It took almost three months to set up the operation but the result was worth it. "There are flights that mark a career, and this one will leave a lasting impression on the 2016 team", confirmed Captain Christophe Dubois, leader of the Patrouille de France (French Airforce precision aerobatic demonstration team).
On 27 January, twelve aircraft met up in the south of France: eleven Alphajets of the Patrouille de France, and, following its final commercial flight on 14 January, Air France’s last Boeing 747.
Film director, Eric Magnan, of Airborne Films, immortalized this mid-air encounter. For the purpose of filming, there were eighteen cameras on board various aircraft : two cameramen in the AF747, and two others, including the director, in the backseat of two of the Alphajets.
With the flight plan having been carefully prepared in advance, in total, the formation flight lasted an hour over the Camargue. Eric Prévot, an Air France pilot, played the role of "Mission Commander". In radio contact, from the Boeing 747, with the leader of the Patrouille de France, his assignment was to co-ordinate the 21 shots that were to be obtained.
For this operation, numerous constraints had to be taken into consideration, such as the management of radio communications between the twelve aircraft, and, depending on the desired shots, planning of the various manœuvres – not forgetting the Alphajets’ limited autonomy. Absolutely nothing was left to chance concerning maximum security; and since a picture is worth a thousand words...