Buying obsolete military jets for recreational use is a convoluted business in any country – not just Sri Lanka. Specially if the President or Defence secretary or the Minister overseeing civil-aviation is not a relative. Some might suggest that the obvious way to fly ageing military aircraft in Sri Lanka is to join the air force. Unfortunately this is the equivalent to turning your hobby into a job. Then there are those followers of a badly dressed cult leader who try to shoot at you – which is unpleasant to say the least. All this is very far from the simple pleasures of hurling through the sky in supersonic style when the mood (and the 3 day wait) takes you.
Thankfully there IS a market for buyers of military jets for “recreational” use. Naturally it is an expensive niche with a bulk of the customers located in the United States. Cigar Aficionado magazine has a fairly in-depth article on the business. So does the New York Times. However if you are thinking price, check out the military-heat.com’s post “Russian military aircraft on sale for general public”. Its dated Sept 2007 so the prices must no doubt have gone up.
Lets fly past insensitive questions like “why would you want to buys a MiG?” and consider where you could do some civilised buying. In the continuing irony of history, it is private entrepreneurship that gallops to the rescue of old Soviet aircraft (along with 3rd world countries). Of the online dealers out there, check out Courtesy Aircraft (they are selling a MiG17 if anyone is interested) and Trade-a-plane. I suppose these sites would help sort out the paperwork regarding the delivery of your purchase.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t have anything to do with these web-sites. They certainly are NOT paying me for mentioning them.
For the do it yourself types, I suppose you could snoop around the Albanian airforce storage tunnels or similar crevices and try your luck. If the Sri Lankan Air Force is willing to sell, and assuming its remotely air-worthy, they do have a Shenyang J-5. It is a made in China equivalent of the MiG 15. This might not sit well with MiG purists out there but we live in the 3rd VERLD and must compromise rather than grumble about details.
When you do buy your bird and haul it home there’ll be a lot of paperwork to deal with. I am assuming that you will do the honest thing by bringing it into the country legally. Despite the very unpleasant duties and fees involved. Part of the hassle will involve convincing the Civil Aviation Authority that the aircraft is air-worthy. Its beyond my imagination (and knowledge) to get a MiG (without weapons systems no doubt) on the Civil Aircraft Register as a private aircraft. According to the Sri Lankan Civil Aircraft Register (as of June 2008, no one has pulled this off. There’s only one individual registered and he’s flying an ultra light.
If you pull off this feat – no doubt you’ll be in the papers hounded by annoying paparazzi when ever you head to the airport for a spin in the MiG. To escape all the media freedom, consider building your own Aerodrome. That too is theoretically possible. The fees for a “certified land aerodrome” are a tad steep for us lesser beings. Yet having achieved the impossible, this might be trivial for you.
I skipped on the trivial detail of how you might learn to fly a MiG on your own. Too much typing involved and I’ve already blown my word and time budgets with this post. Perhaps a person who actually knows something might care to fill in the details 🙂