CHINO, Calif. — Seemingly poised for battle, five Soviet-designed MIG-15 fighter jets sit in a hangar at Chino Airport. The red star of the Korean War-era Soviet Volunteer Corps is emblazoned on the tail, wings and fuselage.
Goessling starts his capitalistic sales pitch.
They are clean, sleek and scramble through the air near the speed of sound, Goessling says. In "mint condition," these jets can be had for a mere $150,000 each, or best offer.
But there is a hitch.
The instruction manuals are in Chinese, admits Goessling, who last year brought back five of the swept-wing jets from China, where they were manufactured.
"I wouldn't recommend them for a backyard mechanic," said Goessling, 56, vice president of the Combat Jet and Aerospace Museum in Chino, which is where the jets are being spiffed up and outfitted with American batteries and safety lights, among other things.
Nonetheless, since October he has sold three of the jets to aviation buffs who plan to "fly them at air shows--and have a ball."
"I believe these are the only operational MIG-15s in the United States," said Goessling.
"I'll buy that," said Ed McKeller, executive director of the San Diego Aerospace Museum, who said he knows of only three other MIG-15s in the nation. But those jets, also obtained from China, do not fly and are housed in museums, including his own and the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, McKeller said.
As for Goessling's batch, McKeller said, "I guess if you have enough money, this would be a status thing for antique plane collectors--real one-upmanship in the hangar."
The jets, five spare engines and a load of extra parts were acquired in a joint purchase by Goessling, Jim Rickets of Aero Nostalgia in Stockton and Ron Amiran of Transtate Financial Group in Encino, who also bought one for himself.
The sale was negotiated with Chinese military officials. Goessling would not say how much he paid for the planes, but he did say there were no problems having them shipped to the United States.
"We've had open trade relations with the Chinese since 1979," he said.
The single-seat, high-performance MIG-15 was developed in the Soviet Union and began to appear in service in 1949. It was the first Soviet-designed swept-wing jet to enter combat during the Korean War, McKeller said.
In recent years, the 8,000-pound jet has been used as an advanced pilot and weapons trainer in Communist nations, including East Germany and China, aviation authorities said.
Goessling said his jets were built in China in 1954 and went out of service in 1984.
With three large-caliber cannon and a maximum speed of 630 miles per hour, the MIG-15 had only one worthy opponent during the Korean War, the American F-86.
"It was faster than the F-86," McKeller said. "But at high speeds . . . it would tend to stall and tumble end-over-end on you."
Mindful of that disadvantage, Goessling and a crew of mechanics have modified the planes to improve balance. They have also removed the guns and exchanged the Chinese batteries for ones made in the United States.
"It's kind of hard to get Chinese batteries around here," said John Freeman, 28, a mechanic at the museum.
Much of the new work on the jets is geared toward meeting Federal Aviation Administration requirements.
Although Goessling expects to sell the last two planes soon, he isn't planning to go back to China for more.
"There's some Polish MIGs coming into the country soon," he said. "Maybe I'll get some of those, see how they do."