The Breitling Jet Team is the largest civilian aerobatic display team in Europe. Based in Dijon, France, it flies seven Czech Aero L-39 Albatros jets. The team flies a display lasting 18–20 minutes that includes formation flying, opposition passes, solo routines, and synchronized maneuvers. The team performs across Europe and the Middle East, with multiple engagements per year, including international airshows and Breitling corporate events. The Breitling Jet Team was established in early 2003 with four L-39s. With the addition of two aircraft in 2004 and three in 2008, the team now has a total of nine jets. The Team’s roots go back to 1980.
Jacques Bothelin, the team leader, began performing in airshows in 1980 with a French-designed Mudry CAP 10 aircraft. In 1982, he began to fly as part of a team of three SIAI-Marchetti SF260s sponsored by Martini. The team was called Patrouille Martini, (patrouille is French for ‘patrol’ or ‘team’). Also at that time, Jacques Bothelin established Apache Aviation at the team’s Darois home base to handle the operational aspects of running a full-time aerobatic team. The Martini Team flew for five years in the SF260s, until the team took delivery of Swiss-manufactured Pilatus PC-7s, in 1988.
In 1990, new regulations in France banning the advertising of alcohol forced Martini to withdraw its sponsorship. Ecco, a temporary employment agency, replaced Martini and the team was renamed Patrouille Ecco for the 1991 season. In 1997 Ecco merged with a Swiss firm Adia forming Adecco, the team’s name changed to Patrouille Adecco. In late 2001, a group of Algerian companies founded by Rafik Khalifa offered to sponsor Adecco, he new team was known as the “Khalifa Jet Team”. The PC-7s were sold, and L-39 jets arrived as their replacement.
In early 2003, Khalifa pulled out of the sponsorship. Swiss luxury watchmaker Breitling SA stepped into the breach and invested in the team. This allowed the outfit to expand from four planes to the seven-ship formation it flies today. For 17 years, Apache Aviation has operated the Breitling Jet Team, the world’s first professional civil jet team, and its seven L39 ALBATROS Jets. Breitling’s long-standing contract with Apache Aviation expired on the 31st of December 2019. Breitling has decided not to renew its sponsorship as sole and exclusive partner of Apache Aviation, but is open to staying on board as co-sponsor.