Photo: Bára Nahodilová Bártová

Sir Kobrle's

"little Shorty"


I remember OK-CXA as a kid, when my dad used to take me to

the local airfield. I spent many weekends at the take-off point for the sailplanes. At that time the OK-CXA was wearing its

classic blue and white livery, but even so it always reminded

me of a WWII fighter. And a fighter like that is a big thing for

a little boy! But it's also a chance to drive a tractor type 3011,

or to stuff a puff into the exhaust of a Hercules 2 winch to see

how far it can fly when the engine starts...

Some years later I was experiencing something

more intense at the time of my sailplane traning

initiation. I was hunched in Blaník trying to hold

the required „methodical“ position behind the

tow plane i was connected to. The OK-CXA took

me up for my first solo flight as well. Little did

I know that in three years I would be sitting on

the other side of the rope, towing other hunched

boys and girls behind me, who were also trying

to hold that reqired methodical position...

At the end of my basic single-engine aircraft

training, I was retrained on the Zlin Z 226 MS.

It was my first tail landing gear type, and I flew

only the minimum required to retrain on this type

to be honest. When I got the license, I immediately converted to the Z 526 AFS, the type which

was nicknamed “Kraťas” in Czech, which would

translate as “Shorty” for the shortened fuselage

and wing of the aircraft compared to its predecessors. The “Shorty” was my second type with

tail landing gear, but also my first single-seater

and the first one with retractable landing gear.

The cockpit reminded me of my brief experience

with the 226, but at the same time the airplane gave a completely different impression. The

most of “magic” surrounded the switch covered

by transparent plastic cover. My mind kept going



back to all the stories and warnings about the

biggest malady of the Z 326, the moment when

the aircraft rests on the ground on its belly with

the landing gear retracted and propeller bent...

For the first few flights I was pressing the landing gear switch to the position “opened” as if it

was mechanically connected to the landing gear

locks. I keep checking the state of the mechanical landing gear indicators on the wing, so called

“cops”, as well as the green light in the cockpit

many times during an approach. The sliding cockpit cover and circular rear view mirror from

the Babette scooter evoke the aura of a fighter

intensely to me. The massive control stick with

rounded handgrip and radio button, the widely

"staggered" pedals and the spartan instrumentation clearly refer to the aerobatic origins of

this aircraft. When taxiing, the impaired forward

vision can be improved by leaning out of the

open cockpit into the airstream of the propeller.

How the “Shorty” flies

Take-off is intense. The controls are effective almost from the first moment, the take-off is short

compared to the Z-142, the climb is much better,

the view from the cockpit is excellent. However,

the rudder must be used quite intensely to keep

the full coordination of the control of the aircraft.

Just like a fighter... And then here comes a landing! In order to allow the landing gear to retract

into the wing by the system chosen in the Moravan company, the landing gear legs had to be

shortened compared to the Trenér versions with

fixed landing gear. Combined with the absence of flaps, this makes the three-point landing

a really interesting affair. After retraining, I unsuccessfully attempted a smooth landing twenty

times, until the chief of the Aero Club couldn't

stand to watch my actions any longer and sent

me to enjoy the flying on a navigation flight rather than on patterns.

My main activity while flying the OK-CXA was

well symbolized by the V letter at the end of the

type designation Z 526 AFS-V, i.e., towing. And

there was a lot of it at times. Nevertheless, as

a youngster, I never had enough of it. I would ride

my bike across town and move half of aircraft in

the hangar to fly just one aero lift. Doing 56 lifts

in a day meant I could easily do 57 as well. The

greatest pleasure, however, was the formation

flying. The aircraft accelerated briskly, but one

had to be careful when decelerating, which on

the other hand was not as brisk due to the aerodynamic cleanness and weight of the aircraft.

This was especially challenging when other

planes in formation were Zlins 40 series. I really liked the air shows in Příbram, named in honor of Martin Stáhalík. Here I experienced very

interesting formations with “Shorty”, whether I

completed a quad of Zlín Z 126s with it or performed a multiple aerotow of historic gliders. That's

why in 2005 I decorated the nose of OK-CXA with

a shark's mouth with bare teeth, all made out with

black electrical-insulation tape. Surprisingly, not

all members of the aero club shared my enthusiasm for such a fantastic idea and this decoration

disappeared from the aircraft very soon...

INFO Eduard - FEBRUARY 2022