Mrs. Radka Pchálková, who won a competition during "NATO Days" in Ostrava, visited the Gripen base in Čáslav, the Czech Republic, together with her family. The family was given a warm welcome by the Czech Air Force, which laid on a full programme that included a chance for the visitors to fly a simulator, sit in a Gripen cockpit, learn about the air base's trained birds of prey and a visit to the base's air traffic control tower.
During the "NATO Days" air show in Ostrava, the Czech Republic, on 24-25 September, one of the leading Czech daily newspapers, Mladá fronta Dnes, organised a competition with Saab offering first prize. The winner, Mrs. Radka Pchálková, has now spent a half-day at the air base in Čáslav together with her family.
"We are very happy to have the possibility to welcome Mrs Radka Pchálková and her family, to show our base and aircraft, and present our daily operations within the Czech Air Force to them. It is very important for us to have the opportunity to invite guests to inform about our capabilities and the way we serve our country,” says Col. Ondrĕj Rejman, Deputy Base Commander at the Čáslav Air Base.
Radka Pchálková and her family next to the Czech Gripen fighter. Photo: Saab
The day got off to a flying start, with Mrs. Pchálková and her family being given the chance to try the Czech Air Force’s L-159 Alca simulator and experience what it is like to be a pilot. Mr. Josef Pchálek had the opportunity to try on a Gripen pilot's Anti-G suit.
At the air base museum, the family were given a detailed history of the Czech Air Force. After that, it was time to meet the air base's trained birds of prey – hawks, eagles and owls – that are used to chase wild animals away from the runway system. Hawks can fly at speeds of more than 300 km/h and can identify small creatures from a distance of five kilometres, and they are used to improve safety around the runway during takeoffs and landings.
Radka Pchálková with one of the air base's owls. Photo: Saab
One of the day's main attractions was obviously the Gripen aircraft, which the family had the chance to sit in. They also got to see close up the Czech L-159 Alca attack aircraft, which is produced by the domestic company Aero Vodochody.
"As the producers of Gripen, we are extremely proud of how the Czech Air Force, as a NATO member, operates the aircraft. We would like to be able to demonstrate this for the public, but entry to an air base is restricted for obvious reasons. It is therefore very pleasing to have the chance to open the doors to the Čáslav base, for one family at least, together with the Czech Air Force. We hope that this has given the winners an unforgettable memory," says Bengt Littke, Gripen Programme Director - Czech Republic.
The day ended with a visit to the base's air traffic control tower, where the visitors got to see air traffic control "in action", with two Gripen aircraft conducting an instrument landing, followed soon afterwards by the takeoff of an L-159 Alca.
"I appreciate the great organization and complete program that was prepared for us. This happens probably once in life and I really enjoy this possibility,“ says Radka Pchálková.