Patrouille de France

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Patrouille de France
11 juillet 2017 Paris 1.jpg
Repetition of 14 July 2017 parade.
ActiveActive since 1931:
Patrouille d'Étampes
Patrouille de l'École de l'Air
Patrouille de France
(official demonstration)
14 September 1931- present
CountryFlag of France.svg France
BranchRoundel of France.svg French Air Force
RoleAerobatic flight display team
Size10 Alpha Jet out of which 8 in Flight (total size 41)
Part ofFrench Air Force
BaseBase Aérienne 701 Salon-de-Provence
Salon-de-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, France
Nickname(s)La PAF
PatronNumerous Notable Figures
ColorsBlue, White and Red
EquipmentAlpha Jet
1st Commandant of the Patrouille in 1953
Général de corps aérien
Pierre Delachena (1918-2011)[1]
Aircraft flown
Trainer1953–1954 Republic F-84
1954–1957 Dassault Ouragan
1957–1964 Dassault Mystère IV
1964–1981 Fouga Magister
1981–present Alpha-Jet
Stampe SV.4C of the Patrouille de France in 1951.
25Mystère IVA of the Patrouille de France on the American Base of Bitburg in 1960.
Alpha Jets flying over Paris during Bastille Day.
Alpha Jet.
Patrouille painting France.

The Patrouille Acrobatique de France (French pronunciation: ​[patʁuj akʁɔbatik də fʁɑ̃s], French Acrobatic Patrol), also known as the Patrouille de France or PAF, (French: Patrouille de France) is the precision aerobatic demonstration unit of the French Air Force, officially commissioned in 1953. Using the French Aerial Aerobatics (French: Voltige Aérienne Française) unit of the French Air Force, the mission is to represent the French Air Force, and lead the ambassadorship role of French Aeronautics overseas.

Stationed at Aerial Base 701 Salon-de-Provence, it is the oldest (active since 1931 and officially commissioned in 1953) and considered as one of the best in the world.[2]

Comprising 9 pilots and 35 mechanics, the patrol (French: La Patrouille) splits their time between winter season (French: saison hivernale) training, and summer season (French: saison estivale) aerial displays.

The unit traditionally opens the July 14 parade in Paris with 9 Alpha Jets, presenting a twenty-minute demonstration of formation changes and crossovers narrated by the director of the French Air Force presentation team, also a jet pilot as well as the public relations officer. Each maneuver is filmed by a photo/video specialist, and a pilot is also usually present (often the replacement pilot), supervising the communications between the Patrouille and the controller (for flight safety).


In 1931 the first Aerial demonstration (French: démonstration aérienne) in Patrol (French: En Patrouille) took place at Airport Étampes-Mondésir. The demonstration was executed by instructors of the Piloting Perfection School, on Morane-Saulnier MS.230. The formation was composed of 3 equipment (French: appareils). Between 1932 and 1939, under the command of Captain Pierre Fleurquin (French: Pierre Fleurquin), the Patrouille d'Étampes received an encouraging success and entered in posterity. Accordingly, the Patrol (French: La Patrouille) was chosen to represent France during international meetings.

In 1935, the Patrouille d'Étampes was converted on MS.225 and developed capability to pass to five equipment (1936). In 1937, the unit joined Salon-de-Provence, and was designated Patrouille de l'École de l'Air . The Second World War interrupted different activities.

In 1947, the Air Minister (French: ministère de l'Air) created an Escadrille of representation for the French Air Force. The presentation unit was directed by Capatain Pierre, former pilot of the « Patrouille d'Étampes », and accordingly equipped with twelve Stampe SV-4. In front of the ongoing ascending success of presentations, diverse formations were put in place at the corps of the French Air Force. In 1952, Commandant Pierre Delachena (French: Pierre Delachenal), pilot of the 3e Escadre, stationed at Aerial Base 112 Reims-Champagne, formed an Escadrille of four Republic F-84G. During an Aerial meeting on May 17 on the field of Maison-Blanche (White House) in Algeria, the pilot show commentator of the Escadrille and journalist Jacques Nœtinger (French: Jacques Nœtinger), overwhelmingly shocked with the spectacle which he had just witnessed, baptized France's Patrol officially as Patrouille de France. The general staff headquarters of the French Air Force accordingly confirmed this appellation on September 14, 1953.[3]

