Patrouille de France, also called Patrouille Acrobatique de France or PAF, currently flying nine Dornier Alpha Jets, is the aerobatic team of the French Air Force. There are nine pilots in the team, and over 30 support personnel.
Patrouille de France started flying in May of 1931 using the Morane-Saulnier MS-230 training aircraft. Its pilots were flight school instructors. The team was called Patrouille Etampes. There performances consisted of aerobatics and precision formation flying.
After flying local demonstrations, the team achieved such popularity that the French Air Force made them their official representatives at all aerobatic events. By August of 1931 the team was performing outside of France, as well as in France.
In 1952 yet another French air team flying out of Reims acquired four F-84 Thunderjets. The three teams combined and officially became the Patrouille de France in 1953, flying the four F-84 Thunderjets. Find out more about the F-84 here.
In 1956 the team was upgraded to high performance Dassault Mystere jet fighters. These were the first French aircraft capable of trans-sonic speeds.
The Patrouille de France team continued to perform throughout Europe representing the French Air Force through 1964.
Funding for a French Air Force Team was cut in 1964. At the time the French government switched control of the Patrouille de France from their air force to a flight instruction school.
Up to nine of their Fouga Magister aircraft continued to represent the French Air Force as the Patrouille de France through September of 1982. Find the Fouga Magister here.
The Patrouille de France switched to eight Dornier Alpha Jets in 1982. They have performed world wide and continue to fly them to this date. More information on the Dornier Alpha Jet can be found here.
The Patrouille de France has the distinction of having the only woman to head a major aerobatic team when Virginie Guyot became its leader for the 2010 season.