As late Microsoftie Paul Allen's estate is gradually wound down, the gems from his collection of rare and historic aircraft are coming up for auction – including his personal two-seat MiG-29 Russian fighter jet.
Allen, who died from cancer in October 2018, was well known in aviation enthusiast circles for his dedication to buying and preserving military aeroplanes from man's first century of flight.
Among Allen's collection of mostly WWII-era aeroplanes and armoured vehicles, and now up for auction, is a two-seat MiG-29UB pilot training jet, which was originally delivered to the Ukrainian Air Force.
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According to the military rumours section of car website The Drive, Allen's MiG was eventually exported to the USA in the late 2000s by a collector who later sold it to Allen's Vulcan Inc company. Though he wouldn't tell his local paper how much he paid to buy the aircraft from Ukraine, he did admit to spending just $6m (as if!) rebuilding it to flying condition after years of impounded components being improperly stored.
Whoever buys the MiG from the Mente Group auction won't be getting a combat-ready fighter jet, however. The MiG's internal cannon, electro-optical sensors and radars were removed by the Ukrainian Air Force before they sold it off. Its avionics fit is all modern American civil-spec gear: the MiG is fitted with a Garmin G530 moving map GPS and transponder, and all the other routine civilian aviation equipment a modern pilot would expect to use.
As the Soviet Union's main fighter jet of the 1980s, the MiG-29 was the West's main aerial foe for most of the late 20th century until more modern designs such as the Sukhoi Su-27 and its successors came to the fore. The MiG-29 served with most Communist bloc air forces as well as others, totalling around 30 countries.
For aviation geeks looking slightly closer to home for a pet project, Jet Art Aviation recently acquired none other than the VAAC Harrier, XW175. The VAAC Harrier was another two-seat Cold War jet but was used extensively for flight tests and trials, including the fly-by-wire development work which led to the F-35B's flight control systems. Now 50 years old, the VAAC Harrier holds an affectionate place in modern British military pilots' hearts, as F-35B test pilot Sqn Ldr Andy Edgell told us a little while ago. ®