February 23 was an ordinary Saturday for most people. Some extra hours of sleep in the morning, perhaps a lazy brunch with coffee, and Saturday night plans are usually what characterise the weekend. But for five young men, who had been shortlisted for the final round of the Gripen Warrior contest, the day was anything but ordinary. It was the day when one of them was going to get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win a trip to Linköping, the home of Gripen in Sweden.
Abhay Ashvin, 24, a student pilot at the Government Flying Training School, Bengaluru, emerged victorious at the end of the contest which involved flying the Gripen fighter mission simulator at Aero India 2019. Abhay’s success was the culmination of a month-long contest hosted live on www.gripenwarriors.com, organised by Saab for all Indian combat aircraft enthusiasts.
As a fresh Commercial Pilots License holder, Abhay was stoked to get a close look at Gripen – the most modern fighter programme in the world. His journey began on June 25, from Bengaluru to Stockholm and then to Linköping to visit the Saab facilities. All arrangements were taken care of by Saab.
The next two days were highly exciting ones for Abhay. “It was an amazing experience for me to see the inner workings of complex aero structure manufacturing, to see what goes into the processes at each step and how Saab tackles challenges in every aspect from design to workflow, task allotment and verifications,” says Abhay about his tour of the Gripen manufacturing facility.
Flying the cockpit simulator on which Gripen pilots from all over the world train was a surreal experience for him as well. He practiced landing in challenging areas and got to know first-hand the speeds, responses and reactions required while handling a fighter jet. He also got an insight into the life of a Saab Commercial Pilot and witnessed the chain of command, procedure of flight planning and what goes into planning a sortie on a commercial aircraft.
The excitement of day one did not end with an in-depth tour of the Gripen facility. For an aircraft enthusiast like him, a visit to The Swedish Air Force Museum was one of the most fun highlights of the trip. The museum hosts a large collection of the world's most iconic aircraft, besides engines, instruments and uniforms. The very first version of Gripen, the Gripen A, is also on display at the museum.
Abhay was interested to know more about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and hence on day two of his visit he was taken for a tour of the UMS Skeldar facility. He got a close understanding of ViDAR – the technology that helps in detecting objects over large marine areas and can be used for search and rescue, as well as how the operating system of Skeldar works.
Could a young, budding pilot have asked for more? After returning from Linköping, he grabbed the chance to be a tourist around Stockholm for a day. Abhay sums up the trip to Sweden as “an incredible learning experience and a lot of fun as well.”
It goes without saying that Abhay has created memories of a lifetime during this trip to Saab and Sweden!