Fouga CM 170 Magister – A Jet Trainer made by Glider Manufacturers
The Fouga CM 170 Magister jet trainer was designed by the French Etablissements Fouga et Cie -company (since 1956 Air Fouga), founded by Robert Castello and Pierre Mauboussin in the 1930s. Castello and Mauboussin – to whom the abbreviation “CM” refers to – became known in the 1930s and 1940s as glider designers. In the late 1940s, the two began planning lightweight jet aircraft, using small jet engines developed by the Turbomeca Company. The twin-engine Fouga CM 170 Magister flew its maiden flight in July 1952. The two-seat plane was amongst the first jets originally designed as training aircraft. The designers’ glider background is clearly visible, for instance in the rather long, narrow wing and the signature V-tail.
The Fouga Magister became the first widely manufactured jet trainer. A total of almost 1000 aircraft were manufactured, including licensed versions and later variants, and the Fouga was operated, apart from its manufacturing country, for instance in Israel, West-Germany and Finland. The Israeli Air Force used the Fouga in combat missions during the Six-Day War of 1967. The Fouga was manufactured until 1971, and the last country to operate the aircraft, Belgium, operated it until 2007. Nowadays, plenty of Fougas are still operated by civil operators.
Another French aircraft manufacturer, Potez, purchased the Air Fouga Company in 1958 forming the Potez Air Fouga. Later, the company became part of the Aérospatiale, which nowadays belongs to the European Airbus Group.
Licence-manufactured jets for the Finnish pilot training
The Finnish Air Force entered the Jet Age in the 1950s, with British De Havilland Vampire fighters and Folland Gnats. Also two-seat Vampire Trainers were acquired, for fighter training. The basic and advanced training of pilots was, however, still carried out with propeller-driven aircraft – the Finnish Air Force used domestic, war-time VL Pyry trainers and Valmet Vihuri planes from the early 1950s. Especially the Vihuri became notorious for several accidents, which were suspected to be caused by the failure-prone engine. Because also the pre-war primary training biplanes were outdated, the Air Force was to replace its entire fleet of trainers quickly in the late 1950s.
The acquisition of the new trainers was conducted in 1957 – 1958. In April 1958, the Chief of Defence chose the Fouga Magister as the new jet trainer, over the British Hunting Jet Provost and Miles Student jet trainers. At the same time, the Swedish Saab 91D Safir was chosen as the new primary trainer. The Fouga acquisition also included a license agreement to construct the aircraft at the Valmet factory. This was a vital uplift for the Finnish aircraft industry, which had been significantly cut down after the War, and which had suffered a serious stain in reputation due to the Vihuri accidents. In addition, the Valmet Tuuli III airplane had just lost the primary trainer competition to its Swedish competitor.
The procurement process was quick, and the first eight aircraft purchased from France were ferried already by the turn of 1958 – 1959. The first 22 aircraft manufactured by Valmet were handed over between 1960 and 1962. Altogether, the Finnish Air Force had 80 Fouga Magisters, of which 62 were manufactured in Finland – the last Fougas were handed over to the Air Force in 1967. The Finnish Air Force Fougas were marked “FM”.
The Fouga Magisters meant the final step into the Jet Age for the Finnish Air Force. During its three decades of operations, the aircraft was used in a diverse manner to train both conscripts and regular personnel, both pilots and technical crew. In the turn of 1970s and 1980s, the British BAE Hawk was chosen the replace the Fougas. The last Fouga flight of the Finnish Air Force was flown 19.12.1988 – exactly 30 years after the first Fouga Magister landed in Finland. After the Fougas were decommissioned, 19 aircraft were sold to the United States, and four to Finnish civil buyers – the rest of the aircraft ended up in Aviation Museums, as memorials, as instructional devices or scrapped.
The Silver Jets – Voluntary Flying Heritage of the Finnish Air Force
The Silver Jets aerobatic team, consisting of two Fouga Magisters, was founded in 2014. The Team flew its first display in Lappeenranta.
The two Fouga Magisters of the Team have both been manufactured in Finland, at the Valmet factory during 1962 – 1962. The lead plane, OH-FMA (former FM-37), operated at the Satakunta Air Command, and has its current home base in Pori. The second plane, OH-FMM (former FM-51) operated at the Karelian Air Command, and still has its home base at Rissala.
The crew of OH-FMA are Ari Tolonen and Risto Viljanen, and the crew of OH-FMM are Ari Saarinen and Pentti Kopiloff.