Just before travel restrictions were implemented in Hungary, two Gripen aircraft had been dropped off in Linköping for inspection. The inspection usually takes between ten to twelve weeks, and the Gripens were ready two weeks ago. Since the Gripens were needed back in Hungary, Saab pilots Mikael Olsson and André Brännström piloted the Hungarian Gripens back to its home base last week. And on their return, they took back another Gripen with them for inspection.
“Since they are prohibited from travelling, we came up with a solution to take the aircraft to them instead,” says Thomas Holmstedt, Contract Manager for Forward Maintenance of Gripen C/D. “It’s important to safeguard capacity and availability in the Hungarian Air Force, despite the current circumstances.”
A great deal of planning was called for to carry out this unusual duty since normally, the Hungarians are the ones who come to Sweden to fly back their Gripens after inspection. “The handover was carried out at the base in Kecskemét. Before we flew down, we had performed our inspection flights in Linköping while the Hungarians did theirs at the base. When everything was completed, we flew another of their Gripen back to Sweden to undergo inspection. Normally, the process takes about a week, but this time we did everything in one day. Everything went according to plan, much to the Hungarians’ and our satisfaction,” says Thomas.
The route took the pilots over the Baltic Sea, through Poland and Slovakia, and finally into Hungary. Fuel and time were taken into account while flying through the unusually quiet air space of Europe, taking them about an hour and half to reach the air base in Kecskemét. Owing to the almost empty airspace, the personnel received early clearance to fly back to Sweden.
"The Hungarians are very pleased that everything is flowing as it should considering the situation we are in. The solution proves that despite extraneous circumstances beyond our control, there is still a drive to complete our tasks," concludes Thomas Holmstedt.
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