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Philipp Haidbauer

Pilot of passion


Flying jets is in Philipp Haidbauer’s DNA. As a military pilot, the man from Salzburg appeared at air shows in a Saab 105. 

Now he is upholding that tradition for the Flying Bulls in an Alpha Jet. He has never lost his fascination with speed and the three-dimensional nature of airspace from the cockpit of the Corsair, T-28 and the Stearman as well as business jets. He also flies the legendary DC-6: his love affair with this jewel in the crown of the fleet goes all the way back to his time as an intern in 2000. 


Philipp, your background is in military flying, where among other aircraft you flew the legendary Saab 105. Was that a good grounding?

PH: Definitely, I believe the military gives you the best grounding a pilot can get. I regard flying as a craft that you can learn from scratch. If you have to pay your own way for training, you can never delve deeply enough into the subject matter. The training takes years and challenges you the whole time. Even if you’re an operational pilot, you can always be shown the door.

What attributes does a good pilot need?

PH: Pilots have to perform at a consistently high level, whatever the external influences. I think the qualities the military looks for are spot on, namely spatial and logical reasoning, the ability to act on your perceptions, anticipation of variables and a retentive mind – and you have to do all of this under great pressure.

How do you handle difficult flying situations?

PH: Things can always change when you’re flying, so the better prepared you are, the faster you can react. Personally, I have trained in risk management training on the basis of experience. I picture it as a beehive, or you could imagine a thought tree. Down in the roots you are given a job, and the destination is some leaf or other point above you. The simplest way would be to proceed from A to B, then everything goes smoothly. At point C, however, you might be thrown off course by the weather, a technical problem or changes to the route. Then you have to adapt your task accordingly. In the military you train for this. Imagine a game of chess where you take your opponent’s moves into account. If you do that, nothing will surprise you.

How did you find yourself with the Flying Bulls?

PH: I knew I wanted to be a pilot, but shortly after finishing my basic military service I decided against training with the military – for all the wrong reasons. So I went looking for a job at Salzburg Airport and struck lucky with the Flying Bulls. I must have been one of the very first ground operations staff. I found myself helping to dismantle a DC-6. When I returned to the military in 2002 and started flying, I kept in touch. In 2008 I started flying the Stearman as a sideline, and the rest is history.

You now fly many different aeroplanes in Hangar-8, including the DC-6, T-28 and Alpha Jet. How does it feel to fly ‘your’ aircraft?

PH: The G-forces are generally less in warbirds than in Alpha Jets when performing aerobatic displays. In aerodynamic terms, warbirds are also more forgiving as the wing profiles are not so critical. As far as flying displays are concerned, it’s physically and mentally demanding in both cases. In a warbird you are battling noise, heat, cold and greater rudder forces as everything is mechanically controlled, plus you have to keep one eye on the engine gauges at all times. That’s in complete contrast to the Alpha Jet, which has a much more modern construction and has come to feel like a second skin to me. The cockpit is comfortable, the steering is controlled by hydraulic systems, the trim is electrical and the cockpit is less noisy. On the other hand, the G-forces are higher and the aerodynamic handling is far more critical overall – 10 knots too slow or one degree of pitch too much and you’re in trouble. The DC-6 is also a very special aircraft, and one with which I have a long-standing bond. It’s big, heavy, elegant and the only one of its kind in the world.

Whatever the air show, the two Alpha Jets flown by Stefan Doblhammer and yourself are always a highlight. How is your working relationship?

PH: Stefan and I share the same DNA. We have the same training and we were in the same surveillance squadron, so we have an identical approach to flying. We can fly together without saying a word. We know each other’s capabilities and what we need to be ready for. It’s more than complete trust, usually a gesture or a look is all we need. We don’t speak much during a flight either, unless I want him to make a change to the formation. Then we use short commands, and even these are possible through sign language in the air. A quick waggle of the aileron means he should get close. If I do the same with the rudder, he needs to move 50 metres away. If I move the stick forward and back again, he will move under my belly.

You perform at a lot of air shows. Which highlights really stand out?

PH: AirPower is certainly my favourite. I first appeared there in 2009, flying in a formation of four Saab 105s for the military. I haven’t missed an edition of AirPower ever since, flying at least three different aircraft. To date I have made 40-plus appearances at AirPower, completing more than 300 displays overall.


Pilots need to perform at a consistently high level, regardless of external influences.

Philipp Haidbauer
Philipp Haidbauer
Pilot of passion