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19 June 2015

Aero Vodochody Announces First Customers for L-39NG

Aero Vodochody Aerospace has attracted its first customers for the L-39NG programme. This was announced by Aero Vodochody’s president Ladislav Šimek on Tuesday. The first customer is the Czech state owned company LOM PRAHA that operates seven L-39C aircraft on which pilots of the Czech Air Force receive some of their training. All seven will be equipped with the new Williams International FJ44-4M engine. The Breitling Jet team has signed a letter of intent (LoI) for upgrading its aircraft while the Black Diamond Jet team, part of the US air contractor Draken International, wants up to six of its L-39s to be equipped with the new engine. This puts the total number of aircraft of all three customers that will be re-engined under the first phase of the programme at 20. The aircraft of Draken will be upgraded in the US, the other aircraft in the Czech Republic. It has also emerged that Aero Vodochody is in advanced talks with two government customers.

Speaking on day two of PAS15, Šimek detailed how Aero Vodochody has progressed with the programme. He said: “Eleven months ago we announced the L-39NG programme. We will fly for the first time in summer this year and the next two years we will build new airframes, starting deliveries in 2018.” This is what Aero Vodochody calls the second phase of the programme. He continued: “”The first public flight of the aircraft will be during the NATO days at Ostrava in September.” Šimek also said he can offer some, “very aggressive pricing,” with the new aircraft while a single flying hour would cost below U$2,500,-.

The L-39NG is based on the aerodynamical concept of the current L-39, of which almost 3,000 aircraft were built including the later L-59, L-159 models. Used by some 40 countries, these aircraft have logged over 5 million flight hours, making it one of the most succesful trainer aircraft in its class. One thousand of these aircraft are still in service or are now used in the warbird scene or by civilian operators. The L-39NG is manufactured with the use of new technologies and also has a modern glass cockpit with integrated digital avionics including a HUD. The new engine is described as being “very responsive” going from idle to maximum thrust in five seconds unlike the previously fitted AI-25TL engine which needed twelve seconds to achieve this. Easier to maintain, the well proven FJ44-4M also needs less fuel and generates less noise while it has also a reduced weight. It also dual FADEC control and an unlimited maximum power setting while the original engine has a 20 minutes limitation. In addition, the L-39NG will feature a new escape system with “zero-zero” ejection seats and a single-piece canopy for improved visibility. Aero Vodochody envisages the L-39NG as a multi-mission aircraft that is also suitable for light combat and reconnaissance mssions. Fitted with a targeting pod, a scale model of the new aircraft is being shown at Aero’s booth at booth B208 in hall 4.

The Czech company has also announced a MoU with the VR Group, company which will become a major supplier of simulation technologies for the L-39NG programme. The agreeement includes the provision of four-level training simulation systems and a datalink between the simulation centres of customers and LOM PRAHA’s Tactical Simulation Centre in Pardubice in the Czech Republic. This centre already supports GRIPEN and L-159 training for the Czech Air Force.

Meanwhile, Aero Vodochody also continues to support the L59 Super ALBATROS aircraft it has delivered to Egypt and Tunesia. The Czech government recently approved the sale of two former Czech Air Force L159B trainers to Iraq together with thirteen single seat L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA) while another batch of L-159 aircraft will go to Draken International.
 Pieter Bastiaans

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