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Formation flying


Formation flying is pure manual work that requires full concen­tration and precision. The pilots fly visually only and have no technical aids available. In order to hold his precise position within the formation, the pilot orients himself in relation to the pilot in front of him. The leader is the exception. He is responsible for giving the correct commands and navigation details at the right time. The other pilots must hold their position and fly the entire programme correctly. In order to avoid the turbulence created by the aircraft flying in front, an additional level separation of about two meters is necessary.

Minimum height: 60–100 m 
Separation: 3–5 m 
Acceleration: min. -3g, max. +7g 
Speed: 250–1100 km/h

Large Space Requirement

In contrast to most display teams, the Patrouille Suisse flies with F-5 Tiger fighter jets that are far faster than training aircraft, requiring a large radius when flying curves and thus much more space.

The good weather programme may be flown with a cloud base at about 3,000 m, the medium weather programme requires about 1,500 m and the bad weather programme requires minimum weather conditions.

  • Example looping: The initial speed is about 850 km / h, the force 4 to 5 g and the diameter about 3,000 m.
  • Example barrel roll: The initial speed is about 700 km / h, the force 3 to 4 g and the diameter about 1,500 m.

Minimum weather conditions

The bad weather programme requires 5 km minimum visibility and a cloud base of 1,000 ft. (300 m).

Safety has top priority

Clearly defined minimum altitudes must be strictly observed. A horizontal fly-past is flown at minimum altitude of 200 ft (60 m), for all other manoeuvres the minimum altitude is 300 ft (100 m). The distance to the spectator area is at least 230 m, and when flying curves and manoeuvres with a vector to the spectators, the minimum distance is 450 m.

The distance from one aircraft to the next in the formation is three to five metres. An additional level separation of about two metres is necessary in order to avoid the turbulence created by the aircraft flying in front.

Ground Crew: Expertise on the ground

Accuracy and precision not only characterise the Patrouille Suisse pilots' flying ability, these values are also lived behind the scenes. Without the ground crew's meticulous yet rapid work, the Patrouille Suisse could not take to the air. The aircraft, machine and weapons mechanics, the repair team's avionics specialists, the flight operations plane captains, and the logisticians who are responsible for all transport and vehicle matters make an important contribution to maintaining operational readiness. With their wide-ranging expertise, they guarantee that the aircraft are handed over to the pilots in perfect condition and on time.

We give our best at home and abroad in order to guarantee the reliability of the aircraft. We are proud to belong to the Patrouille Suisse.


Philipp Bienz, Ground Crew Chief

F-5 E Tiger

 

Patrouille Suisse has been flying the F-5 Tiger aircraft since 1995. In contrast to many other aerobatic teams, Patrouille Suisse flies combat aircraft that the air force operate at present, hence showcasing the operational readiness and skills of the pilots

Flight gear

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For protection in case a fire breaks out on board, the pilot wears a flight suit made of a fire-resistant fabric (Nomex®). The anti-g trousers are an important component. When g-forces occur, for example in tight turns or interception manoeuvres, the built-in plastic pocket inflates automatically. The compressed air is supplied by the aircraft, and its volume is calibrated to the strength of the g-force. This prevents the blood from flowing from the head down to the abdomen and legs, which might cause the pilot to pass out. The pilot is also protected by his helmet, which is equipped with an oxygen mask and a radio microphone.

If the pilot must save himself by ejecting from the aircraft, the integrated lifejacket (which also serves as a swimming aid and as protection for the head and neck in the event of a hard parachute landing) and the emergency radio device increase the chances of survival considerably. In contrast to other aircraft, in the F-5 the parachute is not built into the seat; the pilot carries it on his back.

«Felix»


«Felix», an Air Force PC-6 Turbo Porter painted in the Patrouille Suisse colour scheme, has been operated in support of the aerobatics team since April 2007. The commander uses it to fly to training and display venues, where he monitors the flights from the ground and stays in constant radio contact with his team. For displays, «Felix», whose name originates from the aerobatic team's ground station's former call sign, carries a commentator and a camera operator.

