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. leroy,
    With all due respect, I believe you should get your facts straight. What you say is completely incorrect. Are you perhaps working for any of the jealous competitors? :-)

    The whole idea with the platform is that it’s natively ‘unstable’, if you missed that. That’s why the flight envelope is so extremely good.

    Since the aircraft entered service
    – there has been no fatal accidents, until now
    – there has been no aircraft related crashes, only pilot error
    – the canards have never failed on an operative aircraft

    Regarding the canards, I believe you refer to the prototype aircraft that crashed in Stockholm. It primarily crashed because of PIO, but it happened because of a political decision to show off the aircraft during the Stockholm water festival, even though the FMS wasn’t ready for it.

    And if you missed it, it sells well…

    • It’s too unstable. The canards seem to make it very susceptible to departure. A tail when put perpendicular to the airstream (during a departure from controlled flight) will tend to bring the nose down. To “push” the nose forward and make for an easier recovery. Canards? When perpendicular to the airstream they cause a pitch up. which then throws the aircraft on its back, kills the airspeed and puts you completely out of control. There’s a reason why the best fighters ever made don’t have canards. Controllability and departure is one of the reasons.

      • Crash rater per 100 000 flight hours:
        F15: 2.36. No canards
        Gripen 2.46. Canards.
        F18: 3.60. No canards.
        F22: 4.00. No canards.
        F16: 4.48. No canards.
        Rafale 6.25. Canards.

    • “Are you perhaps working for any of the jealous competitors?”

      Seeing how this is your first comment on Disqus, I’m sure you’ll understand why I might level the same charge at you – only not working for a Saab competitor rather the company itself.

      I didn’t miss anything – the plane does not sell well. Well would be the over 4000 units of F-16 sold. Well will be when F-35 breaks F-16’s record of sales. But Saab? Never been a competitor that any world-class fighter manufacturer has ever had to worry about. The plane’s lack of international sales speaks for itself.

      • Leroy and Rob,

        I think we all agree that this is a tragedy no matter if it was a controlled flight into terrain or an aircraft failure. Then, let us be fair: Do you really think that the higher number of sold planes from a U.S. manufacturer is evidence of superiority? Need I remind you of the political reasons for choosing a U.S. fighter? That F-16’s been sold for 40 years? That Sweden is a neutral country that developed fighters for its own use and for long hesitated to sell arms to either the west or the east? That this, not the airplane’s capability, might be the reason for less AA combat? And regarding crash statistics: F-15 has a crash rate of 2,36 per 100.000 hours, F-16: 4,48 per 100.000 hours. F-18: 3,6 per 100.000 hours. Rafale: 6,25 per 100.000 hours. Gripen: 2,46 per 100.000 hours, Guys, be grown ups and please don’t lie..

  2. I said “the best”. How many A-A victories does the Typhoon have? Rafale? Kfir? Go all the way back to WW-II, Korea, Vietnam, Israel’s three major wars and pick out a winning canard design. I’ll be waiting but won’t hold my breath.

  3. I suppose, like with some Suchoi fighters, you basically try to make the machine as nimble and maneuverable as possible, which could be pushed to the very limit or beyond the envelope of what is aerodynamically possible. Any limitation to that to itself could pose an even greater danger to the pilot, particularly in a hostile situation should it come to that.

    It was said at the incident of the Stockholm Water Festival that had the pilot just let go of the controls the fighter would have likely self stabilised, as it is designed to do so. And the Gripen platform does feature an extensive array of pilot aids e.g. for operating at zero visability with maintained situation awareness.

    Here it’s pushing the limits at close proximity to the ground and this obviously adds to the hazards that goes with flying. And crashes do happen, as hard we may try to eliminate that from happening. This is true for all times and aircrafts of any design, really. My e.g. father in his youth wittnessed an A32 Lansen go down, a then current and to date, stable construction.

    There’s this list on Wiki that seems quite thorough but can’t vouch for its accuracy.

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