Test pilot

Test pilots say they have the best job in the world. What do you think? Here, Mikael who is a test pilot tells you how it is to evalutate and test the Gripen fighter.

How does the Flight Test department work at Saab?

We are about 250 persons, including pilots, technicians, test engineers and test planners that is responsible for all flight test activities with the Gripen. We are organized similar to a military wing with responsible leaders for flight operations and maintenance operations. To prepare ourselves for different tests we create test teams with all needed expertise to create a test plan that we later execute under the supervision of all involved personnel.

How many tests are conducted roughly in a yearly basis?
The number of flight test each varies a lot depending on where in the development program we are. In the early phases a lot of tests are conducted in simulators and rigs meanwhile in later stage the focus will be on flight test activities.

How do you define a test flight? What can be tested?
We normally divide flight test into experimental flight test and system flight test. During experimental flight test you aim to open up the flight envelope for the aircraft or a subsystem in the aircraft. During a system flight test you normally stay inside a cleared envelope to perform tests with an aircraft system that could be a tactical system like for example sensors and weapons.

Simulators play an important role in test flights, what exactly can be done there?
More or less all flight testing is initially conducted in the simulators since we are working with models in our testing. Our flight test intends to verify the models we are using in our simulators and rigs. So, the simulators are a vital part of the testing.

Do you spend equally amount of time in the simulator as in the actual fighter?
More or less, yes!

What is a flight envelope?
It´s the outer and inner boundaries, in the air or on the ground, for the aircraft, based on a safety or certification perspective. It could for example be the maximum and minimum allowed speed for the aircraft or the max/min allowed G-load.