A British pilots experience with Viggen

‘The first to go up in the Viggen was our boss, Hilton Moses. I remember going out with him to the aeroplane and seeing him laughing and smiling, and then seeing him getting out and coming back to the crewroom looking like he’d just been put through some kind of crazy combination between a fairground ride and a washing machine. Then I went flying in the afternoon, and it changed my life.

‘They would fly around at Mach 0.95, 650kt give or take a bit, and they trained at 10m. We flew through firebreaks in trees, we flew all over northern Sweden at 30ft, and we never went below 600kt. All of this, I should add, was done under about a 150 to 200ft overcast with no breaks. In the RAF, anybody who wanted to get old would not have flown in that weather. After about 40 minutes, we pulled up into cloud, and the pilot then flew a 4-degree hands-off approach with his hands on his head into a remote airstrip, landed, reversed into a parking bay, did an engine-running refuel without any communication with the people on the ground except hand signals, taxied out and took off in the direction that we’d landed in. Wind direction just wasn’t factored. Then we did some approaches onto roadways, flying at 15 or 20ft to clear the cars and warn them that there were going to be some aeroplane movements before doing practice approaches.

And the aerobatics beggared belief. ‘The next day, it was time to take the Swedish pilots flying in the Jaguar. I was at a bit of a loss as to how I was going to explain to this guy that we flew at 420kt when they flew at 620kt. So I decided that the way ahead was to leave the part-throttle reheat in, accelerate to 620kt and then give him the aeroplane. That’s what I did — I took off, and gave him control at 620kt and about 150ft. He pushed the nose down, took the Jaguar down to 30ft and proceeded to fly it at about 30 to 40ft and 600kt-plus quite happily. It knocked all the myths about who’s got the best aeroplanes, who’s got the best-trained pilots and so on. The Swedish Air Force had aeroplanes that were light years ahead of anything the RAF had, or was going to get, or has got now, and their pilots were in a totally different league to us. This was not just an individual — I flew with three of them, and all three were like that. Each of them was able to fly the Jaguar faster and lower from the back seat than I could from the front seat.