Rounding off a year of celebrations that marked the 90th anniversary of the formation of Air France plus the 70th anniversary of the Patrouille de France aerial display team, a special short film has been released showing the two flying together and performing a spectacular “aerial ballet”.
The film, which includes some simply stunning air-to-air footage of one of the airline’s newest Airbus A350-900s flying in formation with the display team’s iconic blue AlphaJet training aircraft, is a must-see for anyone even slightly interested in aviation.
Filmed in September 2023 and just released, the remarkable footage shows Air France’s 22nd Airbus A350-900 (which carries the name “Les Sables-d’Olonne” and is registered F-HUVB) as it ferried from the manufacturer’s assembly plant in Toulouse to the carrier’s global hub located at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport before entering service with the airline.
To mark the occasion, and also to round off a year of anniversary celebrations for the French national carrier, the pilots of the Patrouille de France Alphajets who were operating a positioning flight in preparation for an airshow in the Occitanie region flew alongside the Airbus A350 as part of the very special air display.
According to an Air France statement, the meticulously planned and choreographed formation flight was filmed at an altitude of around 8,000ft (2,500 meters) above the countryside over the Carmargue region of southern France.
The spectacular air display, which was given the project name “Athos A350”, involved 11 aircraft of various sizes operating at different speeds flying together to create exceptional quality footage which you can see below.
“A month of preparation and thorough cooperation was required to plan this 45-minute flight down to the smallest detail, guaranteeing the highest level of safety,” said Eric Prévot, Event Manager and Athos A350 mission leader. “This groundwork prepared jointly by the Patrouille de France team, the Air France crew, and the pilot of the camera-mounted aircraft was carried out in line with the highest standards”.
Directed by Eric Magnan of specialist aerial filming company Airborne Films, the footage was shot from a French-built TBM 700 aircraft which features a leading-edge gyro-stabilized camera system. The accompanying music score, written by composer Augustin Saldjian, was performed by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
Air France describes the short film as “a real gift to all aviation enthusiasts”.
“This film is a tribute to the pioneering spirit of the entire French aviation industry. It also highlights its long tradition of innovation, recognized the world over for its expertise and excellence in both the civil and military sectors,” the airline said.
Produced with the support of the French Air and Space Force and Airbus, the film “bears witness to the long-standing passion and daily commitment of staff from Air France and the entire aviation sector to making France’s influence felt around the globe,” according to the carrier.
The Air France A350 involved in the filming is the 22nd Airbus A350-900 to join the Air France fleet. Delivered on September 18, 2023, the plane has since been joined in the company’s long-haul fleet by three more of the type. The Air France-KLM Group ordered a total of 90 A350s in both passenger and cargo variants in November 2023 to replace older widebodies in the respective airline fleets.
However, despite this latest short film being spectacular in its composition, it is certainly not unique. In 2017, Air France teamed up with the French display team to mark the retirement of the carrier’s last Boeing 747, while the pair have also previously performed together at France’s acclaimed Ferté-Alais Air Show held annually.