The Swedish Air Force’s Flying Training School, located at Malmen air base, is unlike any other, as Søren Nielsen discovers in the August issue of AFM.
The Luftstridsskolan (Flying Training School) at Malmen, near Linköping, does things differently. There’s no mandatory contract for new pilots, aircrew select the type of aircraft they are going to fly before they begin tuition, and the hierarchy is so ‘flat’ that it’s almost non-existent. The ethos here is that everyone is equal, to give students the best possible opportunity to become successful pilots in the armed forces.
In the past, the Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force) did what many air arms do today when it comes to selecting and training new pilots. But with less than 25% of cadets making it through to become a pilot, the Flygvapnet decided to reorganise the whole process in the 1970s.
The radical new approach turned its back on the results of previous studies and brought about an impressive improvement. The success rate has increased to 95% in which the remaining 5% usually fail due to personal problems, personality or mental attitude – not bad flying skills.
Today, the Luftstridsskolan takes 24 student pilots annually for a two-year course (each comprising 12 helicopter pilots, four for transports and eight for fighters). There’s a similar number of instructor pilots, and all are divided into three units:
- 1st squadron, basic training fixed-wing, SK 60 (Saab 105)
- 2nd squadron, advanced training fixed-wing, SK 60
- 3rd squadron, advanced training rotary-wing, HKP 15 (AW109)
As Capt Magnus Bragvad, commanding officer of the 1st squadron, explained: “We changed our philosophy of how we educate future pilots. We start by letting the students know what they are going to fly before they begin their training.”
When they are inducted, they can choose between three categories – fighter, transport or helicopter – and they need to apply for at least two of these in order of priority. Once accepted, they will already know which type they are going to fly.
Capt Bragvad continued: “We don’t want to pick out who is going to fly what, because then we become judges and not educators. We want them to know before they start here that there isn’t any competition around who’s going to fly what type. The trainees are not competing with each other – only with themselves to get as good as they can get. That’s our philosophy. We look at them as colleagues from day one – not as students. The candidate is our future wingman.”