First of all thank you for your time, please introduce yourself to our readers, your career in the Aeronautica Militare
My name is Mirco Caffelli, 38, and I am the commander of the 313th Squadron known as “FrecceTricolori”. My career in the Italian Air Force started at the age of 19, when I joined the Air Force Academy in 1997. In 2002 I attended the European NATO’s Joint Jet pilot training at Sheppard AFB, Texas where I received my military pilot’s license. Once back in Italy, I was assigned to be on a fighter jet-bomber “Tornado IDS”. The duration of my tour was 4 years. In 2007 I was presented with the opportunity to try out and subsequently become a member of the Frecce Tricolori team. In my career I covered different positions within the formation: Pony7, the third left wingman, Pony2, first left wingman and Pony1, the leader of the formation. On October 25th of 2016 I was honored to become the 22nd commander of the aerobatic Team.
Tell us about the 2016 season. Where did the team flew?
It has been a very full season. This past year we started on the 27th of April, which is early for us as we usually begin the season on the 1st of May. The reason we started early this past year was to participate in the Marrakech airshow in Morocco. Frecce Tricolori has not participated in this airshow since 1982. It was a very nice experience to be apart of. After Marrakech every weekend through September, the team was involved in airshows throughout Europe and our home country of Italy. We returned to Ireland after many years, England at Fairford International Air Tattoo, and Zeltweg, which is in Austria. Zeltweg is always impressive for the surrounding Alps. The Ostrava’s airshow in the Czech Republic there were many people who were excited to see the “Frecce” fly. In Italy this past year we covered mostly seaside locations performing mainly over the coast.
Any personal favourite moment from 2016?
Actually, there were many of them. Flying with Frecce you have the opportunity to see many different countries and cultures. When it’s a matter of aviation and aerobatic performances, all the differences disappear and we all speak the same language and share the same feelings: the passion for flying, the curiosity and astonishment for aerobatic demonstrations, and the warmth of the people. I would feel that every time I stepped down from my jet and walk through the crowd after an airshow. That was and is, my personal favourite.
Any info we can have for 2017? What can you tell us about?
We still do not have the program for 2017. Usually it is defined by the end of February and we are looking forward to discovering where the team will be flying over. Maybe we will come to Hungary!
How many people are there in the team? And how many people help you on the ground?
The Frecce Tricolori’s team is composed by a total number of 100 people subdivided in officers and NCOs. When we deploy for an airshow, we are about 30 people: 11 pilots, 1 speaker and 20 technicians who take care of the jets on the ground.
How can someone become a Frecce Tricolori pilot?
Every year, we have one or two new pilots join the team. In order to apply for the request, a candidate needs to meet some requirements; first of all they have to be a qualified military pilot on a fighter jet with at least 750 flying hours. Last, but not least, candidates have to be volunteers. Every year there are on average 10 candidates who request to join the team. They come to our Air Force base in Rivolto and stay with the team for 5 days. In that period of time, they do ground and flight tests. The most common question is what characteristics a candidate has to have. Well, to summarize, we do not look for the best pilot, but for the one with the most equilibrated attitude and ability to share team working.
We can say that the Frecce Tricolori is also the ambassador of Italy and the Aeronautica Militare, do you feel that when you fly?
When we are flying in an airshow, each component of the team is concentrating on performing their personal best. Once on the ground and especially when we are abroad, we realize how many people are there to see us and that is a very emotional moment. In that occasion, we realize that not only the Frecce Tricolori has performed, but also the entire Nation of Italy has taken part.
How does a season start for the team? When do you start to practice?
The Frecce Tricolori’s formation changes yearly. We have new pilots joining and other pilots changing their position within the formation. The aerobatic season goes from May till the end of September and after a two-week break, we start again with training to get the new formation ready for the coming season. This is the real magic and marvelous adventure of the job: being able to hand down traditions and ability for the best aerobatic performances to the new guys joining the team.
When the pilots dont fly as the Frecce Tricolori, what are they doing?
Team’s pilots also have different duties on the ground. We are organized to best handle all the different tasks needed to prepare and plan for the aerobatic season. For instance, some pilots are in charge of planning flying routes and stopovers to get to the destination; some of them are in charge of planning accommodations and logistical needs; some of them are in charge to be a point of contact with the airshow organization in order to better understand each other’s requirements.
Can you tell us something about the Aermacchi M-345, the team’s next jet?
I still do not have enough information to answer properly to this question.
Besides airshows, when does the team fly regurarly?
Besides airshows, the team keeps up with training during our spare time. Airshows usually take part during the weekend so there is time during the week to keep up with training.
The Frecce Tricolori closes it’s program with Luciano Pavarotti’s, Nessun dorma. Why did the team choose that music?
Turandot is one the most famous italian opera and Luciano Pavarotti is the most popular italian tenor. So, closing our airshow with Nessun Dorma was considered one the best ways to represent “made-in-italy”.
During airshows, when there is another demo team that also do a performance, do you talk with the other pilots? And are they go to you? Do you change experiences as well, give advices or something like that?
Since 1961, year of foundation, Frecce Tricolori team has been sharing its aerobatic history with other teams all across Europe and the world. Whenever there is the occasion, we like to exchange experiences and different points of view with pilots of other teams and I realized that we have the same feelings about this kind of job. As I said before, talking about aerobatic we all speak the same language.
Do you have a favourite moment in your Frecce Tricolori career? Any feedback that you like to remember?
Flying experiences are the most powerful feelings I will take with me for the rest of my life, but not only that. I am lucky and honored to work with amazing people. Friendship, sense of duty, professionalism, team-work…are only few of many qualities that I found not only in the “Frecce” team but in the entire Italian Air Force. Those are the best moment I will bring with my personal experience.
Any favourite demo team around the world you like?
There are so many teams all around the world that is very difficult to speak about everybody. We like the “aggressiveness” of the Red Arrows’ style, the elegance of the Patrouille de France, the precision of the Patrouille Suisse, the emotional and “caliente” Patrulla Aguila’s style, the innovative and growing Al Fursan…and so many others. It is so curious and nice to find in each team a different peculiarity and different way to demonstrate their ability and professionalism.
Thank you, any final words to our readers?
Thank you for reading and I hope to meet you soon in Hungary!
Photo: Frecce Tricolori, Gazzetta di Parma and airshowinfo