Owners and operators of jet warbirds are often asked what it takes to own and operate these special aircraft. We have created this area to answer some of the most common questions. We also encourage you to talk to the owners to find out more, especially if they are CJAA members. Sharing information is what CJAA is all about.


Q: Do individuals actually own and fly ex-military jet aircraft?

A: Yes. In the United States, there are approximately one thousand of privately owned vintage/classic jets, and there are many others others elsewhere in the world. And the numbers are growing! In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) closely regulates the ownership and and operation of these aircraft. Many jets have restrictions placed on them which dictate where they may be flown and for what purpose. Most are licensed in the "Experimental, Exhibition" category, which means that they can only be flown to and from air shows and displays, for pilot proficiency and other specific activities. They may not be used as "personal transportation" machines. Presently, the CJAA is working closely with FAA officials to rewrite regulations affecting vintage/classic jet operations.

Q: What personal qualifications are needed to safely operate aircraft like this?

A: Flying an old ex-military aircraft is an extremely dedicated pursuit. It is not for the casual sport aviator. Many of the owners/operators of these aircraft have backgrounds in military aviation, and others have hundreds of hours of flying time in civilian-operated jet aircraft. There are stringent government-mandated pilot training requirements. New jet owners often find other CJAA members to be a valuable resource of information and experience. There's no doubt about it -- flying vintage jets is a lot of fun requiring personal dedication and time.

Q: Is it expensive to own and operate a classic jet?

A: It is not for the faint-hearted. When you read some of the "Aircraft for Sale" advertisements in publications like Trade-A-Plane, you can easily get the impression that these aircraft are a bargain, with some for as little as $30,000. However the low initial acquisition cost of these aircraft is often offset by higher operating costs, But, like any other activity for which individuals have a time-consuming passion, the expense seems insignificant in relation to the sheer thrill provided by piloting a high-performance jet aircraft. Ask any owner!

Q: Where do these aircraft come from?

A: Many were imported from other countries like Canada, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Yugoslavia, and others. When these countries remove them from their military inventories, they occasionally make them available on the worldwide market. Some resourceful individuals have been able to import them to the U.S. and elsewhere, where they are assembled, restored, inspected, certified, and sold to private owners, collectors, and museums. They do not, for the most part, come from military aircraft storage in Arizona, as is often reported. This is because the U.S. military does not sell tactical-type aircraft directly to the public unless the aircraft have been "demilitarized," a process which renders them unusable and unrestorable by chopping critical components, such as wing spars, in half. Some aircraft flying today have been painstakingly assembled from parts of several other scrapped or derelict airplanes. Federal laws affecting this activity are ever tightening.

Q: Do SMTPA (Surplus Military Turbine Powered Aircraft) have their original guns and armament?

A: No, at least not in the USA. When an aircraft comes into the U.S., all weaponry has to be removed or made permanently inoperable. These aircraft are usually inspected by three government agencies: The US Customs, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). These agencies ensure that jet warbird aircraft do not have any weapons. Additionally, most owners remove much of the wiring and equipment which once operated the aircraft's weaponry. This saves weight (and therefore fuel), and also makes the aircraft easier to maintain. If you see guns or bombs on an aircraft, they are almost always lightweight replicas, but some owners use original guns with their barrels welded closed.

Q: Do I have to own or operate a jet warbird to join the CJAA?

A: Absolutely not! We welcome anyone with a love of classic jets. Membership is open to any Classic Jet enthusiast. For your contributions, you receive:

  • Access to the members only area of the Classic Jets website including important safety and operational information
  • Invitations to our yearly Convention, and various Fly-Ins throughout the year.
  • Political representation in Washington, DC to ensure the continued freedom to fly classic jet aircraft in the U.S.
  • Access to a knowledgeable group of jet warbird owners and operators who can help you acquire, restore, fly and maintain your own aircraft.