Yak I (G-BTZD), serial No 1342

Yak 1 (G-BTZD) serial No 1342 was recovered in October 1990 from Polonets Lake in the Demlansk area of northern Russia. Locals say that the aircraft landed on the frozen lake in December 1942 after being damaged by German fighter fire. It is clear from the damage evident that the undercarriage collapsed during the landing. Bullet holes were also discovered in the coolant radiator. It is believed that the pilot escaped and returned to Russian lines. Though both the Germans and the Russians attempted to recover the aeroplane, gunfire prevented either from effecting this. During the spring the ice melted and the aircraft sank to the bottom of the lake, in 18 metres of water.

Sources from Russia confirm that this Yak I, number 1342, was made in 1941 at the Saratov plant and was the 13th in the 42nd series. This means that it was the 2063rd made from a total of 8721. Each batch was for a production of 50 aircraft. Although the aircraft data plate, made of thin steel was unreadable, The cowlings, ammunition boxes and several other components are clearly marked 1342, and recently discovered archive information in Russia has listed the serial number of all three guns, confirming beyond doubt this is indeed 1342. Ammunition recovered from the aircraft was found to be dated 1940. The number ‘8188’ being found on the fuselage frame hampered initial research on the aircraft, but it is now thought this number was a manufacturer’s serial number for the frame only. The Yak-1 was fitted with a Klimov engine number PA 135-1067, which means that it was built at aircraft engine plant number 26 in the third quarter of 1941, its order number being 1067. Unfortunately, this steel data plate for the engine was also corroded and it is not possible to read the number on it.

Yak I s/n 1342 flew with the 423 Fighter Regiment, which at the beginning of the war was part of the Moscow air defence force. Later this regiment became part of the Gorkij City anti-aircraft defence force. The aircraft then was with the 485 Fighter regiment, and its commander was Major G.V.Zimin. A main base of this regiment was Vypolzovo airfield, not far from Kalinin City (now called Twer). There was much fighting in the Derniansk ‘boiler’ where the German 16th Army was surrounded by Soviets. The regiment had Hurricanes but also a few Yak I’s. The pilot who flew the aircraft on its last sortie was Flying Officer Michael Kudrjashov. He had three victories in this aeroplane, and sometimes flew as wingman for Major Zimin. He survived the war and won many medals for his courage, ending out with 12 victories in all.

The aircraft was acquired by HAC in 1991, and restoration started soon after. The aircraft was of simple design, but had an all-wood wing and other flying surfaces. The glue had deteriorated during the long immersion and the decision was made to manufacture a new wing, incorporating as many of the metal fittings as possible. The airframe is being restored to the original specifications, including its original guns (de-activated) and ammunition boxes. Much of the airframe and equipment was re-usable thanks to the very cold fresh water that the aircraft was under for so many years.

The engine was in an amazing condition, with no corrosion - except on the steel data plate. Even the oil inside was clean and fresh, as were all the internal steel parts. The magnesium castings had dissolved and so an additional engine was sourced from the Musee de l’Air in Paris, by way of an exchange. In the meantime the original engine is being worked on as it is hoped that enough spare parts can be found to restore it.

Yak I/M-105PF Specifications

Wing Span : 32ft 10 in (10m).
Length : 27ft 9.75in (8.48m).
Height : 9ft 10in (3m)9ft 10in (3m).
Power-plant : VK-105PF 1,100 hp.
Weight : 6,270 lbs (2,850 kg).
Maximum Speed : 367mph (592km/h).
Service Ceiling : 32,800ft (10,000m).
Range : 1120 m (700 km).
Armament : 1x ShVAK cannon ( 20 mm, 120 rounds);
2x ShKAS machine guns (7,62 mm, 1500 rounds)