Aero L-39 Albatros

This Czechoslovak design was once the most popular jet training aircraft in the world, due to it being the preferred advanced trainer in the Sovjet block. The Soviet air force alone operated nearly a thousand L-39s. You are still likely to encounter one, as many have ended up on the civil market as warbird.

The L-39 has straight, low mounted wings with tip tanks as standard. Above the leading edge are long D-shaped air intakes at the side of the fuselage, slightly tilted inward. They have a rectangular splitter plate in front. This is one of the key features of the Albatros. Another one is the gear. The single wheel main landing gear has trailing link legs, allowing soft landings, even on grass. The nose gear is also of a trailing link type. For the rest the L-39 is not very extraordinary, but here are the other characteristics: a tandem cockpit, pointed nose, tall vertical stabiliser and the exhaust beyond it.

The long D-shaped, slightly tilted air intakes at the side of the fuselage are one of the key features of the Aero L-39 Albatross.

The main landing gears do not have straight legs, but a trailing link, so with a bent. This allows oeprations from grass runways.

Different versions

The different versions of the Albatros can externally be distinguished by amongst others

  • the number of pylons under the wings
  • the shape of the nose

More details will follow later.

Confusion possible with

CASA C-101 Aviojet

l 39cm

The Aviojet has a landing gear and and forward fuselage like the Albatros. The air intakes are placed in front of the wings and have a long oval shape. Additionally, it has no tip tanks. Finally, the exhaust is under the tail, before the end of the fuselage.

Karakorum K-8/Hongdu JL-8

at 3a

The Chinese/Pakistani K-8 has a similar appearance as the L-39, except for three key features of the latter. The K-8 has less rounded air intakes and placed further forward. In addition, the landing gears are straight and the K-8 has no tip tanks. (photo: Bob Adams/WikiMedia)


at 3a

This is a twin engine jet trainer with engines at the sides of the fuselage, lacking tip tanks and having straight landing gear legs, but for the rest it looks quite similar to the L-39.

Aermacchi MB339


The canopy, trailing link gear and straight wings are similar to that of the L-39 (albeit without tip tanks), but there are many difference in other parts. The landing gear of the MB339 is shorter and the air intakes in the wing roots are much smaller and nearly round.

British Aerospace Hawk


The Hawk has smaller air intakes, more D shaped, swept wings, a curved leading edge of the tail and horizontal stabilisers with anhedral. This should be enough not to mix it up with the L-39.