Where have you been? What have you seen?
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By mmcp42
Holmbeck preparation
First job was to get all this


Into this


As you can see the windsock needs repairing, clearly not working!

Holmbeck to Deauville
I filed a flight plan at FL70
VFR Holmbeck to HEN (Henton)
Then IFR to MID (Midhurst) SITET ETRAT DEMOM Deauville

Took off from Holmbeck in sunshine and called London Info to activate the flight plan
Ok so far, but was expecting some sort of clearance to enter controlled airspace
Called London Info again "that's an IFR flight plan"
Seems I should have said that when I asked them to activate – ok lesson learnt

London then called back to confirm IFR Flight plan was activated but,
a) FL80
That's ok I can live with that
b) Via CPT (Compton)
That's ok, bit out of the way but survivable

The incident
Got cleared into controlled airspace, climb FL80 direct CPT
Climbed as assigned
Few minutes later controller asks "confirm your level"
I replied FL80
He says, but you're showing FL74 (odd number that)
I replied both altimeters showing 8000' 1032 (oops that's the problem)
Apologised, set 1013 and climbed to FL80
(Remember this, I will be asking questions later!)

On to Deauville
Continued (in cloud) to Deauville
Approaching Deauville we descended to FL50, much to passenger's relief as we could see the planet again
Nice quiet GNSS LNAV approach into Deauville via BAGEK to runway 12
On landing, Tower confirmed he had my next flight plan ready to go
Requested fuel, told to taxi to parking where nice fuel man was waiting


On to pay for landing fuel, etc.
Have you cleared customs? Asked the nice lady
Ok pop next door (that is out to the apron, turn right and into the next office)
Gendarme glanced at passports and waved us back to previous office
Have you cleared customs? Asked the nice lady
(All seems very lax, but not complaining)

Ts and Ps
Went landside to use facilities and grab a quick coffee


Then back to LX for the next leg

Deauville to Argenton sur Creuse
Checked the weather for destination, not marvellous, but definitely flyable
Took off from 12 in sunshine, cleared FL70 immediately but the weather deteriorated as we went south
As we approached Argenton we saw the nearby tower (1444') with cloud-base well above the top
The rain stopped as we descended and landed (not a bad one if I say so myself) runway 22
Taxied to alleged parking
Apron very small so parked on the grass


Not a soul about, and only the sound of tumbleweed


Called in to cancel my flight plan!

Heather (from Arkansas) appeared 10 minutes later to pick us up for transfer
Loaded it up and headed off for our first night's sleep

Chateau LaLande
If you've ever seen Channel 4 "Escape to the Chateau DIY", it's the one with "Stephanie and her mother" (Isobel).


They are both wonderful people and made us most welcome.

Our room for the night


And the bathroom (no really!!)


We were invited to join the family for supper. All the "staff" were there too. Not fair to call them staff, they are treated and behave just like distant cousins who'd popped round to help. Amazing 3 course meal with all the wine you could drink (I do like a challenge). And we slept in a castle!
Next morning found a huge table full of breakfast goodies. All fresh and the bread was still warm, bottomless coffee (always good to stay awake while flying)


Isobel was there to greet us, then rushed off to wake Stephanie to say goodbye. Such very nice people!

Marie (from Norway) drove us back to the plane
Loaded up ready for the next leg

Argeton sur Creuse to La Rochelle
LX waiting for us!


Had filed a flight plan 1130Z but decided to try and get away early as the weather was expected to deteriorate over La Rochelle during the afternoon
Packed up and took off 0902Z
Called Poitiers who immediately said see you took off have activated your flight plan!
Stayed with Poitiers all the way to La Rochelle
Also stayed VFR (for passenger comfort! She's happier when she can see the ground)
Very easy GNSS LNAV into La Rochelle – and landed runway 27 in brilliant sunshine. So much for the weather deteriorating!

