Sacré Bleu! French Aerobatic Team Admits Color Blunder in Amazing Bastille Flyover.
Following a week of spectacular flyovers beginning with the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force in London last week, the French were not to be outdone on the weekend of their annual national celebration of Bastille Day over Paris on Saturday, July 14, 2018.
On Saturday, formations of France’s most impressive aircraft overflew Paris and the picturesque Avenue des Champs-Élysées in an impressive review that accompanied a large military parade up the Avenue.
The French flyover and military parade, an annual spectacle in celebration of France’s independence, adds to the discussion of a proposed similar display in the U.S. that has largely been shouted down by opponents. Russia, North Korea, China, UK and France among other smaller nations stage conspicuous military parades with flyovers as a means of memorializing their armed forces, paying homage to their history and as a show of military might.
The French flyover on the anniversary of the Bastille Day, the anniversary of the French uprising and storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 during the French Revolution, featured an impressive 64 aircraft. The display included the Dassault Rafale, Airbus Military A400M Atlas, the Boeing E-3F Sentry AWACS aircraft, the C-135FR tanker variant, and the beautiful delta-wing Dassault Mirage 2000s.
The French Armée de l’Air also produced a nice video short of the flyover from a CASA CN-235M light tactical transport.
There was a minor, widely publisized embarrassing moment for the normally outstanding French Patrouille Acrobatique de France flight demonstration team.
During the July 14, 2018 Fête Nationale or Bastille Day flyover in Paris the team added a ninth aircraft to the normal eight-plane formation. The additional aircraft, normally not a part of this wedge formation, flew in the right-wing position. As the team began their dedication flyover of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the picturesque Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile they actuated their traditional colored smoke trails. Normally the tricolor smoke trailing the aircraft mimics the blue, white, red pattern of the French national flag from the right of the formation to the left as viewed from the pilots’ perspective. But in this instance the extra ninth aircraft on the pilots’ right side of the formation mistakenly trailed red smoke instead of the correct blue smoke.
Some social media observers thought this may have been a purposeful modification to the display because the aircraft were carrying three members of France’s special forces on board for the celebration. But on Sunday following the flyover, French Air Force Spokesman Colonel Cyrille Duvivier, told news media, “It was not planned. It was an error.”
Colonel Duvivier went on to tell France’s Le Connexion news media that, “La Patrouille de France is normally eight planes, and on July 14, it presents as nine. The ninth plane is the ‘extra’…and it can take any position. It is the only one to have all three colors. We must ascertain why, precisely, this color was not correct.”
As it stands the color mismatch by the normally fashion conscious French was not the day’s only faux pas. Two motorcycle gendarmes collided and toppled over during an attempted impressive display of precision low-speed motorcycle handling along the same parade route. The two Gendarmes were seen scrambling on French television like keystone cops to get their heavy motorcycles upright. This is not typical of the French special police motorcycle forces, many of whom are working as anti-terrorist security forces during the Tour de France bicycle race being held across France during the month of July. For the second year, the forces at the tour de France include both the Garde Républicaine motorcycle unit and the elite French anti-terrorist police unit, the GIGN (Groupe d’intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale).
France’s Patrouille de France flight demonstration team flies the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet light, twin-engine, two-seat jet trainer. The team has an illustrious record and flew a first-ever month and half demonstration tour at airshows in the United States and Canada in 2017. Interestingly, the USAF Thunderbirds participated in an exchange flyover in Paris in 2017 also as a salute to France on Bastille Day.
Top image: the French aerobatic team normally flies with blue, white and red smoke to mimic the French flag. (Photo: Twitter/Pandov Strochnis)