLV has seven of these jet trainers available for training future Czech Air Force pilots, next to eight Zlin Z-142 single engine aircraft for elementary training, two L-410 twin engine turboprops for multi-engine aircraft training, plus six Mil Mi-2 Hoplites and six Mil Mi-17 Hips for rotary wing training. With its fleet, CLV covers not only all elementary, basic, advanced and even ‘combat ready’ flight training, but also line maintenance training. The company, part of LOM PRAHA, offers technical training to aircraft technicians from a number of countries.

Ready for the next mission. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Helicopter training
The airbase of Pardubice is the main operating base for CLV, although extension of operations to the former military base of Přerov is on the cards. “We’re thinking of using Přerov for helicopter training in difficult conditions, such as brown out conditions”, says a company spokesman. The CLV Mil Mi17 training also consists of formation flights, mountain take offs and landing and Night Vision Goggles (NVG) flights. A full mission simulator is also used. Combat and tactical training on the L-39 is also done by simulation, in the Tactical Simulation Center (TSC), also located at Pardubice.

One of several Mil Mi-17 Hips used by CLV. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Watchful eye
But, the two students now starting up their L-39Cs under the watchful eye of two instructors and the ground crew at the Pardubice flightline, will train for the same thing as just before; formation flying. While they concentrate in their cockpits, out of nowhere, three Czech Air Force Saab JAS 39C show up overhead the airfield. One of them acts as an intruder and is forced to ‘land’ by the other two at Pardubice. The landing actually turns into a low approach, after which the three Gripens disappear.

Future stuff
It’s future stuff for Czech CLV students. In general, the next stage for them after 200 hours on L-39s at CLV, is the L-159 ALCA light attack aircraft, on which they accumulate further flying and tactical experience. Only after a number of years and based on experience gained, they will have a chance of getting to fly Saab Gripen, the Czech prize fighter. A plan is in development however, to mix up pilots a little more between the ALCA and the Gripen. At the moment, only young pilots fly the ALCA, and only senior pilots fly Gripen. This situation is not ideal, according to sources in the Czech Air Force.

It is of no concern yet to the two pilots now taxiing both L-39C Albatros aircraft to the Pardubice runway for another training flight, which will complete today’s CLV flying schedule. The clouds and sun still paint a picture worth looking at. Then, two airborne L-39Cs add to the picture. The scene is a familiar one, and with CLV in town at Pardubice, it will remain a familiar one for years to come.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Elmer van Hest

Some quiet time at the Pardubice flightline. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A Zlin Z-142, one of eight operated by CLV for elementary flight training. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A Hoplite is kept safely inside a hardened aircraft shelter at Pardubice. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Concentration in the front of the class room. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The next step for jet pilots is the L-159 ALCA. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The ultimate step. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

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Taxiing in at the conclusion of a formation flying mission with CLV. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Lithuanian Air Force plans to buy L-39s

A Lithuanian Air Force L-39ZA Albatros light attack and advanced training aircraft (Image © Lithuanian MoD)
A Lithuanian Air Force L-39ZA Albatros light attack and advanced training aircraft (Image © Lithuanian MoD)

The Lithuanian Air Force is set to purchase one to three second-hand Aero Vodochody L-39ZA Albatros light attack and advanced training aircraft, sources within the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence confirmed in April 2014.

The small air force (Lietuvos karinės oro pajėgos or LK KOP) of the Baltic state is in desperate need for additional combat-ready jet trainers, to keep its pilot’s flying skills current. There is only one such jet aircraft available, after a second L-39ZA already in service crashed after a mid-air collision with a French Air Force (Armée de l’Air) Mirage 2000C on 30 August 2011. Fortunately no lives were lost in the accident, with both crew members ejecting okay. An additional two L-39Cs are solely used for flight training only.

Sources within the Defence ministry say they’re aiming to purchase at least one L-39ZA in 2015 or 2016, but hope to cut a nice deal with a current user for possible one or two more. However, since the department also expressed wishes to replace the fleet of nine Mi-8 Hip helicopters for newer models, a lot will depend on available funds. Lithuania already started the chopper modernisation process by ordering three Airbus Helicopter (Eurocopter) AS365 N3 Dauphins for the two of five Mil Mi-8T search-and-rescue tasked choppers on alert in Nemirseta and Kaunas.

Close air support
With Russian pressure on eastern Europe rising since February this year, additional L-39ZAs could be a relatively cheap way to bolster the close air support capabilities of the Armed Forces of Lithuania. Having now only one such fixed-wing aircraft and only a limited number of slow-flying helicopters available, Lithuania is depending much on NATO to help in times of need – with a rotating but permanent NATO combat detachment at Lithuania’s only fully capable air base: Šiauliai in the northwest of the country.

