Thai Gripen jet crashes during airshow in Thailand

A Royal Thai Air Force JAS-39 Gripen has crashed in Thailand. Pilot dead.

On Jan. 14, at 09.27 LT, a RTAF JAS-39 Gripen crashed at Hat Yai Airport, Thailand, during an airshow for Thailand’s national Children’s Day.

The 35-year-old pilot who was flying the Swedish-made jet did not eject and died in the incident.

Footage of the accident shows the Gripen starting a slow aileron roll; once inverted, the aircraft fails to complete the maneuver, stops rolling and takes a nosedive crashing near the airfield’s runway.

Thailand purchased 12 JAS-39C/D Gripen multirole jets in 2008, at a cost of about 70M USD apiece.


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. I’ve noticed that Gripen seems to depart controlled flight fairly often. And it always seems to be caused by those damn canards – it’s like they throw the plane’s brakes on mid-flight. Then – the pilot completely loses it. The nose of the plane comes up violently and throws the plane flipping over on its back. I don’t care what you say, this is not an aeronautically stable fighter. So unstable not even FBW controls can compensate. No wonder it doesn’t sell.

    Condolences of course to the pilot’s family.

      • Aeronautics and physiology. They do go hand in hand. It’s a lot easier for the human brain to intuitively recover from tumblesaults than backflips. We’re wired that way. Easier to move forward than backwards. That’s why this pitch-up (canards) vs. pitch-down (tail) in a plane’s dynamic tendency is such an important factor in departure recovery.

        • …how can YOU judge the (excellent) performance of the Saab Gripen?…are you an aeronautical engineer?

      • I think what’s plagued the Gripen programme from early on was that SAAB’s transition to unstable dynamics gained the project unneccesary attention by the public, making them jump into uneducated conclusions about the project.

        Previous prototypes of SAAB designs, like the Viggen, also experienced crashes. As another example: even one Grumman F-14 prototype crashed, which goes to show is why we have prototypes.

        The fly-by-wire system used with the Gripen was developed by British Aerospace, having had previous experience of unbalanced flight. Early bugs to this system was soon resurrected and later incidents have been deemed pilot error only.

        Now I do second OhGetReal’s suggestion above on disorientation. That would explain why the pilot didn’t eject. Any and all radio transmission from him would have revealed what’s what.

        Then let’s also keep in mind that with temperature air becomes increasingly thin and thus less able to carry an aircraft. As an example: the trusty Super Cub bush plane featured in the motion picture James Bond – License To Kill was flown early mornings, when temperature was lower, not to stall. No movie known for advanced aerobatics.

        * meant to post this as a response to Leroy above, not mr Brimson *

    • Have you done any research whatsoever on the Gripen? This is the first fatality it has ever had and it’s been flying for 28 years! Canada alone has lost 11 pilots to the Hornet so get off your ignorant high horse already! Since 1988 when it first flew, no plane has been safer than the Gripen. Until today, no man has ever died in a Gripen.

      • And since just about no one flies Gripen, if it does have a low fatality rate it’s because as a fleet it has very few cumulative flight hours. Put as many hours on it as the Hornet fleet has, and I’ll guarantee you you’d see a lot more accidents. Gripen can be grateful that it has relatively few total flight hours (as compared to F-15, F-16, F/A-18, etc.). It’s the only thing that’s allowed it to hide its defects.

        This is not a good design. If it were, sales would be a lot better. But I guess you can’t talk reality against someone’s religion.

    • Getting an unstable plane is the very point of canard design. From then, whether you can control the side effects or not is a matter of control system design. The Rafale does not experience such problems, while its canards are placed in a rather similar position to the Gripen’s. Dassault’s FBW system is known to fully automatically control the canards in real time, making it impossible to make a maneuver that can result in uncontrolled spin or fall. Maybe Saab missed something in their control system, and it isn’t as safe as it should be.

  2. If you watch closely you can see he rolls inverted, stops the roll and pulls an inverted decent and starting to roll upright or intending to pull a high g turn….either way I suspect he lost his orientation. Easy to do….. Condolences to his family.

  3. Cancel the program! Clearly it is a defective design. /sarc.

    edit: It almost looks like CFIT.

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