Because They Could

Because They Could

When Sergei Yakovlev, son of legendary aircraft designer Alexander Sergeyevich Yakovlev, was working on the aerobatic Yak-55 for the then-Soviet company that bears the family name back in 1980, he probably never imagined anything like this. It would have surely been inconceivable to him at the time to think that, nearly 40 years later, a group of guys, in the decadent West, no less, would take two of his airplanes and stick them together.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Dell Coller, EAA 683852, an avid builder and restorer who works as a crew chief for John Klatt Airshows, and championship aerobatic pilot Jeff Boerboon, EAA 363600, had an idea: If one Yak-55 is cool — and, let’s face it, it is — then two of them must be even cooler. The new airplane, dubbed Yak-110 for obvious reasons, is destined for the air show circuit, and is certainly going to be one of the only multiengine airplanes out there capable of Unlimited aerobatics.

“It’s an idea that I’ve been kicking around for quite a few years and ideas are great but to take them to reality is a whole other step,” Dell said. “This is certainly something different, taking two completely two separate airplanes and making them one.”

After spending some time tinkering with the idea, they got their friend Chad Bartee, a longtime pilot and owner of a medical equipment company, to come on board.

“You know, it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Chad said. “I mean there’s nothing else like it, for one thing. It’s not a ‘me too’ deal.”

But he didn’t rush right in.

“I told the guys,” Chad said. “Before I get behind it, it’s going to have to be…safe and it’s going to have to be engineered and that type of thing, and so the aeronautical engineering part of it took a lot of time to analyze and the lift and the stress, and twisting movement and all that kind of thing.” 

The team found two Yak-55s in good flying condition and took them to Dell’s shop in Boise, Idaho, where work began in earnest. One wing was removed from each airplane, and a new center section was fabricated to join the two airplanes together. They’re also attached at the horizontal stabilizers, which have been beefed up but otherwise left intact.

Each cockpit has a full set of flight controls, but things like the starter and the show smoke controls are only found in the left cockpit. Otherwise, the airplane really is just what it looks like — two Yak-55s stuck together. Power comes from the original Vedeneyev M14P nine-cylinder radials that each produce 360 hp, and, by all accounts, the 110 does just fine on one engine. Otherwise, so far it performs just about like a single Yak-55, but with a lot more power, and it has been tested to 6g and -4g.

So how long did it take to go from two airplanes to one?

“It was 13 months ago that we got both airplanes in the hangar for the first time and started kind of really getting into the details of planning out exactly how we were going to do this,” Dell said. That’s right, from the airplanes’ first meeting to their first joint flight was just a little more than a year.

The team is no stranger to the air show business, and already has a number of sponsors lined up, including MT Propeller, MGL Avionics, Matco Wheels and Brakes, Hooker Harness, Softie Parachutes, and Lift Aviation. But the airplane itself isn’t done yet. In a recent video about the project, Jeff pointed out that this airplane ultimately isn’t going to be a twin.

“[It will be] a tri-motor airplane: two props and one jet,” he said “It’s going to be awesome.” The jet is a General Electric CJ610-6, a turbojet derived from the J85 that produces around 3,000 pounds of thrust.

The team expects to be testing the Yak-110 with the jet engine sometime in January, and entertaining excited, if slightly confused, air show goers starting next summer.

Watch for a full story on the Yak-110 in a future issue of Sport Aviation magazine.

Photos by James Raeder, EAA 521210

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Hal, EAA Lifetime 638979, is senior editor for EAA digital and print content and publications, co-author of two books, and a lifelong pilot and aviation geek. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at halbryan or e-mail him at hbryan@eaa.org.