Patrouille Suisse

 

Since 1964, the Patrouille Suisse has been dedicated to performing aerobatics. Today a team of 9 daredevil pilots in the Swiss Air Force fly the 6 Northrop F-5E Tiger II jets, supported on the ground by 21 crew members. The pilots perform all kinds of airborne tricks and feats of bravery, as shown here. At their specially held aerobatic events you can buy merchandise to support the team.
Although this type of aerobatic show takes place all over the world, the number of pilots who take on such dangerous work is relatively low. Just like the Swiss, many countries’ Air Forces have a dedicated team of stunt flyers, and often they have dramatic-sounding names such as The Blue Phoenix (part of the Royal Thai Air Force), The Red Arrows (part of the UK Royal Air Force), The Silver Falcons (part of the South African Air Force), and the Thunderbirds (part of the United States Air Force). Along with the snappy names comes a level of prestige enjoyed by the pilots, who risk their lives every time they perform a stunt.

Aerobatics began as simply a flying circus for entertainment, but it soon became apparent that some of the manoeuvres could be very useful in fights between aircraft during times of war. Aerobatics is now taught to military fighter pilots (as in the hard-to-forget film, Top Gun) to help them develop the skills and agility needed in airborne combat. They don’t only spend time in the cockpit, either: a pilot must be very fit, physically, to withstand the repeated exposure to G-force during manoeuvres (usually +/- 5G), and so must also undertake many hours of training in the gym per week.
Some airshows involve aviators flying older models and displaying them on the ground. There are also competitive events where spectators are wowed by the speed, agility and skill of the pilots. The Red Bull Air Race is one such event. It goes without saying that those pilots taking part in air shows are very experienced and have to prove their accomplishments to an examiner prior to the show; even then, there is always room for error, and fatal crashes, though very rare, do occur. The risk involved is well-known to the pilots, and well-communicated to spectators, but the authorities do their utmost to ensure the highest possible level of safety, taking into account factors like minimum flight height and weather conditions.

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