Lavochkin La-5FN

The Lavochkin fighters were unsung heros of the WWII Soviet Air Force. Although the Yakolev fighters are much better-known, the radial-engined Lavochkins were flown by some of the most successful pilots of the Red Air Force, including top Allied ace Ivan Kozhedub. Ironically, the excellent La-5 was the result of a desperate program to convert the inferior LaGG-3 to radial power as a hedge against an anticipated shortage of liquid-cooled Klimov engines. The result succeeded beyond all expectations.

Built almost entirely of untreated plywood, the La-5s survived the war they helped to win by just a few short months. They literally rotted at their dispersal points, and almost all of them were scrapped by the end of 1946. The follow-on La-7, which used more aluminum in its structure, lasted a little longer, and some of them saw action in the Korean War.

I've long wanted to build a Lavochkin, so I acquired this airframe from my friend Guy Fawcett, who lives just outside Edmonton, Alberta. Guy built the basic airframe almost entirely from pink extruded foam. The wings are covered with artist's "Bristol" board, and the fuselage is covered with glass cloth applied with WeldBond wood glue. Because Guy's version was unstable in flight, I increased the empennage area by about 10%, and I hollowed out the fuselage to reduce weight. I re-painted the airframe with Floquil Polly-S acrylic paints and cut the markings from scruffed MonoKote trim film.

The powerplant is a 6V Speed 400 motor with Maxx gearbox spinning a Zinger 9 X 6 prop. The battery is 8 X 500AR cells, and the all-up weight is just over 20 ounces.

With its comparatively high wing loading and sharply-tapered wings, the Lavochkin is a handful in the air, with a rather abrupt tip stall. But when the field is buried under fresh snow, the Lavochkin looks right at home roaring over the Steppes.




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