A Flying Flogger

While rare, and in some cases unique, airplanes are a relatively common occurrence at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, this year’s event has proven to be exceptional for head-turning, “what the heck is that” aircraft. Possibly at the top of that list is a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23, the only flying example in the U.S.

Introduced in 1970, the MiG-23 (NATO reporting name “Flogger”) is a swing-wing fighter that was operated by the Soviet Union into the 1990s and was sold to numerous Soviet allies. With a top speed of about Mach 2.35, it’s among the 10 fastest fighter aircraft types ever built. The Flogger attending Oshkosh, a MiG-23UB imported from the Czech Republic, is owned by Dan “Files” Filer, EAA 1538389, a U.S. Navy combat veteran who flew A-6 Intruders in the Gulf War.

A longtime L-39 pilot as well, Dan stumbled on a MiG-23 up for sale a number of years ago and went for it. While looking for parts, he found 17 more MiG-23s (yes, 17), and bought those as well — donating the single-seaters to different air museums. He’s in the process of getting a second Flogger in flying condition and hopes to have eight flyable aircraft.

“So far it’s proven a very, very reliable airplane,” Dan said. “It’s not an L-39. It takes a lot of man-hours for one hour compared to the 39, but it’s been nice.”

While the MiG-23 has a poor reputation when compared to other fighters of the era such as the F-14 Tomcat, Dan says that’s not a completely fair assessment of the type, though he admitted he wouldn’t want to dogfight in it.

“It didn’t have a great reputation with the U.S. pilots that flew it because they flew the base model, export model,” Dan said. “Russia kept, the Soviets kept, the best models to themselves; they gave the next best model to their border countries; and then the cheap ones they exported. And those are the ones that we acquired under secrecy and testing. So these things are not that great. So the bad reputation that it has came from the U.S. The Russian military pilots, Soviet guys that I’ve talked to, they love the airplane. And I like the airplane. Would I want to dogfight in it? No.”

Dan said the reaction to his airplane has been a mix of excitement and confusion, as many folks at AirVenture, and the Western world as a whole, have never seen a MiG-23, much less one that’s flying.

“Nobody’s seen it. They say, ‘We didn’t know any of these existed,’” Dan said. “I’ve been flying around my hometown, Longview, Texas, and it was time to display it. They’re just like, ‘We didn’t know there were any of these.’ So we’re excited. It’s been positive. Anybody from the Eastern bloc countries, they all come over. This guy just got a big tattoo of one 30 years ago. And then I have a bunch of Polish ones. This one came from Czech Republic. I got Polish ones, Bulgarian ones. … They’re so excited that I have this up and flying.” 

Post Comments