G-ASYP Stories - Away 2003

Away 2003 (Or YP Abroad Again!) Scott and Mark

After last years trip where Mark Johnson and I arrived at Rouen amidst torrential downpours and horizon to horizon CB’s and where we languished for three days until we could scoot out to the coast under low cloud and where we had no sooner taken off than the tower closed with a cheery “ Clear to en route frequency, goodbye”. I was looking forward to this year with some trepidation. All we knew was Rouen was off limits and we never wanted to see Joan of Arc’s tower again!! The story really begins some months before when we booked YP for our annual trip, there was no plan and no agenda so we were very relaxed about the pre flight planning. As far as I was concerned anywhere warm and sunny would be fine. As it so happens it was also the 40th anniversary of our old gliding school

(618) and there was to be a fly in reunion at RAF Odiham (618’s new base). This turned into an overnight stop for YP and me as well as the wife (Lynn). Needless to say we had a good time and whilst sinking a few beers in the bar that night it became obvious that two other friends, Allan Aubeelack and Chris Cornish, had also booked their Europa for the same week. So it was that a loose agreement to meet up was made and a suggestion of South’ish France would be the destination.

As the day of departure came nearer various e mails flew back and forth on exactly where to meet and also plans for weather. Our first choice had to be open for customs as the Europa would be coming out to France direct from White Waltham but Mark and I would be already well on our way. Our first choice was Le Mans, partly because Mark & I have never been there and I wanted to walk about in the town, but this was soon scrapped as it turned out to be the 24 hours race and there were all sorts of French NOTAMS as well as a well founded fear of no accommodation. At last Rennes was agreed, a bit further for YP but a two hour dash for the Europa.

Friday 13th June (not superstitious!) arrived and I arrived at Henlow to collect YP and fly down to Headcorn to collect Mark. As time was pressing (we planned to be at Rennes by late afternoon) Mark filed the flight plan from Headcorn whilst I flew down. As it turned out we just had enough time to complete the customs forms and refuel by the ETD. Mark now flew the first leg from Headcorn to Deauville via Cap Gris Nez which was very pleasant with goodish viz and not too much turbulence. On contacting Deauville we were warned to keep clear of the power station a few miles to the north on the coast. As we were within sight of this we were able to make a wide detour round it (more of this anon).

Arrival at Deauville was uneventful except that the nice man in the tower who spoke very good English would not take credit cards. For those of you who are Monty Python aficionado’s he “Spat on our English Banks & our feelthy credit cards”. The reason for this soon became clear he would be charged 7.5% commission on the deal instead of the 2% from French banks. So much for the EU.

We now filed another flight plan for Rennes as these are compulsory both in and out. Leaving Deauville under clear skies and 25 degrees C we set sail for Rennes. Shortly after changing to Brest Info we heard Allan & Chris estimating Rennes at about 1730 and a quick look at the GPS showed our ETA as 1740 so all had worked out well. I asked for a climb to 3000’ just to let them know we were also on frequency and on time. Changing to Rennes we were just in time to hear the Europa (G-WM) team call ‘downwind’ and we were routed in via points NE & N.

A small problem now appeared in that we were never told the runway in use and I kind of assumed we were being routed in for a finals to land but as we came level with the runway we were told to join downwind the opposite direction. This resulted in some furious decision making on my part, I felt unable to go upwind along what would be the down wind leg so I went over to the ‘dead side’ and started upwind. I expect the tower could see us as I was then told to cross the airfield and join the upwind end of downwind and we were No 2.Rennes is quite a strange airfield with two runways making a Vee and with, seemingly, both of them in use towards each other! Landing and parking was uneventful.

We organised a taxi to take us into town where we found a nice Hotel near the train station (plenty of Hotels in this area including a huge Ibis) and went out for a few beers and dinner, which was a bit of a blow out it being our first day away. We couldn’t believe how well the arrangements had worked and that we had both arrived so close together. Next day (Saturday) we had a bit of a lie in and went to breakfast at a local Café. The weather looked pretty poor but Allan was itching to move on. Collecting our bags, which were very small and light as both Mark & I are putting on weight, we all climbed aboard a taxi back to the Airport arriving just in time for the restaurant to close after breakfast.