During the ten following years, four Escadres of the French Air Force (the 12e Escadre of Aerial Base 103 Cambray-Épinoy, the 4e Escadres of Aerial Base 136 Bremgarten; the 2e Escadre of Aerial Base 102 Dijon-Longvic and the 4e Escadre of Aerial Base 133 Nancy-Ochey)[4] perpetuated one after the other (French: tour à tour) the traditions of the Patrouille de France and contributed to patrol's international success. Nevertheless, in 1964, following budgetary restrictions, the patrol of Dassault Mystère IV, was dissolved. Anxious not to have the designation of Patrouille de France disappear, the Minister of the Armies decided accordingly a couple of months later to adopt the Patrouille de l'École de l'Air. The six Fouga Magister of the Aerial Base of Salon-de-Provence became the torch of French Aerial Aerobatics (French: Voltige Aérienne Française) during sixteen years. The last presentation of Fouga Magistar, which the number was nine, was held on September 16, 1980 at Salon-de-Provence. The Alphajet became the steel spear of the Patrouille de France in 1981 with 7 equipment. This number was increased to eight as of 1982.[5] A historical parade has lieu in 1986 on top of the city of New York.

On November 25, 2009, for the first time in the world, an acrobatic patrouille was commanded by a woman, when Commandant of the French Air Force Virginie Guyot became prime leader of the Patrouille de France.


Three pilots integrate the Patrouille each year. The new entering patrollers are chosen amongst the hunter[6] pilots (French: Pilote de Chasse) of the French Air Force, which come forth voluntarily. They have to retain the qualification of a patrol chief and totalize at least 1500 hours of flying on a reaction aircraft in order to apply.

From the principle of cooperation, the pilots chose the three future pilots of the Patrouille.

The 2009-2010 season was marked by the arrival, for a first time, of a female pilot : Commandant Virginie Guyot.[7]

The radio code of the Patrouille is Athos:

  • The Leader - Le Leader
    • Athos 1 remains on post for a period of one year, the leader is the only indispensable pilot in the Patrouille and cannot be replaced. Orchestra Chief of the Patrouille, the leader determines with his team the figures and formations which the patrol will form and paint.
  • The interiors - Les intérieurs
    • Respectively Athos 2 and Athos 3. They are in their first year in the Patrouille and evolve a side the leader during the manifestations of flight formations.
  • The charognard (French: Charognard)
    • Athos 4, known for the position : placed behind the leader, Athos 4 literary swallows all the smoke and takes the leader's place the following year.
  • The exteriors - Les extérieurs
    • Athos 5 and Athos 6 are part of the equipment the furthest from the leader. Their respective places at the corps of formations demand from them a great deal of anticipation and concentration in order to hold formation of the aerial fort.
  • The solos - Les solos
    • Athos 7 (solo leader) and Athos 8 (second solo) conduct crossings and percussions during the « synchronisation », second part of the program.
  • The replacement - Le remplaçant
    • Athos 9 is the oldest pilot of the Patrouille, since Athos 9 occupied the post of "interior", second of solo and leader solo the previous years. Athos 9 has to be capable in replacing any of the patrollers. He cannot however replace the "leader".


The Patrouille de France is first a team.

They are 32 mechanics to put in place, maintain and repair the 12 Alphajet assigned to the unit.

Placed under the orders of technical services chief, the mechanics are also chosen by cooptation amongst the mechanics of the French Air Force. They are all volunteers and worker often late at night to assure the mission of the following day. They are mainly two teams.

  • The Troubleshooting Team

Charged with troubleshooting the necessary immobilization of an aircraft, or the utilization of specific tools, the troubleshooting team guarantees equally the consistency of programmed operations. This team is stationary on an Aerial Base, and ensures the base's back-up support, or when the Patrouille returns from meeting.

  • The field/meeting Team

Based on the tradition, the field mechanic choses the pilot. The mechanic accompanies the pilot during the appropriate season on all "meetings", and navigates in the rear for all transit flights. In a particular uniform, the latter ensures the effect placement of each flight departure and return. The confidence between the mechanic and pilot is absolute/total.

  • The Transall Accompaniment

A Transall C-160 accompanies the Patrouille de France to each displacement. The accompaniment revolves around ensuring the necessary logistics support, in transporting a dozen tons of materials, in addition to the required personnel in concern for the mission. The accompaniment is capable of conducting rotations to main base from any lieu in case the situation was of a requirement.

The Transall and crew which participate to the mission of the Patrouille, hail from the transport squadrons of the French Air Force.


The PAF in diamond formation.

The program of the Patrouille de France is renewed each year. Each program, designated a « series », is determined by the leader in accordance with all members of the team.

This program is proposed to be validated by security flight commission, before being validated, similarly to all demonstration pilots, by the Chief of Staff of the French Air Force during the spring on an Aerial Base.

