The prestigious Patrouille Acrobatique de France (PAF), the precision aerobatic team of the French Air Force, has its 60th anniversary this year. And to celebrate, they’ll be strutting their best stuff in a big air show over Salon de Provence on Sunday May 26. I happened upon them practicing the other day and what I saw--three planes trailing red, white and blue smoke across the sky in a beautifully choreographed ballet--looked awesome. The nine pilots fly red, white and blue Dassault-Breguet/Dornier Alpha-Jets, with the gun fittings replaced by smoke generators. They have a support crew of 35.
As part of the show, the PAF, in association with “weightless choreography specialist” Kitsou Dubois, will present a specially coordinated duo that took several months to prepare. The aim of this highly challenging and daring blend of aeronautics and dance is to bring an additional artistic dimension to the team’s considerable flying skills.
Other French and international flight teams (Poland, Spain, Belgium, UK, Italy) will be participating as well. A full schedule for the day is here.
The show runs from 10 am to 6 pm, and if you’re anywhere near Salon you’re likely to see them in flight; another good vantage point will be the hills of Lancon de Provence, which overlook the PAF’s headquarters: Air Base 701 in Salon.
But the best way to experience this will be to go to the base itself…and entry is free all day. The Salon Tourist Office tells me that many events and exhibitions are being planned so bring the family and hang out all day. Reservations are not required but you must show a valid ID to get in…and folding chairs would be good too.
On Sunday, all the parking lots in Salon will be running special shuttle buses (navettes) to and from the base…so leave your car in town.
Now here’s the thing: all the main access roads to Salon will be closed as of 7.30 am. I can’t quite visualize how that will work but far be it from me to argue with the French Air Force! If you click here, you can see an access plan that should help. Real-time traffic info will be broadcast on France Bleu Radio Provence: 106.6 FM.
The 60th Anniversary Celebration of the Patrouille de France is part of the year-long Marseille-Provence 2013 Celebration. A special show just for sponsors and personnel will be held on Saturday May 25.
For more info on the celebration, go to the PAF website here. I couldn’t get the English pages to load properly but maybe you’ll have better luck! If you have questions, you can call the Salon Tourist Office (04 90 56 27 60) or email them at email@example.com. For a schedule of all the Marseille-Provence 2013 events happening in Salon, click here. And for the full Marseille-Provence 2013 website in English, click here.