G-ASYP Stories - France 2006

To all those of you who wait with bated breath for the next instalment in the many exploits of G-ASYP I say “greetings” and think ‘sad buggers’. However here goes with our experiences so those of you contemplating touring with a 40 year old a/c, let alone two 40 something pilots, may benefit in some small way.

We had planned to take YP (and WM) back to Biarritz but time and circumstance prevented this so we have left that for another time.

Chennonceaux We have a friend (allegedly) who works for Airbus in Toulouse and he said he didn’t mind putting us up for the night, well what more excuse do you need? So Friday afternoon I drive up to Henlow to collect the a/c and fly down to Headcorn to pick up Mark. Those of you who follow our trips will know that there is always something which crops up last minute and this year it is the Narco Radio which went u/s some months ago and still hasn’t arrived from the supplier. So my aged Icom was with me to provide backup for the Dittel com2 which has always been very reliable and continued to be for the whole of this trip. Arrival at Headcorn at 14.30 was normal and the usual 1 hour from EGWE. Mark was already there and we quickly filled up with juice, bags, money, tea etc, etc. Quick decision as to where we are going to cross the channel and a walk over to file flight plan, no problem. Dieppe is the declared customs point as LFAT is a 2 hour notice and quite expensive.

Finally we get airborne and talking with London Info 124.60 who provide their usual excellent service. Coasting out just near Lydd we set course for LFAT to make the crossing a little shorter as we really didn’t want anything to come loose whilst we were an hour out from Dieppe direct!. Weather is perfect, hot sunny and not too bumpy over the water.
Transferred direct to Le Touquet we explain that we are going to LFAB and not planning to fly through their airspace. As soon as we are a bit south of them we get shuffled off ‘en route’.

Calls to Dieppe go completely unanswered but we can hear French air to air so, no bother, in we go. The tower has closed for the night so with the assistance of some nice club members we close the flight plan on a free phone number (where do you find that in the UK?). These same Frenchies find a telephone for a taxi and within a short while we are refuelled and on our way to town for the night. The taxi driver even rings ahead to an Hotel to book for us, this was the Hotel Du Plage and was very comfortable, not too expensive. We have been to Dieppe before so know the local restaurants quite well and dinner was to the usual high standard including the red wine. (Scott had his normal glass Cola followed by a single glass of red, whilst Mark had a Pint then moved onto the Red! Someone had to fly!).

View forward in flight Saturday am, over breakfast we decide to head south to make the best use of the excellent weather which is 30-35 degrees C over most of UK and all France. CAVOK wherever you turn. YP hasn’t got a terrific range especially when fully loaded, which we were despite mark and I limiting clothing and equipment to 15lbs each! So the Loire was the logical stopping area for the first fill up. ROMORANTIN LFYR, an old military glider base which now allows CAP (Private flights) was chosen just because we hadn’t been there before. France VFR does warn of Notamed glider activity but we didn’t find any notices for today. On arrival, however, the designated landing strip for CAP was covered in about 50 gliders all clearly lined up for a competition start. We thought better of spoiling their fun so diverted to AMBOISE DIERRE LFEF. Arriving after some 2 hours 50, which is a bit over what we would have liked. Fuel was found OK and a (another) cold coke obtained from the machine in the clubhouse. Sitting under a tree we did some more planning and as Mark was very keen to visit a place called DOMME (LFDS) we decided we would go there for the night. By now it was well into the afternoon and flying was extremely bumpy and the 2 hour flight was quite tiring and demanding through LIMOGES TMA & CTR. 

On arrival we made all the usual calls in French (see chart at end) but got no reply so we looked at the windsock and arrived. There are a few noise avoid areas locally and this required a skirt round the village and a longish approach but there is something odd about the runway view. The first approach was way too high and we binned it and went round, the second approach also turned out to be too high but we were ready with 40 flaps and we got in OK. Just goes to show that the runway picture sometimes leads us astray. Anyway the airfield is 500’ amsl and the village has a drop the other side of a further 700 feet so when flying round it looked very odd from all sorts of perspectives. The village gets a great view over the Dordogne Valley. The flying club rang the local hotel and we were collected by the Chef. The only room they had left was a whole house but the surroundings and views were well worth the slightly higher price. Dinner was a little rough as we ate in the local restaurant looking over the valley and paid reasonable money for decidedly average quality. (Next time we go Gastromonique).

