June 30, 2016

More old rubbish

Someone quite close to me who shall be nameless, but she knows who she is so she’d better watch her step 😉 was poking fun at me yesterday about boys and their toys and how I wax lyrical in My Trike about my trailers. Well, the smaller one came into its own today, brushing off the way I’ve sadly neglected it for the last year or so to the point that when Fabian and I had to move it when he was putting the stone down around my house, we found that I’d left it to stand with one of its tyres completely flat.

While it’s been standing there for well over 12 months I’ve been gradually adding more and more rubbish to it until the time came, several weeks ago actually, when a trip to the ‘dĂ©chetterie’ was unavoidable. Today was that day.

Just about everyone in France, rural France anyway, has a trailer (or two). One of the reasons, possibly the main one, is that there’s no rubbish collection service here. In the UK everyone moans about how the weekly collection has now slipped to being either fortnightly or longer, but here there’s no collection service at all. You have to take your small items yourself to the ‘poubelles’, which for us are only a few hundred metres down the road, but if you live in a sparsely populated area, can be a couple of kilometres or more from your house. And the larger items you have to take yourself to your local ‘dĂ©chetterie’, or waste recycling centre.

So that’s when a decent trailer really comes into its own, and if you also need to regularly pick up firewood, or sand, cement and other materials from the builders’ merchants if you’re working on your house or garden a lot, you can see that having a decent trailer is an absolute must. Regular readers will know that I’ve got two – a smaller two-wheeled one that can carry up to around 450kg and a larger four-wheeled one that can carry about twice as much and can also easily transport one of my ULMs with its wings off.

Today it was the turn of the smaller one and after lunch I trundled off with it to Rouffignac to dispose of its contents. There seems to be a difference in attitude between the waste operatives here and those in the UK. The latter appear to be almost overjoyed to see you, at least at my old local recycling centre, and their life is all about living and breathing domestic waste – quite literally on occasions from the pongs that used to rise up from time to time where I used to take my rubbish.

But here it’s different. When you drive up they cast their eyes over it and lazily pull a few bits aside to see what’s underneath and give the definite impression that they’re thinking, ‘Hmmm…. load of old rubbish this, don’t want that here’ and then make you think that they’re doing you a favour taking it off your hands.

That’s what happened again today. I was going to tip the whole lot off the trailer into the general waste bin but I was caught before I’d managed to. After the cursory inspection I was told that I had to put the few bits of dead briar on the top into the ‘green’ bin and the couple of soggy old cardboard boxes into the bin next to that. Next he found a few bits of wire mesh that I’d dug out of the ground and still had lumps of concrete attached to it and ‘my lord and master’ pointed behind him to the metal bin where I had to deposit it.

To his credit, the chap then began to give me a hand to unload the rest into the general waste bin – until the ants that had made a home in it began to get him. That was enough. He airily waved his hand and directed me to take the trailer out of the yard and around the back to deposit the remaining lumps of rock, broken concrete and sandy earth in the ‘beton’ bay, so that’s what I did.

So another job done. On the way back, I bought myself a raffia Panama sun hat in Rouffignac, so on balance, a successful day all round 🙂

June 27, 2016

Short but sweet

Now that the weather is a bit more stable, Wim and I decided that we’d do another small tour today landing at a couple of local airfields, Condat and LF2454 Terrasson. Here’s a shot of the route I planned for myself – Wim’s was to be a bit shorter as he needed to fly direct back to Plazac from Terrasson due to other commitments.

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Condat is a long tarmac strip perched on the top of a hill like an aircraft carrier. It had been closed but was reopened to ‘avions’ and ULMs back in 2011. Like Malbec, it’s classed as an ‘altiport’ with landings always uphill and take offs in the opposite direction, whatever the wind direction.

Terrasson is a short grass strip to the east of the town close to the river VĂ©zĂšre and is a very active sports and activities club as well as being a ‘base ULM’.

Wim originally wanted us to do the flight yesterday as both airfields would have been active and full of other pilots but I couldn’t make it, which unfortunately meant that just as for last week, both airfields would probably be deserted when we landed.

Here’s a shot of 77ASY ready to go at Malbec before Wim arrived at 9.15 or so.

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at Fleurac

And here’s a shot of Wim getting ready to set off again in the Red Baron.

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I took another shot of my house as I flew close by. I’m now resigned to the fact that because the Savannah has an enclosed cabin, I’m never going to get as good quality photographs from it as I did from the X-Air as they will always be taken through perspex.

