One of the world’s only Aero Vodochody L-39 ZA Czechoslovakian fighter jets will take to the skies this week in Casa Grande, Ariz., at the 40th annual COPPERSTATE Fly-In & Aviation Expo.
Now based at Stellar Airpark in Chandler, Ariz., the journey for this stunning red-white-and-black Czechoslovakian L-39 ZA fighter jet — owned, maintained and flown by Arnie Evdokimo of Chandler, Ariz. — began in 1981, when it rolled off the assembly line in Czechoslovakia.
Evdokimo, a professional data center designer and CEO/president of Phoenix-based DP Air, says he has always loved airplanes. “I built my first model airplane at 4,” he says. “And, I got my pilot’s license in my early 20s.”
From there, Evdokimo has moved up to acquire the type rating required to fly his L-39, an aircraft he acquired 12 years ago.
Initially, Evdokimo says he was interested in finding a World WarII-era aircraft. “I wanted something low-maintenance,” he recalls. But, he soon discovered that his L-39 fit the bill even more perfectly than a “warbird.”
A Long Way from Home — and Better Than Ever
After the Soviet Union dissolved, Edvokimo was able to pick up an exceptionally rare ZA “ground attack” model, featuring a pressurized cockpit, ejection seats — and even air-conditioning — from the Czechoslovakian Air Force, via an importer. His L-39’s airframe had a mere 1,100 hours at the time; it’s rated for 14,000 hours over its lifetime.
Evdokimo estimates there are about 200 L-39 “C” models in the United States, but fewer than a dozen ZA models in North America. His is one of them.
Before the L-39 ZA could be shipped (in parts) by container ship to the United States, the aircraft underwent a mandatory “inspect and repair as necessary,” or IRAN, process. Once it arrived stateside, Czech aircraft mechanics flew in and had it flyable within two days.
Then, Evdokimo and his team got to work and, as he puts it, “took it apart again.” Their mission was to modernize the aircraft with computerization, autopilot, GPS, G-Suits and more. These unique and high-tech features make the cockpit an attraction in itself; Edvokimo routinely makes sure a staircase is available at aviation events so visitors can see his L-39’s cockpit up close and personal.
All Evdokimo’s work has really paid off among aviation enthusiasts and experts. At last year’s COPPERSTATE Fly-In, his rare L-39 won 1st place in the Military category for aircraft judging. He has won various awards at other events as well, including “best heavy metal.”
Evdokimo says he plans to do a showcase flight in his L-39 ZA this week at the 40th annual COPPERSTATE Fly-In & Aviation Expo. When asked what kinds of aerobatics the crowd can expect to see, he said, “We’ll do whatever the tower and FAA regulations will allow!”
In its 40th year, this year’s fly-in is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 25, to Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Casa Grande Municipal Airport in Casa Grande, Ariz.
For more information: Copperstate.org