Dordogne Valley Baloons over the Dordogne valley Dordogne Valley YP on the ground "somewhere in France"

We would have been better to pay the extraordinary rate to eat in the hotel but you live and learn. We did not have to be in Toulouse till late on Sunday so we spent some time planning to fly to as many places as we could that were ‘new’. This is not as easy as it sounds as many good airfields have no fuel and many that have fuel are grass and short!

Dordogne Valley (click for larger image)

Sunday morning a lovely lady drives us back to the airfield where we plan to get airborne by about 11. By now it is very hot and the runway is looking shorter and shorter. We clean the bugs off the windscreen and wash all the leading edges as well as the prop just to be sure. YP gets airborne no bother but does struggle a bit with a climb of about 200 ft/min.

Our next airfield is FIGEAC LIVERNON LFCF, only a short hop of ˝ hour. No replies to radio so land as usual. The instructor is doing a trial lesson in a weight shift ULM so we have another coke and chat to the other passengers waiting. Time to go again, very hot in cockpit, not full of fuel this time so take off not too bad, destination AURILLAC LFLW another ˝ hour away. Nice long concrete runway but 2096’ AMSL (we think this is the highest YP has ever landed?) certainly the highest we have ever done, last one was Clermont Ferand in the auvergn at just over 1000’. See pictures of YP @ 3000 ft with ground not too far away.

After landing in a dead cross wind we ask for fuel but its closed for the next 45 mins. No café or anything so wander about through the tower. The MET man is at his desk and turns out to be really interesting guy he teaches birds (cranes, storks, geese etc.) to fly alongside his microlight so he can teach them new migration routes see http://www.vol-avec-les-oies.com/

YP at Aurillac

Soon enough the fuel is obtained and we are ready to go again. By now the wind is up and down the run but take off is towards the hills. I ask the tower controller how high the hill at the end of the runway is, “100 metres no problem”, little does he know YP. With over a mile of runway we fly OK but climb is very poor so we say ‘Tourn a Droit?’ …’OK’ comes back and we turn along a wide valley which gives us some more room. To all those of you who are thinking er! We always had room to do a 180 and fly away from the hills towards low ground. Now begins a long climb to get over the hills to the south en route to ALBI. (LFCI) well we made it of course and let down the other side to an airfield similar to Thruxton complete with motorcycle racing on the taxiway.

The tower warns us twice that there is only 1000m of runway available as motorcycles are racing across the runway half way down but we arrive high over the bikes at the threshold end and are stopped with 800 metres of runway left. Once again no café or fuel so we watch the racing for a while and then set off for TOULOUSE LAS BOURDES (LFCL). Arriving from the NE this presents little problem but from the North round through west to Southeast is a bit complicated with reporting points and noise restricted areas everywhere.

We take a cab into town to meet Frank and whilst waiting we grab a beer or two and a pizza. Frank arrives (somewhat ironically via EasyJet from UK) but cannot find anywhere to park so we hurriedly pay the bill and jump into his car for the 40 min trip to home via the outside of the Airbus plant.

YP on the ground at Albi The Airbus plant at Toulouse

Frank bought his house about a year ago and tells us that the French workmen are even worse than in UK. Everywhere is part finished and the lights are turned on and off from the main fuse board. More beers, long chats and then time for bed. I grab the shower first but the water is cold, Oh well Frank has only just got home, heater is probably off. Just as I finish the water goes warm so I think lucky Mark. I retire to my room. Shortly after Mark pokes his head round the door. ‘Did you have a shower?’..’Yup but it was cold’… there's no water!!! Sure enough only minor dribble from taps or shower. Frank is called in ‘Oh Bugger the mains must be off again’ 3 am and he is down the garden with a spade trying to find a leak or the tap or something. Not too good when he has to give a presentation for work next morning at 9am. Anyway no water so Monday morning we all go into town to find a hotel where we can wash & shave. All there standing against a big mirror shaving washing and armpit spray all over the place! Frank goes off to do his bit while Mark & I find a café to have breakfast.

