The main customers were
the Swedish, Ethiopian, Norwegian, Finnish, Tunisian and Austrian air
forces. (One also ended up as a test aircraft with the Japanese air
force.) Apart from that, they were also sold to civilian operators, the
main ones being the Netherlands's state air transport school, the
Indonesian state civilian flying school, Lufthansa and Air France.
Design was started in
1944, when the end of the war was in sight, and Saab felt the need for
civilian products. It was given the designation Saab 91 and named Safir
(Sapphire). Chief designer was A J Andersson, who had worked for Bücker
where he designed the Jungmann, Jungmeister, Student and Bestman trainers.
So it's not just a coincidence that the Safir is similar to the Bestman.
One reason it was given a
nose gear was to make the aircraft safer by giving better vision on the
ground and make landing easier.
The gear was retractable and the action spring balanced so the manual
actuation didn't require a lot of force.
All control surfaces and the wing to the rear of the main spar was fabric
covered, the rest of the aircraft metal covered.
The prototype first flew
in Nov 1945, fitted with a 120 hp Gipsy Major engine.
Span 10.60 m
Length 7.85 m
Height 2.20 m
Wing area 13.60 m2
Max altitude 4600 m
Range 940 km
Take off run 180 m
Empty weight 580 kg
Max weight 995 kg
Engine 147 hp Gipsy Major X
Max speed 265 km/h
Cruise speed 235 km/h