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Wim had landed several times previously at Condat but it was a first for me. The runway looked huge in comparison to others that we’ve been to and both of us only needed the first few dozens of metres to land and pull up in. Here’s a shot of me standing in front of the airfield’s clubhouse which was really impressive for a private airfield out here in the sticks. I reckon that somewhere like Headcorn even, back in the UK would give their right arm to have such facilities.

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Here are a couple of shots of the clubhouse itself which show what I mean.

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Then things happened that caused our plans to go completely awry. Wim had taken off to head over to Terrasson and I was about to follow him when a white van drew up. It would have been rude of me not to have acknowledged the driver so I switched off and got out to have a word or two. I was really glad I did because it turned out to be Roland, the airfield’s owner.

To cut a long story short, we chatted away for half an hour or so and I was given a tour of the hangar. It turned out that Roland and his wife had come to clear up after the revelries of yesterday and from the wine and nibbles that had been left over, it appears that there’d been quite a party. What a shame that we’d missed it!

Roland said that it was really inadvisable to fly into Terrasson as even as recently as Saturday, it had a lot of standing water on it after recent storms. I said that in that case, I’d just fly over there and if Wim was still on the ground, do a runway pass without landing, as that way he’d know what my intentions were. Then I’d just carry on with the flight that I’d planned for myself, as after Terrasson Wim had planned to route directly back to Plazac anyway.

But just as I was about to taxi to the runway, Roland attracted my attention and pointed skyward, and there was Wim returning. He landed back at Condat and we all then continued with our conversation for another half hour or so. But Wim eventually had to leave, so we both then bade our farewells to Roland, promising to return for the beers (alcohol free) that he’d kindly offered us, with Wim taking off first and me following.

My next landing was to be back at Malbec, but I planned to take a slightly circuitous route, taking in Terrasson as planned, but without landing there as Wim confirmed that it was very wet, Thenon and the small airfield at Milhac that Wim and visited several months ago. I wanted to do a practise approach there but without landing, before returning to Malbec.

Here are some shots that I took of Terrasson, the first while approaching at fairly low level from the west after having dropped in over the hill and the others from the other side of the old town after I’d turned to head back west again for Thenon.

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Here’s a shot of La Bachellerie that I passed over while heading for Thenon.

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And here are a couple of shots of Thenon itself.

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I got my practise approach in at Milhac before climbing away and turning south to head back to Malbec. It didn’t take long to get there and after setting up for a long final approach, I landed there without incident. Here’s a final shot of 77ASY on the hard-standing outside the barn before I ticked it up for the night.

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at Fleurac

So yet again, a very enjoyable and eventful flight, as always seems to happen when Wim and I go flying together. I didn’t get back home until lunch time although the total flying time was only 55 minutes – the rest of the time was spent socialising! So as the heading says, short, sweet and very enjoyable 😉

June 25, 2016

Not the end

Not the beginning of the end. And, sadly, not even the end of the beginning… but progress nevertheless.

I bought a new wide, forged steel rake while my visitors were with me a few weeks ago but apart from raking over the area of the bank that was opened up for access to my front lawn and was filled in again afterwards, I’ve done very little more to rake and level my front garden. It now looks a bit of an awful sight because although I’ve been running the mower over the bits of lawn that were left relatively unscathed, very little grass has grown back on the bits that were left bare after the ‘terrassement’.

That has left plenty of scope, therefore, for weeds to take over, which they have done – prolifically! So as I’m going to have to put some grass seed down, I’ll need to apply lots of weed killer first, and before doing that, I’ll have to do the raking and levelling. I did make a bit of a start on the main area last week end, but didn’t get as much done as I’d have liked, to be honest. It was back-breaking work due to the dryness of the ground and when the sun came out, the working conditions were horrendous.

However, last night we were subjected to the most violent electric storm that I can remember since coming here accompanied by an absolute deluge. It was so torrential that some rain managed to get under the tiles and come through the roof and water poured through my back door while the hailstones rattled against the windows hard enough to break the glass. But that’s another story.

What it did mean though, was that this morning the earth was wetter than it has been for some time, so after Wim had departed after our regular Saturday morning coffee and chin-wag, I resolved to get cracking doing more raking and and also have a go at levelling with my new garden roller, the weight of which I increased by adding sand to the drum.

