Jacques Brel, the airman...
As I go back through the various topics
of this forum, I see that many of us like nice stories.
Mainly when they are told by the talentuous Jacques
Chabbert... I am part of those story lovers. Nice
stories have always brought emotion to my hart and I
have often taken the part of dream that helped me go
ahead in my life from a few of them.... Today, I will
try and tell you one... A story which in fact is a
tribute to the "public person" I most admire. And since
we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his death, on
Oct.9, it's a perfect time to share it why you....
This man is named Jacques Brel…
The great Belgian singer whose career is well known and needs no reminder here, was also a fan of air matters. But the passion was born quite late, he was already 35. August 1964, after a concert in Biarritz (extreme south of France), Brel's manager, Charley Marouani, leases a small aircraft to fly to the next step of the tour : Charleville (extreme north of France). The pilot is Paul Lepante, a former Navy man currently a test pilot with Sud-Aviation (the Caravelle manufacturer). Once in the air aboard the "Gardan Horizon", Brel feels the passion is coming alive.... He receives an initiation training during the four hours flight and takes the decision : he will learn to fly !
And Paul Lepanse will be his instructor. Being a brilliant student, Brel gets easily his private pilot license. Once the piece of paper obtained, he buys his own Gardan Horizon registered F-BLPG, which he will keep for three years. In 1966, he will acquire a Wassmer 40 and fly around France, then with Lepanse, he will start a long trip from Nice to Beyrouth, with stops in Calvi, Napoli, Rhodes, Nicosia, and returning via Ankara, Istanbul, Salonique And Corfu.
In 1969, he decides to apply for an instruments flight license (IFR) and registers in one of the best available school : "Les Ailes" (the wings) in Genève-Cointrin. There, he will meet his new instructor who will later become his best friend, Jean Liardon. The Swiss instructor (whom I met much later) is a great pro passionate with aeronautics, the son of Francis Liardon, who has been one of the best aerobatics pilots in the world in the 60's with his famous Bücker Jungmeister.
On Apr.17,1970, he receives the IFR license and will continue the training until he his qualified as a copilot on a Learjet. In 1971, he will rent a Learjet 40 in Geneva for a trip to the French Caribbean's with some friends. With les than 1100 NM range, the pioneers will have to stop in Paris, Prestwick, Keflavik, Narssarssuaq, Portland, Wilmington, Nassau, Pointe-à-Pitre. Seating on the right hand seat of the cockpit, Brel is proud to make that trip as the copilot of the small jet, despite a long stop in Narssarssuaq (Greenland), due to a landing gear problem…
For some time, Brel will switch to a new passion, sailing boats and will go for a world tour aboard the "Askoy II". But as he gets sick, he has to abort the trip and decide to live in the small village of Atuona, on Hiva-Oa island, part of the Marquesas archipelago. This is not the best place to fly, but the man has an idea... After various administrative problems to revalidate his pilot license due to his health problems, he will buy a Beech Twin-Bonanza in Tahiti and brings her to the small mountain island. From there, he will set up scheduled flights from island to island to supply mail, medicine and exotic food to the isolated population. The plane will be named "Jojo" for Georges Pasquier, his ever best friend who died a few earlier. With his girlfriend Maddly Bamy, he will fly the most beautiful flights he has ever flown...
In 1977, he comes back to Paris to record his last album. He will take that opportunity to pay a visit to his Swiss friends Liardon with whom he goes to Sion for an aerobatics session with a Stampe during which he discovered the enthusiasm of flying this Belgian (like himself) airplane... He then returns to his small tropical paradise. We then reach the autumn of 1978 when he is obliged to go back to Paris for medical reasons. He does not know yet, but it will be his last trip. The desease has progressed and he is admitted to the Bobigny franco-american hospital where he will die in the eraly hours on Oct.9, from a severe pulmonary embolism. Three days later, his body will be flown back to Hiva-Oa where he is buried, close to the painter Gauguin in the Atuona graveyard.
In April 1982, I have made the long trip
to Tahiti and the Marquesas, simply to bow over the grave of a man who lived his
life at 100 knots, who has shown unmatched uprightness and honestry, who spent
his life doing everything he could to realize his child dreams. A man who
remains for me the greatest author, musician, singer of the french music.
A man, less than commun, who was a great artist, a very good navigator, an excellent actor, a exceptionally gifted pilot. Briefly and simply, a great man! The one I consider as the best know example of what should be our way of living to make our life a successful story.
He is gone for a quarter of a century already.... I miss him, I will never forget him...