Saturday 25 May 2013 04:00 UTC
Where have you been? What have you seen?
The plan was to make our first cross-channel trip as a bit of a birthday treat for myself a couple of weeks ago. A faulty battery in the aircraft coupled with thunderstorms quickly put a stop to that.
So, with a serviceable aircraft and the weather looking good, myself and Mel managed to make it on attempt number two this weekend. As usual, I did all my planning with the fantastic SkyDemon software. If you have been living under a rock for the last 18 months and still haven't tried this, you really must!
Armed with PLB, life raft and life jackets, off we went. The plan was to cut just underneath the south western corner of the Gatwick CTA and coast out over Hastings. I have to say that I found Farnborough East radio absolutely horrendous. There was some kind of beat interference on all transmissions both from controllers and other pilots - it made some of the RT almost unintelligible.
Once clear of the CTA, we climbed to 5200 and before too long, we were over the channel. The weather instantly changed from an overcast drizzle to clear blue skies. We were soon past the last bit of CAS so climbed to 6200 feet for the rest of the crossing. Before we knew it, we were at the FIR boundary so contacted Lille.
This - to me - seemed almost entirely pointless as just five minutes later it was time to begin our descent and contact Le Touquet tower!
It seemed to take an eternity to descend back to circuit height, and we were given a surprising 'join downwind left hand for 32' - this contradicted the airfield plate, and the advice I'd received from other seasoned travellers. I asked him to repeat just to be on the safe side, then joined as instructed.
The landing was a bit interesting to say the least. I still find it a bit difficult controlling the taildragger on hard surfaces - I had better get some more practice in... Anyway after snaking down the runway for an eternity (including missing the first intersection), we finally taxied to the apron and shut down.
Not sure what to make of Le Touquet itself. Everything was vastly overpriced - typical tourist town... That ghastly swimming pool complex on the beach just needs blowing up - it's astonishingly hideous! The airport was really nice though and there are some frankly stunning properties nestling in the tree lined lanes near the airport. Some of them were breathtaking - I dread to think the value of them, but they must be multiple millions.
We walked both ways between town and the airport - it's a gentle 25 minute stroll which anyone should be able to manage. I can heartily recommend the 'Scoop' restaurant - it's on the main road on the way between the airport and town. Very good food at reasonable prices.
On the return trip, visibility crossing the channel was seriously nasty - there was no visible horizon at all. We followed the same route as the outbound journey and it took about 25 minutes longer due to the wind.
For anyone who hasn't done the cross channel trip yet and is apprehensive about it, I'd say just get on with it and do it. It's no different to flying in the UK apart from a few bits of extra paperwork. I really do not understand why some clubs enforce a mandatory 'cross channel checkout flight' with an instructor. It's hard to believe this policy is anything other than a money-making scheme.
Where next? Well Cherbourg is the obvious choice, but I've been given quite a few other interesting suggestions too...
Clouds and rain over Blighty...
.. gave way to clear blue skies over the channel ...
One of many large vessels seen
It was a beautiful day in Le Touquet
Downwind for 32 LH, this is the view over the right wing
Just a bit of fun - here's the approach in time-lapse
A windy beach!
The next day, Bravo Oscar was found where we'd left her...
'Orrible weather on the way back
Coasting in over Hastings
One of the many new schools in Swindon
Interesting read, reminds me of my early trips. It sounds like you have realised that there is no mystery to this sort of thing, so look forward to reading more of these reports across the summer.
Couple of things I may have done differently (But this is just me ).
I'm Scottish so the idea of burning all that fuel in a long climb rubs up on my natural meanness. Once I have the aircraft running in a stable cruise at a level which works for most of the journey, I would leave it there. The stress on the engine in the climb may exacerbate a latent problem thus increasing the slim chance of a failure over water. It also means that your ground speed will be slower during the climb, perhaps meaning that you actually spend more time over the water. I would also avoid rapid descents like that, anything over 1000'pm can cause damage to the ears if it is done repeatedly. I plugged your route back into SkyDemon this morning and it looks like on their 1000'pm standard descent you would need to start from about 138miles from 5200'. Anyway as I said, that's just me.
I'll keep a look out for you on the other side. Good to see you getting out there.
The general advice seemed to be 'get as high as you can'. Most of the climb was over land and it was more of a cruise climb than anything else.
My next trip will probably be to Cherbourg where climbing so high would be all but impossible, and it'll also be difficult to keep within glide range anyway - so I almost certainly won't bother!
With regard to the descent, all I did was reduce power at ALESO - I think we descended at about 1000fpm which took about five minutes.
A Jodel that can do a groundspeed of 1592 Kts - I got to get me one of those
Glad the trip went well Steve - hopefully that's given you the incentive to head further into the aeronautical paradise that is France.
I checked in l'estate agent last weekend, a decent one goes from about 400k to 700k (Euros)
Guaranteed 100% iFree
Quite possibly sent from my Nexus 7 which cost 400 quid less than your iPad.
Capitalisation is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse
I did the Cherbourg crossing at FL85 over Easter (and back at FL75) so it is doable - just climb up over the IoW!
Glad you had a great trip!
Mile 138 on the SkyDemon track, for the trip, not a 138 miles from destination.
Really good 'first time' isn't it? Next time just as much fun, but slightly more relaxed as you've done it before.
I think the unexpected 32L join was due to your 'longer water crossing' route... (Bexhill direct) rather than Lydd-Boulogne which a lot of pilots do, which of course always ends up in 32R downwind or 14L base, and they think everyone does that.
(ps: you think that's bad weather??]
(pps: you could have started something... we need more pictures of schools, preferably on Skydemon, so when the engine fails, we know which brick walls to avoid gliding straight into)
Speaking of Cherbourg for your 'next':
Sunday next week May the 22nd on the car park of Cherbourg airport LFRC
garage sale or flea market
All day long French food, French crêpes, French meat or sausage grilled on
wood fire, French fries, French bread, French coffee, French beer, French
I was obviously a bit apprehensive, but to be in the end, I found Dunkeswell more intimidating with PJ jumping and someone going the wrong way round the circuit!
I just didn't see the point to trekking all the way to Lydd where it would invariably be busier just to save two minutes on the water crossing. The 32L join was fine and made perfect sense really.
That was the very best picture from the whole crossing. We were in solid grey murk almost all the way.
Indeed, I heroically avoided plummeting into that particular one which was rather inconveniently located on my flight path!
Ah, that's a shame... I'm committed to visiting the folks up north this weekend. Also, I don't think the bank balance will stretch to visiting France every weekend
He usually has one of his famous BBQs on the final Saturday in August, and probably one during the summer too.
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