Monday 20 May 2013 03:21 UTC
Where have you been? What have you seen?
Many of you will already be aware of the thread I started back in June on the main forum for a trip I was planning.
The plan was to fly from Netherthorpe (EGNF) in South Yorkshire to Le Touquet (LFAT) and stay for 1 night, then onto La Rochelle (LFBH) for 2 nights and finally onto Jersey (EGJJ) for 1 night before flying home. This would be 5 days away taking G-ROLY a lovely C172 based at Netherthorpe which I have got to know quite well over the last year or so.
The dates were set, Monday 3rd September to Friday 7th September 2012. This would be a first years wedding anniversary break for me and Michelle as we got married on the 10th September last year. I booked the leave with work, I booked the aircraft and all I needed was nothing to go wrong in between and the weather to play ball.
I got my PPL back in August 2009 and have also added a night rating and recently an IMC rating to it. Since obtaining the IMC rating I have been gradually flying further including an Isle of Wight trip which I wrote a trip report on as well. Most of my training was done at Sherburn in Elmet but I now mainly fly from Netherthorpe.
The Flyer thread assisted greatly in the practical aspects of the trip. From the GAR forms and flight plans to good hotels. In fact we ended up going with the hotels for each destination as suggested by fellow forum users. The Bristol in Le Touquet, Hotel St Nicolas in La Rochelle and The Club Hotel and Spa in Jersey. I made lists of things to check as the week got nearer including checking if there was enough hours left before the 50 hour check on ROLY. I did the VFR plogs back in June and sorted the routes out. Basically I did as much as I could as early as possible to keep on top of things.
The only hotel we did not pre book was The Bristol in Le Touquet as the cancellation policy was not good enough for a VFR trip from the UK. The others however could be cancelled with no charge up to the day of arrival.
As the week got nearer (and lets face it we have had a rubbish summer) I started looking at long range forecasts and around a week before the forecasts (including Simon Keeling) suggested a large area of high pressure would be moving into Europe just a day or so before my departure date. I could not believe our luck, nothing like this ever happens to me!
By the weekend before I was confident we were in for a good spell of weather so went down to Netherthorpe to check the aircraft paperwork, and give it a clean and tidy up.
I soon realised cleaning aircraft was much more difficult than detailing cars! But I got it looking a lot better anyway.
I had worked out fairly early on what weight allowance we could take as luggage and taking into account all the flying gear, my laptop, and the fact I wanted full tanks I worked out 20kg as actual luggage was safe. The hardest problem was going to be getting airborne at Netherthorpe as all the other airfields were international airports. I decided I would allow for this on the morning of departure and if the wind favoured a 06 downhill take off we could go with full tanks. If it was 24 uphill I would opt for 3/4 tanks for the trip to Le Touquet rather than stopping en-route which for me takes some of the shine away.
The night before we were on the scales double checking every last item. I did not want to become another Netherthorpe hedge eater!
I had sent GAR forms and customs emails on the Friday before departure. I realise the GAR form was not required for departure to the EU however I sent them anyway if nothing else but for practice in filling them in. Le Touquet had responded but La Rochelle had not. As was pointed out on the thread, French airports just expect you to fly to them. I had already completed flight plans and stored them on my AFPEx account ready to send.The AFPEx helpdesk suggested I use the local flight plan filing system in France but I wanted to use AFPEx to check it worked with no issues.
A nice meal out the night before added a few lbs I am sure.
On to the morning of departure and we had an early start. I completed the rest of my VFR plogs using the old whizz wheel. I find this a good way if nothing else to recap on the routing and generally get my mind focussed. I had already purchased the French OACI chart for my Airbox Clarity and the paper charts as suggested on the Flyer thread. The routes were all plotted.
At the airfield the wind was virtually nothing so I was happy for a 06 departure.
I loaded the aircraft while Michelle sat and waited. Everything looked fine.
I phoned Le Touquet to check the weather and although not as good as the UK it was acceptable for me.
We filled the tanks, after having to get Sheffield Aeroclub to come and activate the pump as it was pointed out the airfield did not officially open until 930am. Lifejackets on and we were ready for the off departing Netherthorpe at 0930 BST.
Our routing took us south east over Fenland and then south over Earls Colne, then over Southend and Sheerness VRP before heading for Folkestone and coasting out. Up until Folkestone there was very little in the way of clouds and we were getting as high as possible. Michelle settled down to reading and took the headphones off.
Some of you from this neck of the woods may recognise the below photograph. As you can see clouds were building up nearer the channel.
We coasted out and cloud was becoming broken. Manston ATC asked us for a cloud tops report for their pilots.
I had plenty of fuel to cross the channel and even come back so we continued VMC on top. As we neared the French coast the cloud eased a little and I was able to come back down remaining VMC. My IMC rating was now no longer valid other than removing the restriction to be in sight of the surface. Having said that EASA has removed this for UK PPLs anyway now.
