What holiday gift do you get the aviation fan that has everything? A ride with an aerobatic jet team!
The Latvian aerobatic jet demonstration team, The Baltic Bees are an impressive private jet team, operating six L-39’s flown by pilots with combined civilian and military jet experience including two pilots with time in MiG-21’s and one pilot named “Rob” who, according to their website, lists “U.S. Air Force Academy” as his education.
The team started in 2008 and added aircraft until they reached their current six-ship formation. A review of their official videos show they maintain some impressively precise close-formation aerobatics and sensational low altitude maneuvers along with dramatic opposing passes seen by the top military jet teams.
Even the dark-blue and yellow striped livery of the aircraft is well conceived for visibility during most demonstration weather conditions and makes for good photography from the ground.
What makes the Baltic Bees particularly interesting these days is the fact that they sell a 20-minute aerobatic ride in their Aero-Vodochody L-39C Albatross single engine, subsonic light-attack/trainer jets for about €1,500.00 Euros (1,550 USD or 1,261.00 GBP.)
The package includes a 40-minute ground school, and then you’ll suit-up, strap-in and go for a ride with the jet team.
According to the team’s website, “[The] Flight starts with simple maneuvers with increasing difficulties during the flight. You will be given opportunity to fly the airplane (emphasis added) under supervision of our pilot-instructor.”
The charmingly novel description of the flight program on their little website leaves the impression that the program may be somewhat… “open-ended” and, for a few extra dollars, pounds or euros perhaps you may be able to push the envelope a little more if you have the stomach for it, safety allowing, of course.
The site goes on to say they offer a video of your flight, clearly a must-have for such an occasion, and that, “Photos by the airplane before and after are free!”
The offer is surprisingly reasonable considering getting a ride with any jet demonstration team as a media observer, VIP or even paid guest is extremely difficult. In the U.S. the civilian jet demonstration team The Patriots, also operating the Aero L-39, show no such specific offer on their website.
The Breitling Jet Team of Dijon, France, another private jet demo team sponsored by the aviation specialty watchmaker Breitling and also flying the popular Aero L-39 offers no such “pay to fly” program.
The Breitling team does provide media and celebrity rides for publicity and brand promotion.
During their recent 2016 U.S. airshow tour it was tricky for media to arrange flights in advance with the Breitling team.
Traditionally only mainstream media personalities, sports or entertainment stars and local VIP’s could score a coveted ride with large military jet teams like the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels. When you consider it costs up to $24,400 USD per hour to fly a Blue Angels F/A-18 according to IHS Jane’s Defense, albeit in a much different type of aircraft, the $1,500 USD ride with the Baltic Bees seems like an incredible bargain.
Prospective passengers with the Baltic Bees are invited to fly with them from their base at Jūrmala airport about 60 kilometers from the capital city of Riga, Latvia on the picturesque Gulf of Riga. If you’re interested you can contact the team on their website at www.balticbees.com.
And, if you book a flight, tell them The Aviationist sent you!
Image credit: Filip Modrzejewski / Foto Poork