Rare Aircraft – Aermacchi-Lockheed AL-60B-2 Santa Maria, YU-BCZ

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

Even though sleepy rural airfields – the sort with just an odd Skyhawk or Super Cub about – do not really sound like exciting places to be (especially at -10 degrees Centigrade 😀 ), some careful exploration reveals that this is not always the case. Guided by this thought on one of my previous visits to Serbia, I’d decided to pop down to the Lisičji jarak (LYBJ) airfield just north of Belgrade and see if I could dig up something of interest. And sure enough, just 10 minutes into my self-guided tour, I turned a corner behind an isolated, out-of-the-way building and stumbled upon one of the rarest – and oddest – production piston singles built: the Aermacchi-Lockheed AL-60 :).

YU-BCZ was progressing significantly backwards since the last photo I saw of it on Airliners.net. Stripped of virtually all components that could be taken down, the aircraft is undergoing a slow – but thorough – process of repair and restoration

No country for new planes

Lockheed’s only foray into the light general aviation market, the AL-60 – originally known as the L-402 – was designed in the late 50s by the legendary Al Mooney, and intended to serve as a cheap and cheerful – but still tough and durable – backwater utility aircraft. Interestingly – and possibly uniquely at the time – it was fully tailored to the specifics and requirements of the growing South American market, and was never intended to be produced in the US (save for the prototype and eventual development aircraft).

Mass production was instead shifted south of the border (irony anyone? 🙂 ) to a brand new plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, operated by Lockheed’s subsidiary Lockheed-Azcarate SA, a company created specifically for the purpose. The move had also implied a change of name of the aircraft itself, which quickly became known as the LASA-60, derived from the initials of the subsidiary and the year in which the design was fully certified.

However, despite its robustness and quality of design, the aircraft had fared rather poorly when faced with designs from established GA manufacturers such as Cessna. Their proven 182 – and the incoming 185 and 206 – had all offered roughly similar performance, size and capability, but with a pedigree and support network that the one-of LASA-60 simply could not match. This disparity soon reached such proportions that after only a dozen or so examples built, Lockheed started looking for a way to offload the LASA-60 and salvage as much of the funds invested as possible.

In a fortunate turn of events – for both Lockheed and the design itself – Aermacchi of Italy was at that time looking around for a utility machine to add to its successful line of light tourers and trainers. Believing they’d found what they were looking for in the LASA-60, the company bought the type’s production license and tooling – which had churned out only 18 aircraft in total – and transferred them to Varese in Italy. Once set up there, the design became the AL-60 Santa Maria, named in honor of the town of Santa Maria in California that was home to Lockheed’s – and still is home to Lockheed Martin’s – headquarters :).

Never staying put for long, the design’s final – albeit only partial – move was to South Africa in 1974, by which time the production rights had probably covered more miles than the actual aircraft :D. Produced by Atlas – known for the Cheetah, a modification of the Dassault Mirage III, and the Impala, a license-built Aermacchi MB-326 – the aircraft became known as the C4M Kudu (named after a local antelope-like animal), and was the last version to roll of the assembly lines, Italian production having stopped in 1972.

Mooneying me

While this constant changing of hands would have implied the existence of a host of different versions – as each new owner adapted the design to his markets’ requirements – the AL-60 had in reality borne only three major series: the original LASA-60 and the AL-60B and C families, the latter of which also includes South Africa’s Kudus.

Structurally mostly identical across all versions – the major difference being the C series’ taildragger configuration – the AL-60 could provide seating for 4-6 passengers, an equal number of skydivers, or space enough for two stretchers in an ambulance configuration. A versatile, well-thought-out Mooney design, the aircraft’s simple interior and its regular rectangular shape allowed for numerous other variations – including an aerial photography setup – which could be switched at will with the minimum amount of effort and time.

Like any good bush plane, the AL-60 could also be equipped with skis or floats (but no amphibian versions were offered), though it is highly questionable whether any aircraft were actually delivered in these configurations – or otherwise retained them to this day.

All available evidence points to the wheeled versions (tricycle and tailwheel) as the only ones to have seen production. Another of Al Mooney’s touches – and one of the type’s distinctive features – the main gears of the tricycle models were designed so that the legs do not obstruct access to the cargo doors, while still providing a wide track and keeping the wheels sufficiently aft

What did vary significantly between versions were the engines. The original LASA-60s and the first of the Santa Marias – the four-strong AL-60B-1 series – were powered by the naturally aspirated Continental IO-470 flat six, developing 250 HP. While the same engine was also used to great effect on early versions of the Cessna 185, its power output on the AL-60 was described as inadequate by a number of pilots, who used to joke (and still do) that the only reason the AL-60 ever got airborne was due to the curvature of the Earth (latterly often applied to certain versions of the Airbus A340) :).

