Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, November 30, -0001

Top 10 Faux Fighters

Whether you’re a G-junkie or a wannabe Top Gun, there’s a bird out there for you

Maverick, Goose, Iceman, Tomcat, Sabre, Mustang, hero, testosterone, girls, speed, aerobatics, G-force. What do all these words have in common? Actually, they have two things in common: fighters and daydreams, although they could probably all be bundled into the “daydream” category because there are very few pilots who aren’t, to one degree or another, frustrated fighter pilots." />

3. Beechcraft Aerobatic Bonanza.
When Beechcraft decided to certify the E33 Bonanza in the aerobatic category, the company couldn’t have known that the limited number produced would result in a premium being placed on the aircraft in later years. Reportedly, Beechcraft built only 25 E33Cs and five F33Cs, which give the pilot the ability to do all inside maneuvers, including snap rolls, and just enough inverted capability to do true slow rolls. It may not look like a fighter from the outside, but you can’t tell that from the pilot’s seat, because it definitely flies like one.

Siai-Marchetti SF260, $175K–$250K.
The SF260 is actually a fighter (of sorts) in civilian clothing. Designed as a military trainer and high-speed touring and aerobatic airplane, a number of countries have equipped them with hard points on which to mount guns, bombs and all that other noisy military stuff. As such, it’s probably the closest a nonfighter pilot will come to owning his own fighter. Smooth and fast, it’ll aerobat or dogfight with the high-speed grace that only super-clean fighter-type aircraft exhibit. Although the backseat is limited to 250 pounds, it’s also a credible 200-mph-plus cross-country runner. And it has sticks, not yokes! Can we say “perfect airplane”?

Yak 52/Nanchang CJ-6, $60K–$125K.
The Russian Yak 52 and the Chinese Nanchang CJ-6 usually get lumped together because there’s a mistaken thought that the CJ-6 is a modified, license-built Yak 52. Wrong! They’re completely different airplanes, but they do offer the wannabe fighter pilot with a choice between two excellent and well-supported aerobatic fighter/trainer types. The Yak 52 may get the nod as far as support goes, only because the engine, the legendary M-14P, has been the standard trainer engine in ex-Soviet-bloc countries since the 1960s, so there are lots of spares and plenty of mechanics who can maintain them. Plus 52s are still being built.

Yak 18T, $90K–$125k.
This has to be one of the most interesting airplanes to come out of Russia. A 150- to 160-knot, four-place airplane, the Yak 18T has the retro look of a 1935 Fairchild 45, but it’s a modern (1974–2002) and thoroughly useable cross-country airplane, as well as a serious aerobat. Running the 360 hp M-14P engine (didn’t everything in the Soviet Union?), the airplane is built like a locomotive (wasn’t everything in the Soviet Union?), and it was specifically designed to be abused. It’s especially good on short, rough fields. If you want to play fighter pilot in something really different, this is it. See:

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