The man with his own MiG-29. I have heard of rich men with their own classic car collection. This is the story of a man with a classic jet collection, including an enemy fighter, the MiG-29
There are many tales of men (e.g. Ralph Lauren) with vintage automobile collections. While researching the mystery jet a few weeks ago, I ran across a man with a vintage aircraft jet collection. His name is Don Kirlin.
Kirlin came into his fortune by inheriting one of the world’s largest chain of Hallmark Stores. This was before the collapse of the greeting card industry, thanks to online greetings and DIY card making.
Kirlin hales from Quincy Illinois. Safely tucked away in a hangar in the Illini State are a variety of aircraft–sure to wow!
Vietnam veterans will be familiar with this classic. The MiG-21 was flown by the North Vietnamese and held many a dual with the F-4 Phantom. The single engine jet has a top speed of around Mach 2 and a service ceiling in excess of 50,000 feet. Kirlin had two in his collection.
At one point, Kirlin had nine of them. The jet, made by the Czech Republic was a mainstay trainer for the former Soviet Union since the 1970s. Kirlin uses it as an aggressor jets when his services are leased by the Pentagon for air warfare exercises (e.g. Red Flag). He has also acquired L-59s, an updated variant of the L-39.
The Fulcrum. It was the Soviet Union’s most advanced aircraft for over two decades, designed to fend off the F-15 and F-16 of the United States Air Force and the F-18 of the U.S. Navy. Reading of how Kirlin got the aircraft out of Kyrgyzstan (former Soviet Republic), is the stuff made for movies. It could easily be turned into a feature film, but you can read about it in the wired.com story.
As of 2005, Kirlin was employing former military pilots to fly the craft in the war games. I also noticed a few L-39s for sale in the Illinois area, which likely come from Kirlin’s collection. Haven’t seen an ad yet, however, for the MiG-29.
As a footnote: For an interesting look back at the MiG-21, F-4 Rivalry, see this story.