The series for the year is divided in two parts, the « ruban » (8 Alphajet evolve in a tight quarter formation and change formation) and the « synchro » (the Patrouille is divided into two formations and conducts alternatively figures of 2, 4, or 6 aircraft). The chains of maneuvers must be perfectly synchronized between the leader and the leader solo in order to avoid dead time for the public, and avoid equally the superposition of two figures.

The emblematic figure of the Patrouille is the heart (balance in Y at 6 cut by an arrow realized by the two solos).

The pilots evolve at speeds between 300 and 800 km/h, while being only spaced from each other by 2 or 3 meters.

The base formation of the Patrouille de France is « Diamant » (Diamond), however, the repertoire includes numerous other formations, out of certain are presented on the official website,[8] and can be orchestrated into a series. The repertoire of the Patrouille de France consists of at least 20 different formations.


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.


  • 1935 - Death of Chief Warrant Officer (French: Adjudant-Chef) Carlier of the « Patrouille d'Étampes » following an accident[9]
  • 1967 - At the sortie of the final usual burst (French: éclatement), the Fouga Magister of Captain Didier Duthoit commandant in second of the PAF, crashed at proximity of the official tribune. The pilot was killed.
  • 1980 - Two Fugas collided while realizing a synchronized maneuver. The two pilots were killed.
  • 1981 - A Alpha Jet piloted by Commandant of the Presentation Team of the French Air Force (EPAA) (French: EPAA) crashed in the North of Aix-de-Provence. The pilot did not eject and was killed.
  • 1982 - Athos 8 crashed during a repetition at the Aerial Base of Salon. The pilot was killed.
  • 1983 - Two aircraft collided during a meeting at Niort, while they were conducting a maneuver, which consisted of two groups of 4 aircraft, to cross each other in a 4 vs 4 crossover. One pilot survived. Lieutenant Vuillamy, was killed.
  • 1987 - The two solos collided during a meeting at Annemasse. Both pilots were not injured.
  • 1991 - The two solos collided. One pilot was killed, the other ejected and sustained a couple of injuries.
  • 1992 - The second solo crashed during a flight training on the Base of Salon. The pilot avoided narrowly an important highway, activating the ejection seat too late and was killed.
  • 1993 - During a training, one of the Alphajet solos crashed at proximity of the Aerodrome of Cameri (Italy). The two pilots ejected and sustained a couple of injuries.[10]
  • 2002 - An Alphajet dropped point down during a turn before landing. The pilot, Captain Daniel Marchand, attempted to eject, too late, and crashed.[11]
  • 2010 - During a training, one of the solo Alphajet crashed at proximity of the Aerodrome Orange Plan de Dieu, while conducting a solo maneuver. The pilot Captain Sylvain Courtot, ejected at 10 meters from the ground and landed with his parachute, a couple meters from the aircraft. He suffered from fractures,[12] and retook flights in 2011.[13] The "replacement" 2009 made his come back in the Patrouille to perform the 2010 season.


Many encounters with reputable individuals punctuate the life of the Patrouille de France (PAF); however little have the official title of « Patron/Godfather or Godmother » (French: « parrain - marraine ») (Patron can designate a Godfather "parrain" or Godmother "marraine"). Nicolas Hulot, victim of a "voile noir"[14] on board of an aircraft of PAF (loss of conscious under charge factor), has for example never been the Patron/Godfather (French: « parrain ») of the Patrouille de France.

The first Patron/Godfather of the Patrouille de France was Alain Delon, in 1988. He came for the first time to Salon, with Yves Mourousi, then realized a flight directly to Journal de 13 heures of TF1, a direct of 30 minutes from Salon-de-Provence. His "renommée" (designation) made much talk about the French Air Force and reinforced the relation between the Air Force and the Nation.

The pilots of the époque were Commandant Velluz (leader), Lieutenant (☨)Bossert, Lieutenant Girbe, Captain Hendel, Captain Weber, Lieutenant Mougel, Captain Bonin, Lieutenant Manzo and Captain Bro.

In 1990, Michel Drucker accepted to be the Godfather/Patron of the Patrouille de France. A passionate journalist of Aeronautics, he came for the first time to the Aerial Base of Salon-de-Provence on March 26, 1990, and realized his first flight on April 26. Two days later, the team was on the plateau of TV Program Champs-Élysées (French: Champs-Élysées (émission de télévision)). This TV program allowed the audience to discover the unknown aspects of personnel of the French Air Force. In 2010, at the 20th Anniversary of the Patrouille de France, the team was summoned to the plateau of TV Program Vivement Dimanche (French: Vivement dimanche) for a special program.

