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November 03, 2005

Flying into the sunset?

Maybe not - certainly not, if it is one of Albania's now redundant MiG 15, 17 or 19 interceptors. They have all been virtually grounded since the collapse of communism in that country and the countries inability to buy the fuel - they burn around 1,000 litres on a short flight. The General responsible for selling them off, mainly to Western collectors who want to turn them into bars or some other form of decorative exhibit, says that these aircraft served the country very well - some of them actually flew combat missions in Korea!

The Albanian Airforce's Chief Maintenance Engineer seems to have been less than fond of them - in his words they are dangerous. In fact he says that almost all crashes involving them has been down to failure in the aircraft and not "pilot error", that well known MoD (UK) excuse for any crash. At least someone is certain of where the problems lie! He is even less complimentary about Albania's fleet of (still flying!) ex-Soviet helicopters. He tells Reuters that everytime he hears one of them in the air, he follows it on the ground until it comes down! Such confidence the man has!

It seems in fact that the Albanian's simply want shot of them any way they can get anyone to take them. I wouldn't recommend flying them anywhere however, the majority have been quietly sinking into the mud on airfield dispersal bays since the Hoxha regime fell in 1991. According to Reuters they are now rusting, showing signs of taking root and some have colonies of vegetation on them.

Still, for the real collector of Cold War warbirds, I guess there will be something to buy. All I ask is that no one flies one anywhere near me! By all accounts they have less chance of flying safely than the Bumble Bee - and as is well known the Bumble Bee is definitely an aerodynamic impossibility!

Posted by The Gray Monk at November 3, 2005 08:00 PM

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