Belgian Air Force Demo Team 2012
   Text:Serge Van Heertum (Historic) & Anthony Graulus
Pictures: sbap archives.    Airshow: Anthony Graulus, Yves Duwelz & Gérard Gaudin
  © sbap 2013

A little bit history...

In 1947, the “Minister for the Air” created an Air Force aerobatic team. This team was led by Captain Perrier, a former pilot from the Patrouille d'Étampes, which initially consisted of twelve Stampe SV.4 aircraft. Following the increasing popularity of their performances, a number of similar units were formed within the Air Force. In 1952, Squadron Leader Delachenal, a pilot from the 3rd comb
at division stationed at Reims air base, formed a team of four F-84 aircraft. In 1953, during an aerial event at Maison Blanche in Algeria, the show's commentator, carried away by the spectacle he had just witnessed, gave the team the name "Patrouille de France". Hence the origin of its name!
Over the following decade four separate Air Force aerial display units (12th Escadre (Cambrai-Épinoy); 4th Escadre (Bremgarten); 2nd Escadre (Dijon-Longvic) and the 7th Escadre (Nancy-Ochey) continued to perform at both national and international events. In 1964 however, budget cuts led to reductions throughout the Air Force, including the dissolution of the Dassault Mystère IV team. Nonetheless, a few months later, keen that the Patrouille de France name should not be lost, the Ministry of Defense decided to create an official aerobatic team (Patrouille de l'École de l'air). The team was equipped by six Potez CM-170 Fouga Magister aircraft, stationed at Salon-de-Provence air base and became France's premier aerial display team for the next 16 years. The final display involving the Fouga Magister, now nine in number, took place on September 16th, 1980 at their home base of Salon-de-Provence. They were replaced by seven brand new Dassault-Breguet-Dornier Alpha Jet, Another plane was added in 1982 bringing the team at eight aircraft. In 1986, the team took part in a historic fly-past above New York City. In 2009, the Patrouille de France achieved a world premiere when Commandant Virginie Guyot was appointed leader, becoming the first woman in history to lead a demonstration team.

Salon de Provence: 60 years Airshow

(Anthony Graulus)

Friday the 24th of May, the privileged that were selected to assist the rehearsals day of the “60 years PAF” had to present themselves on a parking at the entrance of BA701 in Salon-de-Provence at 8:00 o’clock, military time! The meteo of the day was great, apart the mistral wind  that would last the whole weekend, according to the predictions of the military meteorologists. After the obligatory identity check and the security briefing we embarked the shuttles that drove us to the different zones. There were exactly 3. The first two positioned themselves next to the taxiway parallel to the main strip, and the 3rd one was 750 meters from the first two, in front of the demonstration axis, which is a little grass strip. I chose to position myself next to the taxiway. In any case, the demonstration pictures are planned for Sunday. Behind us, we had the parking of the teams, where we could see the following teams parked:  la Patrouille de France, La Patrulla Aguila, Frecce Tricolori, Red Arrows, Team Iskra, la Patrouille Suisse and Team Rafale. The morning passed quietly, the first movement was the arrival of a Mirage 2000C from Orange, planned for a static display. A second arrival occurred 30 minutes later. We had the pleasure to witness the arrival of the BAF F-16 Solo Display FA-84, and the FA-129 as spare aircraft. The two machines from Florennes first did a reconnaissance of the demonstration axis before landing, to allow Captain Renaud « Grat » Thys to identify some markers before the demonstration that took place on Sunday. Later on, we watched the arrival of the Ramex Delta with 3 Mirage 2000N of Istres, and a Rafale from Mont-de-Marsan, also foreseen for the static display. Initially not planned, a visit to the operational zone of the squadrons can be done in groups of 10, and only when accompanied by military staff. The temptation was too strong, and I used the opportunity to take some “unedited” pictures of the aerobatic teams. The Mirage F1, decorated for the 100th anniversary of “Cocotte” aligns right in front of us in the distance. The EC-725 Caracal of Cazaux makes his arrival known by doing a low, high-speed flyby straight over the hangars, which the Canons and Nikons appreciated greatly! Unfortunately, as always with improvised privileges, some « spirited » photographers (being all too happy to be there) dispersed to all four corners in the zone, and quickly the Air Marshals evacuated all people there, no exception! Once more, those who deem themselves above the rules, penalize those who do abide the rules. As consequence, express return to the taxiway. We are now waiting for the departure of the Belgian F-16’s, who were just passing through Salon-de-Provence on Friday for refueling before rallying to the Czech Republic, where they are expected for the  Airshow in Caslàv. Some moments later, our two F-16’s are already at the holding point, and one by one they took off, quite enthusiastically swinging their wings, accompanied by smoke to remind the amateurs of the appointment on Sunday! After a break of one hour, the first rehearsals start, with the Patrouille de France that gets the ball rolling. Given the distance to the demo axis, everyone takes the opportunity to admire the demo with our own eyes (which doesn’t happen often enough!). The Polish Team Iskra followed the PAF, and the Red Devils will do the same thing, after the Polish team. The Patrouille Suisse rehearsal followed that of the Frecce Tricolori. The rehearsals follow each other in a quick pace, are all magnificent, yet each one in its own style. The Red Arrows close the book on this wonderful, sunny day with a perfect demonstration, in their own British way.

