One of the most popular supersonic jets in aviation history, a Russian Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21, has a new home at the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE). Draken International donated the single-engine jet fighter to Aerospace Discovery at Florida Air Museum. The unveiling and ribbon-cutting ceremony took place during the 6th Annual Mayor’s Breakfast held March 6th on the SUN ‘n FUN campus. The Mayor’s Breakfast was attended by over 400 members of the business community interested in this year’s updates on SUN ‘n FUN and its Aerospace Center for Excellence initiatives as well as the keynote speaker from Draken International, which is headquartered on the Lakeland Linder International Airport.
Preparing the MiG-21 for Display
Dave McQueary, who works in the Technology Department at SUN ‘n FUN, has served as the caretaker of the aircraft since it was officially donated in December 2017. In getting the aircraft ready for exhibition, McQueary noted that the project was extremely time-consuming, involving several intricate steps to restore the aircraft to its original condition.
“We spent almost a year trying to find someone to remove the explosive charges in the ejection seat. Once we took care of that safety issue, we were lucky enough to have the maker of John’s 360 Coatings donate the paint,” he said. “We also were fortunate to have Fosters Aircraft Refinishing strip and paint the MiG.”
McQueary said the aircraft was originally painted in the traditional Slovakian colors of green and dark brown camo, but it was decided to restore it to its last assigned paint scheme. “It was one of the few Slovak aircraft that were repainted in the desert camo you see it in today, so we assume the aircraft was temporarily assigned to somewhere in North Africa.”
The original home of the aircraft has been traced to Silac Air Force Base in central Slovakia where it was assigned to the 4th Technical Squadron. It served on Quick Reaction Alert status the entire time it was there and was ready to take off within eight minutes when needed day or night.
This aircraft is one of the 10,000 MiG-21’s produced by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the former USSR and holds the record of being the most produced combat aircraft since the Korean War because of its simple design and technology. In its heyday during the ’60s and ’70s, the MiG-21 served in over 50 countries and some estimate it is still an active aircraft in as many as 20 countries today.
Tomcat & MiG-21 Displayed
McQueary said the MiG-21 will be displayed alongside the Grumman F14 Tomcat on the SUN ‘n FUN Expo Campus, historically appropriate since these two aircraft were direct adversaries during the Cold War.
The Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE), a 501(c)(3) non-profit, has emerged as a nationally recognized leader in STEM-related and aerospace education through its various learning centers, outreach programs, summer camps and scholarships aimed at preparing students for tomorrow’s aerospace challenges. Located on the SUN ‘n FUN Expo Campus in Lakeland, Florida, the organization is known for its annual SUN ‘n FUN International Fly-In and Expo fundraising event as well as the Aerospace Discovery Museum which is Florida’s Official Aviation Museum and Education Center. ACE is the world’s leader in producing licensed teenage private pilots and delivers youth programs that engage over 40,000 students a year. For more information, www.ACEedu.aero.