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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics


    History of Flight from Around the World


    In 1714, at the age of 26, Emanuel Swedenborg of Sweden developed an interest in building a flying machine, which was documented in an article, "Sketch of a Machine for Flying in the Air," published two years later. Swedenborg's design looked like a classical flying saucer with flapping wings. Additional efforts to build an aircraft in the country were made between 1899 and 1911 near Stockholm by Carl Rickard Nyberg. He experimented with a steam-engine driven aircraft, but none of his designs proved flight-worthy. Other Swedish pioneers included Bror Berger, Oscar Gustavsson, and Tor Ångström. The experimental aircraft produced by these men during the early 20th century also were unsuccessful.

    The first successful flight in Sweden didn't occur until 19 July 1909, and it was achieved by a French aviator. Then, in 1910, Carl Cederström became the first licensed pilot in Sweden (and the 74th in the world) when he completed training at the Blériot flying school in France. Also in 1910, the first Swedish-built aircraft, the Grasshopper, took flight. The plane was a modified Blériot XI built in Landskrona in southern Sweden by Hjalmar Nyrop and Oscar Ask.

    In 1912, Carl Cederström started a flying school with four military pupils at Malmen, near Linköping, Sweden. The following summer, he left Malmen, and his hangers were taken over by the Swedish army. The former school became the first permanent base for army aviators.

    Before World War I, aviation development within the Swedish Army and Navy progressed slowly. At the outbreak of the war in 1914, Sweden had just eight military aircraft that were used primarily for reconnaissance. In 1925 the parliament established the Royal Swedish Air Force through a merger of the Army and Navy aviation.

    Between the wars, the Swedish Air Force developed slowly because of both weak leadership and lack of support from the old branches of the Army and Navy. However, with Hitler in power in 1936, it became easier to obtain funding for military purposes and the Swedish military aviation industry came under increased pressure to become more effective. In 1937, the government decided to reorganize the military aviation industry by merging ASJA in Linköping and Saab in Trollhättan. The new company retained the Saab name and produced Junkers Ju 86 and Northrop 8 A-1 on license. On 18 May 1940 the reconnaissance aircraft L 10 (later redesignated as B-17) flew for the first time. The S 17 would later to become the first original aircraft produced by Saab.

    With the outbreak of World War II, the Swedish Air Force was in urgent need of aircraft to equip all of its squadrons. Purchasing from abroad was nearly impossible, though Italian fighters filled some gaps. Saab began production of the B 18, a twin-engined bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, and also began design of the J 21 fighter. The Swedish Air Force also formed a workshop at Bromma airport in Stockholm to produce a small fighter plane called the J 22. Designed by Bo Lundberg, this excellent fighter was made of steel and wood, with an engine copied from the Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp.

    Commercial air operations began in Sweden in March 1924, when former army pilot Capt. Carl Florman started the national airline Aktiebolaget Aerotransport (ABA). During World War II, flights from Stockholm to London had to pass through German air defense, as Denmark and Norway were both occupied by Hitler's troops. The Luftwaffe shot down two Swedish DC-3s during this period.

    After the war, ABA merged with SILA (Svensk Intercontinental Lufttrafik) and began transatlantic flights with the Boeing B-17, acquired from the U.S. Air Force and modified by Saab to carry 14 passengers. Then, in 1946, ABA merged with the Norwegian and Danish national carriers to form SAS (Scandinavian Airline Systems).

    The "Flying Barrel," or Saab J 29, was the first swept-wing jet fighter built by Saab and the first of its kind in Europe. The Swedish Air Force purchased 661 of the planes, while the Austrian Air Force purchased an additional 30 during the 1960s. The Saab 35 Draken (interceptor and reconnaissance aircraft) later replaced the J 29. Production of the Saab 35 Draken was quite significant, as this was the first double delta aircraft and the first combat aircraft sold by Sweden to other air forces. Denmark purchased the Draken for ground attack and reconnaissance, Finland as an interceptor, and the Austrian Air Force purchased a refurbished Draken for air surveillance and interceptor roles. Saab continued to design and build military aircraft and commercial aircraft until 1999.

    Originally provided to AIAA for its Evolution of Flight Campaign, 2003.

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