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Russian plane dazzles crowd

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Spectators at the 17th annual Wings, Wheels & Keels witnessed the performance of a rare Yak-50 as it took off from Hummel Field in Topping. Above, the Russian military aerobatic training plane builds speed preparing for a near vertical ascent on its way to 200-plus miles per hour. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

A Russian built Yak-50 dazzled the crowd when it took off from Wings, Wheels & Keels last Saturday at Hummel Field in Topping.

One of about 66 Yak-50s in the world and one of just 13 in the United States, the entire plane was sent back to Russia in 2009 to be rebuilt, said owner/pilot Johnny Mazza III of Colonial Heights.

This is a 1981 version of a Russian trainer made from 1975-86. Only 312 of these high-performance planes were built, said Mazza.

With exceptional handling and performance characteristics, there are very few piston-powered aircraft that can compare to the Yak-50, he explained.

The Yak-50 was a military aerobatic trainer for several countries with a top speed of 280 mph.With 360 to 450 horsepower and weighing only 1,600 pounds, the Yak-50 can climb at a rate of 5,000 feet per minute. In comparison, a Cessna can climb at a rate of 600-700 feet per minute, Mazza explained.

The crowd at Wings, Wheels & Keels got a rare glimpse of the Yak-50 performance. With one horsepower for each 4 pounds, the Yak-50 lifted off Hummel’s runway in a very short distance. Mazza retracted the landing gear and continued flying just above the runway while building speed, so that when he pulled back on the stick the plane went nearly straight up. “It’s a blast, that’s all I can say!”

The Yak-50 was built to withstand 9 times the force of gravity (9 Gs). Many of these planes found their way to aerobatic pilots, who tested their limits. In the hands of daredevils, some wings sheared off during highly-stressful diving stunts. For this reason, the Russian government recalled most of the planes which were then crushed, said Mazza.

Mazza’s plane is a survivor. “It’s built like a tank,” he said. In comparison, a plane doing a loop will pull 3 Gs, he said. He’s never pushed his Yak 50 to its limits, but has experienced 6 Gs.
The 9-cylinder radial engine burns fuel at the rate of 20 gallons per hour, but the fuel tank only holds 34 gallons. This single-seat performance plane is purpose-built for taking off, doing training maneuvers, and landing. “It levitates like a helicopter.”

Another feature unique to the Yak-50 is the pneumatic air control system that actuates the landing gear, starter and brakes.This design was first brought into production because these aircraft were operating in Russia where the temperature was so cold hydraulic fluid would freeze, explained Mazza.

This was the first trip to Wings, Wheels & Keels for Mazza and his Yak-50. “I enjoy answering questions, especially from kids,” he said.

There’s little doubt that many kids, and adults, hope he returns next year with his unique aircraft.

The winning vehicles at the 17th Wings, Wheels and Keels (WW&K) show held on September 29 at Hummel Field in Topping are as follows:

Vehicles
American 1896-1945: 1st, Alan Merkle, 1937 GMC wrecker; 2nd, Robert Montague, 1921 Lincoln; 3rd, Tom Bundy, 1933 Buick.

American 1946-1966: 1st, Rusty Holcomb, 1957 Chevy; 2nd, Mary Brill, 1961 Cadillac; 3rd, J.R. Roscher, 1957 Corvette.

In the American 1967-2012 class, 1st place went to Karen Brooks for her 2010 Dodge Challenger; and 2nd place was awarded to her husband, Rick Brooks, for his 1972 Dodge Duster. This is possibly the first time a wife and husband won in the same class at Wings, Wheels and Keels. Third place went to Al Previs and his 1969 Camaro.

British 1900-1959: 1st, Ed Fisher, 1951 MG; 2nd, Rusty Gross, 1955 Jaguar.

British 1960-1980: 1st, Alfred Austin, 1969 Jaguar; 2nd, Chris Chainey, 1960 Jaguar; 3rd, Paul Davis, Triumph TR4 A.

British 1981-2012: 1st, Lawrence Fuccella, 1988 Rolls Royce; 2nd, Rev. Michael Malone, 1993 Jaguar.

European: 1st, Lawrence Fuccella, 1980 Fiat Spyder; 2nd, Kent Nuckols, 1929 Mercedes; 3rd, Terry Bagley, 2011 Ferrari.

Exotic: 1st, Jerry Lester, 1959 Mercedes; 2nd, Bob Leadbetter, 1960 Motorcycle.

Best of Show: Mary Brill, 1961 Cadillac.

Aircraft
1st, Gary Ellis, Aero Coupe. 
No other winners were named.

More News
The Virginia Department of the Treasury division of unclaimed property located $45,204.02 for people who checked the agency during WW&K, said Michelle Cunningham, claims team leader.

Memory Lane Car Club, whose members handled the vehicle part of WW&K, will hold another car show at the Deltaville Maritime Museum on October 13 as part of the Holly Point Art & Seafood Festival.

Also, the WW&K Committee will meet at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 9, at the Pilot House Restaurant to discuss this year’s festival and consider ideas for the 2013 event. The public is invited.

posted 10.03.2012

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