Every child dream of becoming a pilot, especially a fighter pilot. Some of them fulfilled their dreams flying in multiple airforces around the world, while others became a General Aviation or jetliners pilots, but the child dreams are still in them. Luckily now there are much more options for flying a jet outside the military and we’re not talking only about passenger’s ride, but about a full Type Rating training with a high-class pilots from Breitling Jet Team.
When I got a phone call from my friend that he is going to make an L-39 type rating training in France I thought it’s awesome that there is such possibility. The friend I am talking about is Jakub Kubicki, a very experienced multi type rated pilot that was previously flying with 3AT3 Formation Flying Team, participated in many air shows, flown altogether more than 1000h on planes in GA category and… TS-11 Iskra jet. This is the ex-military type of light trainer/fighter built in Poland that is steel flying in Polish Air Force. Currently, in Europe, there is only one Iskra flying as a civilian plane that is operated by the White-Red Wings Foundation which was founded by Jakub and his mate Piotr Maciejewski.
In order to fly a TS-11 a pilot needs to have a valid certification either for this type of aircraft or for a plane of the same class. As one may suppose, there are not too many Air Training Organizations that are capable of making a training for jet aircraft – it’s quite expensive and not yet very popular. However, Jakub made a very good as well as ambitious research in this topic and found that Breitling Jet Team in cooperation with their ATO – Apache Aviation – are conducting a full Type Rating training for L-39 Albatros in their airbase in Dijon, France. And that was the place where he wanted to get (and eventually got) his jet flying skills.
The first part of the training was a full ground course on which instructors presented all systems of Albators and discussed the basic flight theory in such plane. What is worth mentioning is that it wasn’t just brief description, but quite detailed one so that future pilot will know how every system works and what can be done in case of malfunction. The basics of aerobatics are also explained as well as the differences in multiple figures comparing to e.g. gliders, as jet aircraft are not made to fly on a straight flight. Moreover, a detailed description of ejection seat is given and during this part Jakub made also “check flight” to showcase his skills acquainted from previous experiences and get to know the plane better both on the ground as well as in the air. This flight is made to asses how many hours a pilot need and what should be a training profile. In Jakub case he did very well and this check flight was already accounted as first hour in his training.
The second part of training is much more challenging and, at the same time, more interesting – that’s the time when I accompanied Jakub and his instructor Paco Wallaert in France. Paco Wallaert is a former French Air Force and Patrouille de France pilot, now flying in Breitling Jet Team with a number 6. When I entered the Breitling’s airbase in Dijon for the first time I was really amazed from the first look. Big hangar kept in excellent condition, a lot of aircraft, special briefing rooms, pilot club, a lounge… this really shows how good organisation both Breitling Jet Team and Apache Aviation are and how well everything is there arranged. Our interest for the whole week of flying activities are, of course, L-39s that meet there in very big number. 7 jets in team’s painting, 2 spare aircraft also in team’s painting and 2 machines in grey scheme that are devoted to flight training for both team’s pilots as well as future type-rated pilots such as Jakub and for aerial work like military contracts or videography.
Practical part of Type Rating for this aircraft in Breitling Jet Team consist of few flights with instructor during which the student is training both aerobatic, navigation as well as emergency procedures… everything that he needs to know in order to be ready for a solo flight. Before each flight Jakub and Paco made a detailed briefing to discuss all aspects of flight and planned figures/procedures. Naturally, at such flight, student is taking the front cabin, while the instructor is flying in a back-seat. What’s worth to add is that instructor cabin is a master relatively to front one, so if the instructor i.e. releases the gear, the student may not be able to retract it. I checked on the recording the radio communication from the flight and must admit that I was impressed by great professionalism by both Jakub and Paco – they were talking quite a lot once in the air, so as to prepare Jakub in the best way and I could see a great progress in his skills with every flight and every figure ahead. As Paco said, “Jakub likes to pull G’s”, that’s true – this wasn’t a straight level flight, but full of rolls, loops or barells what granted both pilots big adventure and fun of flight. Of course, each sortie was ended with a debriefing on which pilots discussed what was done good and what should be corrected.
After the training is over, the time for the exam has come. The exam is being done with another instructor – in case of Jakub the examiner was Bernard Charbonnel (Breitling no. 2), who made a certification flight at this training. Naturally, the result was positive, what ended up with a congratulations from whole Breitling Jet Team and a “beer of win” after examination. “Jakub is a great pilot, I am really under big impression of how many things did he learn in such short period of time” said “Charbo” after the flight.
The only thing that is left are papers, filling the flight logs, examination certificates and Jakub Kubicki from Poland become another L-39 Type-Rated pilot, a first one for this type in Poland. But the case for Jakub is not over… After such training in France or any other EU countries the pilots get’s an entry to its licence, but in Poland the Civil Aviation Authority decided not to putting such entry for Jakub. Why is that? The case is that L-39 is not EASA-certified plane, so the CAA don’t want to put such aircraft in license. What’s more the relevant authorities does not want a civilian to fly in a military plane, even ex-military in a civilian version and such entry to license would grant Jakub ability to fly TS-11 Iskra. That’s a bit strange, as Poland is the only country where such situation occurs, but we’ll be keeping our eyes on the further processing this case. In France there is a simple solution for that – all Breitling Jet Team’s pilots have a special annex for their license where their Type Rating is placed.
During my stay it Dijon we had also the privilege to meet whole Breitling Jet Team with Jacques Bothelin as a leader. These are really fantastic pilots, with a very positive life attitude, great experience and altogether more than 40 000 flight hours. Their professionalism can be seen in every aspect of their work as well as flights and we were more than happy to cooperate with them.
While a Type Rating training with BJT and Apache Aviation in Dijon is directed mainly to pilots, there is also a very interesting option for “normal” people. A formation flight with Breitling Jet Team that is about half an hour of aerobatics in formation with L-39 that allows everyone to see how close planes are flying, how precise the flight is and feel +5G on their bodies. Every flight starts with adjusting the flight suit and a helmet, what is being followed by a safety briefing on which every aspect from the beginning till the end is covered. Than each passenger meet their pilot and a leader is discussing the details of each phase of flight and planned figures. Later on, it’s time to go to aircraft, that was already prepared by qualified technician and take off for the experience of a life time. Loops at 10000 ft, tight turns, barell rolls or even flying in a diamond formation are very spectacular and make a great impression on everyone. I must admit that during first loop I was amazed of how precise the pilots are flying and how great these planes are looking in the air. That is definitely a flight that will last in everyone’s memory for a very long time. And of course, a GoPRO footage that everyone receives after the flight will remind about these many times.
Aviation dreams can have different forms – one may fly, others may take pictures and others may just want to feel the adrenaline… For sure the Apache Aviation offer is very unique and of course worth a bit of extreme attitude. No matter whether you’re also a pilot, future pilot or an aviation enthusiast your journey with them will be an unforgettable experience. We’re looking forward to the future of the team and other L-39 type-rated pilots like Jakub, keeping our fingers crossed for many successful flights and ventures.
Our partner during photoshoot was: