Breitling Jet Team at Sun N Fun 2015
Yannick Diry is an “Engineer”, who watches his jets carefully. In America he would be a simple “A&P Mechanic”, when you are from Europe, you are an “Engineer”. As he explains it, it’s something more than being a mechanic. Still one thing is the same, the maintenance personnel always consider themselves to own the airplanes and allow the pilots to fly them. They put a lot of themselves in their work and are very proud of the results.
When surplus Aero L-39s hit the markets some years back a few people had ideas that you could offset the relatively high costs of flying jets by performing at airshows. As more single jet demonstrations happened, they morphed into “jet teams”, usually funded by a sponsor or a jet aficionado with deep pockets. We had the east coast based “Heavy Metal Jet Team” which flew distinctive winter camouflaged L-39s, ultimately switching names to the “Black Diamond Jet Team”. The Black Diamonds did something a bit different and had a token T-33 or pair of MIG-17s at some shows. There is the west coast based “Patriot Jet Team” flying black L-39s. They both tried to emulate the American Military Thunderbirds and Blue Angels, going as far as hiring former T-Bird and Angel pilots to work for them. There seemed to be some success, but not a lot.
Of course the preeminent precision fliers in this country, and probably the world, are the USAF Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels. Both organizations have been in existence for more than 60 years with the Angels being older. Their demonstrations are viewed by tens of millions of spectators all over the world. Personally, I’ve seen both teams so many times I’ve lost count and even going back to the time they flew the Phantoms. When they fly a show, the local area gets a significant economic impact. Their presence can easily “make” an airshow.
So where does Breitling fit into all of this? They are a Swiss watch company, making the ultimate pilots watches. If you wear a Breitling you must be a pilot. What better place to display your product than at an airshow? You get more impact if you promote your products with a group of L-39 jets. The model makes sense.
The Beitling Jet Team is something more than a simple civilian demonstration team. They are well known in Europe, some people in America know they exist, but few have ever saw them perform. So this year they started the American Tour. The Team will perform at twenty airshows across the USA and Canada this season. They are covering the entire country from North to South and East to West, from Sun N Fun in April to Houston in November. No civilian jet team has ever taken on a schedule like that before.
I was fortunate enough to watch the first American public performance of the Breitling Jet Team. What can I say is they are awesome. The display was well choreographed, with something going on in front of the crowd constantly, lots of nice smooth group maneuvers as well as solos. They used enough smoke to highlight the display, but not enough that it looked like we had a fully engulfed California forest fire. In consideration of spectator safety, all the energy was directed away from the crowd.
What was the real “experience”, well, the announcer spoke with a French accent, they played really nice classical music in the background. You had the chance to simply enjoy the show and relax, the jets fly effortlessly and the choreography and music helps enhance the experience. In contrast (and it’s not bad, simply “different”) the announcers for the US teams sound like they are at monster truck races, trying to whip the crowd into some kind of fury. The narration detracts from the precision flying. With Breitling, the narration compliments the show.
So where does Yannick fit into all of this? Like generations of ground crews before him, he waits for “his” planes to return. He is not alone, Breitling has quite a few Engineers to take care of the jets. They all work hard to ensure there are no squawks that interfere with the show. They do an exceptional job as the unsung heroes of the airshow business. By the way, they all wear Breitling wristwatches.
The bottom line is that the Breitling Jet Team is worth traveling to see. If they are in your area or even close, try to see them. The Thunderbirds and Blue Angels will be back next year, but this is a rare opportunity to see something special.
You can contact the author Mark Hrutkay at TNMark1@GMail.Com.
The Breitling Jet Team schedule can be found at http://www.breitling-jet-team.com/en/news-events/