In the late 1950s, the Soviet Air Force was seeking a jet-powered replacement for its fleet of piston-engined trainers, and this requirement was soon broadened to finding a trainer aircraft that could be adopted in common by Eastern Bloc air forces. Aero’s response, the prototype XL-29 designed by Z. Rublič and K. Tomáš first flew on 5 April 1959, powered by a British Bristol Siddeley Viper engine. The second prototype was powered by the Czech-designed M701 engine, which was used in all subsequent aircraft.
The basic design concept was to produce a straightforward, easy-to-build and operate aircraft. Simplicity and ruggedness were stressed with manual flight controls, large flaps and the incorporation of perforated airbrakes on the fuselage sides providing stable and docile flight characteristics, leading to an enviable safety record for the type. The sturdy L-29 was able to operate from grass, sand or unprepared fields. Both student pilot and instructor had ejection seats, and were positioned in tandem, under separate canopies with a slightly raised instructor position.
In 1961, the L-29 was evaluated against the PZL TS-11 Iskra and Yakovlev Yak-30 and emerged the winner. Poland chose to pursue the development of the TS-11 Iskra anyway, but all other Warsaw Pact countries adopted the Delfin under the agreements of COMECON.
Production began April 1963 and continued for 11 years, with 3,600 eventually built until 1974. A dedicated, single-seat, aerobatic version was developed as the L-29A Akrobat. A reconnaissance version with nose-mounted cameras was built as the L-29R.
The Delfin served in basic, intermediate and weapons training roles. For this latter mission, they were equipped with hardpoints to carry gunpods, bombs or rockets, and thus armed, Egyptian L-29s were sent into combat against Israeli tanks during the Yom Kippur War. The L-29 was supplanted in the inventory of many of its operators by the Aero L-39 Albatros. More than 2,000 L-29s were supplied to the Soviet Air Force, acquiring the NATO reporting name “Maya.”
L-29’s, along with the newer L-39,were used extensively in ground attack missions in the Nagorno-Karabakh War by Azeri forces. At least 14 were shot down by Armenian air-defences.
As a trainer, the L-29 enabled air forces to adopt an “all-through” training on jet aircraft, replacing earlier piston-engined types.
On July 16, 1975, a Czechoslovak Air Force L-29 shot down a Polish civilian biplane piloted by Dionizy Bielański that was attempting to defect to the West.
On October 2, 2007, an unmodified L-29 was used for the world’s first jet flight powered solely by 100% biodiesel fuel. Pilots Carol Sugars and Douglas Rodante flew their Delphin Jet from Stead Airport, Reno, Nevada to Leesburg International Airport, Leesburg, Florida in order to promote environmentally friendly fuels in aviation.
Between September 10–14, 2008, two L-29s took first and second at the Reno Air Races. Both L-29s c
|Registration Number||Date of Manufacture|
|Aero Vodochody L-29 Delfin||33 feet 9 inches|
|Overall length:||Empty weight:|
|35 feet 5.5 inches||5027 US pounds|
|Gross weight:||Fuel capacity:|
|7231 pounds||260 Gal internal 50 Gal external tanks|
|Oil capacity||Engine type:|
|.3 Gal||Single 1960 lbs thrust Motorlet M701 VC150|
|Propeller type:||Max Speed|
|Rate of Climb||Cruise Speed|
|3500 FPM standard day||220 Kts|
|Service Ceiling||Number of Crew|
|36,100 feet||2 Tandem|
|Number Built||Number Surviving|
N39DE was imported in the early 1990’s by Bill Geipels from Czechoslovakia. Most of the Military systems were removed for weight savings. It was painted in a neutral gray scheme with bright orange wingtips. I purchased the aircraft in 2007 and performed a mild restoration based on input from the Czech Air force. The Signal flare launcher on the aft left side (inop), Gunsite in the cockpit and paint scheme are the more significant aspects of this input.
Printable QR Codes for: Bill Culberson’s L-29C Delphin, 1960’s Soviet Jet Trainer:
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