Stepping into the cockpit of an Aero L-29 Delphin, nicknamed Dolphin by NATO, is like stepping back into the Cold War.
Pure and simple, this is a fighter jet.
Designed by Czechoslovakians for Warsaw Pact countries as a Russian MIG trainer in the 1960s, it was considered relatively easy to build and operate, both rugged and versatile. In production from 1963 to 1974, more than 3,300 Aero Vodochody L-29 Delfins were built in single and two-seater versions.
Martin Mattes of Bandit Airshows owns and flies a 1972 L-29 Dolphin out of the Tillsonburg Regional Airport.
"This one used to be flown by a Russian supermodel," said Mattes, having lunch at the airport Monday on Media Day. "Her name (Natalie Gynku) is still on the side of the plane."
Mattes and his L-29 will be one of the stunt and aerobatic pilots performing Saturday at the 2014 Ontario South Coast Airshow (August 23), flying solo, aerobatic and in formation with Danny Richer, who flies a BAC Strikemaster jet.
"Danny Richer and I are the only civilian jet team in Canada that does a death defying head-on pass," said Mattes, who bought his L-29 jet from Russia via an Estonian broker.
The Snowbirds also do the head-on pass, he noted, but Mattes and Richer do it lower and faster.
OSC FAMILY AIRSHOW
Promising superb aerial acts with both power and speed in the air, the 2014 Ontario South Coast Airshow lineup will include all the usual stunt and aerobatic performances, as well as a comedy show to keep everyone entertained and on the edge of their lawnchairs.
Organizers also added a Family Festival element with bouncies, face painting, magician and more, all included with admission.
"We wanted to make it a family outing," said Andre Brisson, OSC airshow chairperson, "rather than just catering to pilots and enthusiasts. It's more of a family event – and we have airplanes.
"This guy, Jelly Belly, every time I've been to an airshow, this is the act I see kids watch from start to finish. He's got three different acts during the day – he's one of our two big ticket acts. Kids just watch it from start to end."
Gates open on the 23rd at 9:30 a.m. and the show starts at 1 p.m. In case of extreme weather, the rain date is August 24. General admission is $15, children 5-12 are $10. Various family passes, adult four-packs, VIP tickets, and photo alley tickets are also available online at www.ontariosouthcoastairshow.com, or at the Tillsonburg Customer Service Centre, Station Arts Centre, Tillsonburg Regional Airport and Tillsonburg Memorial Hospital.
"We have a lot of local pilots," noted Brisson, chair of the Ontario South Coast committee, proud to have landed Red Bull racer Pete McLeod.
"The youngest pilot on the circuit, and third or fourth place overall," said Brisson. "Him and Mike Trygvasson, they practice quite often here at the airport."
The entire show is expected to go until about 4 p.m., providing much 'bang for buck.' The Skyway Cafe will also be open on the 23rd, so bring your appetites.
"We really want this to be a family event," said Brisson. "Just come, bring the family, hang out at the airport and see some planes fly. We're going to have the planes really close, so you can easily see them. And the Harvards are going to have their Harvard experiences."
All parking will be on-site, Brisson stressed. There will be no shuttles for the OSC Airshow on the 23rd as there was for the Snowbirds show, which Brisson said was very successful.
"A huge success," he nodded. "We did very well, and everyone was very grateful and happy. The Snowbirds and CF-18 teams were very happy – they really liked the show site because of the fact that the crowd was 'right there.' The planes were close and they were able to mingle after. They said they'd come back – they were really happy with it. The one guy pulled me aside and said it was probably one of the best they've seen in a while."
2014 Airshow Performers
Pete McLeod – youngest air racer on the Red Bull circuit.
Kent Pietsch – Jelly Belly comedic aerobatic pilot – Pietsch has three acts with a parts-falling-off plane, landing on a moving RV, and a dead stick from 5,000 feet.
Gord Price – 70-plus year old former CF-104 RCAF pilot, aerobatic.
Redtail P51 Mustang flown by Bill Shepard, a local CHAA pilot.
Mike Trygvasson – a local London pilot flying a Giles 202, aerobatics.
Danny Richer – Tillsonburg airport tenant who flies a BAC Strikemaster Jet solo, aerobatic and formation with Martin Mattes. A great supporter of airshows and the airport.
Martin Mattes – Also a Tillsonburg airport tenant, former RCAF pilot, flies a L29 Dolphin Jet, solo, aerobatic and formation. Also a great supporter of airshows and the local airport.
Sponsors this year include event sponsor Jade Engineers Inc.; media sponsor Easy 101/Country 107.3; aerial act sponsors Tillsonburg News, Our Coffee News, East Elgin Concrete, SCI Sirius Consolidated Inc.; fuel sponsor Dowler Karn; static act sponsors Tillsonburg Office Suites Ltd, Prestige General Contractors, Tillsonburg Flying School, Pro Oil Change, E&E McLaughlin Warehousing, CJDL Engineering, Harry's Electric; and family festival sponsors Eastwood Manufacturing, Dodsley Propane, and Sparta Candles.
AIR FORCE VET
Mattes, who lives in Brantford, served 10 years in the RCAF as a navigator on a C-130 Hercules, 436 Transport Squadron, and a CC-115 Buffalo, 443 Rescue Squadron.
He didn't get back into a plane for four years after he left the RCAF. Then in 1998, at the Kitchener-Waterloo airshow, he decided he wanted to get his pilot's licence.
About seven years ago, as Canada's laws (Limited Class Category) were changing, there was an opportunity to buy a Russian 'warbird', but the whole import process took nearly four years. Eventually he located a broker in Estonia, checked references, and sent the money. Six months later he received a call from Canada Customs in Montreal.
"It was the first one in Canada."
And because it was the first, he had to do his specialized flight training in the US and he had to come up with a maintenance training plan.
"It's not cheap to fly," said Mattes, who typically flies in two or three airshows per year, including Tillsonburg's and London's, and takes it up for recreational flights every couple of weeks. "It's 1,000 litres/hour."
The L-29 is a little underpowered on takeoff, he said, using about 100 litres to get up to 250 km/h airspeed.
He explains, before takeoff, how he will turn to avoid the trees at the east side of the airport, and staying low, build up airspeed. Later, with a reporter in the backseat, he does just that, pointing out vultures the plane is missing. One, then a second, and even a third.
"Once we get going, we're going to be moving," he said. "It's going to feel like 600 km/h today."
With the reporter on board, Mattes said he planned to do a Cuban 8 and a couple rolls. Yes, a couple more were added . At the OSC Airshow in Tillsonburg Saturday, Mattes said he would also do a 4-point roll, climb vertical and roll, a high-speed banana pass, and more.
Not sure what the banana pass looked like from the ground, but it was a lot of fun.