One shade of Gray

It´s August 28, 1992. I´m standing next to one of the five

Mi-24Vs of our Pilsen display box as we are preparing

to our choppers´ startup procedure prior to the general

rehearsal of our performance for tomorrow´s Airshow

in České Budějovice. The first APU sounds, but as I am

in the fifth solo chopper there is still some time for us

to follow. With my foot on the footrest under the cockpit,

gripping the edge of it, I can´t resist to watch the

dynamic performance of a MiG-21MF. It roars through

the air on full throttle with the afterburner and starts

a spectacular steep bank roll through the reverse

position. The seconds which follow are like a slowmotion movie. In the reverse position, the aircraft pitches

the nose sharply and descends rapidly. The pilot tries to

get the aircraft back to normal position but having not

enough speed it is now flat-falling rather than flying.

The MiG disappears behind the edge of the distant forest

and suddenly the big explosion cloud rises and its sound

hits us a split second later … It´s clear there would be

no point to start our engines. The crash was disastrous

as Lt. Col. Jiří Moutvička was killed. He was a member

of the Delta team, the group of three pilots and aircraft

which was performing MiG-21MF displays. He died in

the cockpit of aircraft number 7709, the camouflaged

one and also the only standard MiG-21MF of the team.

The other two aircraft were examples of the last

20-aircraft delivery of this type to Czechoslovakia. As

they were delivered in a light grey color, the nickname

“Greyish” was logical. They all were produced by Plant

No. 21 in Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod), which by that

time was already producing a more advanced version

MiG-21bis. Czechoslovakia decided not to introduce the

latter, as it had already its fighter regiments on full

strength with MiG-21MFs. These were all produced by

Znamaya Truda Plant No. 30 in Moscow. However, at

the time of the order for the last MiG-21MFs the latter

May 2023

was already producing MiG-23s. And, as the Gorky

plant no longer produced the MFs either, the MiG-21bis

being the standard product there, they manufactured

the “Grayishs” as side products for last-call MiG-21MF

orders by several countries.

The “Grayishs” actually represented a kind of

intermediate type, as they carried several features

of the MiG-21bis version. For example, they differed

from the standard MFs by a different “periscope”

(rear-view mirror), a different cockpit layout, in which

a modernized KM-1M ejection seat was installed,

a slightly different gun cover, and a different location

of the cartridge belt covers. In addition, oval panels

were missing on the upper side of the wing. This change

was related to a different technological procedure

for sealing the wing integral tanks. The Moscow plant

first assembled the wing and then injected the liquid

seal into the tank through the hole under the panels.

However, at Gorky they applied the seals during the

assembly of the wing and so they did not need the hole

under the oval panels.

The Delta team was founded in the spring of 1992 by Lt.

Col. František Hlavnička (who died in a car accident on

August 13, 2019). This excellent pilot and later inspector

of piloting techniques at the Air Force Headquarters

(already as a Full Colonel) had been demonstrating the

MiG-21s since 1988, and it was his idea to spray paint the

wing and fuselage of one camouflaged aircraft (7709)

and two “Grayishs” (2410 and 2205) with winged arrows

in the colors of the Czechoslovak tricolor. In addition,

the Delta team emblem was painted on the vertical

stabilizer and the number 9 on the rudder represented

the 9 Fighter-Bomber Regiment based in Bechyně.

Together with František Hlavnička, who even at the end

of his flying career considered himself a “young pilot” (in

the sense that he still had a lot to learn), the members

Text: Richard Plos

Illustration: Piotr Forkasiewicz

of Delta team were Lt Col. Jiří Moutvička and Lt. Col.

František Bittner.

The disaster in which Jiří Moutvička died was the first

nail in the coffin of the Delta team. The next was the

disbanding of the 9 Fighter-Bomber Regiment and the

overhaul of the no. 2205 aircraft in November 1992.

Subsequently it served with the 82 Independent Fighter

Squardon in Mošnov and then in Čáslav, there already in

the MFN version. Aircraft No. 2410 also served briefly in

Mošnov, but it did not see overhaul nor upgrade to the

MFN version and was handed over to the museum in

Kbely, where it is still located today.

As part of the repairs carried out at the beginning of the

1980s in the Aviation Repair Shop Kbely, the “Grayishs”

were repainted with a similar shade of a gray paint, the

exception being aircraft No. 4175, which for unknown

reasons was painted in a slightly blue-gray shade.

However, some of the standard MiG-21MFs also received

gray paint as a part of repairs, so not every MiG-21MF in

a gray color is a “Grayish”. This nickname belongs only

to the aircraft with fuselage numbers 2205, 2410, 2500,

3008, 4003, 4008, 4017, 4038, 4101, 4127, 4175, 4405,

4421, 5494, 5508, 5512, 5581, 5603, 5612 and 9307. The

2205, 2500, 3008, 4003, 4017, 4127,4175, 4405, 5581 and

5603 were converted to the MFN version. Aircraft 3008

and 4127 were destroyed in the crash on October 10,

2000, while No. 5494 was also lost in a previous crash


One of the two “Grayihs”" with striking Delta team

graphics is depicted on Piotr Forkasiewicz´s boxart

for the kit Cat. No. 7469 in a low pass over the base.

It may just be leaving for an airshow, and the pilot is

determined to show what this aircraft can do despite

its age...

INFO Eduard