Our Bureau

Bangalore, Jan. 13

Ever fancied flying a fighter plane? Here is your dream chance, just weeks away. Swedish military plane maker Saab offers a go at the controls of its JAS 39 Gripen during the Aero India that will be on here from February 9-13.

Online contest

All one has to do is enter Saab's contest online, win it and roar away over Bangalore skies, Saab said ahead of the two-yearly premium air event that the Ministry of Defence holds at the Yelahanka Air Base near Bangalore. Three Gripen aircraft will make flying displays every day during the show. Look at it also as Saab's smart raising of the pitch to promote a product which itself is an entry in another mega contest — the race for the Rs 45,000-crore deal to sell 126 medium multi-role fighters to the Indian Air Force.

The JAS 39 Gripen is a keen contender along with two US entries, the Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-16 IN Super Viper; the Eurofighter Typhoon; France's Dassault Rafale and Russia's Mikoyan MiG-35.

“For those not really interested in the technical end but love the look and feel of the aircraft, the Gripen Top Guns contest opens a model hunt in which 12 participants will make it to the first Gripen India Calendar,” a release said here on Wednesday.

In the four-odd years since the MMRCA deal got unveiled, the fighter plane companies have left no stone unturned in their limited promotional scope. During the previous air shows at Bangalore, Boeing and Lockheed roped in Mr Ratan Tata, a first lady fighter pilot and a couple of other celebrities to make that much more noise with their mean machines. This time round, star batsman Sachin Tendulkar is being talked about for one such honour.

Saab called its offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Indian aviation aficionados “to fly the world's most advanced multi-role fighter aircraft, the Gripen”.

Indian citizens can get on to the Gripen cockpit by answering questions or flying any simulation of the Gripen and entering it at www.gripentopgun.com. “The Gripen Top Guns contest has amateur and professional levels to test the knowledge of aircraft enthusiasts while providing an opportunity for XBOX, PSP and Computer Games buffs the opportunity to enter their best flying effort,” Saab said.

Top pilots from Sweden and India will judge the entries and choose five candidates to fly the Gripen simulator. One of these simulator pilots will move up to fly the real thing - the JAS 39 Gripen.

The not-so-lucky ‘top guns' also have their chance in lucky draws to win fighter pilot flying suits, aviator glasses, keep-sake calendars signed by Swedish test pilots, besides Gripen key tags, badges, stickers and pens.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 14, 2011)
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