Breitling’s blue-liveried Jet Team is made up of the world’s first professional civilian pilots performing with jet aircrafts, writes Hiren Kumar Bose
Imagine a team of six jets flying on a clear sky; reaching an altitude of 1500m and performing vertical figures while thousands feet on the firm ground watch the display craning their necks and exclaim with admiration. Aerobatics is one of the most demanding discipoines, offering some of the most fascinating performances. And coming from a professional civilian aerobatics team makes it more astounding. That’s the blue-liveried Breitling Jet Team.
Based in Dijan, France , the Breitling jet team usually flies 6 blue L 39 Albatros jets. A seventh plane is used for photo lights as well as passenger flights (press representatives, Breitling guest, etc). The team uses Czech-built L-39C Albatros jets, which are two-seater military trainers. The powerful L-39C was used in all countries within the former Soviet bloc, where many are still operating. The jets operate at between 650 and 700 km per hour, flying within three metres of each other, sometimes closer. They carry out about fifty engagements across Europe each year
The Breitling team, sponsored by the specialist Swiss watchmakers, is made up of the world’s first professional civilian pilots performing with jet aircraft – although all the fliers have had experience with the French Air Force or the Patrouille de France. The team has its own mechanics, responsible for guaranteeing the availability of the planes and safety at shows, thanks to extremely meticulous maintenance. In all, a dozen people work full time to enable the Breitling Jet Team to perform, representing a unique alliance of professionalism and passion. The air show lasts 20 minutes. The acrobatic figures of the six L-39 planes are underscored by a (biodegradable) smoke-trail system: they are also enhanced by a musical accompaniment that further heightens the intensity of the sight. The team is trained and managed by their seasoned leader Jacques Bothelin.
Speeds range from 700km per hour at the start of the figure to less than 100 km per hour at the peak. Pilots are subjected to accelerations of upto 8G (the person has the impression of weighing eight times his normal weight). The minimum altitude is 30 m for passages, 100 m for aerobatics: maximum altitude is 1,500m.