Hungarian Air Force: Three aircraft down in past six weeks
You may have heard about the second crash first, when this video of a last-minute ejection started making the rounds:
The video was filmed at Hungarian Air Base Kecskemét, one of three Air Force bases in Hungary. Kecskemét Air Base is in Bács-Kiskun county and has a concrete runway (12/30) which is 2,499×60 metres (8,199×197 feet). It’s most well-known for the Kecskemét Air Show which, in 2008, was the largest air show in Europe.
The pilot departed Kecskemét in a Saab JAS 39 Gripen to fly a training sortie but shortly after take-off, he discovered that the nose gear was no longer responding. He repeatedly attempted to recycle the landing gear but, unable to deal with the situation in the air, he opted for a belly landing. He lost control of the aircraft as he touched down. When it started to slew off the runway, he ejected.
As you can see in the video, the ejection seat failed to separate from his chute, which added an additional 176 pounds and caused an extremely heavy touchdown. The pilot suffered a vertebral fracture when he impacted the ground but was reported as in stable condition the same day.
He may have had this accident in mind, when a prototype Gripen crashed and flipped over. Amazingly, the pilot in that crash got away with minor injuries and a broken elbow:
The Hungarian Defence Minister lashed out over the incident claiming that the government has “wasted the money necessary for the purchase of fuel for combat aircraft, spending it on all kinds of festivities and celebrations.” He said that the lack of fuel meant that pilots weren’t spending enough time in the air.
The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a Swedish single-engine fighter aircraft. There are five Air Forces which operate Saab Gripens: Swedish, Hungarian, South African, Czech and Thai.
This is the second Gripen crash in less than a month. On the 19th of May, a Gripen who had flown to Čáslav in the Czech republic to take part in a joint exercise overran the runway. Both pilots ejected and the Gripen came to rest in a field.
Hungarian news website index.hu yesterday claimed that the runway overrun at Cáslav was caused by pilot error: the commander of the Gripen “pressed both the brake and the accelerator simultaneously” while landing. The Czech Defence Minister stated that a technical malfunction has already been ruled out, leaving only pilot error as the cause. The pilot was discovered to have only flown eight hours this year. The aircraft was severely damaged in both the front and rear.
Gripen means the griffin, a mythological animal that is half lion, half eagle and I think it’s fair to say the Saab has the majestic presence of both animals.
(I was deeply amused by this seven-minute promotional Wargames video for the Gripen in the Swedish air force, especially “Isn’t it a little short for a fighter?”)
However, the Hungarian air force losing two Gripens within a few weeks of each other seems rather careless. Luckily, the Gripen jet in the ejection video is expected to be repaired and returned to service.
On top of everything else, today Hungary’s air force lost a third aircraft, a Yakovlev Yak 52 training plane which caught fire during a training exercise. One pilot suffered burns, the other escaped the cockpit unharmed.
[Defence Minister] Hende held a press conference at an air-force base in Kecskemét today to announce that Hungarian air force had improved considerably since 2010. According to Hende the number of pilots has increased from 20 to 32 and the number of technicians from 56 to 91. He also said that the number of hours spent in simulators by pilots each year had increased from 1484 in 2009 to 2632 in 2014. Pilots make an average of HUF 555,000 (USD 2,000) a month, said the Defence Minister.
Investigations of all three accidents are in progress.