Flying has been in my blood almost from the day I started to walk.
Naturally, with my father working for Eurofighter I was inspired to get involved in the industry in some capacity from the very beginning. I was only 5 when my dad took me to witness the maiden flight and I can’t recall the day much, though we do have a family video and I am there peering through the fence.
Jan Kramer with his father Christian Kläsener
I first recall seeing a Eurofighter up close at an open day at the factory in Manching in the early 2000s. That day there was a Mig 29, an F4 Phantom, a Tornado and a Eurofighter all in a unique formation.
I remember, always, being aware that my dad had a really cool job. He used to come back home, and we’d just sit at the table for hours talking about all the technical aspects. I was fascinated by his job and tried to get every insight possible.
We started going to air shows together and whenever the opportunity arose, I’d visit him at work. I remember going on a tour during the very early stages of production when they were carrying out the fatigue tests. Later, when they took a Eurofighter to an air show in Berlin, dad arranged for me to go along with his colleagues. That was an unbelievable trip for a teenager.
Growing up I always understood what it meant to be in the business. Initially, I thought I might be an engineer like my dad, but over time my ultimate goal changed and I decided I wanted to fly.
The decision to become a pilot came during my fifth grade at school. That’s when I started looking into getting into one of the squadrons.
At that point the Eurofighter wasn’t operational in Germany, so I went to a Tornado squadron in Bavaria and had a look at what the pilot’s job was like. They took us through air traffic control, the fire department, the technical branch but for me the highlight was the half-day that we had in the flying squadron. After that I was positive that this was the job I wanted to do.
There’s always been a unique connection with the Eurofighter programme because my dad was so intimately involved. I remember about a month or two ago when I brought in one of the aircraft from Nörvenich for the 400-hour inspection, I texted him the day before and suggested meeting up there.
That was a very special moment for us, because we’d talked about this so many times. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet up and do business. And the cool thing was that the flight office is the very same building that they carried out the original flight testing from: they even had all the old pictures up there with the flying days that I had attended with him.
My family have always been very supportive of me and my career choices. To this day I talk to my dad if I have issues or questions. It’s interesting to get his insight and perspective on things. Sometimes my dad can elaborate on things I wouldn’t necessarily ask my colleagues.
There’s also a special pride in the project, because of dad’s involvement. Mind you, flying something as iconic as the Eurofighter means you always have a degree of pride in the system. Your role defines you to some degree.
From my perspective inside the cockpit, I’m very excited about the future. In some respects, the programme has just started because there’s so much to come in terms of the long-term evolution of the project.