Mel, a dream come true and the speed of sound
In January Melanie was deep into training with Air France. Now , with her first race of the season coming soon in fabulous Cannes, let’s catch up with her and find out more about her, the upcoming race, her dream come true… and the speed of sound!
Mélanie, let’s start with Air France. Last time you were training intensively to become an airline pilot and you got your Type Rating in January. How is that coming?
Training does not stop at a type rating. Since then I have been going through Line Training, which is a transition period where you gain experience flying normal routes. I’ve been learning all the procedures that an airline pilot has to use in everyday life.
Can you explain a little bit more about that?
Well, I actually fly normal routes with passengers but with an instructor whose role is to teach me all the procedures for preparing the flight and the many unusual situations that might come up. It’s still very intense. My first flight with passengers was really exciting.
How does that fit in with your training for your first race of the season?
Air France has been very supportive, fantastic in fact. They have given me all the time I need to prepare for Cannes and be on top form for the race. So I am now in full physical and mental preparation for the race which is a great feeling.
How is that coming along?
Really well. I am flying my Extra 330, getting used to G forces again. I’m also training with my physical coach Romain Guillot. I’m feeling really good right now. It’s amazing how being fit makes everything much easier. It helps you see the positive side of everything. I also have a coach in Paris who is helping me stay fit when I need to be there for Air France.
How are you coming to terms with flying in front of your home crowd? Is that putting any pressure on you?
It’s going to be really exciting, without a doubt. It’s the first ever race in France, it’s practically in my home yard, and I’m the only woman. I am expecting to get a lot of attention, but at the same time I need to concentrate on the race. André Armand is helping me on my mental preparation which is also really important. I’m very happy that my team will be there to help me focus on what I really need to fly well. It’s going to be a fantastic feeling being there.
You mentioned last time your wish to move up to the Master Class. How is that project going?
It is slowly taking form. I have been very lucky to meet people who really want to help and the whole project is moving forward. Everything is becoming more structured around me. It’s great to be able to rely on people now to do things rather than having to do everything myself. It’s still early days, but there will be more news on that soon.
The newsletter mentions a dream come true, tell us more about that.
When I was a little girl I dreamt of becoming a fighter pilot. I would look to the sky and dream about that. It never happened; being a woman I did not think it was possible. But this month I was invited by the Armée de l’Air to fly a two seat Rafale fighter at Mont de Marsan. I could not believe that one day I would get such an opportunity. It was the most amazing sensation I have ever lived, a moment I will never forget. I actually got to fly the Rafale myself in a dogfight.
What was it like to fly a fast jet at the speed of sound?
Exhilarating! It’s impossible to describe the power, the sensation of speed. We got to Mach 1.00 then we passed the “enemy”, another Rafale, and turned into the dogfight. I still cannot believe I did that. Then we went down to low level, which I am used to doing in the races, but we flew at nearly 3 times the speed I usually fly at. I have the greatest respect for the pilots that fly so low so fast.
Is becoming a fighter pilot possible for anyone, especially women?
Yes it is. Anyone can try. Men and women under 25 can apply to become a pilot in the Armée de l’Air. Like everything, it’s hard work and you need a lot of perseverance and dedication. But if you want it enough, then anything is possible.
Would you like to add anything else?
I would like to thank the Armée de l’Air for making my dream come true, and especially the personnel at the BA118 Mont de Marsan air force base who welcomed me with open arms. Also, I want to send a message to all the young men and women who, like me, dream of flying. Believe in your dreams, work hard, and they can come true.
For all my fans… see you in Cannes!
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