(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)
(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)
(Gérard Gaudin) (Gérard Gaudin)
(Anthony Graulus) (Gérard Gaudin)
(Anthony Graulus) Iskry Team support aircraft (Gérard Gaudin)
Frecce Tricolori support aircraft (Gérard Gaudin) (Gérard Gaudin)
(Anthony Graulus) Amazing amount hours for the little Fouga... (Gérard Gaudin)
(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)
RAMEX technician team (Gérard Gaudin) (Gérard Gaudin)
(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)
(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)
(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)
(Anthony Graulus)
"Grat" taking Caslav heading...be back on Sunday (Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)

Saturday the 25th of May, the day is completely dedicated to families and journalists. The public don’t have access to the base today, only the aeronautical associations recognized in France. To change the viewing angle, I decided to spend the day on the threshold of the strip.

After the touchdown of a Casa 235 from the Armée de l’Air and some VIP-movements, a good old Fouga Magister took off, accompanied by an Alpha jet of the PAF. The two planes, the old plane of the PAF, and the current one, did some formation flybys. The rest followed up quickly, EVAA, Cartouche Doré, Red Devils, Paras and another EC-725 Caracal are soon flying overhead. At 12:00 o’clock, a storm comes by, and the rain starts falling like “cows taking a piss”. This doesn’t stop the Ramex Delta to take off for their demo. After some flybys and a decent « show of force », the 2 Mirage 2000N land in the rain, while Team Iskra was waiting to get clearance to line up on the runway. Unfortunately, the rain intensifies, and the Polish got the order to return on the parking, and the demo was cancelled. No luck for them, the rain stops on the exact moment they’re parking, and the Spanish Patrulla Aguila takes advantage of the returning blue skies to show their demo in the sky over Salon. Lots of aviation fans were happy to see the Spanish team back in airshow, as the financial crisis in Spain doesn’t leave anything untouched, not even a aerobatic team that become more and more rare every year. Despite all that, they show us the talent of the Spanish instructors by doing an impressive demonstration of precision with an underpowered machine. With a stormy front, the teams flew one after the other in magnificent light, as it was the most beautiful day in fall. Traditionally, the Patrouille de France closes off the superb day.

