I saw a few videos of the Sukhoi Su-35 doing some amazing aerobatics and I was wondering if a civilian could ever fly one - either for aerobatics or just fly it as their personal jet.

Obviously assume adequate training, fitness, budget, time etc. I assume you'll have to start on a jet trainer first, after you had already flown other smaller aircraft - but this is outside the scope of my question.

There is a question that suggests civilians can buy military aircraft, but it doesn't explicitly say whether they can actually fly them. One comment seems to suggest they can't, although it's not very clear.

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    $\begingroup$ you wouldn't be allowed to have active weapons most likely but beyond that they are normal planes $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2014 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ @DannyBeckett Not necessarily. I'm not thinking of a specific country. I wouldn't mind an answer about the US. $\endgroup$
    – async
    Oct 29, 2014 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ Go to globalplanesearch.com/usa/warbirds/combat and buy one.... :D $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Oct 29, 2014 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ I know this is older, but see flyin.airventure.org/news/2010/100407_harrier.html $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Oct 29, 2014 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ This was actually answered on the other thread. You can fly a jet fighter if someone owns one and lets you, for example a company like this austjetadv.com.au/strikemaster_packages.html that I linked in my answer there. That doesn't mean you can fly it however you want, though, so even if you owned a high-performance fighter jet, you might end up feeling a bit like a high-performance car owner on public streets in the USA. $\endgroup$
    – Dronz
    Mar 29, 2015 at 17:08

4 Answers 4


I'm not sure if you're asking about flying such an aircraft (e.g. renting one) or owning one. But either way the answer is yes.

I've flown a Hawker Hunter at a (now-defunct) location in Cape Town on a mixed low-level/acrobatic flight along the coast. There were no restrictions on who could fly in the aircraft apart from the obvious ones (no kids; must have reasonable height/weight and general fitness) but they didn't let non-pilots take the controls. We did some aerobatics (up to 5G, from memory) and I had the controls in cruise flight for about 10 minutes. There was absolutely nothing that a civilian couldn't learn: it's 'just' another aircraft.

As for owning one, it's not uncommon at all. Privately owned ex-military aircraft are often referred to as "warbirds" and in the US there's even an EAA organization for owners. The aircraft are usually considered experimental (or the local equivalent) for the purposes of regulation and airworthiness.

The barriers to owning these aircraft are (as always) money and training. Buying and maintaining them is very expensive because there are so few parts or mechanics available, and insuring them is (almost) impossible so most owners have to self-insure. The operating costs are also usually high, especially if the aircraft systems need 'exotic' fuels, gases, lubricants or other consumables. You may need to include explosives on the list, in the case of ejection seats.

Training is a similar issue because so few people can instruct you in how to fly a military aircraft, but obviously this isn't a total barrier and I assume that if you're involved in that part of the flying community then you'll find the contacts you need.

So in general, if you can buy a military aircraft legally in your country, if you have enough money for operations and maintenance, if you can find someone to train you, and if you can comply with your local regulations on non-type (experimental) aircraft then you can absolutely do it. But for most people that's a lot of 'ifs' :-)


I have flown an L-39 military trainer that a local FBO was renting time in. Lots of fun, but not something you want to fly any distance. This place will give you an orientation ride and work with you on getting your LOA if you are interested in buying and flying a jet warbird. There also was an outfit in one of the former Soviet countries that would give your rides in more modern Migs like the Mig-29.

  • $\begingroup$ I've flown the L-39 with JetWarbird, as well $\endgroup$
    – rbp
    Oct 30, 2014 at 13:06

The test pilots of military aircraft manufacturers are also civilians flying military aircraft. They perform among others checkout flights before delivery or after repair of every single military aircraft. Usually they are former military pilots.


Yes, civilians can fly military aircraft including jets.

The Czech's have sold off a lot of their old L-39 trainers and you frequently see them around airfields. I know of one accident where the L-39's nose, which normally carries a radar, had been converted into a luggage compartment and the hatch opened as the guy was taking off and one of his suitcases flew into the left engine with fatal consequences.

The biggest headache is the ejection seat which is a maintenance nightmare with various legal issues. Also, military jets tend to burn fuel like a son-of-a-bitch, so they can be expensive to fly.

One of my dreams is to someday own a Texan, which would be so cool (think: cruising at 300 knots, wowzers!). Hopefully, Greece will go bankrupt and have to sell off all their Texans cheap, hee hee.


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