To try and address this issue, the first major production version, the AL-60B-2 – which ended up being the most common of all AL-60s, numbering 81 built – was refitted with a turbocharged version of the same engine, the TSIO-470, now developing 260 HP. While its performance at altitude – and especially during takeoff from low density hot-and-high conditions – improved significantly, the pitiful 10 HP of additional power still made little difference in normal, everyday operations.

A significant increase in power first came with the taildragging C series, originally designed to meet an Italian Army requirement for a liaison aircraft with transport capability (a requirement that eventually fell through). The resulting AL-60C-4 was whisked along by a Lycoming GSO-480 supercharged and geared (for that little extra something :D) flat six, developing a more potent 340 HP. Produced mostly by Piaggio, this version later matured into the AL-60C-4M – also known as the AL-60C-5 Conestoga, and, erroneously, the Trojan – which would in 1974 become South Africa’s C4M Kudu (hence the designation).

Apparently, in some quarters it was felt that even this was too little power, so the design was further developed into the “standalone” AL-60F-5 Trojan (the real one this time). Offered in both tricycle and tailwheel configurations, the Trojan was powered by the brutishly impressive Lycoming IO-720 flat eight, essentially two IO-360 stuck together at the drive shaft and producing a hefty 400 HP (this engine would later rise to fame as the powerplant of the Piper PA-24-400 Cherokee 400 four seat tourer and the PA-36 Pawnee Brave cropduster). And while it lacked charging, it’s raw power – and more importantly, torque – had made the Trojan an excellent climber and hauler, which had lent it to good use in the humid, hot-and-high environment of Central and Southern Africa.

Design freeze

Back in the dry, low-and-cold environment of Central Serbia however, YU-BCZ was doing less well. Completely devoid of any markings and data plaques, its identity was only confirmed after an Internet search, which had also revealed that it belongs to the original B-2 series – which would put its birthday sometimes in the mid 60s. Other information floating around also suggests that it was one of four registered in former Yugoslavia, and had – prior to the country’s dissolution – been based at Čepin Airfield (now LDOC) in Eastern Croatia :).

YU-BCZ in 2006 @ Airliners.net

As noted previously – and evident in the photos – in the present the aircraft has been almost completely stripped of all external components, some of which were crammed into the cabin. Between them, glimpses of the panel had also indicated that it had been cleaned out, but otherwise seemed in good shape. Word on the apron is that the aircraft is being slowly restored to flying status by a team of experts after spending a lengthy 22 years on the ground – and the precision, thoroughness and purposefulness of its dismantling (as well as the carefully stripped paint) would certainly seem to confirm this.

With its status as one of the very few remaining examples in Europe – and likely the only Yugoslav survivor – we can only hope to see it back in the skies soon… 🙂

With most of its extremities gone, it had taken me a few seconds to recognize what this was – though the main gears were a dead giveaway. Of completely conventional all-metal construction, the AL-60 was a robust aircraft, on par with the analogous – but much more successful – Cessna 206

Discarded by the side and half sank into snow, BCZ’s cowl makes for an oddly saddening sight. Of somewhat questionable aerodynamics – and with its eternal engine power woes (sporting 50 HP less than the similarly sized C206) – the original AL-60 was never a sales success, and had slipped into relative obscurity even while it was still being produced. Nevertheless, with a bit more power it had proven itself to be a solid aircraft – by which time the sales ship had passed – still serving in Kudu form with the South African AF

AL-60B-2 Abbreviated Specs:

  • empty weight: 998 kg
  • MTOW: 1,746 kg
  • length: 8.79 m
  • height: 3.25 m
  • wingspan: 11.84 m
  • max. speed: 148 knots
  • cruise speed: 111 knots (economy cruise)
  • stall speed: 46 knots (dirty)
  • range: 478 NM
  • ceiling: 22,000 ft
  • initial RoC: 840 ft/min