Requested fuel while taxiing in 
Had a discussion about which credit cards I had, they finally decided I had to wait until 2pm (local) for the pompiers to finish their lunch, but taxi to the pumps anyway.
Despite instructions I finished up in the right place but facing the wrong way
The blue "line to follow" now goes the other way to what's in the AIS as they're digging up the old fuel tank so do look for the blue dotted line on the taxiway and follow it. They only mentioned that after I finished up in the wrong place!!
Walked to pay landing fees
Why did you not get fuel monsieur?
Well ATC said . . .
Ah, they know nothing, just use your credit card
Walked back and self-fuelled with minimal problems
Top tip, connect the earth lead and run the fuel hose out BEFORE playing with your credit card. You get about 30 seconds from finishing the PIN to "time out start again"

Taxied to park on the grass


Took ages to arrange a cab, but it finally arrived and we set off for La Rochelle.
Time was approaching 2pm, so decided to ring the AVIS office (at the railway station) to let them know we'd be there soon.
I close at 2 was the abrupt reply!
Taxi driver said – yeah, it's VE day today everyone takes half day
But but but the car is booked for pickup at 2
Lady at AVIS agreed to wait "5 minutes no more"
Got there with seconds to spare
She was actually very helpful and the car was sorted very quickly

Hour and a half drive to our second chateau

Chateau Bourneau
Again from the Channel 4 series.


The memory jolt is JB who broke a drill bit. We discussed this with him. He said everyone mentions that. It's the only drill bit he's broken in 20 years, and the camera was watching!


JB and Erin are another lovely couple.

They're doing up the chateau single-handed. It is an amazing building. We joined them for drinks in the salon 
Spent two nights in the smallest of their four gites. Only enough room to sleep 8 in that one!
We did drive to Fontenay le Comte, which was my original plan, but couldn't arrange a hire car any closer than La Rochelle. Being self-catering we needed a car anyway
Two very quiet nights, excellent meal in Fontenay, then drove back to La Rochelle

La Rochelle to Laval
Dropped of the car, no dramas, walked to the gate to get back airside
Should have explained, to get landside, you go through a security gate. Dire warning to note the number so you can get back. I took a photo just to be sure.
Tried the door code, didn't work. I'd taken a photo so I knew I was using the right numbers.
Eventually a couple of workmen wandered over to laugh at the Rosbifs
Persuaded them to fetch the man from the landing/fuel office
"are you sure you have the right code monsieur?"
Showed him my phone
"ah yes we change it every day"
No clue as how you're meant to get today's number
Walked out to the plane
It seems it had been quiet windy as the plane was facing the other way. Asked if ground staff had moved it. They said not!!
Left La Rochelle in sunshine heading north to Laval
Weather, although forecast to be fine, was slowly deteriorating
About halfway there we noticed that the oil pressure was increasing. Temperature was steady, but pressure crept up from 75 to almost 100 PSI, nudging the red segment.
Lowered the RPM (and hence speed) to avoid it going any further
Handed over to Laval. Now it got interesting
I'd done my homework, scoured the AIS (French AIP) and downloaded all the airfield info and approach plates. GNASS LNAV approach into Laval, cleared by the previous controller. Announced self to Laval
Torrent of French!
Er what, tried again in slower English
"do you not speak French monsieur, it is mandatory 'ere" !?!
Continued the approach, with grumpy words (in English)
Runway took a little longer to appear than expected, but there was quite a headwind
Finally appeared, in the right place at the right time
Landed and followed taxi instructions to parking spot.
Just got out of the plane and the pre-booked taxi appeared
Left the crew to negotiate bags while I went to sort landing fees
AFIS at the door to meet me. Proceeded to give me a right bollocking. Seems the approach plates mention French, but the main AIS entry does not. I double checked, and it doesn't.
Laval is a lovely little airstrip, similar to Turweston, but with a very grumpy controller. Paid my dues and was sent away to learn French "you were lucky I speak English. At the weekend (when we were due to depart) it is French only. It is the law" (in best Inspector Clouseau accent)

Parked at a very damp Laval


Chateau de la Motte Housson
I should point out that this was the highlight of the trip. Birthday present to SWMBO. The chance to meet Dick Strawbridge and Angel and stay in their lovely chateau.
Taxi dropped us at the door and scarpered. All very quiet. Someone eventually appeared. Why are you here? Er, we have a reservation. We have no reservations for tonight. Show me your reservation. Eventually found it, just as Dick and Angel appeared from collecting the kids from school.

I have to say Angel is exactly as she seems on the Escape to the Chateau program. She was so apologetic?!? It seems I had booked a room, in the wrong chateau! There is a Chateau de la Motte, 3 hours south of where we were!!!!!
Apparently we weren't the first people to make the same mistake.


After an impromptu photo shot with Angel and Dick, she gave us a tile from the kitchen (that she had hand printed) and got the lovely Quentin (one of the myriad helpers) to drive us back to Laval to find a hotel for the night.