(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)
(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)
(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)
(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)
(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)
(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)
(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)

Sunday 26th of May, today is the great day, the anniversary day! Given the sheer number of expected spectators (an estimated 100 000!!), we have to arrive very early to avoid access problems, which is what I did by entering my first shuttle of the day at 7.30h. Once arrived in front of the entrance, we had about 500 meters to walk, and I used this moment to admire the buildings, as well as the famous “Ecole de l’Air”. Once on-site, we pass through the static display, which was quite minimalist. There were already a lot of people, but not a true “herd” yet.  I rush to a spot to witness the demos from, even though the morning was quite calm, with some glider aerobatics, the EVAA, or the EC-725 Caracal, but the Red Arrows had planned their demo in the morning, as they had to get back to England to participate in the show at Duxford, in the late afternoon. But before the big show, a surprise was waiting for the spectators, as at 11:00 o’clock, the leaders of the different aerobatic teams (PAF, Red Arrows, Frecce, Iskra, Aguilas et Patrouille Suisse) took off for a picture flight over the Provence area, followed by a second Alpha jet of the PAF, to immortalize this unique formation. 20 minutes later, the formation was back, and the icing on the cake was that they offered 2 flybys in front of the spectators, before the break and landing.  Only the leader of the Red Arrows did a go around, because after the landing of the other leaders, Her Majesty’s aerobatic team took off for their demo. Despite the intense mistral, their presentation was perfect once again, hats off! The Red Devils and the Cartouche Doré followed the English before the noon break, to continue afterwards with the Ramex Delta in the afternoon. The rest of the program followed without interruption, but I couldn’t stay until the very end, as I had a plane to catch, and given the sheer mass of people on the base, leaving early was obligatory not to miss my plane. But thanks to some other friend and collaborators, SBAP was aware to make a complete pictures report. None the less, I still watched the brilliant demonstrations by RAMEX, Aguilas, Team Iskra and our Belgian F-16’s, prior to taking the road back home, with a head and memory cards filled with wonderful images.

Conclusion: a magnificent weekend, very sunny, but a strong mistral, the teams performing their best, a splendid F-16 demo, and our little Belgians who held up really well.

Happy birthday Patrouille de France!

(Yves Duwelz)

(Yves Duwelz)
EVAA Extra 330 SC (Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
EC-725 Caracal preparing for the demonstration (Gérard Gaudin) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Anthony Graulus)
Jet Aerobatic team leaders for a salute to the Patrouille de France (Yves Duwelz)
The leader formation in flight (Courtesy Red Arrows via Facebook) (Courtesy Red Arrows via Facebook)
(Yves Duwelz) (Anthony Graulus)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)

(Yves Duwelz)

(Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)

(Yves Duwelz)

(Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Anthony Graulus)
(Yves Duwelz) (Anthony Graulus)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Anthony Graulus) (Yves Duwelz)

(Yves Duwelz)

(Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Anthony Graulus)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Anthony Graulus)
(Yves Duwelz) (Gérard Gaudin)
(Yves Duwelz) (Gérard Gaudin)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Anthony Graulus) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Anthony Graulus)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Anthony Graulus) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Anthony Graulus) (Anthony Graulus)
(Yves Duwelz) (Anthony Graulus)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)

(Yves Duwelz)

(Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)

(Yves Duwelz)

(Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)
(Yves Duwelz) (Yves Duwelz)

(Yves Duwelz)

(Yves Duwelz)

                   Patrouille de France 2013

                  Athos 1 : Cdt Raphaël Nal (Leader)

                  Athos 2 : Cpt Olivier Blanc Tailleur (Inner Right)

                  Athos 3 : Cpt Hervé Aubert (Inner Left)

                  Athos 4 : Cdt Jean Michel Herpin (Slot)

                  Athos 5 : Cpt Guillaume Smets (Outer Left)

                  Athos 6 : Cpt Vincent Plantier (Outer Right)

                  Athos 7 : Cpt Philippe Castagnet (Leader Solo)

                  Athos 8 : Cpt William Leroy (Second Solo)

                  Athos 9 : Cpt Antoine Hauser (Spare)

Reports Menu - Homepage