Since the beginning of this year ten US Air Force F-15C Eagle air-supiority fighters from RAF Lakenheath in England provide the Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with combat air coverage. The Baltic Air Policing mission that rotates amongst NATO member states has been beefed up after Russia took over the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and has been pressuring that country ever since. From May the force will expand to a dozen fighter jets spread over two air bases: Šiauliai AB in Lithuania (main base) and Ämari AB in Estonia. Skrydstryp in Denmark and likely Malbork and/or Miñsk Mazowiecki in Poland serve as back-up locations.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger

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Check out the Lithuanian Air Force Overview at Scramble.nl

AHF↑Inside: Hip Heaven

In an assembly hall in Prague, a technician shines a light on a tiny metal tube. He carefully inspects it and finally gives it an approving nod. It is one of many components of a TV3-117VM engine, which in turn is part of a Czech Air Force Mi-171s Hip. Nearby, in a hangar outside Kbely airbase, the helicopter itself receives the same careful attention. Here, Mil helicopters undergo overhaul in the hands of LOM PRAHA, a company specializing in MRO for Mil helicopters and soon celebrating its 100th anniversary. A century of experience in aviation maintenance means top quality, courtesy of LOM PRAHA, a ‘Hip’ heaven.

A visit to LOM PRAHA means a showcase of craftsmanship, certified by Mil helicopters and the Klimov engine company among others. The company has a vast expertise in maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) of Mi-8, Mi-17 and Mi-171 Hip helicopters, and their Klimov engines, gearboxes, auxiliary power units and other systems. The company also offers MRO services for Mi-2, Mi-24 and Mi-35 helicopters, plus L-39 trainer jet including their turbofan AI-25TL engines. Furthermore it is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of its own small piston engines, intended for various aerobatic and classic aircraft.

A Czech Mi-171Sh in the Kbely facility. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Hip helicopters are always to been seen at LOM PRAHA, being carefully overhauled and maintained. During AIRheads↑Fly’s visit here in February, many of the helicopters present were Czech Air Force machines. The state owned company provides its services to an increasing number of foreign customers, but the largest client and strategic partner is still the Czech MoD.

Last screws
During a D-level overhaul – to be performed usually every 8 years or after 2000 flying hours – the helicopters are completely stripped down to the last screw. All of their components are inspected and are either repaired or completely replaced with new ones. During D-level maintenance – performed every 8 years or after 2000 flying hours – the helicopters are completely stripped and inspected, their parts replaced or repaired when necessary.

The engines, gearboxes and APUs are brought to the engine LOM PRAHA workshop in Prague Malesice for MRO. After arriving, they are completely taken apart, cleaned, inspected, repaired and put together again in accordance with the OEM’s technical bulletins. The maintenance staff is composed of experienced older engineers, as well as young ones, which are qualified fresh graduates of technical universities. Technicians are then shaped into experts, able to always supply the emphasis on the top quality LOM PRAHA offers to its domestic and global clientele.

It takes well trained technicians to figure these engines out. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
It takes well trained technicians to figure these engines out. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

The typical overhaul process takes five to six months, depending mostly on the shape of the helicopter as arrives for overhaul. When the overhaul is done, the aircraft is just like brand new. It’s a trademark of LOM PRAHA: “Our customers are often unable to distinguish one of our overhauled helicopters from a new one”, says Daniel Dvorak, marketing manager of LOM PRAHA – a company that provides work to over 850 people.

LOM Praha employees at work in the spotless work area in Malesice, Prague. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Besides providing MRO services, which is the ongoing core business, LOM PRAHA also offers modernisations for Mil Mi helicopters. The Mi-17/171 helicopter is renowned for its flight performance – it is durable, reliable – and a true workhorse which is able to operate in conditions few other helicopters could. The avionics and other systems however, need attention in order to suit the needs of the customer requirements for the battlefield of the 21st century.

Czech Mi-171Sh helicopters, which were deployed in the ISAF operation, were fully modernised by LOM PRAHA. The modernisation effort concerned the implementation of additional composite armoring, ballistic protection, countermeasures, jammers, avionics, navigation systems, but also details such as more comfortable and crash-worthy crew seats and air conditioning units. Some of these Mi-171Sh helicopters were also upgraded with FLIR and served in special purpose missions.

Another Hip is overhauled in the LOM Praha RMO facility in Kbely. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

During ISAF, Mi-171 helos overhauled, modernized and maintained by LOM PRAHA, flew over 2800 flight hours, transported around 9000 troops and 350 tonnes of cargo. All of this, without a single accident or malfunctions in this high risk environment with challenging climatic conditions for any aviation hardware. The heavy use of Mil helicopters in recent years, means a lot of hard work for LOM, but also a possibility to gain further expertise in research and development into the upgrade possibilities.