Spent the night in Best Western, Laval. A bit like an up-market Premier Inn. But it was clean, cheap, and they had a room! Strolled round Laval and found a delightful little restaurant Le Petit Périgord. Run by a French family. Mother did front of house, son played the part of garcon, while father was out the back wielding the tin opener. Another excellent meal.

Reviewed the day
Room for the night: yes, but not quite as planned
Transport tomorrow: pax v concerned about oil pressure. Doesn't know what it is, but it shouldn't be in the red
Plan: she'll take the train back; I'll fly (slowly) back to the UK)

Sent a few messages to engineer and fellow pilots to try and understand if I had a crisis or a "nothing to worry about". Hats off to Graham Mountford (Mr Akki) and Colin (my engineer) as well as Richard Parris for comforting words and reassurance that all was not a disaster and catastrophe

Walked to Laval railway station, bought tickets to get SWMBO on her way. TGV Laval – Le Mans – Paris, Eurostar to London.
Organised taxi for me back to the airfield
Oh Carp was meant to learn French. Luckily I HAD printed off DaveW's excellent "French RT calls" https://www.dropbox.com/sh/jy2k2hindapy ... d.pdf?dl=0

Got to the airfield a good two hours before planned departure. After advice from Richard and confirmed by Colin
- Checked the oil was clean
- Ran the engine for 20 minutes to get the oil up to temperature (and pressure)
- Both pressure and temperature were normal
- Shut down and checked the oil – still clean
The other reason for getting there early was to get a feel for French RT. AFIS had told me "we have VFR, IFR business traffic arriving, aerobatics, gliding and parachuting"
When I arrived, there was one F reg PA28 taxiing out. Not a word on the radio.
The meatbomb plane was sat there empty. And nothing else about. PA28 taxied up and down a few times, then settled to do power checks. Then entered the runway, backtracked, lined up and took off without a word. (is the radio actually working?)
Then mini-bus drove over to the Caravan (no calls as it crossed the runway!), loaded up. Pilot made a couple of calls, but nothing vaguely like what I was expecting. He then did the same, backtracked, did power checks and took off without a word. The only useful calls were something like "drop in 5 minutes", "drop in two minutes", "all gone". He later called downwind. Landed taxied to collect the next busload.
I had decided to time him from take off
10 minutes to altitude, 10 minutes for the chutes to be on the ground, then a further 10 for Caravan to land
Aha, a cunning plan formed. I would be ready to go. As soon as he took off next time, I would taxi out and depart. 10 minutes would be plenty of time to clear the zone before the next load of parachutes appeared.
But, as soon as he taxied to a stop, the next load got in and he was away again. Crikey if it's like this I'll need to be ready to go very quickly
Off he went, same (lack of) radio calls. "drop in 5", "drop in 2", "all gone". And this time it only took him 5 minutes to get down. Some of the chutes were down, but I counted 5 getting in and only 3 were down. Luckily he stopped very short and waited until they were all down, taxied in stopped engines and chocked the wheels.
Ooh that's handy they're going for lunch just before my slot!
I did my pre-start (checking oil VERY carefully), and followed DaveW's kneeboard calls.
Didn't hear a word from anyone, so left the zone, very relieved that I didn't have to fracture French any more.
Called up Nantes, who again replied see you took off, flight plan activated, direct Caen FL70. I should point out I had filed a very convoluted route to get the flight plan accepted. Flying direct knocked half an hour off the flying time!
Flight was quite bumpy in and out of cloud. Oil pressure slowly crept up, so I kept the speed down (which also reduced the bumps). After half an hour I stared picking up ice. A few patches on the windscreen, little bit on the leading edges of both wings, but most around the temperature gauge. Requested, and got, descent to FL60 and was happy to watch the ice melting away.
Stayed with Nantes until in range of Deauville. They were working hard, with one chap who kept infringing Deauville TMA. "I keep telling you monsieur, you are inside my TMA, leave now and I will call you in a minute" seems they needed SVFR into Deauville, so guess visibility there wasn't great. I eventually got passed to Caen, another GNSS LNAV approach and landing, and again, in brilliant sunshine :D

Requested fuel, so taxied directly to the pumps where AirBP paid for LX to have a drink. Checked the oil, becoming a habit now – all good. Then taxi to parking on the grass. Instruction was taxi to the concrete then park. Don't be fooled. They don't mean concrete. You actually enter the grass parking from taxiway A1, which is tarmac!


