AeroPlus participates in Coupe Breitling 2012

Coupe Breitling 2012 Competition

When Sjoerd Jan ter Welle, passionate private pilot and business owner of AeroPlus Aviation Software bv, suggested to his fellow pilot friends the idea of forming a team for the Coupe Breitling rally, the response was overwhelming. Six of the owners in a Piper Archer II joined the rally-team. They did not know beforehand what it was going to be like. But they embraced the opportunity of adventure. On the first team-meeting, however, a few months before the race, it was clear that the rally would be far more difficult than anyone had anticipated.

Challenging Race

The challenge? Landing on hundred French different airfields within twenty-four hours. In order to do this, every pilot had to be in topshape. Currency would be tested and approved. This monster-trip would take the aircraft to every corner of France. And if that was not enough, we discovered that the RT had to be in French. Not one of the Dutch participants in our team spoke more than two words of French, so we desperately needed some help!


Some French-speaking Belgium pilots were recruited. We were happy to have some very enthusiastic young pilots of the Saint- Hubert airfield in the Ardennes join our team which became a Dutch-Belgian team under the name “Team AeroPlus”.

One of the things that helped to make such a tour through the whole country of France was the fact that all the military fields in France would be accessible the day of the rally for landing. Starting from Chalons-Vatry flying through to every corner France had to offer, we were supposed to finish at the Villacoublay Air Base near Paris.The winning team would be the team that could land on 100 airports within 24 hours giving the shortest total travelled distance.

BP sponsored the race by providing free fuel to the participating aircraft on some airfields in France and Breitling offered an original Breitling watch to the flying participants of the winning team. The AeroPlus Team used 1 participating aircraft, 1 supporting aircraft and 2 cars. The logistical difficulties were challenging, and the supporting vehicles were needed to make all work out.

How did we prepare?

The preparations were huge. For a country with more than 450 airports, it was not easy to find 100 suitable airports for the race that would provide us the shortest possible overall race distance. Because everything had to be flown in VMC conditions, we needed night-VFR airports en-route. This was one of the biggest hurdles we had to take. After a lot of debating, calculating routes over and over again, asking prior permission from some airfields and many sleepless nights we found a 7 leg, 1900 NM race route.

Training in small teams

The now twelve team-members participated in a training session at the Saint-Hubert airfield in Belgium to train for the unusual standard operating procedures, specifically designed for the Coupe Breitling. We checked the fuel flow and compared our calculated values with real world figures.

The Race Itself

The race took place the 10th of May 2012. Two airplanes and two cars headed towards France. After a rather chaotic briefing and registration procedure, we finally went to sleep for an early breakfast the second day. We fuelled the aircraft and while installing a GPS tracker in the aircraft, we missed a special briefing on the race that morning. We discovered later that two mandatory areas in France were removed from the route due to strong winds, giving other teams the benefit of flying a shorter distance than planned.


The first two legs were flown as planned and after the third leg, we even had a 30 minute gain on our schedule! In the fourth leg, things began to turn to our disadvantage. Due to some bad weather in the south of France and a closed airfield at the end of that leg, we had to divert to Montpellier. Béziers airport was captured by the sea fog and couldn’t be reached by us. One hour behind schedule, we continued our trip with still three legs to go. An extra tankstop had to be made on Avignon because at one of the intended fuel stops people decided to cancel our arrangement at the last moment. The sixth leg started from Nevers, the guy that was supposed to deliver the fuel to us was sleeping and we had to wake him from his dreams before we could fuel and fly on. We started to realize that the French way of doing things was different than we Dutch people were accustomed to.


We didn’t give up and we knew that other teams were having problems as well. The seventh leg started good and the flying was challenging through all the airspace around Paris. Unfortunately the pilot flying that leg made two airspace infringements above the house of former President Sarkozy and through the beautiful gardens of Versailles.

We finished after 25 hours of flying. We got a huge penalty for the airspace infringements and some sloppy circuits we flew or missed during the rally. We managed a eighteenth place of the 20 contesters.

For a first time, we were amazed we even managed to finish the race after seeing all the problems we encountered on our route. We raced against the French Airforce, an Air France team and a lot of other more professional pilots. We learned a lot and are planning to sign up again for the 2013 edition of the Coupe Breitling.

Some statistics:

Winner: French Airforce with 1504 NM
Avarage flying distance: 1731 NM
AeroPlus Team flying distance: 1904 NM (+100 NM penalty)
Driving distance with the 2 cars: 4500 km
Flying done with the supporting aircraft: 15 hours.


Formation of Team Aeroplus:

Pilots of the race plane the D-EOMP:
Sjoerd Jan ter Welle (chef d’equipe)
Peter van den Heuvel
Jack van Dijk
Leon Melet
Ronald Romkema

Copilots and RT:
Elodie Herbos
Loïc Cardon
Anthony Shahabpour

Supporting team:
Sander Poppes
Hans van Hooft
Wouter Nagel
Freek Hoogeveen