The Yakovlevs finally arrived at the Aero India 2019, taking to the skies for a spectacular aerobatic display with four aircraft on Thursday evening. For the crowds crestfallen by the absence of the Surya Kirans, the Yaks offered much joy.
The UK-based team enthralled the crowds with a combination of their Cold War era Russian warbirds, the YAK-50, a single-seat aircraft and the two-seater Super Yak-52. Traditionally, the team takes a six-aircraft formation but on Thursday's first show, only four were visible.
Displaying extreme agility, the Yaks demonstrated their trademark rolls and crosses, as the crowds below yearned for more. For the team, it was more about grace, completing very gentle manoeuvres that included loops and barrel roll.
For over 20 years, the Yakovlevs have been displaying at air shows across the world. The team has some of the world's most experienced pilots. Among them are F-35 JSF test pilots, former Red Arrows pilots and national aerobatic champions.
The team was founded in 1998 by Jez Hopkinson and Willy Hackett. It was the curiosity about the aircraft that first got Hopkinson hooked. He had told Deccan Herald at last Aero India: “I bought my first aircraft in 1994. It was more of a hobby; I and a few of my friends would get together and fly it.”
Soon after, he bought another one. “I wanted to buy more because I fell in love with the aircraft. I managed to gather a few friends with the same mindset and here we are as a team,” recalled Hopkinson.
The aerobatic team had broken the China Central TV (CCTV) viewing records, when its demonstration flights were watched by a staggering 380 million people over a five-day period. This was party of a display contract in northern China.