While I was refuelling the FlyBe in the background landed. This meant I couldn't pay my fees "I am too busy, go into the terminal, come back in half an hour". Went through as instructed. There is nothing there. The little bistro that used to serve coffee is "closed for my comfort and convenience". So twiddled thumbs for 20 minutes. To get back airside you need to play passenger and go through x-ray etc. loud beeping as iPad and kneeboard set it off. Not interested. Just wanted to see licence and passport. The only time I needed to show licence and the only time anyone actually looked at passport. Once happy they kicked me out onto the apron.
Wandered round to pay my dues, then strolled out to the aircraft.

Caen to Holmbeck
Checked the oil!! Called for start. Given taxi instructions "call you back with your clearance". Entered and backtracked, a very long way to the end of 31. Eventually got departure clearance, exactly as filed, so off I went, sun still shining.
As I approached the FIR boundary, got handed over to London Information. That's odd, I was expecting London Control. So, despite the flight plan and starting IFR, went through the Basic Service bit, then mentioned that it was an IFR flight plan. Standby.
Turns out London were too busy dealing with weather diversions to cope with little old me. So you're on your own sunshine. Dumped out mid channel in cloud! Not the happiest of bunnies. Couldn't complain about London Info though. Seems they'd tried quite hard, but to no avail, basically Remain Outside Controlled Airspace. So descended to 5000' to get into VMC, gradually descending to 3000' to coast in at Littlehampton. Passed to Farnborough once overland, cleared through their overhead, ducked under the London TMA, then QSY en-route as I got close to Holmbeck.
Very quiet there, Bob hadn't mowed the runway as he promised, but landed uneventfully bang on schedule :D
Unpacked faithful steed, and tucked her up in the hangar
End of (for me at least) a few days of fun flying and sight-seeing :D

Follow up notes
For those who were paying attention (sit up straight Smithers) you may recall I set the wrong subscale when initially cleared by London on the first leg. I got an email from a nice man at NATS wanting to "discuss" my altimeter setting incident.

Admitted straight away I'd had a brain f@rt and set the wrong sub-scale
He replied thanking me for quick reply and that the matter was closed. Or was it

When I landed at Holmbeck, the chap who owns the airfield comes rushing out. So pleased to see you, everything ok?
Seems "nice man" at NATS had rung Holmbeck
- Did he arrive in France ok?
- Did he file a flight plan?
- Where was he going?
- Have you got his email address?
When asked why he simply said "there's been an incident"
a) To have had an incident I had to be in controlled airspace
b) To be in controlled airspace I had to have had a flight plan
c) Flight plan clearly states to and from
d) Flight plan has my phone number
e) Flight plan was closed when I landed
Seems to me "nice man" could have behaved differently
Last edited by mmcp42 on Tue May 28, 2019 11:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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User avatar
By mmcp42
hit the go button too soon
all the pictures now in place!

(noticed in the pain/embarrassment of La Motte Housson I never got a picture of the actual chateau :( )
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By Flyin'Dutch'
Great report!
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By PeteSpencer
Great write-up!
Sadly Mrs S would appear several notches higher on the anxiety scale than Mrs mmcp42, as she won't fly with me at all.
What fun we have missed over the last 25 years..... :roll:

By Geraint Pinches
Super report, mmcp42!

So, just to be clear, does the avgas pump at La Rochelle now accept major credit cards (as opposed to Air BP only)? I ask as I’m going to LaR in a few weeks....

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By mmcp42
Geraint Pinches wrote:Super report, mmcp42!

So, just to be clear, does the avgas pump at La Rochelle now accept major credit cards (as opposed to Air BP only)? I ask as I’m going to LaR in a few weeks....


I used a UK MasterCard with no problems
it DOESN'T take AirBP
it's actually a World <<something or other> that I'd never heard of
ATC said you have to wait for the pompiers
man in the "C" office said "they don't know what they're talking about!!

oh and the blue line you have to follow had a temporary diversion as they were digging up the old AVGAS tank
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By Geraint Pinches
Great, thanks! Last time I went (last year) it was the Air BP card only which meant you had to find the Pompier to do the refuelling and then pay in the portakabin. A real faff. Good that they’ve finally sorted this. It will save a lot of time.
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By PeteSpencer
cockney steve wrote::shock: ^^^^^^^ 25 years -she must have some redeeming quality? :wink:

Oh yes, 50th wedding anniversary April this year.......

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By mmcp42
Rob L wrote:Good show, Mike......I'm assuming it was not your first trip to la belle France?

indeed not, but first time "doing" chateaux
I enjoy flying in France - soooo much easier than UK
you do meet the odd prat, but then you do in UK, too!
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