Friday, February 13, 2009

Bangalore: On Day 2 of Aero India 2009, I flew a Gripen combat aircraft. It wasn't too tough with pilot Jonas Jeppsson explaining the basics.
Once in the cockpit, it’s just a matter of pulling the joystick and I make the sky my destination. What do I know about flying? Nothing. But once in the SAAB Gripen cockpit simulator, it is about a few buttons here and a series of mysterious numbers all around showing the position, altitude, route, target, speed and other incomprehensible things.
As I hop into the cockpit and settle down, Jeppsson begins to explain the flight details but half of it is beyond me. But soon, I position the fighter for take-off and it begins to cruise down the runway. As I pick up speed, somewhere from behind I hear the roar of an aircraft. Maybe, it was just one of the real ones outside, making a sortie. The pilot releases a lever and I pull up the joystick and the GS 39 CD flies away, not too straight, but at high speed nevertheless. I am soon experiencing a 7G force. In real life at this pressure, without the required training, I would've heard my bones getting crushed.
I see the green fields below me, some indistinct piece of land far below. As I get a grip of things, Jeppsson makes me turn a loop and I am soon flying the wrong-side up. Then, I begin to cruise over a water body and just then, a wrong move and as I am about to crash, a red line shows up. The pilot steadies the aircraft and it's back on track.
As this simulator is of a combat aircraft, on the left panel is the electronic warfare system, the altitude, speed meters and the route with position on the middle screen and radar details on the other side. Another pilot explains if a target has to be followed, it would show up on one of the screens.
13/02/09 Deepa Bhasthi/Times of India

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