The pilots were Commandant (☨)Festas, Lieutenant Chantereau, Captain (☨)Lenne, Captain Barou, Lieutenant Girbe, Lieutenant Lagrange, Captain (☨)Bossert, Captain Louis and Lieutenant Manzo.

In 1991, the Patrouille de France chose Jean-Claude Killy, Triple Olympic Champion at the 1968 Winter Olympics of Grenoble, he was the co-organizer of the Olympic Games of Albertville in 1992, where the PAF opened the sky.

The pilots were Commandant Barou, Captain Reyre, Captain Manzo, Captain (☨)Bossert, Captain Girbe, Captain Lagrange, Captain Chantereau, Captain Pittie and Lieutenant Gourhan.

In 1993, at the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of formation, Albert II, Prince of Monaco became the Godfather/Patron of the PAF.

The pilots were Commandant Connan, Captain Kurtz, Captain Manzo, Captain Laloix, Captain Gourhan, Captain Chicha, Captain Huillier and Lieutenant Perret.

In 2001, the Judo Champion David Douillet endorsed the responsibility to be Godfather/Patron. David Douillet conducted a flight in front of the Patrouille de France on board the transport aircraft Transall, with an open door.

The pilots were Commandant Giraud, Commandant Girard, Captain Mateo, Captain Boillot, Captain Boulay, Captain Talichet, Captain Fricker, Captain Lespade and Captain Espinet.

In 2010, the First Lady of France, the wife of the President of the French Republic, Carla Bruni Sarkozy became, next to the first leader of the PAF, the first Patron/Godmother.

The pilots were Commandant Guyot, Commandant Tranchon, Captain Guy, Captaine Hauser, Captain Castaing, Captain Wallaert, Captain Pillet, Captain Courtot, Captain Monhée and Captain Bourgeon.

In 2012, the Rugby player of the stadium of Toulouse and captain of the French Team, Thierry Dusautoir, became the Patron/Godfather for the running year.

The pilots were Commandant Gauthier Dewas, Captain Vincent Plantier, Captain William Leroy, Commandant Raphaël Nal, Captain Jean-Noël Guy, Captain Guillaume Smets, Captain Antoine Hauser, Captain Philippe Castagnet, Captain Sylvain Pillet.

In 2014, the French Air Force celebrated the 80th Anniversary and at this occasion, for the first time in history, the Patrouille de France counted two exceptional Patrons Jean-Loup Chrétien and Patrick Baudry. They conducted two flights during the year, with team 2014 composed of Commandant Herpin, Commandant Béthoux, Captain Michel, Captain Chanat, Captain Plantier, Captain Blanc-Tailleur, Captain Leroy, Captain Aubert and Captain Castagnet.

Gallery Patrouille de France[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Général de corps aérien Pierre Delachena (French: Pierre Delachenal), 1st Commandant of the Patrouille de France as of the official Aerial presentation on 14 September 1953, Commander of the 13th Aerial Brigade, World War II Veteran with 165 war missions.
  2. ^ Charles Bremner – Times Online – WBLG: French pilots show women can fly Archived 7 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ La Patrouille de France fête ses 60 ans sur
  4. ^ The French referral of "Base Aérienne" is the proper equivalent of "Aerial Base" in English. While the term "Air Base" is more common, the proper French translation of the latter (Air Base) to the French language would refer to "Base d'Air", which has no relevant meaning for the French Air Force.
  5. ^ La Patrouille de France fête ses 60 ans sur
  6. ^ The French word "Chasseur" translates to "Hunter" in English, and while this is a Fighter aircraft, the actual translation is different. The word "Fighter/Combat Aircraft" translates to "Avion de Combat" in the French language.
  7. ^ Voir par exemple « Une femme à la Patrouille de France »,, April 1, 2008.
  8. ^ Site officiel montrant des formations
  9. ^ Morane 230, moteur Salmson 230 cv Premier type d'avion de la Patrouille d'Etampes,[1], Office du tourisme Salon de Provence, January 16, 2016.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ A "voile noire" (French: Voile noir) is a physiological phenomenon which appears particularly with pilots in conditions of extreme flights under an elevated factor, the brain not being capable of irrigating enough blood, vision is lost, this would precede the loss of consciousness, usually at 5G.


  • Lela Presse, 60 ans de la Patrouille de France en images, Avions Hors-série n°35, Sébastien Guillemin, Jean-Louis Gaynecoetche & Humbert Charve, 2013, pages 100 [2]
  • EPA, La Patrouille de France, Vincent Perrot, 2009, pages 184, ISBN 9782851206886, [3]

External links[edit]