Interview: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: as mentioned - Translation: Charles Cassells  © sbap 2015











































































As most of our readers know, we have several correspondents working with us. One of them lives in Southern France and every year he brings us high standard reports on events such as Saint-Tropez or the Sainte-Maxime Free Flight World Masters.
Régis "Rage" Rocca is a professional designer and for a number of years, has associated his passion for aviation and his craft.
For half a decade now, he has been the French Armée de l'Air's main special livery designer. Some of his projects have been seen all over Europe, as with the Rafale demonstrator, others have remained more “local”. Moreover, our designer is not daunted by civil aviation and has realizations and projects on his drawing-board.
It seemed appropriate to have an in depth tour of this designer's world, presenting his projects and "Rage" himself through an interview.
Ready for a fireworks of colours ? Let's go !

All for aviation, any position for a picture! © via Régis Rocca

“Tweety”: You are a designer by trade and also an aircraft buff. How did you get the idea of putting your professional skills at the service of the aeronautical world?

“Rage”: It dates back to 2009 and as simple as it may seem, I was sitting in my couch watching TV! Indeed, France 4 was showing a documentary film, “Tigers in the sky” about the 2008 NATO Tiger Meet and EC 1/12 “Cambrésis”, stationed in Cambrai. Apart from the exercise planning and execution, there was some footage about the choice of the aircraft livery and seeing that I said to myself that I could offer my skills for something different and adequate.
I’ve always been attracted by Nose-Art. Aircraft markings have such a graphic quality!

Mirage 2000C 103-LI from EC 1.12 “Cambresis” Tiger Meet 2010
© Design phase: Régis Rocca – Air2Air: SIRPA - Volkel Tiger Meet: Serge Van Heertum

“Tweety”: Your first “feat” was the 1/2 Mirage 2000 shown at the 2010 Tiger Meet in Volkel. How did this first project take shape?

“Rage”: Well things did not materialize as quickly or as simply as it may seem. I started by looking for some documentation and after spending several nights vectorizing the plans of a Mirage 2000 with my software, I created a “basic” Tiger livery.
Having no connections in the Services, I simply sent my work by mail to the Squadron’s Commanding Officer (I did not even know his name), at the Cambrai air base. My proposal was duly received but did not raise any particular enthusiasm. The following year, in 2010 and given that I had done the preparatory work for the aircraft’s plans, I designed a different livery and that time the Squadron’s Commanding Officer found some interest in my work. He invited me to come and visit the unit on the occasion of the June 2010 Air Meet. Over the weekend I got the brief prepared by the pilots and was given three weeks to come up with a design. That is what I did and after being selected among various candidates, my design was used for the Volkel Tiger Meet. That was my first aircraft! It got second prize for design at Volkel.

Piper J3 “Cub” F-BGXC Blériot Aeroclub 2011
© From the ground: Régis Rocca - In flight: Serge Van Heertum
Mirage 2000C 103-YN from EC 1.12 “Cambresis” farewell Cambrai 2012
© Design phase: Régis Rocca – Air2Air: SIRPA - Farewell Cambrai: Serge Van Heertum
Mirage 2000C 103-KV & Rafale C 113-HH from SPA 162 farewell Cambrai 2012
© Farewell Cambrai: Régis Rocca

“Tweety”: Since 2010 you have come up with several superb projects and 2014 has been a very full year indeed. Can you tell us about these projects?

“Rage”: Yes, after the 1/12 “Cambrésis” Mirage 2000 I kept getting more and more requests. In 2011 I designed the NTM 2010 Mirage 2000’s “little brother” on a 1943 Piper J3 belonging to the Cambrai Blériot aeroclub. The club President wanted a reproduction of the livery on the aircraft. Unfortunately, a few weeks after opening the Cambrai 2011 NTM in front of a crowd of 70 000, the aircraft suffered an accident. 2012 was an eventful and painful year for Cambrai with the closure of Airbase 103 and the disbandment of 1/12 Squadron. I was called upon to design not just a “Tiger” aircraft but to imagine a complete visual identity for the last days of the Squadron and above all to design the “black and gold” Mirage 2000 n°103 which was to be the highlight of the closure ceremonies. Together with this aircraft, which has now been decommissioned and is preserved with its special paint at Chateaudun, I imagined the tailfins of a Mirage 2000 and a Rafale to symbolize the transfer of “Tiger” SPA162 from 1/12 “Cambrésis” to 1/7 “Provence” based in St Dizier.
In 2013, for its first participation in a NATO Tiger meet, in Orland, Norway, 1/7 “Provence” asked me to design the “Tiger instinct” livery for Rafale n°107. The target was met, as it placed third for design. Not far from St Dizier, Fighter Squadron 3/3 “Ardennes” was celebrating its 70th anniversary and asked me to conceive the new Squadron’s visual identity and a Mirage 2000D bearing a boar’s head, the boar being the unit mascot.
2014 has indeed been a great year, with the decoration of no fewer than 5 aircraft. 1/7 Provence’s “Thundertiger” for the Schleswig (Germany) NTM first of all, the aircraft got the silver medal for its design. Then the Alphajet that commemorated the 8th Wing’s 50th anniversary, ETOs 1/8 “Nice” and 2/8 “Saintonge” based in Cazaux (where Belgian pilots are also trained).

