In December 2013 when it emerged that Brazil had chosen Gripen, the Brazilian Air Force began evaluating its fighter pilots to identify which of them would make the best instructors. The selection process settled on captains Ramon Lincoln Santos Fórneas and Gustavo de Oliveira Pascotto, who have now swapped Rio de Janeiro and Anápolis respectively for F7 in Såtenäs by the shore of Lake Vänern. During their six-month training here, they will learn everything there is to know about Gripen. At the end of April, they will return to Brazil where they will pass on this knowledge to their colleagues as newly qualified Gripen instructors.
Although the evaluation began back in December, it was only in September that Gustavo and Ramon learned they had been selected as future instructors.
"It is a great privilege to have such faith put in us, although it is slightly unnerving," says Ramon.
The pilots have known each other since 2001 when they started at flight school together, and at the start of their careers they were stationed at the same squadron. During the past five years, Gustavo, who has a total of 1,550 flying hours, has been part of 1º GDA – 1st Air Defence Group, Anápolis, where he has flown the Mirage 2000. Ramon, who has 1,880 flying hours, has been based at the 1st Fighter Group, Rio de Janeiro, flying the Northrop F-5M. Now, reunited once again, they will simultaneously undergo the Swedish Air Force's instructor training programme.
"We are prepared for hard work since there is so much we not only have to learn but also take on board fully so that we can pass it on to others. The course seems very thorough and everything has been well planned so I am sure everything will be fine," says Gustavo.
(Gripen in FAB colours)
On 19 November it was time for the first training sortie in the rear seat of a Gripen D. The 50-minute exercise was an experience, even for two seasoned pilots. "We flew in formation and performed several advanced manoeuvres, which was an amazing experience," says Ramon.
The Brazilians were impressed by Gripen, which is known for being an easy fighter aircraft to fly thanks to its electrical control system and clear pilot interface. "It was fascinating to experience Gripen's characteristics, and it is easy to see the advantages the pilot has in extreme situations, when the information needed to perform a task is clearly presented. It feels like the aircraft is talking to you, giving you the correct information at the right time," says Ramon, backed up by Gustavo.
It is not only the distance between Sweden and Brazil that is vast. The weather is also very different, especially at this time of year. Despite that, Gustavo and Ramon are both looking forward to the coming months. They are filled with anticipation and pride to be part of something unique, and to write aviation history by becoming Brazil's first Gripen instructors. "We could never have imagined this when we first met at flight school," says Gustavo.
This is the first time Gustavo has been to Sweden. Ramon, however, has visited previously on one occasion when he attended a fighter-pilot conference, but they have both known about Gripen for a long time. "Gripen is well known in Brazil, not just among us pilots but also among the public in general," says Ramon.
A winter and spring at Såtenäs now beckon, where theory and practice will be absorbed before the time comes to return to Brazil in order to train future Gripen pilots. "It will be an intense period, but we are being well looked after here and we'll probably be ready when we leave Sweden. When we get back to Brazil, that is when the real work will begin," says Gustavo.
Learn more about the Swedish Air Force
Learn more about the Brazilian Air Force (FAB)