Last year I was able to interview jet warbird enthusiast Adrian Deeth, owner of a West Australian MiG-21U project. As some may recall, Adrian’s jet is a twin seater trainer, which is incidentally also turning 50 in 2016. The jet is seen back in 2005 in the USA below.
Formerly operated by the Egyptian Air Force it then then became a USA based warbird, before being exported to Australia 3 years ago. Our initial report covered the project’s history, storage and future plans. Nearly a year on we are now able to discuss with Adrian what has happened and what are the immediate plans with his jet.
Adrian’s aircraft is a MIG-21U s/n 666002319 with the NATO codename of “Mongol”. The codename may to some be a curious and derogatory name but type can sure fly and get its job done. The jet’s history is one that typifies somewhat a former Cold War trainer. It was manufactured in the Soviet Union in 1966 as a MIg-21U Type 66 (2nd Generation) and then exported to Egypt in 1967.
Warbird enthusiasts may say that a MiG-21U and UM are the same but there are distinct differences between a U and UM twin seater. These include different avionics, engine, and cockpit setup and ejections seats.
Another feature differing the 2 models are that early build MiG-21Us had early swept back rudders, while later 2nd generations 600series MiG-21Us had later broad chord rudders.
Once delivered to the Egyptian Air Force, it was entered into service as an advanced pilot trainer, a role it performed for the next 16years until 1983. The Mongol jet twin seat role was to train future Egyptian pilots for the single seater MiG-21 Fishbed variant. Tho being used in an important role as a trainer, the jet has actually acquired very few flight hours overall in its life when compared to other types as warbird jets, according to Adrian it has reached around 400hrs.
After being withdrawn from use in 1983, it sat unused for nearly 10years until 1993, when it was exported to the USA, as it had been purchased by a new owner who wanted to restored the jet back to flying status and operate as it as a warbird. Work proceeded quickly in bringing the jet back up to flying status, with the MiG-21U again taking flight in 1994. Its service records indicate that in 1997, its old Tumansky R-11F-300 jet engine was removed and a new engine was installed into the jet. Russian engines are not known for a long service life and thus are a limitation in operating a jet warbird, when compared to Western jet engines. This newly installed engine had a relatively short operational life and was only used for eight hours before the owner decided to ground the aircraft in 1998.
Meanwhile over in Australia, Adrian Deeth was a keen aviation enthusiast with a big interest in jets – cold war aircraft especially Russian equipment and so with this passion, in 2012 he decided to purchase himself 2 MiG-21Us……
Having one MiG-21U just wasn’t enough for Adrian……..
After conducting research he purchased N423LZ from in the USA and another MiG-21U as spare parts ship in Poland. Adrian then imported this USA based MiG-21U aircraft into Australia in 2014. The Egyptian aircraft stills retains its camouflage paint scheme, US FAA rego N423LZ and a stencil marking which reflects its c/n serial 5068. After spending a long time being held up at customs/Quarantine, the former active aircraft will require an in-depth overhaul and repair along with a deep clean.
MOVING A COLD WAR WARRIOR
On February 4 2016, Phil Buckley was invited along by Adrian Deeth, as he moved his awesome warbird project by truck from the city of Perth, east to a country airport near York 80km away.
The big move saw a truck meandering through suburban streets in middle of the day and the last thing office workers and drivers expected to see in suburban Perth was a MiG-21U forward section and stabilisers tied down to back of the truck. As this angular and brutal looking 1960s object, progressed through the inner suburbs, many people driving past stared at the rather odd sight…. as it was not every day they see a rearward facing fearsome Cold War Russian warrior in Western Australia …doing just on 80km/h on a road.
The move was due to Adrian deciding the only way for him to advance his restoration was to transfer his MiG-21 project to the rural located and growing White Gum Farm airstrip, where he has access to more affordable hangar space. He is now able to start an indepth overhaul and repairs to the aircraft, which he has not being able to do yet.
ARRIVAL AT WHITE GUM AIRSTRIP
Adrian was met by the owner and several helpers who would help unload the MiG-21 from the truck. The wings, part of the turbine and other smaller parts had being transferred the day before and were already inside the hangar.
FINALLY AFTER MANY HOURS…. MIG-21 FINALLY COMES OFF THE TRUCK
The team of workers pose with their successful effort… the MiG is on the ground.
A week later Adrian moved the final bit being the tail section to the White Gum.
PROGRESS ON RESTORATION PLANS
When Adrian begins his in-depth overhaul of his jet, he will be doing all by himself as he has experience in hydraulics, mechanical and auto electrician trades along with aircraft experience. The overhaul work he does tho will be inspected by a qualified LAME to make sure it is all correctly carried out and then approved.
The first thing he is intending to do is put a trolley under the fuselage so he can remove the support frames that are currently there. He will then put hydraulic jacks under the aircraft to support it.
Key checks Adrian will need to do –
- include checking for any major structural problems,
- replacing some damaged fuselage panels,
- take out any outdated avionics and replace with more modern western systems
- Install a new radio system into the cockpit.
Adrian will also
- remove all panels to inspect for corrosion and repairs as required
- retract/cycle the landing gear to check its functioning as intended
- pull the old engine out and have it overhauled.
Adrian plans to remove all electrical wiring and test its condition and replace or repair as necessary. He hopes to find 2 new replacement SK-1 ejection seats which were mysteriously taken while the aircraft was in storage.
The engine currently in the aircraft, a Tumansky R-11F-300 engine has only 400hrs of flight time so far on it and will be reportedly good for up to 1,000hrs before it requires a major overhaul.
Adrian will paint strip the aircraft and then examine repainting the aircraft into a new colour scheme. He is suggesting it may return to its original Egyptian Air Force colour scheme it wore 50years ago.
Like other fast jet warbirds of it class, once active and flying, Adrian’s longer term goal is to make the MiG-21 become a business operation (still to be approved by CASA) and allow other people the experience of jet warbird flying but with a slight difference.
The MiG-21 is intending to be operated off western Perth out over the Indian Ocean in a restricted military training area, where Adrian’s hopes to implement his flight plan to operate various types of adventure flights, which will put the aircraft through high g forces manoeuvres and at very fast Mach 1+ runs. Operating the MiG-21 at such speeds will be required to be done off due to the sonic booms created as the MiG-21 goes through the sound barrier. Being away from built up residential areas means the sound waves won’t end up causing damage to people and properties.
We will continue to closely follow updates on Adrian’s MiG-21 as he advances with his progressive repairs and aims towards a first flight.
DUAN wishes to thank the kind hospitality of Adrian on the day in allowing us to cover his next stage of his exciting warbird project…and allowing us to also help contribute some of the effort in moving the parts.