What is claimed to be the world’s last airworthy MiG-17PF jet fighter is up for sale.
Exclusive: What is claimed to be the world's last airworthy MiG-17PF jet fighter is up for sale.
It took Jon Blanchette, a former General Motors engineer and US Navy officer, 15 years to bring the Soviet-era jet fighter back to its original condition.
The Russian-built fighter was shipped to the United States damaged and boxed up in pieces after the Berlin Wall came down.
Since it's painstaking restoration, the jet has been turning heads at air shows throughout the US.
From his New York state base, Blanchette told nine.com.au the MiG-17 fighter "became an obsession" of his for 27 years after he snapped up the war machine in 1993.
At the time, Blanchette was working at a war plane museum.
A middle man phoned up and told him "I got a strange one here".
"It's got an unusual nose and it doesn't look like the other MiGs," Blanchette said he was told.
"He said 'do you want it?' and I said, 'sure why not.'"
It cost Blanchette US $16,000 and another $5000 to ship it over.
Polish engineers dissembled the MiG-17 in the middle of winter, Blanchette said.
"So they couldn't take it apart any faster and they did a lot of damage in the process.
"In fact the damage they did taking it apart and shoving it inside a 40 foot container, it cost me a couple of years of work."
All the pieces of the MiG-17 were bundled into a container and transported to Baltimore, where the eastern US city was in the grips of one of the coldest winters on record.
"It was frozen over and too cold for the government to come check the container," Blanchette remembered.
"So the container came through customs without being opened.
"When it came out of the box everyone said 'you'll never get the FAA to give you a permit to fly that thing.'"
Fifteen years later, in the summer of 2008, the resorted MiG-17 took off on its maiden flight.
Today, Blanchette's MiG is capable of performing a full aerobatic routine, including inverted flight and tight 8-G turns.
Developed in the early 1950s, the MiG-17 became an important part of the Soviet Air Force.
The PF variant of the MiG-17 were equipped with a search and a tracking radar. It was the first Soviet fighter capable of operating at night and during inclement weather.
NATO observers first spotted the MiG-17PF in 1956 and gave it the name Fresco D. It remained in service until replaced by the MiG 21-13, in the early 1960s.
The MiG-17PF also became the first jet fighter flown by the North Vietnamese Air Force.
Loved for its manoeuvrability and speed, the aircraft proved to be a fearsome opponent to the US F-4 Phantom II during the Vietnam War.
Blanchette, now in his 80s, reckoned he has spent at least $1 million and countless hours working on the jet.
"Everyone said I was crazy when I bought it," he said.
"I was a novice at the time but I sure learned a lot, I can tell you."
He is hoping a buyer will step in with a $500,000 offer.
"I can't keep this until I'm 100 years old," Blanchette said.
The retired naval officer still tinkers on the plane most weeks, cleaning it, "doing this and that" and making little tweaks and adjustments.
There are "tons of parts" and manuals in the hangar, which sits empty when the MiG-17PF is thrilling crowds at air shows around the US.
Blanchette heart in always in his mouth watching his MiG perform stunts at air shows, where it will burn through $3000 of fuel in an hour.
"I just pray it comes down safely and lands," he said.
"At that speed it's a dangerous thing, it's a war machine."
Blanchette's particular aircraft (1D-0620) was produced in December 1960 and served in the Polish Air Force until 1966.
After being decommissioned, Polish aircraft mechanics used it for training until 1993.
Blanchette hoped an "airplane person" will keep the jet flying.
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Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/mig17pf-for-sale-by-former-us-navy-officer-who-restored-soviet-jet-fighter/1b833834-f6fe-4d87-9238-5e2ca1116aa0