Patrouille de France

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Patrouille de France
Patrouille de France Radom 3 1.JPG
The Patrouille de France in full formation in 2011
Active 1931–Present
Country Flag of France.svg France
Branch French-roundel.svg French Air Force
Role Aerobatic flight display team
Size 8–9 Pilots
35 Support members
Base Base aérienne 701 Salon-de-Provence
Salon-de-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, France 1964–
Nickname La PAF
Colors Blue, White and Red
Aircraft flown
Trainer 1953–1954 Republic F-84
1954–1957 Dassault Ouragan
1957–1964 Dassault Mystère IV
1964–1981 Fouga Magister
1981–present Alpha-Jet

The Patrouille Acrobatique de France (French pronunciation: ​[patʁuj akʁɔbatik də fʁɑ̃s], French Acrobatic Patrol), also known as the Patrouille de France or PAF, is the precision aerobatic demonstration team of the French Air Force. Originating in 1931, it is the world's oldest and one of the most skilled demonstration teams.[1] Pilots currently fly the Dassault-Breguet/Dornier Alpha Jet.

History[edit]

In 1931 France's first aerobatic demonstration took place over Étampes-Mondésir. It was performed by the instructors from the local flying school with Morane-Saulnier MS-230 planes. In the period 1932-1939, under the command of Captain [[Pierre Fleurquin]], the team received considerable praise and was chosen to represent France at international events.

Over in Dijon the "Weiser" team, consisting of 18 planes (Morane-Saulnier MS-225 and SPAD 510) gained fame for their team displays in which the planes were tied together.

The Patrouille d'Étampes team relocated to Salon-de-Provence in 1937, adopting the name Patrouille de l'École de l'air ("Flying school Patrol"). The Second World War interrupted the operations of both teams.

In 1947, the Minister for the Air created an aerobatic team from the Air Force. Led by Captain Perrier, a former pilot from the Patrouille d'Étampes team, it 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 combat division stationed at the airbase at Reims-Champagne, 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".

Over the following decade four separate aerial display Air Force units (12th unit – Cambrai-Épinoy; 4th unit Bremgarten; 2nd unit – Dijon-Longvic; 7th unit – 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 Defence decided to create an official "Patrouille de l'École de l'air". Its team of six Fouga Magister aircraft stationed once again at Salon-de-Provence 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 16, 1980 at their home base of Salon-de-Provence. They were replaced by seven Alpha Jet, with an additional plane added in 1982. The aircraft, under the leadership of Squadron Leader Bernard Inge, has remained unchanged to this day.

In 1986, the team took part in an 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.

Aircraft[edit]

Four Alpha Jets flying in formation with a second group in the background

Each aircraft is painted blue-white-red, with the gun placement replaced with a smoke generator. Search lights are installed on the aircraft nose, and the viewfinder has been removed to improve visibility.

Incidents[edit]

  • 1967 – A Fouga flown by the deputy leader, Capt. Didier Duthois, failed to pull out and pancaked after the final downward bomb-burst on the last day of the Le Bourget Air Show. Killing the pilot.
  • 1980 – Two Fougas collide while performing a synchronized inverted maneuver off-base. Both pilots are killed.
  • 1981 – An Alphajet flown by the commander of the EPAA crashes north of Aix en Provence. The Pilot does not eject and is killed.
  • 1982 – Athos 8 (opposite solo) crashes while rehearsing the display at Salon Air Base
  • 1983 – Two aircraft collide while performing 4 vs 4 crossover maneuver at an airshow in Niort, France. Both pilots eject, however one of them, Lt Vuillamy, suffers fatal injuries.
  • 1987 – The two solos collide during the Annemasse airshow, both pilots are uninjured
  • 1991 – The two solos collide during practice over water, one pilot is killed, the other ejects and only suffers minor injuries
  • 1992 – The opposite solo crashes during a training flight at Salon Air base, the pilot narrowly avoids a major expressway but activate his ejection seat too late and is killed
  • 2010 – An Alpha Jet E crashed near Plan de Dieu Airport (LF51), Vaucluse area, France. The pilot ejected and escaped with minor injuries.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]