We had to get pretty low to remain clear of cloud as we followed the coastline down to Boulogne. My first channel crossing and I had not seen much of the channel really. Le Touquet was easy to spot and we were soon "downwind" (although the French do not call this) and right base for runway 32.
The landing could have been better, I let ROLY drift a little before touch down but we were down in France, safe and well landing at 1145 BST, some 2 hours 15 minutes later, (based on hobbs time) and 212miles later.
Not much traffic in Le Touquet apart from a jet who we later found out was there to collect a French footballer who also plays for Munich, not been interested in football I did not recognise him. There was also a UK C172 with a (South African I think) pilot who came over and asked about cloud. He had been stuck in Le Touquet overnight with the cloud apparently.
No need to ask for my flight plan to be closed so we went indoors with our luggage and asked for ROLY to be filled to the top and we waited for our taxi which the very friendly desk sorted for us. By now the sun was coming through and we got the happiest taxi driver in the world, -Allo Creton Taxi, Mr Yannick CRETON. The aircraft would be filled by the man on the desk while we went to the Hotel Bristol.
What a lovely town Le Touquet is. We really must have picked the best week to attend. Hardly anyone around as the summer holidays were officially over yet we still had the weather and most places were still open. However it is worth noting that Mondays are a little like Sundays over here in the UK. We checked in at the Hotel Bristol and all was fine. Plenty of British cars parked outside and it was perfectly positioned for walking around and down to the beach. The beach itself has near perfect sand, so fine and soft. We opted for a drink or two at one of the beach bars before wondering around again and having a Crepe for lunch. It was very warm.
That night we went and ate at the Le Petit Charlotte, a little French place in town. Lovely food and full of locals.
Le Touquet is certainly a place I will be back to, even for a day visit.
Day two arrived and this was our leg across France to La Rochelle. I got up early again and went downstairs to use the free wifi. Checked the weather and it was “clear” Le Touquet was fog bound. La Rochelle was showing fine and clear. We went for a coffee (we wanted a Latte but ended up with the strongest coffee ever) at a nearby newsagents/café/betting shop. I decided we were best getting off to the airport as soon as a break in the weather came we could be off.
We got a taxi back to the airport, where it was equally as quiet as the day before.
I took the opportunity to check the aircraft, make sure it was indeed full of fuel and added a little oil.
After around an hour or so a twin landed with two French pilots. I asked about the cloud situation as it was now starting to break up with patches of blue. He informed me the tops were only around 600 to 800feet.
I therefore spoke to the tower and we got a green light for a SVFR departure. I logged onto AFPEx via my laptop and filed the flightplan, it arrived at the tower within minutes. It is worth nothing there is a computer provided at Le Touquet to use anyway.
We were soon airborne at 1035UTC and climbing away. Initially I was only cleared not above 1000feet but after taking off I asked for higher as there were holes I could fly through and being stuck at 1000feet was not my idea of fun. I got this granted and I was soon climbing through 2000feet in the sunshine and been asked to switch frequency.
Not long after that we changed again to Paris control. They do not seem to use the “pass your message” phrase and instead asked individual questions, all in one go. Paris control were at times very difficult for me to understand, not least because they sounded very distant much like London info can be sometimes. On this leg they even had to try another controller who spoke better English as they were asking me the same thing upwards of around 5 times before I could understand them. They wanted to know if I was the only occupant of the aircraft, (I had told them this anyway in my initial message).
The flight across France was pretty uneventful and there are plenty of VORs to assist you. The DME decided to pack up on this leg for some reason but was working again on the next flight.
This was the only other aircraft we saw while flying across France, not really an issue for us as you can see. Our routing was ABB VOR then onto ROU VOR, then LGL VOR and over Alencon airfield (who I called to ensure no aerobatics were taking place, the only response was from someone in their circuit who confirmed there was none), then ANG VOR before heading towards La Rochelle some 297miles later.
After starting the decsent into La Rochelle I had a bit of a Bush Pilots moment and had to pull hard to the left to avoid a huge soaring bird at around 2000feet, we came pretty close. Not long after we saw a flock of around 8 of the same soaring nearby. I reported this to ATC but they did not understand and just said they had no information. After sitting on top of cloud in the silky air for so long it was rather bumpy down below. La Rochelle soon came into view.
The ATIS had already told me it was runway 09 in use but on first contact ATC stated the runway in use may be changing, I was a little confused at this as the wind reported clearly favoured 09. He soon reverted back to this however and we joined left base.
We were soon on the ground and getting taxi instructions of “follow the blue line” for fuel. We waited while the fuel man had finished with a Ryanair aircraft just getting ready to return to the UK and he came and fuelled G-ROLY. In fact there were a couple of jets on the tarmac and I looking at the arrivals board it seems it is becoming quite a popular destination for UK operators. Jet2 even fly here from Leeds Bradford.
