François ‘Ponpon’ Pousot is humming a tune, the kind of ditty one hums when walking in the park or mowing the lawn. But presently Pousot is some several thousand feet above the ground and travelling at 400kph. What is more, the two-seater Albatros fighter training jet that he’s flying is positioned vertically in the sky, three metres away from another fighter training jet. He eases the controls back and, with a few seconds of 4G pressing into his chest, he’s back on the level again. He is still humming.
“Of course I’m always concentrating, I always have my eyes on the leader,” says Pousot, who used to instruct newbie French Air Force fighter pilots on how to get the best out of their Mirage jets at Mach 2.5 for a living. “You don’t have time to look at the instruments or take in the view because a split second late on a manoeuvre and you’re not in a good place. But flying is what I do. My father was a fighter pilot. My mother was a pilot. My brother is a pilot, my wife and daughter too…”