I was surprised how quickly the earth began to dry out even after last night’s incredible soaking and pretty soon the work, that started off being pretty easy, soon began to get a lot heavier. I don’t expect to get the job done with just a single rake-over and levelling – on the contrary, it’ll probably take two or three at least because of the number of stones that are thrown up each time. But I do want to get the basic shape right so I can apply weed killer and then let the earth stand to consolidate and compact itself.

I had to stop by around 4.30 pm because it became just too hot to work in the sun that kept emerging from what had started off as a cool, cloudy sky. I had worked on the area of the garden on the north side where my wood and garden tool stores are, and here are a couple of shots of the results.

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Still much to do, but not bad. I’m surprised how consistent the levels are that Fabian achieved with his enormous Cat excavator and how they blend very successfully from the front to the side of the house. It’ll be a long job to get the whole garden clear of weeds and ready for seeding and I may end up having to rotavate the bits that were left untouched because the quality of the grass on them is just so poor. But that’s for the future – probably next year when the extension has been completed 😉

June 23, 2016

Useful day

Got a few useful things done today. First off, as Victor wasn’t able to before leaving on holiday for two weeks, I took my ride-on over to Malbec and mowed the runway and parking areas. It took just under two hours and the temperature was up at 34° Celsius by the time the job was done, so although I’d taken a flask of cold drink with me, I was glad to get finished. But it looked superb at the end of it.

Only one disconcerting little incident. I thought that I’d move 56NE to mow the whole area that it’s parked on rather than leave long grass under the wings and fuselage. When I removed the two hollow concrete tie-down blocks under the right wing I saw something moving and at first I thought it was mice, which were the bane of my life at Galinat.

However, when I looked more closely I could see that it was a little nest containing three baby Blue Tits. The parents had used the hole in the top of the block through which I’d passed the tie-down rope as an access to the inside and from the timing, I think that these must have been their second clutch.

I had seen no sign of the adult birds but I was mortified that I’d disturbed them and as none of the babies appeared to have been injured when I moved the block, I took great care to replace it straight away without doing any more mowing and ensuring that none of the three little ones were squashed. I hope that the parents returned when I went away – I’ll not know for sure until I can check in several days time when the babies should all have flown.

I forgot to take my mobile phone with me today and as I didn’t have my camera with me either, I couldn’t take any pictures of the lovely little brood.

After I got home I had a quick light lunch and got cracking on cutting my own grass while I had the mower handy. By the time I’d finished, I think the temperature had probably soared to over 35° Celsius – it felt like it anyway!

But my day still wasn’t over. I gave Sophie a hand to upgrade her PC to Windows 10 yesterday and although we couldn’t do it for now, I found meanwhile that the ‘Free Upgrade’ offer expires on 29th July. I’m still using Windows 7 64 Bit Pro, which I’m quite happy with, but all the information now suggests that so long as you switch off all of the ‘Spybot’ features in Windows 10, it’s the best and fastest MS PC operating system so far.

So I thought that I’d bite the bullet and upgrade, which I started late this afternoon and finished a short time ago. It took a while because the internet is so slow down here, but so far, so good and everything looks and runs just as it did before. Except it does appear to be faster.

So as I said in the heading, taken all round, a pretty useful day 😉

June 21, 2016

Another fantastic morning’s flying!

Today was exactly the kind of day we should be getting at this time of year. Over last week-end, Wim and I had planned to fly back to Le Thou in the Charente Maritime where we’d had such a good time last year at their evening’s celebration of la FĂȘte de St Jean le Baptiste, as Saturday was the day for it again this year. The weather beat us unfortunately, and sadly we had to give it a miss. We’d also wanted to combine it with a visit to the RibĂ©rac ‘wings and wheels’ open day on the way back on Sunday, but that also went by the board.

We’d been watching the weather forecasts however, and knew that things would be changing for the better this week, so as a kind of compromise, we’d put together a plan for today to drop into several more local airfields that Wim already knew but that I’d never been to. Here’s a shot of my intended route. Wim’s was a bit shorter as he’d be in the Red Baron and I’d be in the Savannah, but we planned to end up at the same places at about the same times.

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After leaving Malbec, our first landing would be at Base ULM LF2438, Meygnaud Valeuil, one of the airfields I’d looked out for during my recent flight up to BrantĂŽme, just to the south of the town. Then we’d head off west to an airfield called Argentine, which is open for ULMs but is mainly used by club aircraft that are based there.

