Profile: Stunt Pilot Jeanne Dreams of Becoming a Fighter Pilot
Jeanne, an apprentice at Safran Electrical & Power in Niort, France, has been a passionate stunt pilot for four years. She dreams of one day becoming a fighter pilot for the French Air Force. In this interview, learn about a young woman who is building her future around aviation.
Where does your passion for aviation come from?
I have always been attracted to aviation. I went on my first flights with my grandfather when I was just seven years old. These occasional flights fostered my interest in flying. During a career fair for students when I was seventeen, I approached the Air Force to learn about possible professions that combine my greatest interests: the army and aviation. I began pilot lessons and went on my first solo flight in a Robin DR400. Everything fell into place very quickly. After my first stunt flying experience at eighteen in a CAP10 plane, I launched my sporting career.
Can you tell us about your education?
After high school, I entered a course to prepare for the engineering school at CESI in Angoulême, France. Once I have my diploma, I want to apply to the EOPN program [a French Air Force rank for those specializing in navigation or piloting] as I hope to become a fighter pilot.
How does a competition aerobatics season usually go?
It is a sport that has very specific constraints when it comes to the weather, so it requires a lot of organization and anticipation. From September to April, I have to focus on my physical strength and mental preparation. When the good weather returns, the season really begins and I can train in the air using training programs that each include around fifteen figures.
Competition aerobatics is a one-of-a-kind sport. Can you describe it to us?
An aerobatics competition includes three challenges. There is a shared program required by the Federation to work on for the year, a program that is unknown and which the competition director reveals just a few hours before the challenge, and a personal free program.
These challenges take place in a square kilometer of space (which also has a height limit) nicknamed the “box”. We are graded on a scale of 0 to 10 on the accuracy of our trajectories by a jury. In an aerobatics competition, there are several categories. I was flying alone in the two-seater plane category and was able to move this year to the higher single-seater plane category thanks to my title as Champion of France.
What does the sport do for you on a personal level?
When I am in my plane, I feel free and good. I can do what I want when I want. I am at ease in the air, even though I am aware of the risks that come with stunt flying and when I remember the anxiety of the first drops 1,000 feet from the ground. The pressure I feel in the cockpit is the pressure to set and achieve my goals.
Can you talk about your career at Safran Electrical & Power?
I was hired at the Niort site of Safran Electrical & Power as an apprentice methods engineer. I am working on new ways to control electrical power control centers on planes. This professional experience is incredibly enriching. I am working closely with planes, learning about how they are operated and designed. Furthermore, the company has been sponsoring me as a stunt flier for two years and that is incredibly helpful.
What are your next professional and sporting goals?
Professionally, my goal is to earn my engineering degree. Then, I have the ambitious dream of becoming a fighter pilot in the French Air Force. It’s my dream and I will do anything to achieve it. If it doesn’t work out, I will try to become a fighter pilot for the navy, a helicopter pilot for the army, or an airline pilot. When it comes to the sport, I aim to get the best results in the French championships in order to be on the French competition aerobatics team and participate in the European and world championships.
- © Safran
- © Cyril Abad / CAPA Pictures / Safran