Q&A Philipp Haidbauer

Alpha Jet Pilot

1. How did you get into flying the Alpha Jet for the Flying Bulls?

In 2008, while I was still active as a military pilot and mainly flew the Saab 105, I began to fly the Boeing Stearman for the Flying Bulls. With one foot in their hangar and the other one in the surveillance squadron at the Austrian Air Force, one thing simply led to another.

2. Are you able to enjoy flights in the Alpha Jet, or do you need to concentrate and stay focused all the time?

It depends on the purpose of the flight. During ferry flights, it’s 100% pleasure time – as long as there is good weather.

Displaying the Alpha Jet during an airshow on the other hand, requires full concentration! There is little room for error when doing aerobatics as a single aircraft or in formation. And you always have to be ready to counteract any disturbing factors during the performance. Although it’s a very challenging task, it is still is enjoyable – and the pleasure time starts once you are safely back on the ground.

3. I can imagine your job is pretty challenging. Any close shaves during your career?

Yep – I once had a car crash heading down the highway on my way to the airbase!

But, to get serious: I truly believe that my career as an “Air Force Pilot” before becoming an “Airshow Pilot” is the best thing that could have happened to me. Being involved in mission planning for “Air Defense”, “Air Surveillance” or “Air-to-Ground Attacks” as well as preparing and flying hundreds of “Air-to-Air-Combat” Missions was probably the best way for me to get a good understanding of “Risk Management”. And that’s all you need to combat the “close shaves” before they even happen.

4. What is the most challenging thing about flying the Alpha Jet?

Definitely all the unique mixed-formation flying with the B25, P38 and Corsair. While flying in a big formation with the B25 as the leader aircraft, we often find ourselves on the “low speed - max g - max thrust” limit during wing over turns. Doing barrel rolls and loop entries with the P38 and Corsair is a problem because of the different accelerations and decelerations of the airplanes. During descents we often run the Alpha Jet’s engines near idle as to not overtake the Lightning. And you have to be aware that it takes up to 2 seconds to spool up the engines again when you need to add some power.

So in the end, it’s not enough to know the performance of the Alpha Jet only – you need to know about the performance and capabilities of all the other airplanes within the formation too!

5. One of your best memories as a Flying Bulls pilot?

Hmmm? There are a lot! But my very first Stearman solo ride during the late summer of 2008 was pretty special. By that time I was flying fast military jets, but after that flight, I knew – flying vintage aircraft is my world. :)

6. What keeps you motivated / how do you keep your 'job' from being repetitive?

If there is on job in aviation that is not repetitive, it’s being a pilot for Flying Bulls! Two hangars full of phenomenal different aircraft, and the opportunity to display all those pieces of aviation history – not just at airfields, but overhead too, like downtown Budapest, the lakes… It’s amazing.

7. When are you going to do another magnificent aerobatic video?

Stefan Doblhammer and I already talked about it. The next one will most likely be a “Formation On-Board Video”. We might even release it at the end of this season, so stay tuned! ;)

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