Breitling Jet Team To Tour North America in 2015
A bit of European panache will grace the skies of North America during the 2015 air show season, as the Breitling Jet Team will perform at 19 events across the USA and Canada. The world’s largest professional civilian jet team is sponsored by the famous Swiss chronograph manufacturer Breitling, and will perform 20-minute aerial routines in their seven L-39C Albatross jets at each event.
Described in the Team’s own words, their display shows:
“Precision. Speed. Audacity. Aerobatics is one of the world’s most demanding disciplines and one of the most fascinating sights. A concentrated blend of technique, mastery and style. In order to share its passion for aerobatics with a broad audience, Breitling has created the Breitling Jet Team, the world’s largest professional civilian flight team performing on jets.
With its fast and powerful aircraft piloted by flying aces, this unique aerobatics team illustrates the brand’s cherished values: performance, precision, aesthetic sophistication and innovation. Each appearance of the Breitling Jet Team is a breathtaking vision. A meticulously coordinated ballet in which planes sometimes fly within 3 meters (10 feet) of each other, at speeds of over 700 kilometers per hour (530 miles per hour)! A rapid-fire succession of figures that are perfectly calculated, mastered, synchronized and fine-tuned down to the smallest details. Exactly like a Breitling chronometer movement. Welcome to a world where outstanding feats are the rule!”
The pilots who’ll fly this season’s air show routines have amassed an enviable amount of flying experience. These pilots and some of their accomplishments are:
The leader and manager of the Breitling Jet Team is Jacques Bothelin, nicknamed “Speedy”. He’s one of the world’s most experienced aerobatics pilots having chalked up over 11,000 flight hours on 145 types of planes while performing close to 2,800 demonstrations in 36 countries. As manager, he handles the flight team’s schedule and choreographs the show program. As leader, he heads the formation, flying plane No. 1. Jacques is the CEO and founder of Apache Aviation, which has supported military training and aerobatic teams since 1981; Jacques has been an integral part of civilian flight teams sponsored by Martini, Europe 1, Ecco, Adecco, Khalifa and Breitling.
Flying jet number 2, the right inside wing position, is Bernard Charbonnel, aka “Charbo”. A former fighter pilot, he’s flown in Jaguar and Mirage 2000N jet aircraft. He shares a passion for old planes with “Ponpon”, and they jointly collect antique aircraft from the past. “Charbo” has surpassed 8,000 flight hours.
Flying jet number 3 in the first slot position is Christophe Deketelaere, aka “Douky”. His background is as a fighter pilot on Jaguar and Alpha Jet aircraft in the French Air Force, where he was also an Alpha Jet instructor. He has notched up 6,000 flight hours.
Flying number 4 at the left inside wingman position is François Ponsot, aka “Ponpon”. A military Mirage F1 and Mirage 2000 fighter pilot, he was a Mirage 2000 flight demonstration pilot at international air shows too. He’s passionately dedicated to vintage aviation, devoting most of his leisure time to flying and restoring warbirds and antiques like a Stampe biplane, T6 Texan, and a Zlin. “Ponpon” has 6,700 flight hours to his credit.
Piloting jet number 5 in the second slot position is Georges-Eric Castaing aka “Georgio”. Before joining the Breitling Jet Team, he served 23 years in the French Air Force flying Fouga, Tucano, Alpha Jet, Mirage F1 and Mirage 2000 aircraft. He spent three seasons (2008-2010) with the Patrouille de France, and has racked up 4,900 flight hours.
The pilot of the number 6 jet is Paco Wallaert aka “Paco”. During his 22 years as a French Air Force fighter pilot, he’s flown the Tucano, Jaguar and Alpha Jet aircraft. From 2009 to 2011, he was part of the Patrouille de France, subsequently serving a season as its technical coordinator. He is now pursuing his career in the Breitling Jet Team as the right outside wingman. He has 4,400 flight hours under his belt.
Flying the number 7 jet in the left outside wingman position is Patrick Marchand aka “Gaston”. He has enjoyed a career as a fighter pilot in Jaguars and Alpha Jets. He performed flight demonstrations over a five-year period as part of the French Air Force’s “Raffin Mikes” Jaguar flight demonstration pair. He has clocked up 5,500 flight hours.
Philippe Laloix, aka “Sheriff”, is the Coach and stand-in for the Breitling Team. After a career as a fighter pilot on Mirage F1 and Alpha Jet aircraft, became part of the Patrouille de France for five years. In 1998, he joined Jacques Bothelin’s team and flew four seasons in a Pilatus PC-7 turboprop before switching to the L-39C. He has 9,000 flight hours to his credit. An acknowledged expert in formation aerobatics, he is both the Breitling Jet Team’s instructor and a pilot capable of replacing any of the others within the team.
Luc Herbinière is the announcer/presenter and support aircraft pilot for the team. During the shows, he stays on the ground, and explains what the team is experiencing while they fly their routine. He also assists the crowd in “guiding their gaze so that they miss nothing of the maneuvers”. When the squad is traveling, he flies the Metro III support aircraft used for carrying technical and logistic equipment.
As of March 12, 2015, the team’s 19 North American events consisted of:
Sun ‘n Fun, Lakeland, FL; April 20 – 26
Manassas Air Show, Manassas, VA; May 2
Bethpage Air Show, Jones Beach, NY; May 23 – 24
Rhode Island National Guard Open House & Air Show, North Kingstown, RI; May 30 – 31
OC Air Show, Ocean City, MD; June 13 – 14
Vectren Dayton Air Show, Dayton, OH; June 20 – 21
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Oshkosh, WI; July 22 -24
The Lakefront Milwaukee Air & Water Show, Milwaukee, WI; July 25 -26
Boeing Seafair Air Show, Seattle, WA; August 1-2
Abbotsford International Air Show, Abbottsford BC; August 8 -9
Chicago Air & Water Show, Chicago, IL; August 15 – 16
The Atlantic City Air Show, Thunder Over the Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ; September 2
Canadian International Air Show, Toronto, ON; September 5 – 7
Cleveland National Air Show, Cleveland, OH; September 5 -7
Fort Worth Alliance Air Show, Fort Worth, TX; September 12 -13
National Championship Air Races, Reno, NV; September 16 -20
Naval Base Ventura County Air Show, Ventura, CA; September 26 – 27
MCAS Miramar Air Show, San Diego, CA; October 3 – 4
Wings Over Houston Air Show, Houston, TX; October 17 -18
Breitling SA was launched in St. Imier, Switzerland in 1884. Its owner, Leon Breitling, is credited with inventing the modern chronograph, while his son Gaston developed the first wrist chronograph in 1915, a year after Leon’s death. Soon, Breitling chronographs were widely used in aircraft cockpits and worn on pilots’ wrists, even before World War II. By the 1950s and 1960s, these chronographs were standard in commercial cockpits throughout the world, earning the maker the “official supplier to world aviation” title. These instruments were refined into the Navitimer wrist chronograph in 1952, and 10 years later Scott Carpenter wore one while aboard Aurora 7 in space. Breitling SA is a significant supporter of aviation worldwide, sponsoring the Jet Team and the operation of a Lockheed Super Constellation, normally based in Europe.
Photo and video credits to: Breitling Jet Team