Only one L-139 … and the ship is mine

The L-139 is the only jet of its kind in the world. Aero Vodochody, an aircraft manufacturer in the Czech Republic, produced the L-39, which was the most popular fighter jet trainer in the world. They went on to produce the L-159 as an advanced trainer.

The L-139 was produced as the demo for a military contract that Aero-Vodochy was pursuing with the United States. In an effort to secure the contract, a Western engine was installed: the Garrett TFE-731. The contract was never awarded to AV, so the ship was used for promotion for a very short time and then placed on the “back lot.” It had a total of 500 hours on it when it was taken out of service. As the jet was a production aircraft (as opposed to experimental) it is eligible to race in the Reno Air Race as a stock jet in the jet class. So, in 2015, with my good friend Vicky Benzing in the cockpit,  our team, Darkstar, placed fifth in the Gold class and overall. A very formidable debut considering she was 800 lbs. heavier than the L-39s in the class. We made history as the first female-owned-and-piloted race team at Reno. You can watch her fly at Reno at this link:

After I purchased her, she underwent a total renovation, which took over 2,700 hours. In selecting the paint  I wanted to honor her roots in the Czech Republic. The lion on the tail was the starting point, as it is the Czech emblem. He faces forward–a defensive position. The top of the wings echo the design of his double tail, and I chose the colors to reflect the boldness of the aircraft. The paint, in fact, was the biggest contributor to the  weight, as these three colors are the heaviest of paints. On the belly of the aircraft is the lion, as well. As the airplane makes left turns at the Reno Air Races, his claw points to the sky.

The interior is what I wanted–a girl’s ship. No rough edges, the latest in technology and style. I fought tooth and nail, so to speak, to retain the missiles, bombs and guns switches  on the panel. When piloting it, however, there is nothing that makes it feel like a weapons trainer. Flying it is just a pure vL-139 stitchoguish joy!

 

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