OPERATOR I 42 Dedicated to training Nothing distinguishes a Falcon 10 Mer from a civilian version except the gray and white lining that it has worn since it entered service in 1975. This is because the Navy’s version is in fact totally similar to that of civilian operators, even from the point of view of its avionics. Its utilization within the naval forces, and more particularly within the Escadrille 57S, did not require any specific modifications. Indeed, the main mission of the aircraft is still the training of on-board fighter pilots on instrument use and French military procedures. As Frégate Captain François Daylaud, commanding officer of Escadrille 57S, points out: «The main purpose of the 57S is to train students who are returning from training in the United States, on flight procedures in the French territory. ». Following their selection at Lanvéoc, the fighter pilot students will follow a joint training with American pilots for two years at the Meridian base in Mississippi, which has been the process since 2006. While this curriculum, called «full US», allows students to familiarize themselves with all American military techniques and procedures, and more broadly, those of NATO, disregarding the procedures that prevail in French territory. «Our students are re-trained on flying over land and sea with minima, which is totally different from that of the United States. The French regulatory framework is indeed very specific,» emphasizes François Daylaud. In fact, when the first «macaron» military pilots returned after 12 to 18 months in the US, the passage through the 57S was an required step, as a young pilot recently returning from Meridian pointed out: «The rules are not the same, and the French airspace is extremely dense. Switching to the 57S as soon as we returned from a two-week period allows us to rethink and learn about the regulations, which are totally different from those in the USA. ». The easy handling and performance of the Dassault twin-engine aircraft was perfectly adapted to this environment. Its speed and range of 3,500 km (1,922 nm) greatly facilitates the work of the instructors, who have a wide range of capabilities, so that they can truly test the capacity of the students’ knowledge, in addition to their ability to evolve in different French terrains. Beyond that, the business jet can also be used for low altitude adaptation flights at 500ft above the ground, which is a procedure that is generally forbidden in the USA. «On returning from the United States, the refresher course takes four weeks and includes six flights dedicated to instrument training, five flights over land, and between four and six flights over the sea, in order to brush up on low altitude learning and validate reflexes,» said the squadron commander. In parallel with training on French territory, the 57S conducts daily flights abroad to maintain its level of competence. It conducts training on and from Dublin airport, less than 45 minutes away from Landivisiau. «We try to carry out, as many as possible, regular training flights at all the major European airfields, not only for pilot training but also in the event that we have to convoy a high authority. These outings enable us to deal more regularly with sometimes very complex civil procedures, and also maintain the operational level of our crews,» comments Daylaud.
57S: from training to official transport In addition to the «ab initio» training of young pilots, the 57S is also used to upgrade the instrument flight skills of pilots operating in the fleet. «Pilots on the Rafale come to us three times a year to validate their knowledge of IFR instrument flight,» said CF Daylaud, adding: «It’s a procedure they don’t use very much, so it’s important to conduct these flight tests so they can maintain or even improve their skills». Although the Falcon 10 was chosen forty years ago, it appears that it has always been able to meet the operational requirements of the French Navy. Purchased to compensate for the lack of a dedicated two-seater fighter for training, the Falcon is nonetheless «a perfect learning tool that allows for quicker intervention on the controls, since the instructor is next to the student,» emphasizes the officer. The twin-engine remains all the more topical, as it allows sailors to use their aircraft in a less restrictive manner, while maintaining a more economic ratio per flight hour, compared to the training on fighter aircraft. From this fact, to saying that the French Navy was able to anticipate the budgetary problem from four decades ago, it’s only a step away. The 57S has an allocation of 1,800 hours per year for all these missions. In addition to the training of students and the recurrence of pilots already assigned, the hours also include the training of 57S crews, who currently have eight instructor pilots. «Pilots remain assigned to the squadron for an average of three years, meaning each year we have one-third of the pilots to train. «said CF Daylaud. In addition to training, 57S is also called upon to operate the Falcon 10 for liaison flights for the Navy’s senior authorities, as well as for government authorities. These missions involve crews flying to various European or Mediterranean theaters for about 200 hours a year. Backed by its pragmatism, which it has been claiming for at least 400 years, the Royal Air Force also entrusts Falcon 10 crews with the transportation of certain spare parts when a Navy aircraft needs to be repaired outside its base. Ultimate Jet I 43