Text: Richard Plos
Illustration: Adam Tooby
Cat. No. 82183
When the first prototype Z-326, serial number 301 with the OK-90 matriculation (later changed to OK-LHA), took off at 9.20 a.m on August 12, 1957, it marked a further extension of the Z-26 series production. It was to end with the Z-226 version, but persistent interest abroad eventually exacted not only the resumption of production, but also a fairly significant modernization of the entire design. The Z-326 with its retractable undercarriage and new cockpit canopy moved further away from the original design of a wooden wing and tailplane underpowered aircraft with a four-cylinder engine. In the form of the Z-326 Trener Master, it was an all-metal, six-cylinder aircraft with the aforementioned retractable landing gear, which, like the Z-226T, was also very good in aerobatics (though not as good, being heavier) and could also be used for basic training of both civilian and military pilots, as well as for flying for fun or towing gliders.
The Czechoslovak People’s Army ordered ten C-305s, a slightly modified military version of the civilian version, after good experience with the previous C-5, C-105 and C-205 versions. These aircraft, delivered in 1960, sported several minor changes. They had small signal lights on the undercarriage leg covers, illumination of the cockpit and flares dispenser with a small control panel in the cockpit. The undercarriage lights were not there to illuminate the surface during taxi, but to signal the undercarriage is down. As the C-305s had all the instruments needed for night flying, future military pilots did so. A young pilot often had a full plate during his first night solos, even with such an easy-to-control aircraft the Trener was. So, the risk of forgetting to deploy the landing gear and subsequently bellying the aircraft was high. Two small lights therefore signaled to the observer on the ground the landing gear of the aircraft was down. In case no lights were visible a flare was fired to “wake up” the pilot, who either still had time to get the wheels down or he had not and then retracted the flaps, gave the full throttle and went for another try.
C-305s were also used for training Indonesian pilots in Czechoslovakia then nearly all of them were gradually handed over to Svazarm (organization for cooperation between civilian sector and army) from 1970. The aircraft with number 0610 was among the last to be handed over. This was done in September 1972 and the aircraft was assigned to the Kladno Aero Club and obtained the OK-OTE registration. It was one of the C-305s that were delivered to the army in simple aluminum overpaint instead of the more attractive green-blue metallic supplemented with blue and white stripes on the fuselage. And in this form the former 0610 began its civilian career. Not long afterwards, a cartoon of a cheerful crab was painted on the left side of the engine cowling. The painting was inspired by the well-known author of animal-themed cartoons, Pavel Kantorek. In addition, the front of the engine cover was painted blue while the wing tips and the upper part of the vertical stabilizer were painted red. A little later, the undercarriage covers got black paint with two stripes (presumably white). Later still, as part of the overhaul, OK-OTE received a red paint job in standard Z-226, but it can’t be said to have helped its appearance... In the end, however, it got the attractive metallic military coloring mentioned above. It was done in the Zbraslav Aero Club in 2008 after the aircraft was repaired from a previous accident. Today it is in the possession of the Military Historical Institute, unfortunately in a non-airworthy condition.
In 1972, however, it was still in good shape, albeit with one limitation: “OK-OTE was classified in Normal category and thus was not allowed to fly aerobatics. It was due to the collision with another C-305 in which it suffered major fuselage damage during its military career. Before it was modified for towing of gliders, we used it only for training day and night and for navigation flights,” recalls Jasoň Kučera, a long-time member of the Kladno Aero Club.
On the boxart of kit No. 82183, made by Adam Tooby, an unspecified aeroclub member from Kladno is flying with OK-OTE over the beautiful landscape of the Křivoklát Protected Landscape Area. Apparently before the OK-OTE got the towing equipment, and also before the landscape below became the PLA Křivoklát...