RAF and French Air Force Pilot's achieved a double first
The French and British air forces are right proud of their prized aircraft. Not only are their planes some of the most impressive, technologically advanced machines around, they also own some of the fastest alpha jets available.
It takes a lot of skill, training, and trust to earn the right to fly these jets and those that make it are celebrated for their achievements. It is this prestige that makes the events of 2013 so important. An exchange of pilots took place to that would result in a historic double first.
The link between these countries was strengthened further as two pilots training at the other country's bases.
The partnership between the French and English air forces has been strong for decades, as the countries remained allies and continued to fight side by side. More recently the forces worked together in Libya and in Mali.
This bond has been partially due to the Lancaster House Treaty that was created in November 2010, the aim of this treaty was to reinforce the bilateral co-operation between British and French force and build stronger ties.
Part of this treaty involved the symbolic exchange of pilots, a sort of exchange program to help build relations and knowledge. This program clearly proved its worth to both sides in 2013 when the countries celebrated a double first.
The combined efforts of the French And British air forces led to a landmark celebration in two leading alpha jets.
In 2013, both the RAF and French Air Force had cause to celebrate their strong bond as a pilot from each side became the first to qualify to fly the fast jet of the other air force.
It was seen not only as a great achievement by both pilots and a symbol of the work they had put in on the programs but also of the trust between the nations. This was the first time an English pilot has been allowed to fly a one the top French jets solo, and the same could be said for the French pilot.
This chance to leave the back seat of these spectacular alpha jets and take the controls, without French supervision, was a defining moment in the ongoing relationship between both sides and one that both pilots were proud to be a part of.
Flight Lieutenant Matt Johno Johnstone made history in France.
The French jet in question was, unsurprisingly, the top-of-the-line Rafale and this was flown in this historic solo flight by Flight Lieutenant Matt ��Johno’ Johnstone in St Dizier in France. Johnstone arrived in France in September 2012 and flew familiarizing missions in the back of alpha jets.
From there he worked in the ground school in Mont-de-Marsan until November, where he would later learn to fly the Rafale. The following February he flew his solo flight.
When asked about the challenge and the experience of being the first Brit to fly this plane, Johnstone said “As the first foreign exchange pilot on Rafale it is a great privilege as well as a great challenge”, adding that he had the additional honour of being able to carry out the solo flight on his birthday.
The star pilot, who studied French at university, also spoke about the hospitality of the French, saying “I have been made to feel very welcome by the French Air Force and I look forward to the challenges that the next few years hold.”
The second part of this double first took place in England.
On the other side of the channel, star Rafale pilot Captain Marc-Antoine Gerard became the first Frenchman to carry out a solo flight of the Eurofighter Typhoon at the RAF base in Coningsby, Lincolnshire.
He too had nothing but positive words to say about the experience. He noted that he received a “very warm welcome in the Royal Air Force” adding that he was “proud and glad to have the opportunity to serve in this prestigious air force for the next 3 years”.
He happily stated that the solo mission in the Typhoon was a great moment and that he looked forward to being able to continue his role in “improving the interoperability between the French and the Royal Air Force”.
With both pilots talking about their ongoing time with their respective hosts, and the importance of the achievement, it is clear to see that is was a major milestone moment for both forces and more is yet to come.