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Eric Goujon

Corsair and PC-6 Pilot


Eric Goujon’s career in aviation may best be described as an unexpected journey – and one that gave him opportunities he could never have imagined. “You just need to be prepared to say yes, and actually to walk through doors when they open.”

The Frenchman, who joined the ranks of the Flying Bulls in 2013, has always lived by these words: he was a young electrical engineer when he was presented with the chance to become a jet pilot, flying a Mirage for the French Air Force. As his plans for life promptly performed a 180-degree turn, he embarked on an adventure that would take him to Africa, Saudi Arabia, London and ultimately Hangar-8. Today he pilots the Corsair, delighting the crowds at numerous air shows with his precise yet spectacular flying style, both solo and as part of a formation.


Was aviation always your dream? How did you get into flying?

EG: From 1979 to 1982, I studied electrical engineering at university. At that time, I had a very blinkered view of the world and the opportunities that were out there. My life was already mapped out. In between studying and taking up the job I had committed to, though, I was called up for military service. When someone asked me if I’d consider becoming a jet pilot for the Air Force, my life flipped upside down in the blink of an eye. When I went to bed that night, I knew that’s what I would do. It was incredible to see just how quickly things can change.

Thinking right back to the start, do you still have clear memories of your first solo flight?

EG: Of course! It was part of my basic flight training with the French Air Force. I remember it very well because the weather took a turn for the worse, and suddenly we had to hurry. Instead of cherishing the moment, I was forced into an emergency schedule. Anyway, I took off and flew a classic VFR pattern, and maybe six minutes later I was back on the ground – just in time for a storm to break above our heads. I’m still proud of it, though.

After that solo flight, what happened next in your aviation career?

EG: I had 16 wonderful years in the Air Force, firstly flying a Mirage F1, then switching to the Mirage 2000. I ended up as an instructor for the Alpha Jet. When I turned 38, I had to leave the military because of my age. That came as a slap in the face, and I was in limbo for a while, but I never stopped believing that life will always give you opportunities, if only you are prepared to seize them. In my case, the next opportunity was to fly a Pilatus Porter PC-6 for a skydiving club. When you do 25 flights a day, you soon build up a wealth of experience. After two years of that, I was offered a chance to fly the Porter in Libya, then in Algeria. Once again, I said yes. Next, I was flying a Twin Otter and working in Saudi Arabia, before finally flying a Learjet while based in London. That’s a fantastic aircraft, a bit like a Mirage but with passengers and a kitchen.

Since 2013, you have been a fixture of the air show team at Hangar-8. In your view, what is special about the Flying Bulls?

EG: It’s not just the unique aircraft and the way they fly together – it’s basically the people involved, both in the air and on the ground. The Flying Bulls offer an environment in which everyone performs above and beyond, as technicians, as pilots and as people. Being able to fly here and be part of such a great vision is a wonderful gift. You can sense that everyone involved feels the same way.

You are often seen flying in tight formation in the Corsair as part of the warbirds formation, with Raimund Riedmann in the Lightning. How is your working relationship?

EG: Not everyone is capable of flying in formation like that. You need to trust the other person, know your own abilities and know what the other person can do. Above all, you have to know what the other pilot is going to do, and the things he never would do. The leader has to take the sting out of a manoeuvre. He has to be sure the pilot on his wing can keep up, and never needs to push the aeroplane beyond its performance limits. So how do you learn to do that? Of course, by flying together, but also by spending at least as much time together away from flying, sitting and talking. Plus, you need to devote time to the formation. The first time simply doesn’t bear comparison with the things we are doing today. After all this time, Raimund knows a great deal about me, and I know a lot about him. That said, when we are flying solo, we handle our aircraft very differently to the way we fly in partnership.

When you are flying in formation at an air show, do you think about the spectators at all?

EG: Constantly, but let me explain. When I am flying with Raimund, I am always adjusting my position in relation to his wing. Not because I can’t hold my position, but because I am always considering the angle at which we look most spectacular from the ground. I still love watching the displays at air shows. A lot of them are great, but some are just fantastic, and I think that being aware of the spectators and the people on the ground is what makes all the difference.

After all these years and all those different aeroplanes, do you still have a specific routine before every flight?

EG: Before flying, I always take a moment to think about what I’m going to do – and far more importantly, what I really mustn’t do. People often think flying is a zone of total freedom, but in fact the opposite is true. Flying demands a high degree of discipline. At all times, you have to understand what is possible and what is not possible. Since that discipline tends to get eroded as you gain experience, you have to keep working at it.

What are the qualities a good pilot needs?

EG: The question should be, how do you define a good pilot? From an engineer’s perspective, a good pilot is someone who can operate an aircraft without damaging it. From an administrative viewpoint, it’s someone who has their papers in order and sticks to the rules. Other pilots would say, it’s somebody who flies safely. Punctuality is also important to the company – and then there are the spectators at air shows, who expect to be amazed. As for me, I think a good pilot is someone who understands and combines all of these points – someone who can build bridges.


In the Flying Bulls, everyone performs above and beyond.

Eric Goujon
Eric Goujon
Corsair and PC-6 Pilot