16 thoughts on “Rare Aircraft – Aermacchi-Lockheed AL-60B-2 Santa Maria, YU-BCZ

  1. Pingback: Basic V-Speeds

  2. I flew one of these (Turbo 260hp model ) reg. ZS CEO, in the mountains of Lesotho between 1964 and 1969 ( about 3000 hrs.) and years later another of the same model in Alaska. The Alaskan one is still in Anchorage I believe. The African ones have long since crashed.
    It was an excellent low cost freight and passenger hauler even at altitude as long as you had a lot of patience and planned every takeoff very carefully. It was possible to pull the aircraft off the ground by applying full flaps at about 50kts. after a very short takeoff run. It was very controllable and stable at low speeds and all this made it an excellent STOL aircraft. However it would not accelerate once airborne under these circumstances and would not climb unless 70kts was indicated which is where the planning came in. I always allowed for a 500ft altitude loss after takeoff to obtain 70kts. This was not a problem in a mountain environment and we operated very successfully between a base at 5000ft asl and mountain strips between 7000ft and 11300ft. asl. I several times took off from the 11300ft strip on hot days with density altitudes between 17000 and 17500ft. Letseng Leterai has a 1500ft strip with bout a 30 degree slope and a 2000ft drop off. The stall warning would sound for the first thirty seconds and iI would lose 1000ft. before the airspeed came up to 70kts. I was young and fearless and this was some of the best and most extreme flying I ever did. I grew to love this aircraft.
    Because it has big slab sides you have to make properly coordinated turns or you start to lose altitude with more than half a ball out on the turn and bank. It makes for a great training environment.
    The other major issue was the turbo and mixture control control. At altitude you had to feed in the mixture control as you advanced the throttle. If you got out of synch the engine would quit. This was a very bad feature and accounted for at least two accidents that I know of , one on approach to landing and the other on takeoff . I frightened myself a lot with this idiosyncrasy though I never broke anything.
    The aircraft was entirely unsoundproofed with a bare metal interior but had beautiful controls. It was very well made and easy to maintain. It was a dream to load and unload with its big cargo door and with the door off made a great drop plane though I don’t believe it was certificated for such. I think the one I flew was a straight military version which had been made in Mexico and was purchased by my employer in Libya. The panel was bare metal and there were no luxuries though you could open the pilot side windows. It was a bit like flying a Landrover. The flaps were extended by pulling down on a big handle on the roof between the pilot’s seats.
    By modern standards all this would be unnacceptable but we did well, provided a service in a very rough place, never seriously hurt anyone and actually made money.
    You can’t ask for more than that!

    • Andrew,

      Many thanks for the unique insight! When I’d found out that YU-BCZ had previously flown in Croatia, I managed to find (by accident to be honest 😀 ) and talk to some of its former mechanics… and they’d told me something roughly similar. Apparently, the aircraft – normally aspirated at that – was also used for skydiving, which must have been interesting! But then, where it was used the terrain is quite flat, so I imagine that once they’d gotten up to speed, there were no problems.

      There were a total of three examples in former Yugoslavia as I’ve managed to find out, but have no idea of the whereabouts of the other two. I think there’s another example in Germany, but apart from it, YU-BCZ is apparently unique in Europe. Hopefully, it’ll return to the skies one day!

      Many thanks again!

      Boran

      • My father was the owner of YU-BCZ. He bought Lockheed in 1988 in Croatia and since than it was in Belgrade, Sebia. Dad past away in jun 2006. with pain in his heart because owners of Royalty Club “Soko” ( nothing royalty is there ) tricked him and took his plane… This pictures are heartbreaking for me to… when they took the plane Lockheed was great! We beat them in court and they were supposed to give us back dad’s plane but this is all they left… When I say “they” I mean brothers Aćimović, owners of Club “Soko”. Bastards.

      • Poštovana gđa. Nikitović,

        Hvala Vam puno na javljanju. Dugo nisam mogao naći konkretne podatke o povjesti tog aviona. Pošto sam jako zainteresiran da mu kompletiram priču (barem do točke kluba, jer izbjegavam analiziranje sukoba o kojima malo znam), da li bi mogao zamoliti za Vaš email kako bi Vam postavio par pitanja o njegovom životu? Ukoliko ne želite javno davati svoju adresu, možete me kontaktirati na achtungskyhawk@gmail.com.

        Unaprijed Vam hvala i poštovanje,

        Boran

    • Hi Andrew and Rui,
      I am living in Alaska and I have a late-model AL60 and I think its a great aircraft ! The one you flew here in AK still exists and is owned by an acquaintance of mine. I want to find all AL60 owners and start a network to support them. And I want to start a collection of stories and the past of these planes…Andrew, did you fly out of Nome ? For the Fosters? or for Munz? or for Galagher? One flew a short time for Alaska Airlines and its now preserved in a back yard here…
      Please contact me via my company website, BetterAircraftFabric-dot-com.
      We need to make sure these planes and the memories of those who flew them do not die out!
      Best Regards,
      Lars