From there Wim would head off direct to RibĂ©rac while I, with my greater airspeed, would fly south-west to spot a large airfield that’s shown on the chart but has always intrigued me, as it has no name. After doing so, I’d then also join Wim at RibĂ©rac.

From RibĂ©rac, Wim would then head straight back to his own airfield at Plazac while I would return to Malbec with a bit of a diversion to spot another ULM airfield, LF2465 Le Pas de l’Aze.

It all went really smoothly and just as planned. Wim came into Malbec at 9.00am and the morning was perfect – no wind whatsoever and the day just beginning to warm up. And as I found when I took off, dead smooth, hands-off flying conditions with no thermals whatsoever.

Although Wim took off before me, I just beat him into Valeuil and cleared the runway just as he was on final. We taxied over to a parking place and shortly afterwards were greeted by AndrĂ©, who it turned out Wim knew from about 15 years ago, and the charming Ina, an English lady who joined us a bit later. Here’s a shot of Wim and AndrĂ© standing together next to the Red Baron.

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After a conversation of about half-an-hour we had to decline their kind offer of a cup of coffee as we were worried about thermals beginning to bubble up, as by that time the morning was growing much hotter. They said that in that we case we should come back especially another time and on that note we bade our good-byes and Wim took off for Argentine, followed by me a few minutes later.

Once again, I arrived before Wim, however, and although I’d looked at Argentine on Google Earth, found it not that easy to spot, despite its long runway. The reason was that the ground is very bare, dry and rocky and the runway hardly stands out at all, and it also didn’t help that the colours of the windsock were rather faded. However, I joined downwind and had cleared the runway and parked before Wim arrived.

The airfield is where the Aeroclub Rochebeaucourt is based and we parked next to their hangar. There was nobody around, however, and a peek through the gap in the hangar doors seemed to indicate that despite appearances from the outside, inside it was a little bit more run-down. In fact the whole airfield unfortunately seemed to reflect that kind of image, although maybe I was being influenced too much by the arid, rather desolate state of the apron and runway which were really just the result of a poor area of ground unsuitable for much else being put to good use as an airfield.

Here’s a shot of our two aircraft outside the club hangar with Wim programming his GPS for his next leg to RibĂ©rac.

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at Argentine

Once again, Wim took off before me and headed almost due south while I headed off in a south-westerly direction to find the airfield with no name. Here’s a shot I took of my panel when I was just over half-way there, as can be seen from my GPS.

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And here are shots taken out of each side of the aircraft at about the same time, the first looking north and the second, south.

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I managed to find the elusive airfield without too much trouble – hard to miss it really because of the length of its runway.

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It turned out to be not an airfield at all really, just a ‘piste privĂ©e’ with a very long runway. Obviously the owner doesn’t want to encourage any visitors, which is why he hasn’t given it a name and added it to the FFPLUM file.

Then on to RibĂ©rac. Although Wim had left Argentine before me and I’d made quite a detour to find the airfield with no name, I saw him on short final at RibĂ©rac just as I was joining overhead. After landing, I taxied up and parked next to him and here’s a shot that I took of the two aircraft on the RibĂ©rac apron, a bit later actually, just as Wim was about to depart.

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Although I’d heard a few aircraft making radio calls at BelvĂšs, which we landed at the other day, and Chalais to the north-west of RibĂ©rac, which I’ve not yet been to, it turned out that RibĂ©rac itself, which has a thriving aero-club, was as dead as a door nail. Here’s a shot that I took of the immaculate, but locked up, control tower followed by one of yours-truly slouching, as usual, outside the aero-club office.

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Then it was time to head for home. Wim went off first and we both took off in the opposite direction to the one that we’d landed in as there was hardly any wind. I went off to find LF2465, which I did without too much difficulty as shown below.

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Then I had to climb to over 2500 ft to avoid infringing danger area R251 that is active only on week days, after which I continued towards Malbec descending all the way as I went. I’d programmed my GPS for a long final to give me plenty of time to set myself up to land and found that on days like today, it’s a piece of cake spotting the vivid green of the hangar roofs.

By now, a few thermals and bumps were making themselves felt, but I didn’t let those worry me and just concentrated on holding my landing speed all the way down and keeping my eyes on the arrows that mark the threshold. The landing was fine, not my best of the day but quite satisfactory nevertheless. And so our morning’s flying came to an end – 2 hours 5 minutes and three new airfields in the log book. A pretty good morning’s work I’d say!

