Collection Item Summary:
The Sukhoi Design Bureau, makers of Soviet and Russian military aircraft, designed the Su-26 in 1983 for unlimited aerobatic competition. The Su-26M is made of more than 50 percent composite materials and has a special symmetrical wing section and arched cantilever titanium landing gear. It was designed to handle loads from +12 Gs to -10 Gs and is a superior aircraft for the most highly skilled pilot. It can perform spectacular gyroscopic maneuvers and quick, multiple snap rolls, and can nearly hover from its propeller. Soviet pilots flew Su 26Ms to multiple aerobatic titles.
This Su-26M was built in 1990 and was originally painted in the unique "Russian purple" color. The Soviet National Aerobatic team flew 222 flights in the aircraft in 1990 and 1991. U.S. aerobatic pilot Gerry Molidor bought it in 1998 and flew it in advanced and unlimited competition until 2001.
Collection Item Long Description:
The Sukhoi Design Bureau, makers of Soviet and Russian military aircraft, designed the Su-26 in 1983 for unlimited aerobatic competition. The Su-26M was designed in 1983 by the fighter design engineers of the Sukhoi Design Bureau, well-known makers of military aircraft, for unlimited aerobatic competition. First flown in June 1984, the Su-26M was first used by the Soviet Aerobatic Team in August 1984 to participate in the World Aerobatic Championships in Hungry. The Su-26 showed its mettle during the next world competition, which was held in the United Kingdom in 1986, when the Soviet team won the coveted team prize for the men's competition. The Su-26M airplane routinely challenged the German Extra and French Cap series aerobatic and airshow airplanes in national as well as world competitions. Soviet and Russian pilots flew the design to multiple aerobatic titles. Since the early 1990s, the design has been a very successful export for Russia and is now used by many European and American aerobatic competitors and airshow pilots.
The Su-26 is a single seat mid-wing monoplane with a fixed conventional tail wheel landing gear. Very strong and powerful, the design allowed for spectacular gyroscopic maneuvers, quick, multiple snap rolls, and the ability to nearly hover from its propeller. It was designed to handle loads from plus 12G to minus 10G that are encountered during these extreme aerobatic maneuvers. It is powered by a 360 HP (268 kW) 9-cylinder Vedeneyev M-14P air cooled radial engine driving a three blade MTV-9-260 propeller. Composites comprise more than 50% of the airplanes gross weight. The specially developed tapered mid-wing has a unique symmetrical airfoil section and is constructed of carbonfibre and fibreglas composite honeycomb panels with foam-filled fibreglas spars and titanium truss ribs in the main wing platform. The integral tail plane structure is similar to that of the wing. The fuselage is constructed of welded stainless steel tubing and covered with quickly removable honeycomb composite skin panels. The engine compartment fairings and engine cowls are made of light alloy.
The main landing gear is an arched cantilever type made of titanium and the steerable tail wheel is titanium spring centered. The close-coupled cockpit accommodations include a one piece pilot's seat constructed of composite materials which is inclined at 45 degrees to enable the pilot to sustain a higher G-loading without blackout during severe aerobatic maneuvers. The tinted one-piece canopy was hinged at the rear for ease of entry and egress. Cockpit instrumentation is the minimum necessary for the pilot to maintain attitude and flight envelope awareness during critical high-G maneuver conditions. Other instruments include fundamental engine functions as well as the few basic navigational and directional instruments necessary to ferry the airplane cross country from one show venue to the next. The flight controls are conventional stick and rudder pedals which have straps on them to hold the pilot's feet on the pedals during high negative G loading conditions. The M model features a sharp-cornered rudder and reduced fuselage side glazing.
This Sukhoi Su-26M was built at the Sukhoi factory in Moscow in 1990. Its serial number, 02-05, denotes that it was the 5th airplane built in the second batch of production Su-26M's. It was originally painted in "Russian purple" (similar to hot pink) and it sported number 22 on the fuselage. Upon completion, it was test flown by Jurgis Kairys of Lithuania. Soviet National Aerobatic team members flew it in 1990 and 1991, including champions Nikolai Timofeev, Sergei Boriak, Svetlana Kapanina, and Elena Klimovich. After 222 flights it was returned to Sukhoi where it was placed in storage awaiting assignment to one of the Russian Aero Clubs for general use.
It remained in storage until it was purchased in 1998 from the Aero Club of Russia by American aerobatic pilot Gerry Molidor, a former corporate pilot for Anheuser-Busch. It had only 91.5 flight hours which made it one of the lowest time Su-26s of that time. After it was shipped from Moscow to Winchester, Virginia, where it was assembled, test flown, and certificated, Molidor ferried the airplane to St. Louis. At the direction of Molidor and Carl Henke, Director of Anheuser-Busch Flight Operations, JetCorp of Chesterfield, Missouri, spent 1,500 man-hours applying the elaborate "Bud Light" paint scheme. JetCorp also installed Allied Signal radios and avionics equipment. Molidor flew it in competitions and air shows until September 2001, when he was forced to retire from unlimited aerobatic competition due to a serious eye injury. The airplane was subsequently acquired by Anheuser-Busch who donated it to the Museum in 2003. It is currently on display at the Museum's Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia.