On 12 October, Aero Vodochody rolled out its prototype . It comes four years after the Prague-based company launched the newer generation L-39 ALBATROS, at Farnborough Air Show in July 2014.
Aero built nearly 3,000 legacy L-39s and although them dizzy heights will never be reached again, Aero President and CEO Giuseppe Giordo believes the L-39NG will be a big success: “We have a realistic chance of selling between 150-200.”
Right now he has sales of four L-39NG, in the light attack role, to Senegal Air Force plus a binding letter of intent with Skytech for ten L-39NGs and six on option. Skytech’s Laurente Donnet, Vice President, Business Development told MONCh at the roll-out: “We hope to sign a contract for the aircraft by the end of the year.” Then added: “We were planning to sign in November but for various reasons we didn’t.”
There is also a letter of intent with New Mexico-based RSW Aviation for 12 L-39NGs as well as the upgrade of its six L-39s to L-39CW configuration.
The man tasked with developing Aero’s latest project, Marco Venanzetti L-39NG Vice President. He explains some of the reasoning behind the lengthy development. “When I came here in August 2016 there was a project, but the design was not frozen and we had to reposition the aircraft in the market,” he told MONCh. “Now we believe we have the best training solution out there – a fantastic avionics systems and an on-board virtual simulation.”
The prototype aircraft, MSN 7001 is the first of four pre-series aircraft that will include a static test-bed and a fatigue test aircraft in addition to another flying example. Serial production will commence at MSN 7005.
Mr Venanzetti believes there isn’t a turboprop or jet trainer that can match the capabilities or cost of the L-39NG. “None of them can do what we can,” he explained. “We have the same acquisition costs as a turboprop and sometimes the operational costs are less. A turboprop trainer can’t operate above 25,000ft, it can’t fly over 280kt and can’t sustain the major Gs experienced in real combat ops. The L-39NG can. Plus we don’t think the turboprop can give you the training that allows pilots to jump straight into a Eurofighter TYPHOON, GRIPEN or F-16.”
One of the most significant changes to the L-39NG over the legacy L-39 is the Williams FJ44-4M turbojet engine, which has replaced the old Ukrainian AI-25.
Aero engineers helped to develop the Williams powerplant after around 200 hours of flight-testing the civilian FJ-44A on the L-39CW prototype, being used as the L-39NG test-bed.