It seems the airlines preferred runway 27 though.
We paid for the fuel and then taxied to the grass parking. Not the smoothest area but fine all the same. We had landed at La Rochelle at 1015UTC some 2hours 25 minutes after departing Le Touquet, again this is based on hobbs time and 297miles.
We then tried to get out of the airfield via the keypad and security gate but it was not working so we had to find a security man to let us out using keys. He told us we needed to come back through the terminal when we return.
We got chatting to an English woman while awaiting our taxi, she had paid £13 for the flight on Ryanair from East Midlands. The heat really hit us when we arrived in La Rochelle, very warm and sunny.
We made our was to Hotel St Nicolas as recommended by Flyer forums users. What a lovely hotel this was and perfect location.
We were soon sipping champagne at the wonderful harbour.
La Rochelle is a fantastic place and really worth a visit. It was much busier than Le Touquet was with what seemed like hundreds of restaurants to choose from.
A great couple of days in La Rochelle, enjoying the beach at Les Minimes and visiting the aquarium.
I will certainly be returning to La Rochelle.
It was now Thursday morning and time to depart La Rochelle and head to Jersey. We got back to the airport and it was very quiet.
We went through security to get airside which is the only time I needed my pilots licence and passport on the whole trip. We tried to pay the landing and parking fees but the guy was having difficulty getting the system to work so I went and sorted the aircraft again, checking it over, putting oil in and attaching the PCAS MRX etc.
We had been joined by another G reg aircraft on the parking area.
I had already filed my saved flight plan before leaving the hotel so called the tower up on my handheld VHF to confirm they had received it. We left La Rochelle heading north at 0750UTC and we were sad to be leaving, we could have stayed a lot longer.
The fight went to plan helped by the clear skies. The only change was Nantes would not give us a direct crossing and asked us to transit via their reporting point E2. This took me a few seconds to find but was not an issue.
We were also asked by Rennes not to overfly the city so we went around the western edge.
My routing for this flight was via Nantes, Rennes, before heading north east to overfly Mont Saint-Michel (which has got to be done at over 3000feet). I had visited here in 1995 with on a school trip so wanted to see it from the air. I later found out you can do it as a specific sightseeing trip by air from Jersey.
We routed over Granville airfield (LFRF) before turning towards Jersey. We were told of some traffic some 500 feet below us. When I spotted the aircraft it was clear we were at the same level and not too far apart.
I copied the ATIS at Jersey and headed out over the deep blue.
We were cleared to enter special VFR and head to the south east corner, and instructed to descend to 2000feet. We then simply followed the coastline before joining right base for runway 09. Only the second time SVFR and there is nothing to it. The class D meant I could use the ILS but in these conditions it was certainly not required.
We landed at 1015UTC some 2hours 25 minutes later (hobbs time) and 199miles. We taxied to the aeroclub which was easy to find and parked on the grass on one of the “visitors rows”. I phoned for fuel and he said they would fill ROLY up in due course.
I secured the aircraft and went to the club house to fill in the GAR forms. I had already completed these to hand over but the lady on desk insisted I fill in special Jersey ones, which included the exact same information. I also asked her to send the outbound GAR form back for the return leg to Netherthorpe the day after, then it was done within the 12 hour limit and I could forget about it.
It was a busy aeroclub but we were soon awaiting our taxi before an instructor called Brian who was just leaving was kind enough to offer us a lift to our hotel. Thank you Brian.
We had splashed out a little on the final stop of our holiday and The Club Hotel and Spa was lovely as was the meal at the restaurant. We had a walk into St Helier in the afternoon for some lunch but soon returned to sit by the outdoor pool. My thinking was we would be visiting Jersey many times in the future now as well as the other channel islands.
Friday morning arrived all too soon and I was up early checking the route, filing my flight plan via AFPEx again and checking the weather. I also phoned Plymouth military the night before and on the morning of departure who advised that D036 danger area was active but I should call to get a clearance. This concerned me slightly as I did not want to get to the coast and be refused a transit. We were then in a taxi heading back to Jersey airport. The taxi driver took 20 euros off (think he got a good deal) and I was again checking ROLY out, cleaning the windscreen while Michelle got us some lunch at the club. Luckily it was Friday so it was open earlier otherwise we would have struggled getting anything. Not much hot food on offer though bar soup.
We were airborne at 1250BST and heading to the northwest corner SVFR not above 1000feet.
My planned routing was via the MP NDB before following the recommended VFR route up to KATHY and then flying over Bembridge and the Isle of Wight and following the same route I use for the Isle of Wight from there. This takes me north (avoiding Solent CTA) with a dog leg over Brize to avoid busy airspace then onto DTY VOR before turning north following the M1 with a transit at East Midlands via the Long Eaton Lane before heading inbound to Netherthorpe some 276miles later.
