A bird's eye view on Bastille Day

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A bird's eye view of Bastille Day
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A bird's eye view of Bastille Day
Jets fly over Paris on their way to participate in the Bastille Day parade, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer SEARCH "BIRDS BASTILLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An instructor teaches Reuters photographer Philippe Wojazer how to use the ejection seat at Cazaux airbase, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer SEARCH "BIRDS BASTILLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Group chief "Schreck" (a nickname) (R) speaks at a briefing before take off from the Evreux airbase to participate in the Bastille Day parade over Paris, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer SEARCH "BIRDS BASTILLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Alpha Jet pilot Benoit holds a life jacket as he gets in his plane before taking off for the Bastille Day parade on the Evreux airbase, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer SEARCH "BIRDS BASTILLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Pilots are briefed on the Evreux airbase, before taking off for the Bastille day Parade over Paris, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer SEARCH "BIRDS BASTILLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Reuters photographer Philippe Wojazer is seen in an Alpha jet plane, on its way to the Evreux airbase from Cazaux airbase July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer SEARCH "BIRDS BASTILLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Four Mirage 2000C and one Alpha jet flight over Paris, France, on their way to participate in the Bastille Day military parade, July 14 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer SEARCH "BIRDS BASTILLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Reuters photographer Philippe Wojazer is seen in the overhead mirror in an Alpha jet plane on its way back from the Bastille Day parade to Cazaux airbase, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer SEARCH "BIRDS BASTILLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Four Mirage 2000C and one Alpha jet fly over Paris on their way to participate in the Bastille day parade, July 14 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer SEARCH "BIRDS BASTILLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Four Mirage 2000C and two Alpha jets fly over Paris during in the Bastille Day parade, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier SEARCH "BIRDS BASTILLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Alpha Jet planes are lined up on the runway before taking off for the Bastille day parade on the Evreux airbase, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer SEARCH "BIRDS BASTILLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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PARIS, July 14 (Reuters) - Reuters photographer Philippe Wojazer flew in an Alpha jet taking part in a military air parade for France's Bastille Day celebrations in Paris on Thursday. Below is his account of the experience.

Flying in an Alpha jet is not comfortable but soaring high above the ground in the small, narrow plane with its transparent top gives a glimpse of what it must be to fly like a bird.

The planes were among dozens of aircraft taking part in the annual Bastille Day military parade on Paris's Champs-Elysees on Thursday.

In past years I have photographed marching soldiers and army vehicles but this time I was speeding though the skies above the French capital taking part in the fly-past.

The air parade begins with jets trailing France's national colors of blue, white and red. They are followed by groupings of different planes. Mine featured four Mirage 2000C and two Alpha jets. It took us some 40 seconds to complete our part of the parade.

Like many other planes participating, we had set off from a military base in Evreux, a one-hour train ride from Paris. After a speedy but relatively smooth take-off, it took us just over eight minutes to cover the same distance in the Alpha jet.

Outside Paris, different groups circled the skies in their "hold" areas, awaiting their turn to fly over the capital.

My pilot Benoit and I waited some 20 minutes. When the radio instruction came through, the Mirage and Alpha jets took their places -- just 15 meters apart -- like dancers ready to perform.

We entered Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the distance and I managed to take pictures before we zipped down the Champs-Elysees. Then, with the show finished, the Mirages went one way and the Alpha Jets the other.

I had never flown in such an aircraft before this week and it is truly an extraordinary experience. But it is not for the faint-hearted.

I had to undergo basic medical tests and have my legs measured to make sure I would fit inside the jet before undergoing training at a military base near Bordeaux, southwest France, learning the cockpit security basics.

While there, I was given equipment including a helmet, safety vest and inflatable trousers -- used so that blood does not rush to the feet.

Benoit and I first took to the skies on Wednesday, heading to Evreux. We flew at a speed of 850kph some 10 km (6 miles) above ground.

The jet is steady while in flight but makes disconcertingly sharp turns when preparing to land -- I was told slow, deep breaths were key to avoid fainting.

Photographing the parade from a helicopter last year, I could make out the crowds below but this time, I saw very little. It felt as though we were shooting through the skies and were engulfed by the clouds -- the fulfillment of a lifetime ambition for a speed fan like me.

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