Breitling Jet Team : Behind the scene


Text : Serge Van Heertum   Pictures : Serge Van Heertum & Eddy Devroey - SBAP


All aviation enthusiast who frequents  airshows have probably enjoyed the elegant presentation of the Breitling Jet Team and their L-39 Albatros. The history of this team and Apache aviation started 30 years ago. It was under the impulse of Jacques Bothelin that Apache aviation emerged and developed. Thanks to a meeting with this well known French pilot the SBAP team had the opportunity to make a visit behind the scenes, namely the facility's technical team in Dijon Longvic.

The team and its L-39 occupy two hangars on the airport of Dijon-Bourgogne, just next to the famous BA102 airbase of the 2nd Escadre and its storks ...


Marc Champion, technical chief of the team was our guide during the visit !









How does the technical part of the team work? 

The technical team consists of six full time technicians that cover all specialities: mechanical, electrical, electronic, pneumatic, hydraulic ... and a foreman who in addition is occupied with administrative tasks such as tracking planes to fix the maintenance schedule, is also hands on when necessary.


How are the maintenance phases fixed? 

The planes fly in to be checked after 50 and 100 flying hours here in Dijon. Our technicians also carry out trouble shooting and reparations. Regarding the revision of 400 hours (D check), this is done in Estonia, the country of origin of our aircraft. This is due to the fact that in France no workshop is approved for this type of aircraft and the Estonians work under the certificate of quality JAR145. It’s also in Estonia that our planes are sent if modifications should be made. This was the case for the recent adding of the "flares" system that the team uses on the final burst.


Why are the planes not registered in France? 

The planes were bought in Estonia, to register  them in France, it is necessary that the DGAC (Direction Generale de l’Aviation Civile) is in possession of the aircraft documentation to be able to follow and check the plane in accordance with the French rules. The needed documentation exists, but not in the French language (in Russian and Czech only) therefore it’s impossible to accept the aircraft under French registration. However, our boss, Jacques Bothelin, is moving heaven and earth to gather the necessary documentation and have it translated in order to move the aircraft under French registration. The follow up of our planes is very strict, the L-39 is originally a military plane and sometimes we receive police officials  of the DGAC for administrative or technical verifications.



Summer is the peak season, what are the down season activities? 

The winter season is used to ensure the technical revisions, amendments, the painting for the next season as was the case this year with the new decoration, but also to conduct training flights or flights offered by our sponsor for their customers.


The new paint is amazing. Who is the designer?

The various decorations wore by the team were always chosen and financed by the sponsor. This painting was chosen  to follow the Breitling modernizing image. A first plane was decorated in Chateauroux * with the new design and in collaboration with Breitling some adaptations were made. A decoration on paper, does not always give the same effect on the plane itself due to the curves and relief. This was the case for the text on the fuselage that seemed too small and too tightly packed.

* (Châteauroux is a well know aeronautical paint center where the Belgian Air Force 15th Wing planes like the Embraer and Falcon were painted in their new blue tail).



Besides the demo team, Apache Aviation performs other services. Can you tell us more about that ? 

Indeed, apache aviation is known for the Breitling Jet Team. But besides this, Apache Aviation has a contract with the Ministry of Defense for various flight tasks. These flights are operated by our 3 Hawker Hunter Mk 58 and 1 L-39 based at Istres. They have flown different kind of missions as a target tractor, electronic jammer, aggressor ... The program is called CATS (Air Combat Training Support).


SBAP would like to thank Mister Jacques Bothelin for the authorization, Marc Champion and the technicians of the team for their kindness during our visit.

(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Eddy Devroey) (Eddy Devroey)
(Eddy Devroey) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Eddy Devroey)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum)


Fairchild Merlin 300
used for the team travels but also for some CATS missions
(Serge Van Heertum)

Other pages

Historic For the modellers

Short to the 30 years of Apache aviation,
time as to come to make an historical overview.

See the historical page : (click on picture)

This visit was also the occasion to shoot many details
of the L-39 plane.

See our walkaround pages : (click on picture)







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