Eagle Profile

Olle Klinker is one of Sweden’s most famous pilots and the first person outside the United States to receive the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) prestigious Doolittle Award. Born in 1921, Klinker developed a love for airplanes very early and, at age 7, built an airplane–it bore a remarkable resemblance to Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St Louis.” One year later, a flight with a Swedish aviation pioneer pointed the boy to a lifetime in aviation. He joined the Royal Swedish Air Force in 1942 and earned his wings in 1943.

After 1 year of military service, Klinker went on to obtain an MS in Aeronautical Engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology in 1946. He joined SAAB, a Swedish aircraft company, in 1947 and was soon testing the J21A, a twin-boomed, piston-powered, pusher fighter and the J21R, a jet-powered version. Klinker served as engineering test pilot and test leader on most SAAB fighter designs. He tested the SAAB 201, which incorporated a swept-wing design later used on the J29 Turman, a fighter contemporary of the F-86 Sabre and MiG-15. The SAAB 210 was a special challenge for Klinker. He made over 500 flights in the “Little Draken” built to test the completely unknown low-speed characteristics of the double-delta wing.

This unique wing would later be used on the Anglo-French Concorde, the Soviet Tu-144, and the American Space Shuttle. From 1956 to 1964, Klinker served as experimental and engineering test pilot on the J35 Draken–Sweden’s first supersonic fighter. He next tested the J37 Viggen, a canard-winged fighter, which today provides Sweden’s frontline defense from very short “highway” strips. In 1968, he became manager of the Flight Test Department of SAAB, and in 1978 he was named Vice President and directed all aircraft division operations including ground test, laboratories, and simulators. Klinker has received numerous awards, including a gold medal for the most distinguished aviation achievement in Sweden in 1949.

Jacqueline Cochran presented the award to him in Stockholm. In addition to the Doolittle Award of 1985, he also received SETP’s Tenhoff Award in 1968. At the time of his retirement in 1986, Klinker had flown every SAAB aircraft then in the air.  SAAB-Scania still calls on him for advice in the development of their next fighter, the J39 Gripen.

Years Honored:


1989 Lithograph

Lithograph Setting(s):

In 1943, SAAB developed an unorthodox twin-boomed, pusher fighter designated the J21A. After World War II, with some modification and installation of a British-built Goblin engine, the J21R ushered Sweden into the Jet Age. Olle Klinker conducted the most critical tests on this new aircraft. During a high-speed dive test on 28 March 1949, the J21R's tail began to flutter and then quickly broke off. As the aircraft pitched violently down, the wings came off. Fighting unconsciousness, Klinker tried to eject, but the system failed! The fuselage suddenly disintegrated and he escaped. Deploying his parachute, he landed safely in a meadow--the first man in Sweden to escape from a jet aircraft.