YP on the ground at Condon So, earlier than normal we are at the airport ready to go. Frank had said that you sometimes get permission to over fly the main Toulouse airport (Blagnac) so we put all the reporting points into the GPS as well as some alternates in case we were refused. In the event ATC were very nice and even put us on a shorter route across and right over the airbus plant. Some good photos here. After leaving Toulouse TMA we routed to CONDOM LFID which is a grass strip in the middle of nowhere. (Seemed to get longer as we approached!) Here we found a chap tinkering with his 152 which had had to land with an engine problem (Ever been F**** at CONDOM?). We watched him take off and climb to 5000’ before setting off for his home at Perigeaux.

We waited a little while and then also departed en route for BERGERAC LFBE. Time to play with the big boys as there were 3 jets on the tarmac when we arrived. Further words of caution here, take your passport….even if you just want a coke. I went out to the café to get drinks and water but had trouble with the security people on the way back in. Through the x ray machine and scanners, the lot, even had to get escorted back to YP to get my license.

Stayed here for lunch then left for our overnight stop at CHATELERAULT LFCA just a bit north of Poitiers. It is a big town but very drab and impersonal. When I asked a club member if he spoke English he said in French (because he didn’t know I understood) ‘No, but I speak perfect French’. This raised a laugh with his friends. On the bright side another one of the club members drove us to town so we didn’t have to find a taxi and he let us out right by the main hotel so we didn’t even have to look for one. Much needed shower and dinner in main square followed, entertainment provided by a bar tender chucking out hippy type customer who was waving 20 euro note, thought we were all in trouble when the chairs started flying. Good nights sleep then Tuesday morning back to airfield en route to CHARTRES LFOR where we planned to visit the Cathedral then push on further north to, perhaps, AMIENS LFAY, the weather had other ideas.

After lunch and a good walk round the town we returned to YP about 1700. Looking to the north there was a very nasty looking black horizon and all the club pilots were sucking teeth and shaking heads. Mark was keen to give it a go and come back if it turned out to be nasty but we got the TAFS for the Paris area anyway and it was wall to wall thunderstorms. My wife also rang me to see where we were and she described the rain and wind in UK. In the event we nailed YP down and went to find a hotel which turned out to be the most difficult of the whole trip with everywhere full. Finally we got a room in a comfort inn about 4K from the airfield, we had a good meal to make up for the weather which was still roasting hot, (another pint of coke please!) we also met some lads doing Europe in a Suzuki Jeep with tent who couldn’t make themselves understood even to order beer!!

Wednesday morning nice and early we looked at the still not brilliant weather and decided to try for Rouen LFOP so we were within striking distance of UK by next am.

Vilage street

The route took us over EVREUX LFOE and I was caught out by them giving us a clearance to transit via some points which were not on the approach plate and we couldn’t find on the chart (possibly due to our poor understanding of the French accent) anyway shortly afterwards a man who spoke better English came on the radio and directed us due North to avoid IFR traffic and then cleared us direct en route. I should have been more prepared to say “I don’t know where you mean” when given a route but everywhere had been so easy up to now I had been lulled into too relaxed an attitude. Better preparation next time.

We swore four years ago we would never go back to Rouen but we sneaked in under lowish cloud and drizzle hoping to leave later in the day to make Dieppe or Calais. Not too long later the rain started and calls to Dieppe and Le Touquet showed that the coast was having CB’s, poor vis, low cloud and rain. The TAFS showed a gradual improvement over the next 12 hours so, as the airport restaurant was closed AGAIN, we went into town for lunch and returned later to find the METARS unchanged so we stayed put for the night.

Thursday dawned misty and grey so we had a late breakfast and a slow morning at the airport. Eventually the weather brightened a bit. Dieppe & Le Touquet were giving CAVOK so we filed a flight plan and crept out under 700’ cloud base to the coast. Once at Dieppe the weather was quite fine and clear and the rest of the trip back to England completely uneventful arriving back at Headcorn around 1530. having covered some 20 hours of flying and nearly 1400 Nm.

Next year back to Biarittz?

Some useful Phrases (spelt for pronunciation)

J’a arrive verticaal (I’m overhead)
Vent arri air (downwind)
En bas (on base)
Finaal (Finals)
Peeste (runway)
Re montay le peeste (backtrack)
Peeste degajay (runway vacated)
Tax d’atterisaage (Landing Fees)
Preparay A depar (ready for departure)
Je decolle (I’m taking off)
Plan de vol (flight plan)
Essance (fuel)
Complet (Full, when asked how much fuel needed)
Coke = Coke

Last updated: 23-Jun-2006 09:26:02