Riding Shotgun With the Breitling Jet Team

Riding Shotgun With the Breitling Jet Team

Every once in awhile the Swiss watchmaker Breitling feels the need to remind us all of their rich aviation history. And why wouldn’t they? They’ve been making cockpit chronographs since the 1930s. Any self-respecting pilot — from astronaut Mark Kelly to Harrison Ford — sports a Breitling. Who else makes a watch that will help locate you after you parachute to safety? And what other watchmaker fields their own full-time flight team, a seven-jet squad based in Dijon, France, that rivals the Navy’s own Blue Angels? But just try getting a ride with the Blue Angels. Impossible, since they’re military and don’t give joy rides. Breitling’s team, on the other hand, is civilian (the largest civilian aeronautic jet team in the world, in fact), which means that when they’re not doing tricks at one of the many air shows they perform at around the world, they’re free to strap in a civilian and dazzle and nauseate him with their barrel rolls and loops and massive gs.

I was lucky enough to be one of those civilians. After a brief training session — essentially instructing us what to touch (nothing) and where to barf (there’s a bag in the cockpit) and how to operate the ejector seat — I was behind the ultra-capable Georges-Eric Castaing and flying in formation high over the Long Island sound. It was bananas.