June 16, 2016

Malbec LF2467 web site

The new airfield at Malbec that Victor has been working tirelessly to bring to fruition for the past year or so, was eventually granted its official LF number last week.

So I decided that I’d build a new web site for it and after working solidly for four or five days, I emerged blinking into the sunlight, figuratively speaking, yesterday after completing the task. Shown below is a shot of its front page.

Malbec 2467 web site

Thanks to Philippe for painstakingly checking my French and converting it where necessary into something more elegant. I’m really quite proud of the result and you can log onto the web site itself by clicking on the above image.

June 7, 2016

Stunning day’s flying

After planning it carefully beforehand, yesterday was the perfect day for my tour of local airfields familiarization flight in the Savannah. I wanted to do it for two reasons. Firstly, since flying 77ASY down from la FertĂ© Gaucher in February I’d only managed two flights in it, one of just over 10 minutes ferrying it over from Galinat to Malbec and the other of just over an hour to BrantĂŽme and back, and secondly, because my landing back at Malbec after the BrantĂŽme flight had left something to be desired, I wanted to get a few landings in before landing back again in order to thoroughly familiarize myself with the Savannah’s handling in that phase.

Wim said that he’d like to come along too in the Weedhopper and because he didn’t want to trek all the way down to CastillonnĂšs and back again, I revamped the route to take in BelvĂšs first. That way, when I then went off to CastillonnĂšs, Wim could go straight to Sarlat to await my arrival. Here’s the route that I flew, therefore.

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Wim flew into Malbec at about 9.00am and as the morning’s light mist cleared, there were already indications that it would be a glorious day. After we’d sorted ourselves out, he took off first and I followed a few minutes later, but whereas Wim was going to route direct to BelvĂšs, I intended to fly a dog-leg overhead Le Bugue. The flying conditions were fantastic – smooth and hands-off easily possible when trimmed. I wasted some time getting my main GPS working as I’d not noticed that it hadn’t locked on before taking off and had to revert to my phone instead, but it then began to play ball and I was able to settle down, relax and enjoy the flight.

As I approached BelvĂšs I could see that Wim had already landed there and was waiting on the taxiway so although there was no sign of anyone or any other aircraft moving either on the ground or in the air, I called up for a landing on runway 11. Having carefully checked the numbers in the manual, I set 77ASY up with 20 degrees of flap and an approach speed of 80 kmh, which seemed incredibly slow after the X-Air. However, I reasoned that if things were stable and safe at 500 feet on final, they would be also at 50 feet making for a gentle flare. And so it proved to be. I touched down just after the visual markers that I’d selected so powered up for a touch-and-go and went round again.

This time I hit them on the button so braked and taxied around to where Wim was parked. After a brief conversation, I started up and taxied the length of the runway to take off for CastillonnĂšs and as Wim took off shorter, he’d left by the time I was airborne. The flight down to CastillonnĂšs was as smooth and enjoyable as the shorter hop over to BelvĂšs from Malbec and after only 20 minutes I was joining for a landing on runway 15.

I used similar landing settings and the results were just as good, which boosted my confidence considerably. I’d intended to do a touch-and-go but pulled up instead and taxied back to the holding point for an immediate take off without stopping my engine as once again, the airfield was deserted. I then took off again and flew a single circuit and touch-and-go before setting up a heading for Sarlat.

The flight took just over 30 minutes and already a few thermals were beginning to form as the sun heated up the landscape. As Wim would have been waiting for some time, I did a full-stop and taxied round to where he was parked, in front of the old ULM club hangar. Here are some shots of our two aircraft parked there on the grass.

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at Sarlat-Domme

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at Sarlat-Domme

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at Sarlat-Domme

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at Sarlat-Domme

Wim mentioned that before I’d arrived, he’d had a conversation with the owner of an Avid Flyer who’d then taken off and left the airfield zone. While we spoke, the Avid returned and after it’d taxied round to where we were, its owner Juan and the pair of us all chatted for a while as ULM owners do! Wim then left for Galinat and after talking with Juan for a bit longer, I thought that as the airfield was by that time again deserted, I’d do a touch-and-go or two and join him there.

However, it was not to be, but fortunately not because of anything serious. When I took off, my GPS, which was only mounted on Velcro, fell off because it had been heated up by the sun. This meant that I had to make an immediate landing in order to secure it again. I managed to by using some string that I hold my camera round my neck with, but I ended up losing about half an hour with the result that by the time I got to Galinat, Wim had already left as I could see from his wheel marks.

