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.
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.
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.
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.
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