Later, Yakovlev started his own aircraft company, and by 1935 had developed what is now recognised as the first modern Soviet training aircraft the UT-2. During this time, Yakovlev also won a fighter aircraft design contest with the Yak-1 which could reach 363mph. His company went on to produce over 30,000 aircraft by the end of the war, and the last in the design line - the Yak-9 was considered by many to be the finest fighter of the second world war. The name 'Yak' invokes similar emotions for Russians as 'Spitfire' does for the British!
Yakovlev continued designing post-war, and in 1946 the Yak-18 was born - a modern two-seat tandem trainer which was adopted by the Russian military. Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space) learned to fly in this type, which was manufactured under licence in China as well as the USSR.
The Yak-18 was continually enhanced during the 1960's, and emerged as the Yak-18PS - which looked similar to the Yak50 today. The process included doubling the engine power, lightening the airframe, and including a new aerodynamic wing section, and a tail-wheel. This was a demanding aeroplane to fly because of its military background; it was overbuilt, and heavy on the controls.
During the 1970's, the Yak 50 emerged with Alexander Yakovlevs son Sergei carrying on his fathers design work. This new Yak was a great success winning all the top places in the 1976 world aerobatics contest.
Around this time, Yak had developed a new aerobatic trainer - the Yak 52. It was mostly used for initial training, and for introducing complex manoeuvres to student pilots. The instructors rear cockpit provided simulated instrument failure for training purposes. The aircraft have been manufactured in Romania (Aerostar at Bacau) since 1979. Up until the year 2000, over 1800 had been produced, with 150 rolling out annually at peak production. This aircraft type was rarely seen in the West until the collapse of Communism.