Royal Thai air-force had Wednesday invited to a welcome celebration for their Saab 340 AEV aircraft. The second of two ordered together with 12 JAS-39 Gripen fighters in 2008 with a price tag of approximately 1.1 billion US$ in a purchase divided into two phases.
The press and notables from the air-force gathered at Don Muang military airport 9:30 a.m. for flying to Suratthani with the air-force’s Airbus A-310 passenger jet. On our way to the Airbus we pass the Saab 340 AEW aircraft we will welcome in Surat Thani.
The spirit is high as the plane leaves Bangkok and air hostess pampers passengers with soft drinks and muffins on the 50 minutes flight. At Suratthani airport a convoy headed by a police car followed by three Mercedes, two minivans and two buses brings the approximately 60 represents of the press and a few more from the Thai air-force to the program’s first item: Lunch.
What a wonderful world
While a three piece band entertains with western evergreens such as “What a wonderful world” and “Yesterday” mixed with presumably likewise Thai evergreens generals and colonels from the Thai air-force together with guests from the Swedish air-force and the press consume the day’s special Saab 340 AEW menu and use the opportunity to mingle and update acquaintanceships.
After lunch it is time for second point on the program. Back in the convoy we are heading o the airbase. A Gripen JAS-39 fighter, one of the six delivered February 2011, will show its capabilities. It flies vertically up into the sky and then fall toward the ground, just before it hits the ground it straighten up and thunders over the heads of the spectators while rotating on its axis. After a trip out in the horizon it returns for this time turning sharply in a manoeuvre which, according to the commentator exposes the pilot to a G-force of nine G.
After other spectacular manoeuvres the Gripen plane returns to the ground. We are now ready for the main event: The welcome of Saab 340 AEW. The aircraft we passed in Bangkok lands and park in front of the tribune. The Swedish crew who have flown the plane to Thailand exit it and are received with manners.
Arya NgamPraMuan, Chief of Staff in Thai Air Force, welcome them with a speech where he stress the importance of the cooperation with Saab in obtaining the Thai Air Force’s goal of becoming one of the world’s most modern, efficient and technical advanced air-forces.
After the speech which was commendable brief the Swedish air-crew got flower wreaths, champagne and a handshake of each of the 10 generals that were present at the ceremony.
The Saab 340 AEW had now been welcomed as first step in phase two of the deal between Thai Royal Air Force and Saab. The remaining six Gripen aircrafts are scheduled to be delivered in 2013.