The Yakovlev Yak-18T (Яковлев Як-18T) is a four- or five-seat fully aerobatic utility aircraft. Introduced to train Aeroflot pilots, it has gained some popularity as a sportplane both inside and outside the former USSR. It is powered by a 355 hp Vedeneyev M14P radial engine, and is designed for stresses of +6.48/-3.24 g.
In May 1945, Aleksandr S. Yakovlev initiated design of the Yak-18 two-seat primary trainer. He designed it to replace the earlier Yakovlev UT-2 and Yak-5 in service with the Soviet Air Forces and DOSAAF (Voluntary Society for Collaboration with the Army, Air Force and Navy, which sponsored aero clubs throughout the USSR). The new aircraft flew a year later, powered by a Shvetsov M-11 five-cylinder radial engine and featuring a retractable tailwheel landing gear.
The design, a development of the UT-2 with retractable landing gear and enclosed cockpit, proved exceptionally easy to build and maintain. The first Yak-18, which carried two pilots seated in tandem, was mainly used as a trainer. Later versions included a Yak-18U with semi-retractable tricycle landing gear and a longer fuselage, a Yak-18A with a more powerful 260-hp engine, and the Yak-18P- a single seat version for aerobatics.
In the 1960s and 1970s, modified Yak-18s ruled the world of competitive international aerobatics. It was progressively upgraded with more powerful engines, a tricycle landing gear, and with more modern materials replacing the original fabric and steel tubing construction. Nearly 11,000 Yak-18s have been produced in some 11 variants at factories in Arsenyev, Kharkov and Saratov (Russia), Becau (Romania) and China.
Nanchung Dragon Chinese version
The final version was the Yak-18T it was designed in the late 60's, as a civilian aircraft. The aircraft has a nosewheel, is a four- or five-seater, and has a nine-cylinder radial. The Yak-18T shares systems with the Yak-50/52 family. These aircraft all have the 265 kW radial engine as well as the same underlying compressed-air system for engine starting, brakes, undercarriage and flaps. The propeller, avionics and other parts are also shared.
Yak-18T with two Yak-52's
The Yak 18T is a big, aerobatic- capable, four-seat retractable found throughout the Eastern Bloc working as a trainer, a transport, air-ambulance, aerial photography platform, pipeline patrol and just about any other role they could think up.
The 18T is a classic bird, with the 355 hp Vedeneyev M14 nine-cylinder radial up front, a large airframe, fabric covered outer wing panels and control surfaces and a big cabin with four (and often five) seats.
Top speed is 160 Kts if conditions are right, with a cruise speed in the range of 125-130 KTS. While outright speed is not the 18T's forte, the ability to carry a load a good distance and into/out of rough fields, definitely is.
Handling is excellent, well balanced and control pressures get heavy only at the very top of the speed envelope. The 18T is a tough, well proven aircraft that is a wonderful aircraft to fly, well within the capabilities of most private pilots. It can perform all the basic aerobatic manoeuvres and is available with inverted systems for fuel and oil.
Compared with other four-seat light aircraft such as the Cessna 172 or the Piper PA-28, the Yak-18T is only wider and longer but it is much heavier and is equipped with a considerably more powerful engine. The Yak-18T is perhaps better compared with the Piper Saratoga which has two extra seats, but which has a similar maximum weight, together with a retractable undercarriage and a similarly powerful engine. The Yak-18T is, however, distinguished by its strong construction, aerobatic capability and docile yet responsive handling characteristics.
The Yak-18T went on to become the standard basic trainer with Aeroflot flight schools, while small numbers also entered service with the Soviet Air Force as liaison and communications aircraft. After approximately 700 were built, many for Aeroflot, production ceased in the late 1980s, to be resumed in 1993. In 2011 it was claimed that the type remained in small-scale production by the Yakolev Design Bureau, although apparently none had been produced in more than a decade. Technoavia has marketed the SM94, its own development of the Yak-18T, featuring curved windshield, larger fuel tanks and choice of avionics package, but production is dependent on orders being placed.
Technoavia SM94 Photo Dmitry A. Mottl