Where have you been? What have you seen?
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By mmcp42
Part 1
UK to Spain

Trip to Spain
Plan was to fly from Holmbeck to Lee-on-Solent and fill up with fuel
Then across the channel to Caen, refuel and on to Perpignan
Stay the night there, fill up with fuel and on to Murcia San Xavier in Southern Spain

What actually happened was a little different

Filed a flight plan Lee-on-Solent to Caen
First leg scheduled take-off time was 0800Z (9 a.m. in real money)
Loaded up with drinks and snacks for the flight
Took-off on time
Got as far as Stokenchurch mast
Decided cloud and planet were getting too close, so back to Holmbeck
Called Booker to hear that no-one was going anywhere
Lee-on-Solent were happily doing circuits in CAVOK

Waited an hour and called Booker again
"cloud is lifting"
Decided to give it another go
Sure enough passed Stokenchurch at 1500' this time
Landed at Lee-on-Solent in the promised CAVOK

Up to the tower to delay my flight plan
Had to wait for fuel as HeliMed was being filled – 100% top priority

Took off an hour later than planned, but it meant the PJE over Isle of Wight was finished, so didn't have to fly round it!
Also being a weekend the Channel danger areas were not active, so pretty much direct to Caen
Landed, taxied to the pumps, but had to wait ages for the fueller
LX had a good long drink, then fueller drove me to the FBO to pay
They also delayed my flight plan for the Caen to Perpignan leg
Landing fees very reasonable at € 8.05
As soon as formalities were completed, fueller drove me back to the pumps to depart

The leg to Perpignan was delightful
Lots of sunshine and white fluffy clouds
ATC was fantastic, handed off from controller to controller, but basically flew as planned at FL75
They do prefer you to fly "proper" VFR flight levels
Flew straight through any amount of Class E, and even Class D transits were offered before I got a chance to request them
Descent into Perpignan was delayed due to incoming commercial traffic on 31, so had to orbit once, then cleared to land on 33

Then the fun started
I mentioned that I wanted fuel, so was directed to the fuel pumps at the far South of the airfield
After a protracted wait fueller eventually arrived
We did what had to be done and he scarpered in short order
So started up and asked for taxi instructions
Back along the taxiway, across 33, down another taxiway – aha apron in sight"
Non non monsieur, keep going, another kilometre to GA parking
I should mention that when I was arranging the flights they "couldn't guarantee me anywhere to park"
The reality is that the GA apron had the bodies of two (very ex-) jets parked off in the long grass, a Cessna (I don't think the wheels had been replaced by bricks), lots of tumbleweed – and me
So parked, picked up my overnight bag – and followed the "people this way" signs
Got to a very robust looking turnstile. Tried, yup only turns to let you out and not in again
Noticed a phone number on the gate
Hoped it was for the FBO and not "flossy the floozy"
Called the number – my broken French heard "there's no-one to take the call"
Ok, went through the turnstile to find myself in the car park
Wandered over to the chap asleep at the gate
Asked for a taxi – gallic shrug
Asked for a phone number for a taxi – "get it from the internet" – and back to sleep
Wandered towards the terminal – there was a taxi :D , but it was taken :(
But I used what was left of my schoolboy French and she called another one for me
Taxi to the "B&B hotel"

Hotel wasn't too bad, clean comfortable and quiet
Asked if there was a restaurant nearby – "5 minutes walk that way"
Ok, wandered off in direction suggested
Eventually found a (closed) shopping mall, but there was a café of sorts attached
Managed to find a salad, apple tart and coffee

Went back to the hotel, slept soundly
Breakfast was really very good
Self service, but the menu had cereals, croissants, toast, scrambled eggs, bacon and French bread
Unlimited OJ and coffee – all in all a good deal
Filed flight plan for noon departure to Murcia

Tried to call the phone number on the gate "go away monsieur we are busy" – er ok!
Taxi to the airport
Found the FBO – security said "there is no-one 'ere monsieur"
Wandered to the terminal for a coffee
Back to the FBO
"zay are 'ere monsieur"
So through the x-ray machine; ok to brink my water bottle as long as I had a swig :D
Into the FBO

Your man then spent 10 minutes berating me for turning up before noon as they were far too busy with commercial flights
Then another five minutes explaining how much work I was causing them
Followed by 30 seconds to raise an invoice for €11 !!
His side-kick who sat there bemused by all this, then drove me to the GA apron

Overall impression of Perpignan – would not bother going there again – reminded me of Tilbury (that is not a complement)

Anyway, back to the flying.
Donned life-jacket, made sure life raft was to hand, called for start, got cleared and away just on noon :D
Few minutes in French airspace before being handed over to Girona
They cleared me FL85. Was happy with that as the next 4 hours were going to be over the Med
Was then passed to various agencies who all wanted my details then ignored me (FIS)

I should point out that the reason for the long over sea route is due to Barcelona's massive land (and sea) grab
You have the choice of the VFR "corridor" 30 nm out not above 1500' or 50nm out as high as you like
I decided plan B was the one to go for. Cooler and more altitude to play with
Eventually got passed to Valencia
This is where the fun starts
I was ok, pootling along over the sea
A few storm cells to fly around, but plenty of room to manoeuvre
ATC, however, were maxed out with commercials trying to duck and weave around some serious CB and TS over the land
Several times ATC said "everyone on this frequency stand by I will call you one at a time – so shut up"
I tried to QSY but they couldn't hear me
I guess the last storm cell was acting as a barrier
Finally got through to Alicante who passed me immediately on to Murcia
After the hustle and bustle of Valencia, Murcia was like a graveyard

They do Spanish red arrows training out of Murcia, and lots of parachute jumping, but the radio was as quiet as a quiet thing
Got routed direct to a couple of VFR reporting points, then cleared to land 05 as soon as I had the field in sight
Turned off onto the taxi way – and had a nice follow-me truck to follow
Parked me on the GA apron and asked if I wanted fuel – "oh yes please"
Waited only a few minute for the fuel bowser – LX had a long drink. After paying fuel chappie said wait here for security
Oki doki, gave me a chance to unload and secure the aircraft
Eventually surly security chap appears out of the heat haze (did I mention it was 35 degrees)
"come with me" and off he went
So I picked up my two rucksacks, flight back, overnight bag and snack box and trundled after him
Seems the "C" office is at the other end of the airfield, ½ a kilometre away
So he lets me through the first security gate
I then go to the second "office"
Ah heaven at last, air-conditioned, two very pretty girls and a cold drink
Tried to pay landing fees
Quizzical look – "no, why would you do that?"
What? Seems you pay before departure, then they know how much to charge you – ok
But you will need to fill in this form for next time – took several copies
Then on to next security gate, push the button and out to freedom

My car was waiting for me – half hour drive to the apartment – and a cold beer
Or not
Seems the electricity had gone off 2 weeks before
So not only was the beer not cold, but the frozen food wasn't frozen
Spent the next two hours disposing of debris and bleaching the freezer
Decided that even after that it was never going to be used again

So first job tomorrow is a new fridge
But we've wandered away from flying

More to follow :D