A Bit Too Low? French Rafale Fighter Cuts Power Lines

By Spyros Georgilidakis | February 18, 2021

A Rafale fighter jet belonging to the French Air Force cut three power lines as it flew low over a village, sustaining substantial damage. And in the process, it caused an outage in a small town.

The aircraft belongs to the 4th Air Squadron (Escadrille Aérienne), 113th Air Base (Base Aérienne) at Saint-Dizier-Robinson Air Base. Along with an identical jet, they had taken off from Orange Air Base (115th), in the south of the country. Their maneuvers found the two French Rafale jets in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region, and the town of Le Castellet.

A Bit Too Low? French Rafale Fighter Cuts Power Lines

Benoît Gouin, the Mayor of Le Castellet, reports that he was driving his car when he saw the first jet. It was flying over the town, low to the ground: It went so low that it made a hell of a noise. I then raised my head and saw a second aircraft”. That second French Rafale was low enough to fly under the power lines. But not quite all the way under them, as it turns out.


French Rafale Vs Power Lines: 3-0

After the Rafale fighter jets left the French town, the mayor drove closer to the site. He discovered cut power lines, laying on the ground. “I immediately called the emergency services and the team at Enedis (the electrical company)”, he said. The event caused the closure of the access road to Le Castellet. Approximately 300 people in the town had no electricity for three hours, while crews mended the lines. Also, the fire brigade raced to the scene, wary of possible fires from the sparking bare cables.

A Bit Too Low? French Rafale Fighter Cuts Power Lines
Photo by Rebecca Rambar via Twitter

But this was only the aftermath in Le Castellet. The French Rafale jets headed back to Orange and as the picture shows, landed successfully. Stephane Spet, a spokesman for the Armée de l’air (air force), later stated that “the crew were unharmed”. The two jets had been on a training mission at the time of the incident. He also added that the air force has launched an investigation on the incident, which is “very rare”.

It seems that the French crew of the Rafale fighters were lucky. Slower and smaller GA aircraft and helicopters generally don’t fare well, if they come in contact with power lines. Other low-flying aircraft like fire-fighting planes, have also faced such serious accidents. But looking closely at the damage in the French jet, it looks like things could easily have been much, much worse.

Let’s hope to see fewer of these rare accidents. And that when they do happen, like here, the only victims are some egos… and perhaps a very annoyed crew chief.



  • Well let’s wait for the conclusions of the investigation but I think this was actually a training mission (2 aircrafts patrol) and one of the fighters flew too low at some point, so basically a pilot error and a bit of bad luck. Luckily nobody was hurt.
    The Cermis disaster was a little different: a single aircraft having fun, taking pictures and at the end a crew trying to cover their ass by destroying the evidence. In other words: a fault with tragic consequences. They were court-martialed for that, sentenced and fired.
    I have been a helicopter pilot in the army: we were training very low as well. Although we had some flying techniques to try to be always on the safe side in case of an unseen power line, we had also some accidents, not many but rarely with a positive outcome.
    What I mean is that flying low (for military aircrafts) is dangerous but part of the mission. This has to be well prepared and performed in special areas or corridors but it’s impossible to eliminate all risks. Fortunately it’s quite rare but if it happens it’s not always a fault or an indiscipline. To be continued…

  • Good job it was a small power line by the sounds of it. If it was one of those bigger pylon jobs, then well who knows. Perhaps the pilot of that jet should write an apology letter to the villagers.

  • Piero Palmiotto

    Indeed lucky! That wasn’t the case for the Cermis cable car disaster in 1998. What a shame they don’t learn from that.

  • Goodness me, sounds pretty reckless flying even for the military.
    Glad nobody hurt.You do wonder what would have happened in the event of an emergency which does not bear thinking about.

  • Francis Winton

    Lucky the power line gave out before the wing

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