ATC asked me to head to Heauville VRP which took me slightly of my planned track, later they asked if I wanted a more direct routing and so I commenced my planned track to the MP NDB.
We flew past Cherbourg.
Wanting to ensure a crossing of D036 was possible I requested a change to Plymouth military on 124.15mhz while retaining the French squawk. This was granted but very silly of me I had never made a note of the French frequency I was on (it was not one I had planned for on my route so did not have it written down) so ended up going back to one which I had been on earlier. They asked me to contact London info. I tried but there was just no response. I called up Plymouth again who advised due to atmospheric conditions VHF was suffering today. I could barely hear Plymouth but I reported at the FIR boundary and then requested a climb to FL50. This was the longest sea crossing but and I am sure it would be a lot more daunting at night mid winter!
The Isle of Wight came into view around 30 minutes later. There was the odd boat here and there which I tried to keep in view.
We were soon back over familiar ground and Bembridge seemed active some 4000 feet below us.
Plenty of activity on the water and the rest of this flight was uneventful.
It was so noticeable how busier the airspace is in the UK after flying in France. We spoke to Farnborough and then Brize before Coventry radar and East Midlands, all on a traffic service.
We watched a Ryanair 737 fly the final approach into East Midlands below us
and then completed an overhead join back at little Netherthorpe where we landed at 1550BST some 3 hours later on the hobbs.
A fantastic trip, helped by lots of early planning and the Flyer forums. Cannot wait to do something similar, possible touring Ireland maybe. We were lucky with such great weather all week. Probably the best and most consistent 10 days we have had all year. We were also lucky back in March on our trip to Edinburgh and Fife, (see my other trip report). It was still nice to have the IMC in the bag though.
Some 10.6hours added to the log book and the cost breakdown is as follows:-
Landing fee/Parking fee/Fuel service =38.50 euros £31.47
Fuel £134.15 for 77 litres
£200 in Euros which is 240 euros
Restaurant La Petit Charlotte 72.60 euros, £59.22
Hotel Bristol – 126.10 euros which is £103.07
Landing fee 10.60 euro which is
Parking fee 54 cents per hour
Total = £32.17
Fuel 2.32 euro per litre 86.09 litres 199.71 euro which is £162.59
Meal night 1 Le Bretagne – 59.70 Euros which is £48.80
Lunch La Rochelle – Le Recif 48.90 euro £39.81
Meal night 2 Paradis D Asie – 40 euros £32.73
Hotel total with breakfast and drinks 2 nights 316.40 euros, £258.93
Landing fee £12.60
Parking/club fee £10.50
Fuel £1.55 per litre 75 litres £116.25
£50 cash withdrawal
Hotel Club and Spa and Michelin star restaurant at the Bohemia for 1 night and drinks. £432.20
Sub total = £1725.49
Total for holiday £2122.51 including charts and extras.
Pretty expensive for a 5 day trip but certainly worth it. I am just not sure the local butty run will cut it anymore
The full photo album can be found here:-
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set= ... f7f628704e
With a few videos here:-
Thank you to the Flyer forums
Last edited by Liam548 on Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
PPL + Night qualification + IMC Rating
Fantastic... I really enjoyed reading that. Thanks Liam.
All roads roam to Leeds.
A very nice writeup and shows that you were well prepared.
You'll see that you probably worried a little tto much about airspaces, crsossings, flightplans, etc.and that on a VFR trip like this, really the only things to "worry" about are 1. weather, 2. weather and 3. weather.
Two more considerations:
1. Get a decent camera that takes the "prop effect" out of your photos.
2. Don't wear hi-vis where it is not specifically requested, it's just too silly.
And finally: Well yes, flying trips are expensive, and they also get you addicted...
Agree on the weather, to be honest could quite easily have carried on south into Spain. I am considering a GoPro HD but for the time being the standard shots do me fine. The high vis at Jersey was a deliberate affair, apart from that it was in the bag..
Did need them with us though as they would not let us airside at La Rochelle without them on.
PPL + Night qualification + IMC Rating
Great trip and great write up and photos.
You're never going to forget that one.
Use email please rather than PMs
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Great write up Liam!! Makes me want to go back there VERY soon!!
Suiting the action to the words
What a brilliant trip! Well done - so glad it worked out for you. And the weather - wow! What luck!
Easy on the paperwork front, isn't it? Bet you're wondering what all the fuss was about now...
Please do tell your flying buddies just how fabulous flying in France and the Channel Islands can be - the more the merrier, as it keeps clubs going, airfields open, we pilots sharp, and our partners and families happy.
Congratulations on your wedding anniversary too!
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