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Saab Global

First Gripen E flying display - a pilot testimonial

4 min read

In conjunction with the Kaivopuisto Airshow in Finland, the first official Gripen E flying display was carried out by test pilot André “Bulan" Brännström. And it was a resounding success!


This autumn, Finland will be nearing their decision on the HX programme, which is of great importance to Saab. As part of the campaign in Finland, Saab took part in the Kaivopuisto Airshow, which is one of the world's largest airshows this year with nearly 80,000 spectators. 

One of the main attractions at the airshow was the first flying display of Gripen E, and it was Saab's pilot André “Bulan" Brännström who carried out this historic flight.force readiness.

Gripen display pilot in a Gripen E jet fighter.

“It felt great!" says André. “I flew the sequence sixteen times to train for the demo and this 17th time was the best! As a pilot, you never expect the demo to be perfect but, when I touched down, I was actually euphoric. When you are getting ready for a demo flight your body is pumped full of adrenaline, so afterwards it felt great to say: I pulled it off."

André has flown as Saab's demo pilot for six seasons, and he has flown in many different environments. In Helsinki, he flew over the port area around Kaivopuisto, with infrastructure that must be taken into account. There are always special restrictions when flying near a big city and there is always a team that plans and conducts an airshow.

“Even though I'm the one behind the controls, this is really a team effort," says André. “There were about ten of us and one Gripen E that travelled to Finland to carry out the demo flight. Everyone in the team has equal responsibility for their areas, and when things go well you are very happy that the whole team performed well."

The art of showcasing Gripen capabilities

As a demo pilot, it is important to devise flight sequences that demonstrate how the aircraft performs. André usually practises his demo flight sequences over Saab a few times a month, as well as together with the Swedish Air Force's demo pilots during a couple of days of 'boot camp' each year. This is done to truly hone the details and fully prepare for the upcoming season. The Swedish Air Force and Saab have different reasons for carrying out demo flights.. The aim for Saab is to showcase Gripen performance, whereas the Swedish Air Force wants to conduct airshows in order to generate interest in the Air Force and its various professions. In the Swedish Air Force, the season runs over the summer, while André has the privilege of training all year round. Prior to the airshow in Finland, André had flown 176 flying displays with Gripen.

Gripen E jet fighter.

“But this was the first with Gripen E, and it feels like a bigger and stronger aircraft," says André. “It has greater manoeuvrability and acceleration, and, above all, the thrust is much better in Gripen E. We have 10 tonnes of thrust, which produce a real kick. We can manoeuvre in ways that we weren't really been able to before. It's going to be really great to continue demonstrating Gripen E at airshows in the future. We don't have any new demo flights scheduled, although I rarely do, since they get planned when the need arises. Whether or not it will be Gripen E largely depends on access to aircraft with the right configuration."

The first demo flight with Gripen E has been carried out with good results. Saab is preparing for a busy autumn involving work to complete testing and deliveries. The decision concerning Finland's procurement is expected to be made toward year end. A few closing words from André:

Gripen E test pilot.

“We have a really excellent platform to showcase, but I would like to point out that the greatest capabilities possessed by Gripen E are not usually seen at an airshow, such as the ability of Gripen E to operate in a complex environment, a revolutionary avionics structure, its longer range and its sizable cargo capacity. The biggest boost is the tactical capability, which is achieved by the combination of capability upgrades."