History

History
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The Patrouille Suisse was founded on 22 August 1964. The idea of establishing a display team with professional pilots, however, dates as far back as to 1959. At that time, the Air Force Surveillance Wing was tasked by the Federal Military Department with training a double patrol, consisting of four of their aircraft, for display purposes. These initial formations flew the British Hawker Hunter Mk 58 fighter.

With a view to Expo 64, the national exhibition held in Lausanne, and the 50-year jubilee of the Swiss Air Force, formation flight training with the Hunter double patrol was stepped up. Naming the team Patrouille Suisse was a spontaneous decision, inspired by the French aerobatic team, Patrouille de France. The then Federal Military Department was convinced that the formation flights would appeal to the public and so decided to make the Patrouille Suisse the official na¬tional aerobatic team.

In 1965, the team had their first scheduled season with four air shows. In the following years, the programme was constantly improved and the precision of individual manoeuvres perfected. In 1970, another aircraft was added to the team. Due to Switzerland’s policy of neutrality, however, the team was not permitted to perform abroad at the time. This changed in 1978, when the Swiss aerobatic team was invited to the 25th anniversary of the Patrouille de France and was allowed to demonstrate its flying skills – now with six aircraft – over Salon-de-Provence, France.

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For the 700-year anniversary of the Swiss Confederation in 1991, the appearance of the Patrouille Swiss Hunters was changed: the lower wing sides now shone with the Swiss national colours, red and white. Three years later, the Patrouille Suisse pilots flew the Hawker Hunter Mk 58 for the last time, and in 1995, transferred to the faster and more agile American F-5E Tiger, which brought new flight capabilities after 30 years.

At the Royal International Air Tattoo 2000 at RAF Cottesmore, the most important military air show in the world, the team was awarded the «King Hussein Memorial Sword» for their perfect display and the best performance. During «Air04», the major air show held in Payerne to commemorate both the 90th anniversary of the Swiss Air Force and the 40th anniversary of the Patrouille Suisse, the jubilees were honoured with a unique display of 40 aircraft from the leading aerobatic teams of five countries.

After the last combat aircraft had taken off from historic Duebendorf Air Base in December 2005, the Patrouille Suisse re-appeared in Duebendorf as the support act at concerts by the Rolling Stones and the pop icon Madonna.

In addition to their displays at most important air shows in Europe, the ambassadors in the skies have performed several times at the International Aerospace Exhibition ILA in Berlin. The crowd was enthralled and the Patrouille Suisse was awarded an original piece of the Berlin Wall. The team has shown again and again how physical limits can be overcome and walls can be torn down. You can marvel at the historic monument on the «Patrouille-Suisse Platz» at Emmen Air Base.

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The Nordic-Tour in 2012 proved to be a logistical masterpiece. Seven aircraft and two lorries travelled through half of Scandinavia in less than three weeks. During this marvellous tour, the team presented its impressive display by the light of the midnight sun at 11 p.m. as part of the Midsommernight Airshow in Kauhava (Finland). In 2014, Patrouille Suisse celebrated its 50th anniversary. This anniversary was celebrated throughout the year, with the Airshow AIR14 in Payerne marking the highlight of the various celebrations.

The political decision taken in 2016 to continue using the F-5 Tigers as target aircraft will allow everyone to admire this marvellous and elegant aircraft being flown by the Patrouille Suisse for some years to come.

In 2017, the Patrouille Suisse received the AEROSUISSE AWARD, presented by the Association for Swiss Aviation, which honours accomplishments in support of Swiss aeronautics and aerospace. With this award, the jury recognised the Patrouille Suisse as an ambassador for Swiss values and Switzerland itself, stimulating interest in aviation acting as a role model, and amplifying the positive image of the Swiss Air Force.

Already since 1978, the F-5 E Tiger has been flying for the Swiss Air Force. In 2018, the Patrouille Suisse celebrated the 40th anniversary of its demonstration aircraft.

A red-white F-5 E Tiger from Patrouille Suisse is on display at the Lucerne Museum of Transport since June 2018.

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