Yes, you’ll need pockets a mile deep to maintain one, but for the ultimate thrill ride, it’s hard to beat flying your own ex-military jet.
Provided by Courtesy Aircraft
Jared Isaacman hit the headlines last year when he bought the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s treasured 1989 Cold War MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jet. Isaacman, who made a fortune with his credit-card processing company, is just 38.
No one knows how much the accomplished pilot paid for the MiG, but right now there are five for sale on Trade-A-Plane.com in the US, ranging in price from $2.5 million—less than the sticker on a Bugatti Chiron supercar—to $4.65 million for a fully certified, fully flying 1986 model.
“There’s nothing like the thrill of flying any military jet. If you have the experience and the money, the investment is worth every cent,” says Steve Hinton, president of the Chino, Calif.-based Planes of Fame Air Museum, and owner of restoration specialists Fighter Rebuilders.
Great “starter” jets, says Hinton, include the workhorse Czech L-39C trainer that is priced from the mid-$300,000s. They’re cheap to maintain, reliable, easy to source parts and really fun to fly. “Of course, you can go all the way to something like the fully rebuilt F-4 Phantom that’s for sale for around $3 million,” he adds. “But you’d need a proper support crew, dedicated mechanics, and it’ll cost you $10,000 in gas for a quick flight.”
1974 MiG 21UM $249,000
Believe it or not, the fearsome, Russian-built Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 21 is still being flown today by Indian and Syrian air forces, more than 65 years after its maiden flight in June 1955. With over 11,500 built, it’s the most-produced supersonic jet in aviation history. It was, and still is, unbelievably fast, with a top speed of 1,390 mph and climb rate of an insane 770 feet per second. While most MiG 21s ended-up being mounted on concrete pylons as sad Cold War reminders, here is one you can buy for the price of a Lamborghini SUV. This 1974 MiG has been flying in the U.S. since 2002 under an Experimental Exhibition Certification and has 1,774 hours in total, around 224 since its air frame overhaul. That super-reliable Tumansky R-11 non-afterburner turbojet engine will need an overhaul in 226 hours, but it’s still said to be running strong. It’s being offered by St. Lucie, FL-based Raptor Aviation.
1960 North American F-86F Skyblazer $250,000
Once part of the hot-shot U.S. Air Force Europe Skyblazers aerobatics team, this North American F-86F Sabre first hit the skies back in 1952. Before the Skyblazers disbanded in ’62, the jet was sold to the Fuerza Aerea Argentina Air Force, where it flew for close to three decades. It’s in great shape, with a current FAA airworthiness certificate, though its General Electric J-47 engine will soon need work. F-86 Sabres are best-known as the US’s first swept-wing, single-seat fighter jet that could out-pace Soviet MiG-15s in high-speed Korean War dogfights. This star-spangled example has been an airshow regular, and is being sold by Courtesy Aircraft Sales for the Valiant Air Command Museum in Titusville, Florida.
1983 Aero L-39C Albatros $345,000
Credited as being the most widely used jet trainer in the world, these days the two-seat Czech-built Aero L-39 Albatros is a top choice with private owners—more than 250 are currently registered in the US with the FAA. Former General Motors vice-chairman, and ex-marine fly-boy, Bob Lutz has owned one for years. And this 1983 example might just be the coolest Albatros money can buy. Fresh out of a comprehensive restoration, it’s been given the look and feel of a private biz jet with its stunning metallic blue paint and custom light-gray leather cockpit. For the price of a Ferrari 812 Superfast, you could be doing barrel-rolls in this L-39C. Leading Albatros broker Code 1 Aviation has that listing, and two others to choose from.
1960 Douglas A-4C Skyhawk $1.3 Million
Nicknamed the “Scooter” because of its teeny dimensions—its 26-foot wingspan meant that carrier versions never needed to fold their wings—the legendary A-4C Skyhawk was one of the smallest, lightest attack jets ever. Designed to be catapulted off carriers and cause mayhem in Vietnam, it could scream to a top speed of 670 mph at sea level, courtesy of its Wright J65-W-16A turbofan. This example is one of the best around. Built in 1960, its airframe has recently been restored, and the exterior given new paint last year by Fighting Classics in Marana, Arizona. Its engine has only 251 hours since its major overhaul. The fighter is being sold by Platinum Fighter Sales for less than the price of a used McLaren P1.
1959 McDonnell Douglas F-4H-1F $2.95 Million
McDonnell-Douglas built over 5,100 F-4 Phantoms between 1959 and 1969, but this is without doubt one of the most famous. Back in 1961, it was part of the Navy’s three-jet Operation Sageburner low-altitude speed record attempt. This F-4’s sibling flew a 1.8-mile course at 902.7 mph while staying under 125 feet. After being retired in 1964, it ended up at the Wings and Rotors Air Museum in Murrieta, Calif. Sitting for years as a static display, the museum eventually got enough cash to begin restoration. According to brokers Platinum Fighter Sales, 85 percent of the work has been done. It includes a complete re-wire and overhaul of the complex pneumatic and hydraulic systems. The General Electric J-79 engines are currently being overhauled and uprated. Once the ongoing restoration is complete, this will be the only flyable F-4 Phantom in private hands in the world.
1979 Hawker-Siddeley Sea Harrier FA-2 Price On Application
You’re looking at the world’s first and only privately-owned and flown Harrier “jump-jet.” The star of airshows around the US for more than 13 years, the VTOL—Vertical Take-Off and Landing—jet has been the much-loved, and heinously expensive project of Art Nalls, a former navy test pilot turned real estate developer. Nalls, 67, has reluctantly decided to sell his iconic Sea Harrier as part of a three-Harrier package. It includes the fully air-worthy 1979 version that Nalls flies himself at shows. Then there’s the dual-seat TMk-8 Harrier that’s currently being completed and will be delivered in flying condition. Plus, a GR-3 model for parts or static display. Add to all this, a mountain of spares, engines, air frames, manuals. Courtesy Aircraft Sales are on the look-out for a mega-rich, highly-qualified buyer willing to take on this iconic jet.
Fly before you buy – Try a MiG-29 in Russia
They promise up to 9G, along with tail slides, backward Immelman turns, straight-ups, and insane vertical dives. All this in a genuine Cold War MiG-29 Fulcrum supersonic Russian fighter jet. Founded in 2004, Zurich-based www.migflug.com MiGFlug has been offering aviation thrill seekers flights in their scary-fast MiG-29 from the SOKOL airbase near Nizhny Novgorod in Russia. It’ll cost you about $17,000 for a 45-minute flight, where you’ll experience a full afterburner take-off, go supersonic, and they’ll even let you try your hand at the controls. They offer an “Edge of Space” flight where the MiG soars up 35 miles to see the curvature of the earth.