Mil Mi-8/17/171 helicopters are machines that are built to last – over 12,000 in the different variants were produced and operate even in the toughest conditions all over the world. Yet, as workers position the massive gearbox of a Mi-17 into place, they know that this durability depends on their maintenance skills. In a few days, the helicopter they are working on will be pulled over to Kbely airbase to perform a test flight, after which the helo will return to its owner: the Czech Air Force. They’ll think they are receiving a brand new helicopter. They are not. They are receiving top quality work from LOM PRAHA.

It’s new, isn’t it? No, it’s not. It’s an overhauled Mi-171 gearbox and rotorhead, ready for many more hard working flight hours. A prime example of the quality LOM Praha delivers. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The world of aviation is a world of certificates. The one top left is Mil’s Moscow Helicopter Plant certificate to LOM Praha. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
In a buying mood? LOM Praha has this former Czech Air Force Mi-24V Hind for sale, along with six others. Overhaul included, of course. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Elmer van Hest



LOM PRAHA offers complex services for Mil helicopters
and L-39 aircraft, mainly for Mi-2, Mi-8/17, Mi-24/35s helicopters
and their equipment (turboshaft engines, gearboxes and auxiliary power units)
as well as repairs of L-39 aircraft and their engines.


Related posts

Check out the Czech Air Force Orbat at Scramble.nl

A bug eyed insect? No, a Mil Mi-171s Hip helicopter in the trusted hands of LOM Praha. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Pixel camo on overhauled Ukrainian L-39s

Ukrainian Air Force overhauled L-39 Albatros (Image © Ukrainian Ministry of Defence)
Ukrainian Air Force overhauled L-39 Albatros (Image © Ukrainian Ministry of Defence)

The Ukrainian Air Force (Povitryani Syly Ukrayiny) received two overhauled Aero L-39M1 Albatros’s on 14 March 2014, with serials 21 and 08. The advanced training jets sport a new grey pixel camo scheme. The overhaul by Ukrainian state-owned companies was pre-planned. Normally the L-39s operate from Chuhuiv in the east and Kulbakino in the south, but no word on which airbase received the upgraded pair this time.

The L-39 was developed by Czechoslovakian Aero company in the 1960s. Its first flight was in November 1968. The Ukrainian M1 version has different engines than the standard C model and can be fitted with an external load of up to 284 kg (626 lbs) on two underwing pylons. The pods on the wingtips are for additional fuel, giving the planes a normal range of 683 miles (1,100 km) or 1,087 miles (1,750 km) with external fuel. Albatros’s can reach speeds of 405 knots (750 kmh) and altitudes of 36,000 feet.

Ukraine has been overhauling up to half of its 39 L-39s since 2009.

Source: Ukrainian Ministry of Defence

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Ukrainian Air Force overhauled L-39 Albatros (Image © Ukrainian Ministry of Defence)
Ukrainian Air Force overhauled L-39 Albatros (Image © Ukrainian Ministry of Defence)

US Reaction: Eagles and Stratotanker to the Baltics

A Mildenhall 100 ARW KC-135 refuels an F-15C Eagle over Iceland during a training mission on 9 November 2013 (Image © Airman 1st Class Dana J. Butler / USAF)
A Mildenhall 100 ARW KC-135 refuels an F-15C Eagle over Iceland during a training mission on 9 November 2013 (Image © Airman 1st Class Dana J. Butler / USAF)

The US Air Force will send six additional McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F-15C Eagle air superiority fighters and a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker to Šiauliai Airbase in Lithuania as a reaction the current crisis between Russian and Ukraine.

The announcement follows US Defence Secretary Chuch Hagel’s testimony to the Senate about augmenting the NATO run Baltic Air Policing. On 4 March Sweden also strengthened its Baltic defences by forward basing a pair of JAS 39 Gripens at Visby airport on the island of Gotland with leaving the possibility open for further increases.

Four F-15C fighters are already based at Šiauliai, where they took over the standard four plane mission from the Belgian Air Component F-16s. All current and new Eagles come from the 493rd Fighter Squadron “Reapers” of the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath, England. The KC-135 comes from the 351st Air Refueling Squadron to the 100th Air Refuelling Wing based at RAF Mildenhall, a bit more than a stone’s throw from Lakenheath.

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The Baltic Air Policing mission rotates every half a year between NATO’s member states. The former Soviet Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are since 2004 part of the military alliance. Since they lack proper air defence assets themselves, other NATO members jump in on the joint task to protect the aerospace of its member nations.

Among the regulars in the Baltics are the Czech Air Force Gripens that fly with 211. squadron. The units commander recently gave an extensive interview to AIRheads↑Fly. Read the full exclusive AHF↑Inside: The Czech Prize Fighter here.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger

Related posts

Check out the USAFE Orbat at Scramble.nl

A pair of F-15Cs train an interception with a Lithuanian Air Force L-39 Albatros during an earlier deployment in 2008 (Image © USAF)
A pair of F-15Cs train an interception with a Lithuanian Air Force L-39 Albatros during an earlier deployment in 2008 (Image © USAF)