Procurement: October 20, 2004


: Switzerland is auctioning off the last of its 13 Mirage III fighters. The aircraft are 35-years old, high-mileage, fixer-uppers. Those reasons explain why the price starts at only $2,400. Bidding starts November 26, and people will have to pick up their Mirage during office hours 10 days after the sale is completed. If they are restored (the planes are not presently flyable), the Mirage IIIs will give their new owners a plane that can fly at Mach 2.2, with a combat radius of 1300 kilometers.

Old warplanes have been sold to private enthusiasts in the past. Many are classics from World War II, like the P-51 Mustang, P-38 Lightning, and the Messerschmidt Me 109, but other high-performance planes have turned up as well, like the MiG-21. It is not unknown for collectors to head over to places like Eastern Europe and Latin America to acquire new aircraft. Often a collector will pay more for the plane than a scrap dealer. It is a mutually-beneficial relationship.

Often these old warbirds will be flown by their new owners, who seek more performance than a Cessna. This is not without risk in March, a privately-owned MiG-17 (the same type of aircraft flown by top North Vietnams top ace of the 1960s, Colonel Tomb) crashed, killing its pilot. The National Transportation Safety Boards online accident database lists a number of other warbird crashes. At least, when one flies a warbird, one will have the consolation that they will only crash and burn once, unlike other ventures (like dating). Harold C. Hutchison (

Warbird Alley:


NTSB Accident Database:


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