Is it Thanksgiving week already? This year has been incredibly exciting! All of us at Cockpit USA would like to wish you a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving shared with family and friends.
To offer you a bit of company throughout the holiday weekend our creative team has put together an Off Duty feature with Aerobatic Pilot @_simon_valentin from France. Shown here wearing our RAF Sheepskin Jacket while flying the legendary vintage WWII PT-17 Stearman.
Our Off Duty profiles feature like-minded individuals that share a passion for aviation and fantastic jackets, while telling their personal stories in their own words on what it truly means to be a Cockpit USA brand ambassador. We invite you to meet Pilot Simon Valentin as he shares his story of aviation. 


What inspired you to become a pilot?

Going back as far as I can recall, as a kid I wanted to be an actor in Hollywood. I didn’t really know what that meant and I knew even less about Hollywood. However, I had a strong passion for the movies. I saw Hollywood as a world where everything is possible.

A few years later, I started developing another interest, flying. There have been a few pilots in the family, my grandfather and my uncle flew airplanes, and my dad is a helicopter pilot. Before I even was old enough to officially learn how to fly, I already knew how to read instruments, navigate and maneuver a Bell 206 Jet Ranger. Thanks to my dad, before I became a pilot myself, I had already earned a few flight hours and more importantly a passion that completely defined my whole life. 


Where are you from? And where do you live now?

I’m from a town named Limoges right in the center of France. We are worldwide famous for our ceramics and our cows, but that’s pretty much it! This is a great city though, with a very beautiful countryside and fantastic weather for  IFR* conditions… (*Instrument Flying Rules). Now I live in Paris, if you’ve never heard of it…  it’s another small city located in the north of France.

On IG you’re listed as a comedian. Tell me a joke?

Well in French, “comedian” actually means “actor”, more than stand-up comedian so there might be something lost in translation here,  but I’m actually not (yet) an actor I am  working on uniting both my worlds of flying and acting one day! 

Off Duty Simon Valentin

What is the Limouzi Aerobatic Team? What is your involvement?

The LAT is basically the aerobatic branch of our air club. I am a flight instructor there: The Aeroclub NASA, that stands  for New Aerobatic Sport Association… in Limoges. The LAT is originally a aerobatic association created by Pierre Girardeau 20 years ago. He launched it with just his one airplane, the Mudry Cap 10, and in a few years the club grew and now we do all sorts of flights. I’ve been a part of the LAT almost since the beginning and a few years later my best friend and wingman Lionel joined the team. In an effort to showcase our aerobatics apart from the general flying,  my passion for the cinema kicked in so we’ve designed a new logo, bought a couple cameras and made lots of “humoristic” videos to share with everybody. I have always enjoyed filming  aviation!

What is a regular flight like for an Aerobatic Pilot?

First, we get together in the hangar for coffee like the regular caffeine addicts that we are. Then,  the flight begins on the ground where we check everything on the plane; the engine, the parachute (which is mandatory), everything.

This type of flying adds a very unusual stress onto the plane, so we want to make sure everything is green lighted. We also check the weather forecast (by taking a glimpse through the window). A briefing of an aerobatic flight is basically a repetition of the flight as if you’re preparing for a competition or an air show.

One must execute the little dance on the ground by mimicking all the maneuvers of your program, if only to refresh your memory for later. Often during an aerobatic flight, between having your head upside down and all the G-Forces, you could have a tendency to lose some of your brain capacity… It’s better to have somebody helping you get installed into the plane. Aerobatic flying is always better/safer with team work. After that, it’s getting your motor runnin’ and you’re good to go!

300 horse power launching our Extra 300 very quickly vertical to the airfield, then it’s barrel rolls, loops, inverted flight, Positive G’s, negative G’s deforming your face and making you weigh up to 8 times your body weight! Hundreds of combinations of maneuvers that are all listed in the Aresti catalogues for your own pleasure and more for the Free Flight pilots. 

Off Duty With Simon Valentin

Share with me a flight experience that you are most proud of?

All my “first time” flight experiences put aside, the flight that is for sure one of my most memorable life and flight experiences was my trip from France to Cap Skirring in Senegal in a small Mudry Cap 10, which was our aerobatic plane at the time. The plane was equipped with only an altimeter and a compass. My friend Pierre Girardeau who taught me everything in aviation was born in Dakar in Senegal, and had this pretty crazy idea to go fly aerobatics where he spent most of his childhood in Cap Skirring at the very south of Senegal. We built a team of three airplanes to go there and I got to fly the Cap 10 with my wingman Lionel. We crossed France, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Gambia and Senegal in three days, we flew over some pretty vast deserts, all alone in the world in our little plane with just our auxiliary fuel tank. We basically followed the path of the heroes of the Aeropostale, St Exupery and Mermoz and we felt like Lindbergh while pumping fuel from our auxiliary tank over the desert, which might as well have been over the Atlantic. 

I personally felt very lucky when we landed in Saint-Louis in Senegal, this place is loaded with history and when we got there after flying full throttle just a couple meters above the ocean, I felt like I had lived a very rare experience. 

Unfortunately, after we got there, just as I was about to go for my first Senegalese aerobatic flight, I experienced a massive engine failure right after take-off, fortunately I managed to land safely but that was the end of the adventure. Since, my wish is to go back there as soon as possible!



What does “Russell Case’s Sterman PT-17” mean to you?

Well as everyone should know of course, Russell Case is the drunk character who saves the world in the movie Independence Day. I must admit, I’m not sure that this movie has aged very well but it is one of the cinema experiences that I remember the most watching as a kid. Good old school nineties Bad Ass Will Smith in a F-18 (which was already one of my favorite planes). That movie was something!

Anyway, there is this Russel Case character who is always flying his Stearman PT-17 drunk, who ends up saving the world in a F-18 throwing his plane at the alien spaceship yelling “Up youuuuurs!!!”, what’s not to like?


What does being a pilot mean to you?

I’m not sure I can explain it…  Getting all this wood and metal up in the air, and then it’s being alone in the plane that I feel the responsibility right from take off. Your survival depends only on your ability to get the airplane back on land safely, it’s a very strange but addictive feeling.

I feel a very strong bond with all my pilot friends, doing this extraordinary thing that is flying. To still feel that very strong connection with the beauty of it and of its history. 

How did you come to know Cockpit USA?

As a lover of everything that is linked to old school aviation, and more particularly the WWII period, for years I’ve been dreaming and looking for a leather jacket that would be the closest thing to the original military issued ones in the RAF and the USAF. Of course I quickly read on the internet about Avirex and then Cockpit USA.

Off Duty With Simon Valentin

What are your favorite Cockpit USA styles?  

Well I had been dreaming of this for years,  the B-3 and the  RAF sheepskin bomber jackets. I like taking my time with  the things that I really like, so I wasn’t in a rush. Last year I was ready to go for it but I was stalling a bit. My beautiful girlfriend Annalisa ended up offering it to me last Christmas. I almost had a stroke, it was beyond my dreams… God what a girl, and what a jacket… 

Then as you know, we went to NYC after that and I wanted the G-1 so bad, which is lighter than the sheepskin and I wanted to have a piece of aviation history on me all the time. That’s when I had the pleasure to see where the magic happens and meet all you nice people! Now I basically wear those two jackets all the time!