La-5 white 15 with Skarkmouth of G. Kostylev
by Massimo Tessitori

Updated on May 12, 2019

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These photos show one of the most famous La-5s, often described as the plane flown by the ace Georgii Kostylev of 4 GIAP KBF in late 1943.

The sory is a bit different.

Kostylev was a veteran of the Winter War of the 5 IAP KBF (later 3 GvIAP KBF); he had already the rank of senior lieutnant at theoutbreak of the Great Patrioctic War, flying I-16s, Hurricanes and LaGG-3s; he was made Hero of the Soviet Union on 23 October 1942, having been credited with 9 individual and 34 shared victories at that date.

In February 1942 , as an hero, he was invited to a dinner party in Leningrad, but was so disgusted by the luxury, in in contrast with the starving of the people of the city, that got angry and offended some high ranks of the party.

He was expelled from the Communist Party, spoiled of his ranks and awards, demoted to private and sent to a penal battalion for a month.

Fellows of Kostylev convinced to save the best pilot of the Baltic Fleet from the worst treatments, perhaps saving his life.

After amonth, his previous unit refused him, so he was transferred to 4 GvIAP KBF, subordinate to his old friend Golubev. The unit was then equipped with La-5s. He flew again starting from 21 April 1943, gaining new victories over Finnish and German planes.

Kostylev was fully reabilitated in August 1943, and his medals and ranks were restored.

In October 1943, Kostylev was appointed Chief of the Inspectorate of Fighter Aviation of VVS KBF with the rank of major. The unit had alreadybeen equipped with the more modern La-5F and FN for that date.

On that occasion, his fellows made a present: an old La-5, numbered 15, repainted with a sharkmouth, victory stas and an emble,

Kostylev flew this plane for only a farewell flight, then the plane was exposed at the Heroic Defense of Leningrad Exhibition that opened on April 30 1944 and then scrapped after the war. Two photos of this plane are known.

  • The upper surfaces were reportedly painted in solid grey, a mix of 50% AMT-11 and 50% AMT-12.
  • a wide sharkmouth and eyes were painted on its cowling.
  • the spinner and the rudder were white, as standard for this unit.
  • a wide number 15 was painted on the fuselage (unknown if it was related to the serial, or to some plane that he had flown successfully);
  • a Guards emblem was painted (at least) on the left side, but the word Gvardiya on the banner was replaced with slava (glory);
  • 42 victory starlets were painted too, at least on the left side.



Left: a reconstruction of the look of this plane.



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