      • Hello Lars,
        I live in Cordova so we are neighbors in an Alaskan sort of way! I flew for Andy’S Flying Service out of Kenai in 1974. We used the AL60 for bush freight operations on the west side of Cook Inlet. Lots of beach landings!
        The previous owner delivered it from Bethel where he had reassembled it. He had the gear on backwards so that when he came to a stop in Kenai the aircraft toppled slowly onto its tail. He was quite unconcerned. Said it always did that!
        The aircraft did well at sea level but nothing disguised the fact that it was very lacking in climb performance. It got off the ground brilliantly but then wouldn’t accelerate. An aerodynamic design issue for sure as well as a lack of power. I imagine yours has a bigger engine.
        The two I flew in the mountains of Lesotho in the 60’s had been picked up very cheap in Libya and we did great things with them at high altitude. I became expert with ridge lift and thermals! I was 19 and essentially being paid to fly tight circles close to the ground and land on rocky mountain sides. Teenager heaven! As a consequence I have a very soft spot for the aircraft. Except for the performance issue it was brilliant as a stol freight hauler. Better in most ways than the beaver.
        I came to Cordova after Kenai and flew Beavers and 206s on floats for Cordove Air Service for 30 some years as well as Turbine beaver and Twin Otter time on the slope for SeaAirmotive out of Lake Hood.
        The AL60s I flew in Africa may still be in existence. I will try and find out. They would probably be in some hangar in South Africa if they haven’t been broken.
        The young man who owns this site is to be commended. Most General Aviation sites are awful but this one is interesting and his photos are beautiful.
        I hope we can meet some time.
        Andrew

      • Hi Andrew,
        Yes lets meet ! I have customers in Cordova and fly there now and then!
        Please call me, 907 229 6792.
        regards,
        Lars

      • Hello Lars, Yes still living in Cordova but no longer flying. Will make a serious attempt to contact you next time I am in Anc. Andrew

  3. Very nice write-up and pictures. I would love to buy one and hang a 700 HP+ garrett on the nose. If anyone knows of one for sale I would like to know. Thanks everyone.

  4. Great Site. I almost bought a LASA , with a sliding side door when I still lived in AK. , to haul freight from FAI to my store in ABL. But stuck to Maules, cheaper and more versatile.
    Odly I came upon this site because I am second hand buying ( new ) Lycoming 0540 A1B5 Engine that came of an Aermacchi Santa Maria, in Italy, and was doing a bit of Googling on the history of the plane it came off.

    Meaning to say there were other engine variants were used.
    I am now in to a rare Polikarpov PO2 as a project, and would love to get input from any one on this legendary Bi-Plane.
    You can reach me on : classic.carriers@gmail.com or phone +49 4963 919 404
    PS., I still fly a Maule, but after more than 40 years in Alaska, now live in Germany closer to my Russian market for Maules.

  5. Hi everyone !

    My name is Manuel, from Mexico. The writing is very nice and interesting.

    In fact, I would like to ask for some help. I am the owner of a LASA-60, and several months ago I suffered an accident. The plane was damaged considerably but I have some hope in order to repair it.

    Looking at the wing structure, I realized that some special parts (a rare tube for instance that runs inside the wing) are needed for the reparation, among others.

    My interest is to find a non-flying LASA-60 and probably buy some spare parts.

    Does some of you can help me with some information ??? I will really appreciate it. This is my email: skydivemexico@gmail.com

    Best regards !!

    Manuel

  6. Hi Swaid and Lars,
    I read your comments on the AL60B2 and really enjoyed it. I had 3 Trojans AL60B2.
    No.1.was 1- NASH-ZS-CXL-Z-WMF this was used in Lesotho and was the first to go to the South African airforce. After 2 Trojans were shot down over Mozambique South Africa gave this one to Rhodesia(Zimbabwe today). After the war the remaining 7 were sold. This ones hall is completely cleaned and repaired by a friend.He is fitting a turbine engine in it and will fly shortly.
    No.2 was Z-WMX and is apolstered version and very well instulated. I re-done it completly. Fitted 4.2 BMW engine and 3-blade prop and repainted with Rhodesian emblem. I am busy with the tests. Al looks good until now.
    No.3 was Z-WMV it was found deserted , no wings but a lot of spares and rust.
    Go to afmil@global.co.za Rhodesian Air force The Sanction Buster.
    Thanks to Jerry for the information.
    For more information contact Uwe at renate@lantic.net

    • I flew ZS CXL for several years in Lesotho. I was surprised to hear it went to the airforce. It was well maintained but getting pretty worn and old when I last flew it. I suppose I have about 1500 hours on it in the Mountains of Lesotho flying mixed pax and freight. Good machine and great trainer (one had to substitute thought for power.)

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