While working as a mechanic at Khodynka airfield, Yakolev had access to an aircraft graveyard in a ravine next to the flight area. In the course of a dozen years it was filled with wrecked airframes from all over the world, and Alexandre Sergeevich fully used his chance to study variety of construction methods, examine the nature of breakdowns and to discover the weak points in damaged parts.
Aieksandr Sergievich Yakolev won a design competition for lightplanes even before entering an engineering academy in 1927. His design bureau was established 1935, and first military design was the Yak-4 twin-engined fighter, completed 1939. The Yak-1/3/9 series of single-seat fighters served the Soviet Union well in combat during Second World War and were built in larger numbers than any other Soviet wartime fighter. A Yak-3 airframe was modified to produce the Yak-15 jet fighter in 1945, developed subsequently as the Yak-17. The Yak-23 of 1947 was a complete redesign, resembling the earlier fighters only in fuselage configuration.
Other post-war Yakolev designs included the Yak-12 high-wing utility aircraft, produced also in Poland and China, Yak-11 and Yak-18 trainers, Yak-28 twin-jet bomber and reconnaissance aircraft (production began 1960) and related Yak-28P radar-equipped all-weather interceptor (first flown 1960), and Yak-40 (first flown October 1966) and Yak-42 (first flown March 1975 and still in production) short-range transports. The important Yak-38 operational VTOL combat aircraft (first flown January 1971 for Russian naval use) was followed by a new VTOL prototype known as the Yak-41 (first flown March 1987) which was subsequently abandoned, as was the projected next-generation STOVLYak-43 and the Yak- 44 shipborne AEW&C aircraft. The Yak-142 transport is a new variant of Yak-42D, featuring mostly US digital avionics and other improvements. Projected airliners include the short-range twin-turbofan Yak-46-1 for 126 passengers, short-range Yak-46-2 with propfan engines, and Yak- 242138-180 passenger short-range airliner.
In the field of general aviation, Yakolev developed the Yak-18T 4-seat multipurpose lightplane development of Yak-18 (first flown 1967 and still available), Yak-50 aerobatic sporting aircraft (first flown 1972), Yak-52 tandem two-seat piston trainer (first flown 1974 and still built in Romania), Yak-54 two-seat aerobatic trainer (first flown December 1993), Yak-55M single-seat aerobatic aircraft (first flown 1989), Yak-58 six-seat business transport with a pusher piston engine (first flown April 1994), and Yak- 112 four-seat light aircraft (first flown October 1992). General aviation projects include Yak-48, thought to be derived from the Israeli-designed Galaxy, Yak-56 piston-engined primary trainer and Yak-57 single-seat aerobatic competition aircraft. Yakolev is also a partner with Aermacchi of Italy in the Yak/Aem-130 and Yak-131 jet trainer and light combat aircraft program. In total, Yakolev has produced over 70,000 aircraft of more than 100 types since 1927, and the present Design Bureau is joined by the Saratov and Smolensk manufacturing facilities under Yak Aircraft Corporation.