The last few days have really put a smile on my face. On Saturday I went with Victor to the flying club at Castillonnes where he’s having lessons to get his French microlight licence. We found out on Friday that neither of the instructors who I wanted to talk to about me getting my French ‘brevet’ would be there after all, but I decided to go along anyway to see the place and meet a few of the members. In fact I managed to do more than that because after meeting a few of the guys who were there and having a look around the hangars, one of the members kindly offered me a short flight in one of the club’s Hurricanes that they use for training.
You don’t see Hurricanes in the UK because of the ridiculously prescriptive and over-regulated system represented by BCAR Section S and administered by the BMAA, which in effect means that the UK market is frozen to anything other than the pathetically few microlight models that are currently available. Regis used to have a Hurricane but sold it a few months ago to buy the accident damaged Zenair that he is currently restoring in his garage. They are an open tandem design which I do not much care for because I’m not keen on tandems anyway, but also because of the need to wear a helmet and visor as you would in a flexwing. But if it gets me up in the air, then I’ll fly in it! We had a short flight of about twenty minutes and I was amazed at how even within a distance of about 60 kms the land totally changes, from being hilly and wooded in the Dordogne where I live to open and flat in the Lot and Garonne around Castillonnes.
Here are a couple of shots of the Hurricane I flew in that are of awful quality because I took them on my steam-powered mobile phone (none of those fancy high tech jobs for me…). But just look at the weather in them and weep, all you guys in the UK. The Summer has been like this the whole time down here – just a pity that I haven’t had an aircraft to enjoy it with 😐
On Sunday I had a fantastic day, driving up to La Bretagne (Brittany) as I’d planned, to see the X-Air I mentioned in my last post. I had to get up and leave pretty early as the drive was about 600 kms (360 miles) each way and I wanted to get there and back in a day. I managed to do it and got home feeling very tired at about midnight, but it was well worth it. The aircraft was just as it had been described to me by Bertrand, one of the owners. It has been used in the last few years for just the summer months for public pleasure flights, flying from a very short runway on the flat sand dunes that comprise the beach at Plouharnel. It was originally a narrow door 1999 model but was modified using parts from another X-Air to be a wide door, although it has been flown with no doors fitted to give passengers a better view. Although it has had people climbing in and out in that time, it’s still a good solid aeroplane and despite its age, compared very favourably to the much younger one that I went to see in my recent abortive UK visit. I had a short flight in it and found that it flies very smoothly and is well balanced with no vices. Unlike X-Airs in the UK which you daren’t touch because of the dreaded mod system that is designed to ensure that that is and will always remain the case, this one has had one or two tweaks done to it. For example, there’s a rudder trim tab which means that at cruise speed, you can trim for pitch and then more or less sit back and enjoy the view and Bertrand demonstrated that because there were no doors fitted, you can then make the aircraft gently turn in either direction by sticking an arm out into the airflow. Very interesting! I’ll give a lot more details in future posts, but suffice to say that after going all over it and giving it a thorough once-over, before leaving to return home I decided I’d buy it and handed over a 500€ cheque by way of a deposit. Now I can’t wait to get it home 😀
Here are a few pics I took of it while I was there.
And if you click on the image below you’ll be able to watch a short video of it that I also shot.
And after such an enjoyable week-end, the good things also kept on coming on Monday. I have to get a CT (French MOT) done for my car before I can get it onto the French register and before I made all the plans for this past week-end, I had made a booking at the local CT test station in Montignac. I would have preferred a lie-in on Monday morning after the Bretagne trip, but I dragged myself and the car down there bright and early and I’m glad to say that after clearing up a few queries that the young test engineer had about some of the English documents, it flew through. So now the way is clear for me to press on with the registration process, and I’m very glad about that as it means that I’m now beginning to get towards the end of what seemed to be an interminable ‘To-Do’ list. And that is a relief, I can tell you 🙂