What Is The Let L-410 Turbolet And Is It Still In Production?

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With Simple Flying covering aircraft and aviation news today, we thought we would write about a plane that readers might not be too familiar with, the Czech-built Let-410. The other day I just happened to be watching some videos on YouTube, and I stumbled on one titled “SKOL L-410 | Kaliningrad – Pskov flight.” What got my attention was not the flight from the Russian Baltic enclave to the city of Pskov close to Estonia, but the fact a LET-410 UVP-E20 was flying it. It also piqued my attention because I had never heard of Skol Airlines.

Let-410NG
The Let-410 is built in the Czech republic. Photo: Julian Herzog via Wikimedia

Back in the 1990s, when Czechoslovakia was going through its “Velvet Revolution,” a non-violent split between the Czechs and Slovaks, I happened to be working in Bratislava. For some insane reason, a couple of friends and I decided we wanted to learn how to skydive. After doing our initial training and some static line jumps in Prievidza, it was off to Kunovice near Zlin in the Czech Republic for the freefall jumps from 4,000 meters, which is around 13,000 feet.

The LET-410 is a Czech-built turboprop

Kunovice Airport (UHE), where we would be jumping over, just happened to be the home of Let Kunovice and the plane we would be jumping from was one of its Let-410s. Little did I know then, but it turns out that the Let-410 has one of the worst safety records of any aircraft ever built.

Let-410
The Let-410 operates where most aircraft cannot. Photo: Aeroprints.com via Wikimedia

Designed to operate under harsh conditions and extreme weather, the Let-410 Turbolet has experienced 118 accidents with 428 fatalities. While these numbers may sound outrageous, the Let-410 Turoblet works where most aircraft cannot, in rugged mountains and jungles, often landing on gravel or grass runways.

Most L-410 crashes are put down to pilot error

The worst L-410 disaster happened in Russia on August 26, 1993, when Sakha Avia Flight 301 between Kutana to Aldan via Uchur crashed on approach to Alden Airport in the Sakha Republic. The plane stalled on the final approach killing all 24 passengers and crew. A subsequent investigation into the incident revealed that the aircraft was overloaded, moving the center of gravity to the rear.

Let-410
Most Let-410 crashes are due to pilot error. Photo: Stradalova via Wikimedia

The second deadliest crash involving a Let-410 Turbolet occurred on the evening of August 24, 2003, when Tropical Airways flight 1301 was flying from Cap-Haïtien International Airport (CAP) to Port-de-Paix Airport (PAX). The aircraft had just taken off when the control tower noticed an open cargo door. After informing the pilots, permission was given to them to return to CAP. Yet, the plane did not make it crashing in a sugarcane field two kilometers (1.24 miles) short of the runway, causing fatalities to all 19 passengers and two crew.

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Haitian investigators listed the accident as being a stall during the approach phase while on the downwind leg caused by the loss of visual meteorological conditions (VMC) at low altitude. Most of the accidents have been put down to pilot error with many occurring prior to 2013 when the aircraft did not have a simulator available for training; the L-410 UVP-E and the new NG version have an excellent safety rating.

L-410 development started in the 1960s

In the early 1960s, Soviet airline Aeroflot was looking for a turboprop-powered replacement for the Antonov An-2 aircraft. Around the same time, Czechoslovak aircraft manufacturer Let, based in the Czech town of Kunovice, started developing what would be called the L-400. After initial studies, a revised version of the plane, now called the L-410 Turbolet, was built, and the prototype first flew on April 16, 1969.

An-2
The Let-410 was designed to replace the An-2. Photo: Getty Images

Due to problems with the Czech Walter M601 engine, the first versions of the plane were powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-27 engines. Once issues were solved with the Czech engine, it replaced the PT6-27 coupled with two Avia V508 three-blade propellers. With a seating capacity for 15 people, the Let 410-Turbolet entered service with Czechoslovak Airlines in 1971. It flew domestic routes from the Slovak capital of Bratislava.

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The L-410 UVP-E

In 1979 Let started producing an advanced aircraft model called the L-410 UVP-E with an upgraded tail wing and fuselage. The all-metal high-wing commuter aircraft was fitted with a retractable undercarriage and could accommodate between 17 and 19 people.

Skol Airlines
Skol Airlines has five Let-410s. Photo: Skol

The aircraft’s maximum takeoff weight is 640kg (141,10 lb), with an increase to 6600 kg (14,550 lbs) for the E9 and E20 variants. Capable of cruising at 170 knots-indicated-air-speed (kias), the L-410 UVP-E20 has a maximum range of around 770 nautical miles (1,430 km).

The L-410 is certified to fly in most countries

The L-410 UVP-E20 is certified for instrument flight rules (IFR), instrument landing system (ILS) approach, and flights in icing conditions. The L 410 UVP-E20 is certified based on Federal Aviation Regulations 23 (FAR 23), either Amendment 34 or Amendment 41. It is approved by the European Union, the United States, the Russian Federation, and numerous other countries worldwide. By 2009 around 1,130 planes were manufactured, with most of them going to the former Soviet Union.

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The L-410NG debuted in 2015

In 2010 a modernized version of the L-410 UVP-E20 was in the works and presented as the L-410NG in July of 2015. Compared to the previous version, it had more powerful General Electric H80 engines and quieter AV-725 propellers. It also had integrated fuel tanks in a new wing design, more space for luggage, and a new cockpit from Garmin. With the improvements, the L-410NG could fly double the older model’s distance and carry an extra 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds).

Let-410NG
The L-410NG has twice the range of the older Let-410. Photo: Klmnjr via Wikimedia

The L-410NG entered serial production in 2018 and is intended for commercial airlines, the armed forces and can also be used as a cargo plane. Of the first 16 units built, eight went to customers in Russia, six to Kazakhstan, and two to Poland.

My own experience of the older L-410 UVP-E was that it was extremely noisy but other than that, well suited for its intended job.

Have you ever flown in a Let-410? If so, please tell us what you thought of the plane in the comments.

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