The French aerobatic team is training hard at barrels, loops and nosedives, in the sky over Saintes, to the north of Bordeaux, southwest France. The world aerobatic championship takes place in four months’ time, at Châteauroux, 270 kms. ( 170 miles), south of Paris, France. The last world event was held in Texas two years ago, and was won by the French team, who are eager to keep the title they won in France.
Eric VAZEILLE, Coach, France aerobatics team:
‘‘There are 70 pilots, and 50 aircraft registered, so it's a big competition. France has been competing for years against Russia, which has a sizeable team, but other nations are in the running, and also just as strong. You can count on the Americans, and in particular, a Spaniard, last year’s European champion.’’
As for the competition, practice flights alternate between set sequences and a series of figures that pilots only find out about on the day before the competition. They each have 15 minutes to carry them out in the air under the watchful eye of their trainers and coaches.
The French team is composed of 10 pilots, two of whom are women, who train all year round aboard their Extra 330’s, or the prototype Cap 432.
They have to please not only the judges, but also the public. At Châteauroux, the French Federation of Aeronautics (FFA), which is organizing the championship, hopes to welcome more than two thousand visitors on each day of the competition.
This round is the first of the season, with four others before the championships, which are programmed from 20th., to 29th., August.