Major Catherine Labuschagne, made her solo Gripen flight at the South African airbase Makhado in the Limpopo province of South Africa. This will give her a place in the record books as the first female Gripen pilot.
Major Labuschagne is one of several women serving as pilots in the SAAF and she previously flew the Impala jet before she qualified on the Hawk Lead-In-Fighter trainer to prepare her for the transition to South Africa’s front line fighter.
She did fly in the rear seat of Gripen back in 2004, then making history as the first woman pilot to fly Gripen, this time however, she took to the skies in a single seat Gripen and the instructors at 2 squadron stayed on the ground. The four newly qualified Gripen fighter pilots will strengthen SAAF and the 2 squadron as they will reach operational status sometime next year when their conversion course is completed.
The South African government ordered 26 Gripen C/D fighter aircraft in 1999 as part of a “strategic defence package”.
Recently the SAAF Gripen force, although still in a project phase and not formally an operational system, conducted a large part of the air policing during the FIFA soccer World Cup.