Rare MiG-15UTI Caught on Camera Flying In Western US Low Flying Area (With An Open Main Landing Gear Door)

Hernandez's photo of the MiG-15UTI shows that the right side main landing gear has flopped open in flight. (Photo: Tyler Hernandez/Zone5Photo)

Private Aircraft  Photographed in Western U.S. by Tyler Hernandez, Shows Its Age.

Ace aviation photographer Tyler Hernandez of Zone 5 Photography made a rare and exotic catch in one of the most noteworthy Western U.S. low fly areas. Hernandez was in the right place and the right time when a rare Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15UTI made a pass at low altitude through a western canyon.

The aircraft is a two-seat vintage MiG-15 UTI, “bort” number (nose number) “2562”. The aircraft, registration NX83GP, owned by private company Swift Air International, is often used for familiarization flights thank to its unique flight control characteristics. In the past, along with the company’s Fouga Magister, the MiG-15 has often been used as a jet spin trainer and qualitative evaluation platform by the 412th Test Wing of the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Photo by Tyler Hernandez of the MiG-15UTI (operated by the USAF Test Pilot School?) on a very low-level pass through one of the Western U.S. low-level flying areas. (Photo: Tyler Hernandez/Zone5Photo)

The MiG-15 is not always a friendly aircraft to fly, which makes seeing and photographing one outside of the airshow circuit very special. Famous Russian cosmonaut and first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, died in the crash of a MiG-15UTI in 1968. His crash was attributed to poor weather and a lack of accurate ground vectoring communication however, not any anomalies of the MiG-15UTI’s flight envelope.

Despite its rarity in U.S. airspace today, the MiG-15 series of aircraft may be the most produced jet fighter in history, with some sources suggesting over 13,000 were built for use not only by Russia, but especially by former Soviet Bloc countries such as North Korea. The aircraft helped define the jet age of aerial combat in engagements over North Korea with the American F-86 Sabre.

A notable feature of Hernandez’s sightings and photos is that the right/starboard main landing gear door on the MiG-15UTI is open as it flew by. That may suggest a minor hydraulic problem on the old aircraft or an issue with the landing gear door linkage. On an older aircraft like the MIG-15, which first flew an amazing 72 years ago in 1947, it’s unlikely the pilot was even aware of the issue until after they landed. This relatively minor anomaly underscores the challenges of flying older, exotic, former Eastern Bloc aircraft in the adversary familiarization and flight test role.

This photo of the USAF Test Pilot School MiG-15UTI emphasizes why the small aircraft was such a difficult adversary in a dogfight. It’s visibility is extremely small due to its size as viewed from the front, a significant tactical advantage in a visual dogfight. (Photo: Tyler Hernandez/Zone5Photo)

Hernandez, who is a pilot himself and studied aviation at San Jose State University, used a Canon 70D camera body with a Sigma 50-500 lens for his excellent photos. This Sigma series of lenses has become increasingly popular among aviation photographers for their long reach, excellent clarity and moderate price for a super-telephoto zoom well suited for aircraft photos. The photos were shot on both May 8 and May 9, 2019 around noon on each day according to Hernandez, who reported the aircraft made a single pass on each day. This makes the photos even more interesting. For more of Tyler Hernandez’s excellent aviation photography follow him on Instagram at zone5.photo.

Ace aviation photographer and pilot Tyler Hernandez, who captured the remarkable MiG-15UTI photos earlier this month. (Photo: Tyler Hernandez/Zone5Photo)
About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.