Living a childhood dream

On December 20 of last year, the first of two T-X military trainer aircraft from Boeing and Saab made its maiden flight in St. Louis, Missouri. Recently, Saab’s test pilot Richard Ljungberg flew the aircraft for the first time.

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) is seeking a replacement for its current, aging trainer aircraft, the T-38, and is expected to select a supplier by the end of 2017. The T-X solution offered by Boeing and Saab is an all-new aircraft designed specifically for the USAF training mission.

Richard Ljungberg, chief test pilot at Saab, is one of four test pilots who are working towards the same objective: ensuring that T-X achieves the required performance. He has spent many hours in Boeing’s T-X simulator in St. Louis over the past few months, and recently got the chance to fly the aircraft.

"It’s safe in flight, easy to understand, and easy to handle," said Ljungberg. "It is not just an aircraft, but rather a complete training system with a number of built-in options. The pilot can use T-X to provide training for everything from basic flying to tactical scenarios."

He notes that it is "incredibly exciting" to be part of this process.

"It has always appealed to me to be the person who attempts something that no one has done before. The untried and unexplored may be terrifying to others, but for me, it’s only associated with something exciting. It’s unique to have this sort of opportunity."

Richard Ljungberg has 28 years of flight experience, 18 of them as a test pilot. In the eyes of some, he is living the ultimate childhood dream.

"I haven’t regretted my choice of career for a single second. To be able to feel the forces and the acceleration, to climb straight up in the air and see the ground falling away, to feel in control of the situation... that’s a fantastic feeling. This job continues to give me new challenges and new types of stimulation every day."