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La Rochelle

PostPosted:Tue May 28, 2013 12:58 pm
by carlmeek
Wow - what an amazing weekend. We decided to go to La Rochelle, the farthest we have ever ventured from home. I planned a stopover on the way there, as it felt like too far go in one hit. In addition, because I was planning it quite late, I missed the deadline for notifying customs at La Rochelle, so we picked Caen instead.

As per previous trips, I used the checklist at for planning activities, and everything was straightforward.

We set of for Caen, choosing to dogleg between sussex EGKL and Caen in order to reduce time out of glide range. This dogleg would take us close to the isle of wight. We took off from Deanland's runway 24 and climbed at 70 knots until the coast, coasting out at around 5000ft. We had a very slight headwind, but it not enough to make much difference to progress.


The flight was as smooth as silk and visibility was excellent. Once we arrived over France, the radio was so busy I could not get a word in edgeways so did 10 minutes of local flying before entering the CTR, just to take a look around. Eventually I got a word in edgeways and was cleared to land. I established on base, flaps and gear down, at 70kts (my gear AND flap limiting speed). The controller asked if I could increase speed, i replied "negative" so he then asked if I could land late to minimise time taxiing on the runway. This is a nice little challenge, so I setup to land about half way down the runway, judging approx 400 metres from the turn off. I touched down as planned, and turned off without having to either throttle or brake, perfectly judged! The controller thanked me - all very friendly.

Caen airport is quite posh - glass, and the odd jet… so I was rather shocked at the landing fee. 4.87 euros. That is the cheapest fee I have EVER paid to land anywhere. We paid the fee, cleared customs (if you call walking past an empty customs desk that) and set off on our way to La Rochelle. The taxi required a bit of a backtrack, and the controlled asked If I needed to backtrack at all…. it looked a bit too short, so I just backtracked a little and took off, the roll proving I didn't really need to. These big runways can be hard to judge!



The flight was immediately bumpy so I climbed from the 2300ft i was told to stay at, progressively up to 5000ft. It was not smooth at any level, really badly rough. My wife looked very green by the end of the trip. Unfortunately cloud cover was 90% and I was uncertain about climbing high - I've never been above 6k before and it looked like i'd need 7k to be above cloud, and even then it might be a bit marginal being able to see the ground…. so we stuck it out.

It was a relief to be over the water, descending (very) rapidly for a left base into La Rochelle. Finally smooth.



After landing we topped up the tanks with nasty leaded 100LL, exactly 50.1 litres. Not bad at all for 2:45 flight time in total with 2 takeoffs. That's an average of 18 litres per hour. This is a better economy than usual due to rough air forcing me to stay below 120kts.


We then parked up on the grass on the GA apron, and wandered off to find a taxi to the hotel.


La rochelle is a lovely place - I highly recommend it. Peaceful, very few brits, great architecture, amazing food.


Return trip…..

I studied SkyDemon extensively, trying to find a way to get a smoother flight. I decided we'd have a go at flying above the cloud, which looked clear all the way to the UK, with a descent down below 5500 as you approach Seaford VOR which would be my coasting-in point.

To get to the aircraft we had to walk down the Easyjet Speedy Boarding Queue, into the private security office, where our documents were checked. They actually looked at my Pilots license! The first time anyone other than myself has done so in 3 years flying. It was funny to walk out on the sunny tarmac with queueing passengers looking at us. With the absence of a uniform it must look quite strange seeing a couple wearing casual clothing!

We set off, and requested a climb to 7000ft. I was told to initially go to FL065, so for the first time in 3 years of flying I selected 1013 and went to 6500ft. This was right on the bottom of the clouds, so I immediately requested a climb, as little wisps of cloud teased us from above. She granted me a climb to FL075, so up we went. The clouds were taller than I thought, and at this altitude I was having to steer around some tall bits.


I requested another climb - granted to FL085. This was now clear of all but the very tallest bits, very smooth, and quite magical. I could see the ground, cloud cover was about 70%. At this level, the little Rotax is feeling asthmatic and is producing just 39% power with the throttle wide open, and achieving an indicated airspeed of just 113kts. This is a true airspeed of around 131kts, and we have a component of the wind behind us, giving us around 145kts across the ground.