By now it was already just past mid-day and the thermals were becoming quite severe making the flight a bit less comfortable than earlier on. However, otherwise everything went smoothly and I landed at Galinat using the same flap and airspeed settings as before. Annoyingly, although my landing was perfectly OK, it was slightly harder than at any of the other airfields thus far, which is rather ironic as Galinat is the airfield that I have the most experience of.

Here are a couple of shots of 77ASY parked with 56NE’s old parking place behind it.

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at Galinat

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at Galinat

Then it was time to take off and head for a final landing back to Malbec. The grass on Galinat’s runway was very long and it took a longer-than-normal take off roll to drag the Savannah out of it and into the air. However, its power is such that as soon as it’s airborne even just a few inches, it picks up almost instantly to climbing speed and then ascends like the proverbial lift!

It was then time for the landing back at Malbec. Funnily enough, despite the shortness of Malbec’s runway, I felt confident that so long as I maintained the approach speed that I’d been practising with 20 degrees of flaps, I’d nail it. And I’m glad to say that I did! The deep dip and trees in front of Malbec’s runway are usually rather off-putting but this time I found that by concentrating on airspeed and keeping my eyes on my selected visual markers I hardly noticed them. That made the runway appear just like any other and before I knew it, I was gently flaring and touching down exactly where I’d aimed for, just beyond the threshold hump.

I didn’t know until I taxied up to the hangars that Wim had landed at his own airfield and come over to Malbec by car and was with Victor as I approached and landed, so it was good to shut 77ASY down and share our day’s experiences. I was very happy with the day’s results and stayed on a bit of a high as the evening progressed and Victor and I went off for dinner at les Eyzies.

Even if the Magret de Canard was at my expense 😉

June 2, 2016

AĂ©rodrome BelvĂšs LFIB

I found the following very interesting and it might be of interest to any reader in France or planning to visit France in their aircraft.

I was already aware that up until quite recently, the airfield at BelvĂšs was restricted to ‘avions’ (UK, Group A aircraft) and then only to those equipped with radio. However, ULMs are now allowed in and there’s actually a school based there, but when I checked the airfield plate on the French Air Pilot, I found that the airfield is ‘usage restreint’ ie restricted usage, as the following shot shows.

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This not only means that only radio equipped aircraft are allowed in, a condition becoming ever more common here in France, but also that the airfield can only be used by aircraft based there or at specified airfields in the surrounding area. These are listed on the second sheet of the airfield plate and can be seen in the second pic below (Agen, Arcachon, Bergerac etc).

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Interestingly, the list doesn’t include CastillonnĂšs where I was signed off for my French ULM ‘brevet’ which I found surprising as I knew that Victor had flown off heading for BelvĂšs with Francis, his instructor, on several occasions while getting his own licence. However, he told me that although they flew there for cross-country practise, they never actually landed there, so that explained it.

In preparation for my proposed tour of local airfields in 77ASY, I recently emailed the aeroclub at BelvĂšs requesting permission to land there but not having received a reply was thinking about giving them a ring. However, quite by chance, I was looking at the airfield plate for Avranches up in Normandie, saw that it was similarly classed as ‘usage restreint’ and noticed that permission to land there had to be obtained from the regional office of the DSAC at Nantes and not the local aero club.

This encouraged me to look into the BelvĂšs situation a bit more deeply and sure enough, I uncovered that in order to use the airfield, authority had to be obtained from the DSAC regional office at Merignac. Getting it was actually pretty painless. I popped them off an email last night, got a reply requesting more info on qualifications and experience and a ‘formulaire’ to fill in this morning (together with a compliment on my French) and an official letter of authority lasting 6 months (the maximum term) with a copy to the aeroclub at BelvĂšs, within half an hour of returning it this afternoon.

So anyone reading a French airfield plate with the words ‘usage restreint’ on it need not give up hope of using it eg as a convenient en-route transit point, because so long as you meet the necessary requirements (licence, hours), which you almost certainly do if you are flying internationally or on long cross-countries, you’ll be able to get permission to land there.

Happy Landings!

June 1, 2016

Back in the groove

After three weeks of touring the local area, eating out and just all having fun together, my sister and brother-in-law left for home on Monday. The weather while they were here was a bit unsettled and certainly not as warm as the average for this time of year, but by planning our days and especially where to go for lunch, it didn’t prevent us from doing anything that we wanted to. There had been news stories that tourists were becoming stranded in France due to fuel shortages as a result of the current industrial unrest here in France but they proved to be unfounded and they made Calais without any problems.

