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For the average pilot, civilian aircraft form the nucleus of their world. While they might admire and desire the faster, more exciting models that are seen at military airbases, it is the slower, more functional models that bring home the bacon. In general, civilian aircraft are more affordable and are easier to obtain as they are sold by both private sellers and dealers. This section of covers not only all these factors, but also takes a look at some popular classic and vintage aircraft for the connoisseurs of flying.

Cessna 172

2006 marks the 50-year anniversary of the Cessna Skyhawk 172. The tricycle-gear 4-seat Cessna 172 is one of the world’s most popular airplanes of all time. To date, Cessna has delivered more than 35,000 of the single-engine, high-wing airplanes. The 172 is a forgiving aircraft which makes it attractive for novice pilots or those who operate on short strips or unpaved runways.

Another reason given for the 172’s popularity is that Cessna has consistently improved the aircraft’s design, engine, and avionics. Some of these changes include adding a rear window, aerofoil modifications, increased fuel capacity, and more horsepower. From 1956 until 1967, the 172 ran on a 145-horsepower six-cylinder Continental O-300 engine. From 1968 until 1984, Cessna replaced that engine with a 150-horsepower four-cylinder Lycoming O-320 engine.

Cessna then ceased production of the Skyhawk 172 until 1996, when they released the 172R with the current 160-horsepower, fuel injected four-cylinder Textron Lycoming IO-360-L2A engine.

Higher performance variations of the 172R come with more features and more horsepower. The 172RG featured retractable gear and a variable pitch, constant speed propeller with a more powerful engine in the 180-horsepower Lycoming O-360.

Specifications of the current Skyhawk Model 172R:

Engine: Textron Lycoming IO-360-L2A, 160 BHP at 2,400 RPM
Landing Performance: ground roll 550 ft
Propeller: 2-bladed fixed pitch
Cruise Speed (80% power at 8,000 feet):122 kts
Takeoff Performance (total distance over 50 ft obstacle): 1,685 ft
Optional Garmin G1000 NAV III glass cockpit

Sukhoi SU-31

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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
G-limit: +12/-10
Roll rate: 7 seconds
Takeoff run: 110 meters
Landing run: 300 meters
Parachute: PNL-91
Crew: One

Russian Superjet Enjoys Successful Maiden Flight

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The mid-range Sukhoi Superjet 100 took off from Komsomolsk-on-Amur on May 19. This is the first civil aircraft to have been made in the new Russia and as such it has attracted a lot of attention. During the test flight, the SSJ100 managed to reach the launch flight mission height of 1 200 meters and the flight lasted a total of one hour, five minutes. The test flight provided the perfect opportunity for the pilot and test pilot to perform a number of maneuvers, which the Sukhoi passed with flying colors. At the end of the flight the crew was able to confirm various things such as the thrust-to-weight ratio of the aircraft and the fact that the engines and main systems were capable of sustained operation.

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Russia’s New Superjet 100

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The 95-seater “Superjet 100airplane, manufactured by Russian state-owned company Sukhoi Aviation Company, was unveiled at an elaborate ceremony attended by more than 1,000 foreign and Russian officials and executives including the deputy prime minister, Sergei Ivanov. After speeches by Ivanov and other VIPs, a large screen was lifted to reveal the red, white and blue Superjet 100 emerging from swirls of dry-ice clouds, accompanied by stirring music. The Superjet 100 is the first Russian built passenger jet that has been produced since the collapse of the Soviet Union and is seen as a milestone in moving toward reviving an aircraft industry that at one time was among the world’s most productive.

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