Final descent into Seaford was pretty impressive - 172kts across the ground!


After such a smooth flight, even the slightest bump of turbulence feels unfamiliar, and UK was shockingly bumpy - sink and lift like crazy in the circuit. We landed having been airborne for 2:05 and having burned 43 litres of fuel.

PostPosted:Tue May 28, 2013 10:47 pm
by Dave W
I am really enjoying these, Carl. Just the thing to spread the word that "It ain't half as difficult as some might make you think". :thumleft:

I agree: La Rochelle is fab. :D

PostPosted:Thu May 30, 2013 11:15 am
by BlackheathBloke
Nice trip, La Rochelle is a good spot.

However, normally bump into a few Brits there but not the bling, bling chav types.

Re: La Rochelle

PostPosted:Fri May 31, 2013 9:24 am
by SpeedBird
Nice report, enjoyed the read and the weather looked great. :-)

PostPosted:Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:53 pm
by fuzzflyer
That was a great read as I was sat here planning a similar trip1 it will be a first time foreign for us infact first trip over 100 miles!

Thanks for taking the time.

PostPosted:Thu Jun 06, 2013 6:41 pm
by Moli
Great report, love Rochelle, flown into there a couple of times. Really enjoyed the typically French outdoor restaurants and overall evening ambiance there. Fabulous choice for a first time abroad weekend or night stop.


PostPosted:Mon Jun 10, 2013 5:26 pm
by subirg
A great read and quite exciting with the cloud dodging escapades! As a humble student pilot, I have often found myself wondering what I'll get up to once I have the hallowed license paper in my hands. This is just the sort of inspiration I've been looking for!

PostPosted:Mon Jun 10, 2013 11:03 pm
by ellomoto
Thanks for that! A great read and quite inspirational as I'm yet to release my umbilical with the mainland, Isle of Wight excluded.

What Licence and Ratings do you have?


PostPosted:Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:37 am
by carlmeek
I'm really glad you guys have found my write up useful, sometimes it feels a bit risky sticking my head up above the firing line and writing something so public, but it is rewarding to hear feedback.

Licenses and ratings all blue into a confusing mess... I originally started on NPPL(M) and enjoyed a single trip to France 3 years ago. I then upgraded my aircraft and got an NPPL(SSEA) and lost my right to fly in France. This year I then upgraded to a LAPL, and can now fly in France again. I don't have any additional ratings, but I do have differences training into VP, Retractable, and as of yesterday tail wheel.

PostPosted:Wed Jun 19, 2013 1:51 pm
by carlmeek
Weather has been a bit disappointing of late, not managed to get any more trips in.

However, I'm currently planning a "biggie" down to Spain and back via Chambery in the alps....

Planning so far:

PostPosted:Thu Jun 20, 2013 8:49 am
by malcolmfrost
Can I respectfully suggest Annecy rather than Chambery? It's one of the nicest parts of the world I've ever been to. Chambery is "just another large French town"!
Try Aromatik for dinner :D :D :D

PostPosted:Thu Jun 20, 2013 8:53 am
by carlmeek
That's quite amusing.... I originally planned for Annecy, and switched to Chambery due to it being on my bucket list of landing airports.

I think i'm going to do both - only 10 minutes between them :)

PostPosted:Thu Jun 20, 2013 9:57 am
by malcolmfrost
:D :D
One of my abiding memories is flying into Chambery on the ILS in cloud, and breaking out at about 3000 feet with a dirty great cliff on my right......
A good/spectacular route from Chambery to Annecy would be south down the valley then turn left to Albertville. then left again and up the lake via Ugine.
I've done a lot of cycling in the area, no flying though, on my bucket list as well!

PostPosted:Thu Jun 20, 2013 10:17 am
by Keef
Annecy is a fabulous place to fly into - with two provisos:

1. Make sure you get the right valley;
2. There's an Air France Commuter pilot who thinks he owns the airspace and will complain if you arrive while it's "his air". He can safely be ignored if you follow ATC instructions.

PostPosted:Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:41 pm
by Old Pilot
I have to agree. Love La Rochelle. Nantes is worth a visit.