The Sukhoi Su-31 has been a top-performing aerobatic plane since production of it began in 1994. Many pilots from countries around the world often fly it in competitions. The Su-31 can withstand tremendous G-forces and can handle repeated maneuvers that generate +12 or -10 Gs. Sukhoi intentionally designed the Su-31 to be less stable than earlier versions of the Su, which makes the airplane preferable for free-style competitions and for performing snap rolls.
Originally known as the Su-29T during its testing phase, the Su-31 was designed purely for aerobatic flying. What primarily set the plane apart from earlier models was the manufacturer’s extensive use of composite materials to increase the Su-31’s strength and durability while also minimizing the overall weight. The thrust-to-weight ratio was the same that enabled the pilot to perform some maneuvers similar to that of a helicopter. In addition, the cockpit incorporated an ergonomic design for ease of use by the pilot.
On June 22 1992, Russian aerobatic pilot Yurgis Kairis performed the plane’s first flight. That same year, he won the bronze medal during the World Championships in aerobatics while flying the Su-31. Several other pilots have gone on to win aerobatic competitions in the Su-31, including the Breitling championships, and the World as well as European championships in both the women’s and men’s categories.
In an emergency, the pilot can use the SKS-94M ejection system to bail out of the plane. Known as the Zvesda Pilot Extraction System, a pilot can be free of an unrecoverable aircraft in one quarter of a second. This is not an after-market option and is only available on factory versions of the Su-31. The system weighs 12 kilograms. An unusual feature for an aerobatic plane is that the Su-31 has three luggage areas.
The Su-31 remains in production at the Lukavitzy factory in Russia, but the number of planes of produced every year is very low.
Maximum speed: 450 km per hour
Range: 1,100 km
Length: 6.83 meters
Wingspan: 7.80 meters
Height: 2.76 meters
Maximum weight: 1,050 kg
Empty weight: 700 kg
Engine(s): 400 HP M-14PF
Rate of climb: 24 meters per second
Roll rate: 7 seconds
Takeoff run: 110 meters
Landing run: 300 meters