Now the rain came down and then the CB’s started! A visit to the weather station, where a very helpful MET man predicted a good clearance after 1400, decided us on a ‘stay for lunch and then see’ course of action. All this involved several trips ‘air side’ and all our bags went through the x ray machine, we were all searched and even had to produce our Pilots licenses. 1300 The café opened and we had a snack lunch, the weather improved on schedule and (back through all the searches etc). we took off en route for Royan on the West Coast just north of La Rochelle. As we had the two, very different, aeroplanes we had agreed the night before to have a general swop around so we could all have a go in the other type. So it was that I was flying with Chris in VM and Mark was taking Allan in YP. As the two a/c fly at very different speeds YP left first with the Europa about fifteen minutes behind, this should produce an overtake at about half way and WM arriving about fifteen minute before YP to arrange Beer & taxi. This worked well in practice and we could hear YP on frequency all the way down, as we passed them we were routed by La Rochelle out over the bridge at the Western end of the airport, this added a few minutes of flying time and was to prove significant. Strangely enough, once over the sea, the turbulence increased and it became fairly rough. We arrived at Royan on time and were told of parachute jumping up to 12,500 AMSL but the Turbo Porter was still climbing so we arrived uneventfully except for the strengthening cross wind from the sea and some little wisps of cloud at about 1200 feet. We taxied in and parked, the Turbo Porter dropped it’s parachutists and landed for the next lot and took off again with the wind strengthening still more. Now the cloud started filling in and lowering quite quickly, however the parachutists were still on their way up so no problem. YP appeared on frequency about ten minutes out and had to scurry in under quite low cloud, now the parachutes started falling out of the cloud at about 500 ft over the airfield. Some had got it a bit wrong and landed across the road in a farm field, still onlookers looked up, was there still someone up there? Cloud is now 200 feet or so and finally a tandem parachute pops out of cloud over the hangar and lands in a field. Phew! Beers all round, very hot weather, find out fuel only available next morning so order taxi and in to town.

Hotel found not much bother and shower done, it’s back into the bar for another beer. The sea front is very nice with a great beach so we had a wander round and then stopped for dinner, which was very good. Sunday dawned sunny and nice, well I assume it did as we didn’t see it but it was nice when we surfaced. Breakfast in the Hotel Café and some planning for the days flying, further South looked good and we toyed with the French/Spanish Border, or at least the Mountains, but that looked as though it would make long days flying to get home and Mark had to be back at work on the Thursday. So the plan changed to Perigueux for lunch then on to Chauvigny near Poitiers for the night. The later because all of us had been there before, the airfield is friendly, and the 12th Century Medieval town is only a short walk down a country lane. The weather was good but with poorish viz for this part of the flight, I was flying YP with Chris as navigator and the journey to Perigueux was fun. On arrival there was no reply from the Tower so a call to Bordeaux info told us they were all at lunch. All calls now in French per the France VFR guide and a good landing into a deserted airport, we could not even go out as there were security locks on all the gates. Well we stood around for half an hour but no one came so we planned the next bit to Chauvigny. There were plenty of holes in the cloud to make air to air photography a good possibility and the visibility was improving so we did some detailed planning as to who would do what and when. This was helped by the fact that we have all known each other for many years and have confidence in each others abilities as well as knowing that discipline and the plan would be stuck to.

I took off again with Chris and climbed towards the North West where there was a big hole in the clouds, Allan & Mark followed almost immediately GPS put us within a mile of each other. Once above the scattered Cu we began a quite slow formation with Allan first formatting on the right so Mark could take pictures of YP then a swop around with the Europa on the left so I could take some of WM from YP. Some of these have come out really well. After about ten minutes of this, WM shot off towards Chauvigny, climbing to about 5000 ft on the way. We could not tell if the clouds ahead became overcast so a quick call to WM reassured us that it was all well broken ahead so we stayed ‘on top’ of what was really well broken Cu until about 15 miles short of our destination where there is another Power Station (remember?). Landing just about five minutes after WM we parked on the visitors grass and set off for town.