Their main problem as they travelled north was the weather, which became steadily worse the further north they drove, and after a 55 minute delay due to storms in the Channel, they said that their crossing was one of the roughest that they’ve ever experienced. The weather here in Plazac has also deteriorated since they left and we’ve had almost constant rain with only sporadic dry periods since the week-end.

This time last year Wim and I were getting ready for our tour of the west coast but there would be no chance of us doing that again this year. Although the Jetstream now seems to be sorting itself out a bit and getting back towards its usual west-east configuration without the enormous north-south loop that appears to have been influencing our weather so badly, it hasn’t got there yet and forecasts for the next 14 days or so show no real respite from the unsettled conditions that we’ve been experiencing for weeks now.

We plan to head back to Le Thou in the Charente on June 18 for the Club Aero Focus FĂȘte de St. Jean le Baptiste evening dinner that we enjoyed so much during our visit there last year but it’s impossible to say at this stage whether the weather will play ball or not. In fact we’re all doing very little flying due to the weather.

I’m finding it particularly annoying because since flying the Savannah down from la FertĂ© Gaucher in February, I’ve only managed two more flights in it – the hop over to Malbec and just over an hour to BrantĂŽme and back. I’ve also been prevented from getting the X-Air ready for sale and haven’t even been able to uncover the Weedhopper that’s in bits in my back garden since I put it to bed for the winter back in October. I’ve missed a few flyable days due to the work on my garden, but not that many, and it’s very frustrating.

As I need to rack up a good few take offs and landings in the Savannah to get a proper feel for its handling, I’ve got a flight planned taking in several local airfields, Castillonnes, BelvĂšs, Sarlat-Domme and Galinat. My idea is to do two touch-and-goes and a landing at each one, with a stop for coffee at Sarlat-Domme, before returning to Malbec.

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This would give me a total of 13 take offs and landings including the one back at Malbec, which I think would be very useful experience. I emailed the aero club at BelvĂšs for prior permission to land there but have so far had no reply, so if I don’t hear from them soon I’ll have to give them a follow-up phone call.

I’ve also been able to get back onto house and garden planning matters that have of necessity been in abeyance while my relatives were here. My priority is to finalise a proposal for a new waste-water treatment system without which, under recent French law, my plans for extending my house won’t even be considered. After conducting a brief inspection of my back garden a month ago, SPANC (the authority responsible for dealing with such matters) in Montignac said that it is too small to accommodate a conventional septic tank system of current specification and that I should install a considerably more expensive microstation system.

When I mentioned this to JĂ©rĂŽme from Agrafeuil while he was here overseeing the work on my front garden, he said that I should consider an alternative natural, eco-friendly solution which works out considerably cheaper and is just as effective. It is an approved system that was developed at a French university and is marketed through an organisation called Aquatiris that has its own French/English web site.

The system uses filter beds containing water-based plants and converts a mixture of household effluent and ‘grey’ water into clean, pure liquid before returning it into the ground. Before going ahead and installing it, your house, garden and your future plans are subject to a study and a young chap dropped by yesterday evening (in the pouring rain!) to make a preliminary assessment.

His conclusion was that the area behind my house is too small even for an Aquatiris system, but that there would be no problem in installing it in the front garden. I initially baulked at the idea, but he said that it would be very simple using a small pump and an underground plastic pipe to take the liquid household waste up to a bed in the front corner of my garden, where there would then be a filter bed of plants. He said that the bed would be almost unnoticeable and would fit in nicely there, which I had to agree with, and that a second bed with different plants would be completely optional.

I was very encouraged by his ideas and am keen to go ahead to the next stage, which involves a paid-for detailed study of the lie of the terrain and the sub-strata, especially as the system as it’s been described to me is totally natural and considerably more cost-effective than technological alternatives, such as a microstation. So watch this space for further details as the project progresses!

So that’s about it for now. I’m dropping over to see Wim this evening for our regular Wednesday ‘apero’ session and we’ll have a bit to catch up on. While my relatives were here, I quickly put together a plan for a tour of central France along the lines of our west coast trip of last year, but I can’t see it coming to fruition while the weather remains as unsettled as it is. Maybe it’ll be something for the autumn – who knows, we’ll have to wait and see.