On April 4, a photo of a mystery jet was posted on Doctor Aviation’s Facebook site. A healthy response ensued; nominations received. Tonight, the mystery jet is revealed.
First more background. The Spring has been sprinkled with trips to Ft. Myers Florida in order too be with my ailing Dad and faithful Mom. Few things grab my attention more than a sign of an upcoming airfield, an airplane on final approach, rotating green beacons or the site of a chain link fence with a Base Operations snuggled behind.
While driving down Boy Scout Avenue in South Ft. Myers, I caught these sites and sounds. I looked over to spy a most beautiful building, the Page Field Base Operations Building. I had to stop. Barred from entry due to the Corona Virus, I inspected the immaculate grounds. I spotted a T-6 Texan under some beautiful palm trees. As my eyes transitioned to the flight line, there she was on the tarmac: The mystery jet.
I threw this photo up on Facebook and asked for help in identifying the mystery birds. Nomination included the MiG-28. Steve said that the plane reminded him of a MiG-28. He last “saw one” over the Indian Ocean at -4gs. His reference to the Indian Ocean is correct. For that was the setting of a classic air to air combat dual between a Grumman F-14 Tomcat and a MiG-28. The F-14 downed the MiG-28 back in 1986 – in the movie Top Gun. The MiG-28 was actually a Northrup F-5, used at the time as a Navy Aggressor plane at the Top Gun School. As an interesting side note, the marking on the F-5 in the movie were those of VFC-13 the US Navy Aggressor Squadron used a red star outlined in yellow.
John and then Jason made a second nomination, the L-39. As Jason stated, the L-39 was not a Soviet aircraft (although the Soviets did use it as a trainer). Rather it was designed and manufactured in the then Czechoslovakia. A man named, Jan Vicek, began design of the L-39 in 1966, it was based on an earlier aircraft, the L-29. The maiden flight was November 1968 squarely in the middle of the Cold War.
As Jason also pointed out it was manufactured by Aero Vodochody as a two-seat single engine (turbofan) trainer. Production began in the early 1970s, stalled by early design flaws and continued to 1999. The plane entered service in 1974 and was used by the Czechoslovakian, Soviet and other eastern bloc countries as a trainer before advancement to other aircraft, such as MiGs.
Nearly 3,000 are still in service flown by 30 air forces around the world. With the collapse of the Soviet Empire, many have come on the market for sale and hence can be found outside of the former Soviet bloc nations.
So much so, and again Jason alluded to this, you can rent a ride in one. This website is advertising the ability to do aerobatics aboard the board. If you are not in the rental market, consider buying one. You can own your own for a little less than 400K. See the ad here.
The Mystery Jet
The jet remained so mysterious that Doctor Aviation had trouble confirming its true identity. Barred by the Corona Virus, entrance to Page Field Base Operation was prohibited. A subsequent call found a befuddled staff at Base Ops unable to identify the mystery jet.
Finally, today, Debra of Page Field Airport Services revealed what was behind Door #3. Indeed, it was the L-39. The bird is painted in “aggressor type” scheme, one wonders if that has been a use of the plane (the US has been known to lease aircraft since dismantling some of their aggressor squadrons over the years) or simply a novelty applied by the plane’s owner. Whatever the answer, the mystery jet is revealed and “My, it is a beauty”.
To read the specs