The EH 3/67 Fennec was my first helicopter, wearing a double white and silver Pegasus.
The Cognac-based Epsilon was decorated to celebrate the 30 years of the Armée de l’Air pilot’s school as well as the arrival of Escadrille “Petit Prince” within EIV 2/12 “Picardie”.
And last but by no means least, there has been the Transall for the 70 years of Wing 64 (1/64 “Béarn” and 2/64 “Anjou”). This was a real first for this type of livery on a transport aircraft.

Piper J3 “Cub” F-BGXC Blériot Aeroclub 2012
© Régis Rocca & Serge Van Heertum

“Tweety”: When you leave the drawing board to apply your project on the aircraft, there are most probably constraints. Can you explain how things are done?

“Rage”: One has to be realistic: things are not as automatic as computer technology would lead to believe. My plans and my work are developed in 2D (even if I see things in 3D, mentally) and obviously curves and volumes appear differently when applying paint, with more volume or more angles than imagined. Ideally, I would need one example of each aircraft in my garden… but that is not the case! That is why I always try to be present when paint in applied, in order to adjust details “on the job” in the case of problems. The positive thing is that I have never been faced with such a problem that I had to redesign a project or to remove parts of it. Each livery begins with a long documentation and research work about the aircraft and the requesting unit.

Mirage 2000D 133-XT from EC 3.3 “Ardennes” 70 years Nancy 2013
© Design phase: Régis Rocca – Air2Air: Alex Paringaux

“Tweety”: For your ideas to become a practical reality, you need a painter… can you describe this part of the process?

“Rage”: Well, I have to give credit where credit is due. Without a painter my creations would simply remain on paper or on a computer screen. I’ve been very lucky, right from the start, to be able to work with the best of the best: Seb “Harry” Bault. He is an airframe fitter for the Air Force, but also a genius tinkerer and a talented motorcycle customizer. He is a real master of his art with a perfect painting technique. He has all the talents to give life to my sometimes very demanding projects. He has to validate all my projects before implementing them, confirming my choices and stating whether they are feasible or not. With the experience acquired we have now obtained a perfect balance between my design and his technique. It’s a real joint effort, with two hands holding the pencil and two the airbrush.

Rafale C 113-HJ from EC 1.7 “Provence” Tiger Meet 2013
© Design phase & from the ground: Régis Rocca – Air2Air: EC 1.7 – Demo flight: Serge Van Heertum
Rafale C 113-GU from EC 1.7 “Provence” Tiger Meet 2014
© Design phase: Régis Rocca – Air2Air: SIRPA – Demo flight: Serge Van Heertum

“Tweety”: There is a long way to go between the initial idea and its realization. In a few words, what are the different steps?

“Rage”: Quite logically, a unit gets in touch with me for a given theme and a given aircraft. I then conceive the overall identity which will be the starting point for the aircraft’s livery and also for all the goodies made for the occasion (patches, helmets, scarves…). A lengthy solitary preparatory phase is needed for me to digest the request and produce on the drawing board what I have in mind. I then use my computer to vectorize the whole design. Once I have a coherent and clean project, I send it to the unit, we rework it according to their expectations and I then prepare the technical elements for Harry. Finally (sometimes 6 months later, approximately) paint is applied to the aircraft, this requires 10 to 15 days of work, 10 to 15 hours a day.

Alpha Jet 50 years of 8ème Escadre Cazaux 2014
© Air2Air: SIRPA

“Tweety”: Until now, your projects have been mainly for the Air Force. Do you have anything in store for other Services or possibly for civil aviation?

“Rage”: Mainly but not exclusively, because I designed the two J3 Pipers for the Cambrai aeroclub. For sure, there were close ties with the military world, but these were civilian aircraft (with their specific constraints). I do not canvass for work, the requests come to me from units or individuals wishing to work with me, so I do not have any exclusivity contract with the French Air Force, they just happen to know my name quite well. This being said I recently received enquiries from the civil and/or the semi-military aviation world. If tomorrow the Belgian Air Force (or any other Air Force) requires my services, I shall certainly not refuse!

Fennec 50 years of EH 3.67 “Parisis” Villacoublay 2014
© Air2Air: SIRPA
TB-30 Epsilon 30 years of Pilot School EIV 2/12 “Picardie” Cognac 2014
© 2/12 “Picardie”

“Tweety”: I suppose you are not going to stop here… Any new projects or new requests in your files?

“Rage”: Absolutely, but most of these projects are still too confidential to be disclosed. I can tell you about a project that is dear to my heart and for which I am the designer. A simple enough idea: 3 aircraft, 3 lady pilots 1 race: Reno! This ambitious project is slowly taking off and we firmly believe in it and hope soon to show the American pilots what we are capable of. As for the rest our true SBAP readers can continue looking up the news on the website to discover my flying designs!

C-160 Transall 70 years 64ème Escadre Evreux 2014
© Design phase & from the ground: Régis Rocca – Air2Air: SIRPA


Watch the Rage Design video...and click on the tv  
Cheers Belgium and stay tuned for the coming new design!
© Serge Van Heertum & Duvel)

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