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Russian Knights is the name of the Russian aerobatic air team. They currently fly eight Sukhoi Su-30SM jet fighters. The team first flew on April 5, 1991 using Sukhoi Su-27 jet fighters. The Russian Knights are based at the Kubinka Air Base.
In Sept. of 1991 the team made their foreign debut in the United Kingdom. Since 1991 the Russian Knights have become regular participants at major air shows and flying events all over the world. The team has even had two appearances at air shows in the United States.
Pilots report that the Russian Knights Su-30SM is a fighter aircraft with extreme performance characteristics. They appreciate that they can test the limits of its performance envelope and still be in complete control of the aircraft. The sophisticated controls of the aircraft make it ideally suited to perform the aerobatics that the Russian Knights are known for.
A typical Russian Knights practice session involves setting the aircraft brakes and running the engines at maximum power. Any variations from normal operations are looked for at this time. Once the aircraft is thoroughly checked out, its time to taxi to the active runway.
With the aircraft aligned with the runway center line, power is applied and the brakes released. Initial acceleration begins slowly, rather than as a shove. However, the jet accelerates quickly. Once some air gets flowing over the flight controls, they become very effective. Rotation speed is quickly reached and a slight back pressure on the stick will have the plane off the ground in a hurry. It is time to quickly retract the landing gear and flaps. Once the aircraft is flying clean, it will quickly pick up speed.
The thrill of strapping on the Russian Knights premier fighter aircraft is intense. The controls are light, yet firm and responsive. Of course, the idea of the session is to practice aerobatics. All sorts of rolls, loops, inverted flight, and more intricate maneuvers are easily accomplished and quickly executed in this sophisticated flying machine. Its aerobatic potential is only limited by the abilities of its pilot.
The Russian Knights aircraft excels in low speed, high alpha maneuvers, an air show favorite. When a stall is induced, the jet will slowly and gently drop its nose. Recoveries are a simple matter of keeping the wings level and picking up enough speed so the controls are again operable. Although the engines spool-up very quickly for turbojets, one must still remain cognizant of their lack of instant response. This is very important while flying formation maneuvers.
Landing a "heavy piece of iron" like the Russian Knights fighter can be challenging. If you back off of the throttles too soon, a very high rate of sink will be the result. Because of the jet lag of the engines, a pilot wants to keep approach speed up until the aircraft reaches about twenty feet over the runway. Power can then be reduced smoothly and the aircraft easily flared. The spoilers and brakes are very effective in bringing the aircraft down from speed very quickly. In fact, if a nose high position is held upon landing, the entire body of the aircraft will act as a giant speed brake.
On Aug. 16, 2009 while rehearsing for an upcoming air show, two of the Russian Knights aircraft collided killing the team leader.
On June 9 2016, a Russian Knights pilot was killed when his aircraft lost power. He did not eject, but stayed with the aircraft to avoid hitting homes.
RC Russian Knights