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Brazilian Gripen E fighter

Brazilian Air Force’s test pilot undergoes intensive training to fly the Brazilian Gripen

4 min read + Video

While the Brazilian Gripen is currently taking part in flight test activities at the Gripen Flight Test Center at Embraer in Gavião Peixoto (SP), the pilots of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) are participating in the preparations in Sweden. The first phase is taking part in a Conversion Training course, which takes place in Linköping and focuses on the pilot's flight equipment in addition to exercises of extreme physical demand.

In 2020, Major Aviator Abdon de Rezende Vasconcelos, FAB test pilot, was the first to train with Gripen C/D and later continue the training with Gripen E. The course began in August 2020 and continues until the end of the first semester of 2021, when the practical training will take place.

Before entering the aircraft's cockpit, the pilot underwent an intensive training and was thoroughly familiarised with all the necessary equipment. To give you a better idea of the complexity of such training, Saab followed the training of Major Abdon during three days. The first day was dedicated to the adjustments of the pilots personal equipment, such as flight suit, anti-G equipment, boots, oxygen mask and helmet. This is a meticulous process, which aims to ensure that everything fits the pilot perfectly.

Trianing in the 9G centrifuge

On the second day, the training took place at the Qinetics Physiological Flight Center, located in Malmslätt, Linköping. There, Major Abdon underwent training in the 9G centrifuge, which is one of the fundamental requirements for piloting Gripen. Before the drill, Captain Johan Ekblad showed him the correct breathing techniques and trained him how to withstand the enormous forces that would certainly put the pilot’s body and mind to the test.

After the theoretical part, Major Abdon was led to the centrifuge, accompanied by specialists and a doctor. In the centrifuge, the G-forces are gradually increased so that the pilots can practice the new skills. When reaching 8G, Major Abdon chose withstand the high Gs for 30 seconds and after a few minutes of rest, he resumed to the last session, withstanding the 9G force for the required 15 seconds, without any problem, and thus passing the test.

“It was the first time that I did this type of training. It was very important because I learned and was able apply the correct technique to withstand the 9Gs. I am sure that this will be necessary during the operation of the aircraft,”said the pilot.

Major Abdon also received instructions on landing procedures after an ejection. "I was able to recall some procedures but also learned new ones that are used here in Sweden in order to land safely,” said the pilot.

The second day of training concluded with theoretical and practical training on survival at sea. A simulation was conducted in a swimming pool, with waves, mimicking a storm at nighttime, and the pilot received diverse guidance on all necessary procedures in the event of a landing in water.

Learning to handle decreased oxygen pressure

The hypoxia symptom recognition training took place on the third day, via a theoretical preparation class, where the pilot could learn how his body would behave and how to handle decreased oxygen pressure at high altitudes.
“The reduction of oxygen to the brain results in loss of consciousness and in deterioration of mental capacity. Nevertheless, some basic tasks must be performed even during decreased oxygen supply and these tasks become increasingly difficult to perform. In this exercise, the objective was to learn about yourself and recognize the signs that your body can give in case of lack of oxygen so that necessary measures can be taken in time ”, the pilot explains.

A warm welcome and a valuable experience

After the three days of intense training, Major Abdon was pleased to announce that he had passed all the trainings: “I was warmly welcomed here by the instructors, who transmitted their knowledge about how to operate the aircraft on a daily basis. This experience is extremely valuable to me as a pilot and as a representative of the Brazilian Air Force,” he adds.