Every ten weeks, the Hungarians come here to drop off aircraft for inspection or collect them following an inspection. Just before travel restrictions were implemented in Hungary, two aircraft had been dropped off in Linköping. An inspection takes between ten and twelve weeks and, last week, the Gripen aircraft were ready.
Next stop, Kecskemét.
- “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.”
In normal times, the Hungarians come to Sweden for meetings and inspection flights during a so-called handover week, after which they fly the aircraft home themselves. This time, however, the handover was done in Hungary. For this to be carried out successfully – or at all – a great deal of planning was required.
- “A few of us flew down in our Saab 2000, while our Saab pilots flew the Gripen aircraft down,” says Thomas. “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.”
Two aircraft there. One back.
Mikael Olsson and André Brännström piloted the Hungarian Gripen aircraft down. The route took them over the Baltic Sea, through Poland and Slovakia, and into Hungary.
Mikael Olsson doing a pre-flight check.
- “The flight went as planned,” says Mikael Olsson, Head of the Flight Test department. “We flew economically in terms of fuel and it took an hour and forty minutes to reach the air base in Kecskemét. I’ve never flown through Europe this empty. No other aircraft contrails were seen and radio traffic was very quiet all the way down. It’s mostly smaller aircraft and cargo flights in the skies.”
- “The reception at the air base was very positive but distanced due to the coronavirus, of course. We were warmly received in the air already with Gripen aircraft escorts from the Hungarian Air Force. After landing, the aircraft were formally handed over to them in accordance with normal procedure. Once the handover was completed, I flew another Gripen back home to SAAB for a scheduled inspection, while the rest of our personnel flew back home in our SAAB 2000. It was the same thing on the way back to Sweden: no aircraft in the way and I received clearance quite early to fly straight home, which is fairly unusual,” concludes Mikael Olsson.
André Brännström getting ready for the flight.
-"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.