Once in the old town we visited the Tourist office and they rang the owners of a Chambre D’Hote where Allan had stayed before. They arrived a short while later to inform us that the place was empty and we could each have a room to ourselves at the single rate of 26 Euro each including breakfast this is the equivalent of £20.00! After a quick shower we all met up at the nearby bar to have a few beers. Allan announced he was going to get well and truly ‘Bladdered’ so much beer was consumed very quickly. Then on to an excellent dinner with four litres of wine between the three of them (as I was determined not to have a hangover). We were finally thrown out of the last bar open in town at about 3 am.

Allan was a bit of a mess next morning but he had to show himself as the breakfast had been brought in specially. No time to stand and stare, we were chauffeured up to the airfield by the Owner of the Chambre D’Hote. Remember the power stations? These all have danger zones around them up to about 3700 feet and 5 Km. We were told of a pilot who had flown low over one and been fined 45000 Euro!!! Now we refuelled and worried a bit about fuel loads. It was hot and on a grass airfield where previously we had been on concrete. I was to take Allan with me in YP so VM was going to be heavy also. We loaded enough fuel to go to our next port of call, Bagnoles D’Lorne just about 100Km NNW of Le Mans, which was decided only on the basis that none of us had been there before. As it turned out it was very nice, another airfield where you can walk to town down a farm track, however we rang for fuel and the manager arrived filled the a/c and took us into the town where he gave us a guided tour, finally depositing us in the town square and the inevitable bar. We ate lunch and planned for the afternoons flying but we also took the precaution of obtaining the weather. We would have liked to get to the Channel Isles but the weather looked poor for the afternoon and worse for the morning so in the end we decided to stay put, book rooms and have a lazy afternoon. Hotel, Shower, Beer & Dinner (in the casino) were accomplished without fuss and the dinner was excellent with very good wine and food in an empty restaurant (except for us). This is a good place to visit for a weekend or a few days. Next morning the weather was true to the MET and we were glad that we had not gone to the CI’s low cloud and poor visibility.

I rang Henlow Flying Club to get some TAFs and we also visited the Tourist office where they allowed us to get MET from the internet. A slow improvement was forecast so we planned to be in N E France by that night, aiming at Dieppe. Weight was again a problem with Mark & Chris in YP so we put one of the bags in WM for day (bad news if you end up at separate airfields). We finally took off at about 1430 en route for Dieppe via Bernay, another grass strip about 100 miles East of Caen, once again there was nothing here, no fuel and no restaurant open. Visibility was very poor on this trip and some CB’s rumbled around so we hung about for a while and then went to the CAP agent’s offices where a helpful man who spoke good English obtained TAF’s and Metar’s for us. Dieppe looked best with alternates at Le Havre or well inland at Amiens.

Once again YP departed first with Allan and I in WM following close behind. We were concerned about where the other a/c was and GPS came into its own as we make a few radio calls and saw each other at about one mile. Crossing the Seine just a few miles to the west of Rouen we were down to 1500 feet and about 6K viz. Calling Dieppe we were relieved to be informed that the wind was 20 knots and just a bit crossed and the cloud/vis. was the same as where we were so we pressed on and arrived with no problems at 1730. Taxi into town where we found food & hotel somewhat more expensive than everywhere else. That evening Allan made the quote of the trip by saying “Well of course it’s all going to be more expensive in Le Havre, what do you expect?” Rest of Us: “Good job were in Dieppe then!!” We had a good dinner that night, served by a waiter whose name was apparently “Bollocks” and who asked Mark if he shouldn’t be careful about what he drank in view of the baby! We ended up in a bar where Chris and Mark drank Beamish Red until far too late Allan retired early and I didn’t manage to stay the course either.

 Next morning was excellent channel crossing weather. A little too windy but otherwise great. Flight Plan filed in the tower, fuel loaded (full tanks at last, long runway, good breeze) we said our goodbyes, Chris and Allan direct to the Isle of Wight and White Waltham and us direct to Headcorn via Hastings. 3000 ft over the channel and all is well with the world. After landing at Headcorn and a quick cup of decent English Tea in the Tiger Club I set off once again for Henlow and enjoyed a really terrific hour of flying arriving shortly after 1500.

Overall we did about 15 hours flying over the six days and covered over 1500 road miles.


Last Updated: 07 October 2005 09:06:45