What it Takes to be a Gripen Demo Pilot

To represent a country as a trained demonstration pilot is not an easy task. It involves years of training and facing demanding challenges. In an interview with airbase.blog, Lieutenant General Máté Majerik of the Hungarian Armed Forces shares his experiences and journey from the time he applied to become a pilot to the time he finally sat in the front seat of Gripen. 

Majerik, who became a Gripen demo pilot last year, admits that there was a lot of waiting and patience alongside vigorous practice involved before finally flying the Gripen fighter. For him, it all began when he joined the army in 2009 with an aspiration to take part in the NATO Flight Training in Canada (NFTC), a military flight training program for NATO and allied air forces provided by the Canadian Forces. After attending a military training in Szentendre, he went to Szolnok where he was able to train in a Yak-52 aircraft. 

"By the end of 2010, I was able to continue my training at NFTC where I flew a CT-156 Harvard II and then a CT-155 Hawk. After four different phases of aircraft training, I was finally awarded fit for a fighter aircraft," Majerik says. "From the seven of us, only three of us made it to the fighter aircraft phase. And although I was in Canada for two and a half years, it felt like a five years course because of all the things we learned which we can still apply to this day," he adds. 

However, after returning home to Hungary, Majerik had to wait for almost two more years before he could fly Gripen. The waiting period was spent productively with more training, some of which lasted for months on end. During this period, Majerik and the other pilots had the opportunity to fly in the back seat of the Gripen, practice for hours on Gripen simulator, and even attend the annual tactical simulator training (FLSC) in Stockholm. In order to contain the training and knowledge they had gained, there were many more intensive courses in Sweden that focused on tactical abilities like air combat, ground-based attack, and low-altitude tactical flights.

"By the time we retrained in Gripen, we were pretty much fluent with BVR (Beyond Visual Range) air combat. So I would say that although we had to wait for two years to fly Gripen, I learnt a lot during the period," Majerik says.

Today, Majerik has flown about 1000 flight hours in total, half of which have been on Gripen. He awaits for more adventures as a Gripen demo pilot. 

What Majerik likes about Gripen is its high-speed maneuvers and high spindle speed. "What is even more advantageous for a display pilot is that the fighter has low profile resistance and it accelerates well. You have to practice a lot because the machine reacts quickly to commands. It also means you can change faster during a display performance," he says.

Read his full story here.