Interview: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures making of: Régis Rocca
With the collaboration of: The Patrouille de France, Rafale Solo Display team, SIRPA & FOSA
  © sbap 2017

For almost eight years now, our collaborator and friend Régis Rocca, AKA " Rage " has been designing special liveries for French Air Force aircraft. It all began with the 1/12 " Cambrésis " Tiger in 2010 (NATO Volkel Tiger Meet) and then our talented designer worked on Rafale, Mirage 2000, Alphajet, Epsilon and Fennec aircraft, all the way to an imposing Transall. Each of his designs was a hit with the Air Force authorities and thanks to his ideas and talent he was made an honorary member of several prestigious units and also a Captain in the Réserve Citoyenne de l'Armée de l'Air.
In 2016, Régis designed a memorable livery. One more, could you say. Yes, but it commemorated 100 years of Escadrille N124 " La Fayette " and for me, this is his most striking creation to date. The splendid and remakable livery earned him an equally special award : the Jeppesen Trophy, on the occasion of the 2016 RIAT on the RAF Fairford airbase. Our co-worker went even further in 2017 and decorated the supreme French Ambassador aircraft : the Patrouille de France and the Rafale Solo Display aeroplanes . The Patrouille de France wanted a special design for its Alphajet tailfins. Captain " Marty " Martinez also asked for a resolutely up to date design for his solo display aircraft, proudly displaying the French and Air Force colours. This all means that millions will admire the talent and designs of our very own designer. In order better to understand the requirements of these projects, here are the questions we asked our contributor.

The interview

SBAP : After many designs for Air Force squadrons you are now working for their Ambassadors, that is quite unique ! How dit it all happen ?

RR : Well yes, Air Force units have some leeway for events that deserve a special livery. The Ambassadors are the showcase of the Institution and must be immediately identifiable and visually unchanging. By chance, dates and unit nominations worked in my favour. In 2017 the Institution celebrates its Aces and also the arrival of US forces by our side, 100 years ago during WW1. The decision to organize an American Tour for the Patrouille was made very early, as the success of such an endeavour requires phenomenal logistics. The PAF had seen my work for the centenary of the Escadrille La Fayette and they quite naturally contacted me to see whether it would be possible to design an identity for them in a similar spirit. As for the RSD, things are linked to locations, the display pilot could traditionnally use the Tiger Rafale painted for 1/7 " Provence ", then based in St Dizier. Last year the Tiger traditions were transferred to Mont-deMarsan whereas the team remained in St Dizier. It was impossible to use the aircraft in Tiger Meet livery. All this became a success thanks to the St Dizier teams, their hard work and dedication.

SBAP : The Patrouille de France has a strict ethical code and an imperative for regularity in its displays. What about your design constraints ?

RR : At the start of the project, the team wanted patches and other items with a special identity for their Tour. I suggested the design of a unique tailfin for the leader, a minimalist proposal, knowing perfectly well that the PAF has used the same livery since 1981, that's 36 years ! The design I suggested was met with enthusiasm and a positive answer was quick to come ! The whole team decided that a single tailfin would not be enough and that their aircraft would all have to be similarly decorated. A real first ! Concerning my constraints, I was given rather strict instructions : the colours (blue, white and red), plane number location (from 0 to 9) and a few minor technical details that I checked with the Patrouille technicians. As usual, all these constraints were to become strengths and assets. It was my job to make it happen.

SBAP : How did you come up with the PAF design ?

RR : There is a well known axiom in the world of communication and design : " less is more ". Initially, I wanted something close to the design used for the " La Fayette " centenary, that is, I intended to use the curves of an American flag in the wind. In order to preserve the Patrouille de France's very own identity, I replaced the stars on the flag with the aircraft silhouettes as they appear on the team's patch. The outcome is such that our eyes, that are familiar with the stars, see them as such at first glance and then understand the graphic system after a second reading. That did the trick and the rest followed logically.

SBAP: How did you get to design the whole Rafale Solo Display livery ?

RR : Such an aircraft demands a powerful design ! This is a powerful and dynamic livery, just like the aircraft itself. In agreement with the pilots and all those around the project I imagined a modern and striking design that would convey the Institution's image. My view of things proved to be correct and I received maximum support from the outset. Apparently the public is also quite supportive now !

SBAP : How did things evolve from the initial idea to the final concept ?

RR : Quite easily as I was trusted by the decision makers. I soon had a rather precise idea of what I was aiming for. As usual I tried to associate my design ideas and the technical constraints. I now have a certain experience, working on the Rafale and I know its strongest features and the rest of the work was a logical path from initial idea to final product.

SBAP : Any other projects after the Ambassadors ?

RR : Certainly ! But you'll have to keep your eyes in the sky, looking for colourful planes if you want to discover them !

SBAP : To conclude on a humorous note : at what point do you intend to design a special livery for an Air France A 380 or an Ariane space rocket ?

RR : I think that that kind of " canvas " would require more than my simple good will. But the great thing with the power of imagination is that is has no limits… Which implies that I do not have limits either. Well now if the leaders of these huge corporations are SBAP readers, which I hope, they just have to get in touch with me. Now, a feast for your eyes, the Patrouille de France and the " making of " of the Rafale, from the beginning to the final product. Ready ?… Take-off !

The Patrouille de France special 2017 American Tour tailfins

 Our happy designer, collaborator and most of all...friend! The Franco-American concept
 Training flight with the new tailfins but still no numbers
New York Statue of Liberty Arizona Lake Powell
 San Francisco and the Golden Gate San Francisco Alcatraz jail
 Cape Canaveral Florida Kennedy Space Centre Florida
 Canada overfly
Rafale Solo Display...The making of and the final product
 Master designer on duty

 Régis may be proud of his realizations Simply wonderful...don't find you?
 Two Ambassadors, a summary of Régis' work (Courtesy Fosa)

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