Antique and Classic Aircraft International, a nonprofit organization based in Long Island, New York, is in the process of restoring a rare Yakovlev Yak-12 to airworthiness. Introduced into the Soviet Air Force after World War II, the Yak-12 is a STOL aircraft that was operated primarily for liaison and utility purposes beginning in 1947.
Formed in 2006, Antique and Classic Aircraft International is located at Bayport Aerodrome (23N) in Bayport, New York, and is dedicated to the rescue, restoration, and flying of antique (pre-1945) and classic (1946-1955) aircraft. The organization already has a flying Yak-18 and Yak-52.
The organization is led by Craig Sampson, EAA 640840, a corporate pilot originally from New Zealand. An A&P mechanic, Craig has devoted much of his free time to the organization and the restoration of the group’s Yak-12, which was acquired around nine years ago from a gentleman in Florida. The other founding member and partner in the organization is Vladimir Samuilov from Belarus.
Since Antique and Classic Aircraft International acquired the airplane, it has had the help of around 15-20 volunteers during a restoration process that is nearing the finish line.
“We have 15 to 20 dedicated volunteers, of which only two of us are certified mechanics, A&P mechanics,” Craig explained. “Most of the rest have never worked on aircraft at all. We have people who are aviation enthusiasts, that this is the first opportunity that they’ve ever had to touch an airplane. And we have started from the bare bones from cleaning down, stripping, painting, all the way through the full fabric recalibration of the wings, the fuselage, and all the flight controls, and the roof stitching. All the volunteers had been involved in that, the first time most of them has ever done it. So we’ve almost set it up as a tutorial type thing where myself and the other A&P mechanic just guide everybody on how to do it all. And we’ve, over the last nine years, put the airplane together. We’ve gotten to the point now where we just rebuilt our second engine, did it ourselves with the help of some engine shops around the country. And we just put the engine back on the aircraft and are ready to start the engine runs in the next week or so.”
As a nonprofit organization, Craig pointed out that the restoration process is completely funded by donations, both monetary and labor.
“So the big thing about this is the fact that not only is it a not-for-profit organization and we run purely on donated funds, we run purely on donated people as well. There are no employees here, it’s all volunteers. And most of them have never done this before, they just love it. And we’ve got two women involved that have never touched the airplanes before, and don’t even know much about tools, but they’re really good.”
Once the restoration is completed, Craig envisions the group touring the Yak-12 and giving aircraft enthusiasts an up-close look at a piece of Russian aviation history.
“We’re going to make this airplane available,” he said. “It’s not owned by anybody in particular. It’s not owned by me. It’s owned by the not-for-profit. So it’s going to stay available for the good of all aviators that are interested in it. Those who are qualified and have helped out, obviously we’ll prioritize those who have donated to it and have helped out as volunteers. It’ll be available to anybody who’s qualified to fly in it, to get checked out on it if they spend the time doing so. We’re going to be taking it to fly-ins and aviation events and air shows. We’d love to get it to Oshkosh and SUN ‘n FUN one day. We’re going to take it to air shows and the volunteers are going to operate it. And we’ll have a crew of people that will get it to its destinations and maintain it and get it back.”