G-BXJB is an ex-military training aircraft, and has seen active service with DOSAF (Russian Air Force). Built in 1987, this example is a standard Yak 52 being powered by a Ivchenko M-14P 9 cylinder 360HP radial engine. The all metal construction is very strong, the airframe being stressed to +7/-5 G. Only the control surfaces (rudder, elevators and ailerons) are fabric covered, to keep the weight and control forces to a minimum. Engine starting is accomplished via compressed air, which also provides undercarriage, flap and brake operation. The semi-retractable undercarriage allows the aircraft to be landed wheels-up with minimal damage. In fact, directional control on the ground in the wheels-up configuration is possible because of the careful design! The nosewheel is not steerable - but castors freely; it is necessary to use differential braking for directional control on the ground at slow speeds.
The Yak 52 is fully aerobatic, with inverted fuel and oil systems. The roll rate is impressive - especially to the right since the propeller rotates counter clockwise when viewed from the cockpit. The Yak 52 has a rugged serviceability, and is admired for its predictability in the aerobatic flight envelope.
With a top speed of 420km/h (261mph), the aircraft is a delight to fly. It is very light on the controls, and easily performs the basic aerobatic manoeuvres. It's 'predictability' does not mean the aircraft won't 'bite' the unwary though! It has some 'interesting' characteristics within the extremities of the flight envelope - which allow it to perform all known aerobatic manoeuvres. Fuel consumption varies widely - from around 100 litres/hr for aerobatic power to 50 litres/hr in economy cruise configurations. G-BXJB is fitted with a smoke system to add that "something special" to the bigger sky-eater manoeuvres.