July 31, 2018

Kia update

I can at last breathe at least a partial sigh of relief. Pascal the transporter driver delivered my car to my local mechanic here in the Dordogne just after 10.00 am yesterday. I was surprised that he arrived so early thinking that he’d driven down from northern France but in fact it transpired that he lives down here in Bergerac, that he’d driven north to pick it up on Thursday and had brought it back the same day.

Apart from a little nick in the plastic trim on the lower part of the driver’s door it appears to be none the worse for its sojourn of a month in Paris except that when we started to dig deeper, we found that the battery was too flat to get a proper reading on my mechanic’s diagnostic software. But closer examination revealed something much more concerning.

The garage in Paris had told me that the car needed a replacement turbo and if not for the exorbitant price quoted, it would have been the easiest thing in the world to tell them to go ahead in order to bring matters to a close. However, I just didn’t trust them and it turns out my suspicions were totally justified.

It didn’t take much for my trusted local mechanic to find that (a) the turbo had never been touched let alone diagnosed as faulty and (b) when he did get access to it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. So the Paris garage would have had me pay for a replacement and then informed me that unfortunately other problems had been encountered along the way.

As soon as we pulled the dipstick, we found immediately what had gone wrong, because the oil level was some way above the full mark. I had assiduously checked all of the fluid levels before heading north back on 25 June as I always do before a long run so knew that whatever the reason was, it had occurred during the engine incident. The answer, of course, was that the level was higher than usual because of the ingress of diesel fuel.

This explained why in the moments before the engine let go I had smelt diesel that I thought was coming from the vehicle in front but evidently wasn’t. It also explained why my ‘low fuel’ warning light had unexpectedly come on – fuel was being pumped out of the tank into the engine.

So it seems that the problem has nothing to do with the turbo and is almost certainly something to do with the ECU (engine control unit), fuel pump or most likely the DPF (diesel particulate filter). The latter removes the larger soot particles from the exhaust before it is emitted into the atmosphere and does so at high temperature fuelled by burning a limited supply of fuel fed into it direct from the fuel pump.

This is known as ‘passive regeneration’ as it’s a totally automatic system requiring no direct driver itervention of any kind. If the ECU delivers slightly too much fuel for some reason or another, then there’s a return tube from the DPF direct into the engine where it apparently (so I understand) mixes with the engine oil. Not ideal I’d have thought but as it usually works, who am I to criticise the design aspects.

However, if as a result of some failure in the DPF itself or the ECU or the fuel pump a grossly excessive amount of fuel is sent continuously to the DPF, then you can have big problems. In the worst case scenario, if the engine is not shut down in time, it can start to run by burning its own oil supply and become uncontrollable. If this happens the engine cannot be shut down at all and can end up blowing up.

So this is now where we are but it just goes to show what scum the garage in Paris actually were. They had no idea what the cause of the engine problem was and therefore no idea how to repair it. All they had wanted to do was take my money.

My trusted mechanic tells me that it all depends now on how long the engine was running with its lubricating oil becoming more and more diluted and therefore how much internal damage might have been caused to pistons, bores and bearings.

Without pre-stripping the engine, which could not be justified economically, we’ll only know when the cause of the problem has been traced and rectified, any new parts that are needed have been fitted, the oil has been drained and replaced and the engine run.

But thank God it’s being done by him and not the bunch of crooks in Paris into whose hands my car had been delivered by the breakdown company there. 😐

July 26, 2018

‘S’ is for Slippery

Here’s an update on my last posting about the problems I’ve been having after my car’s engine expired near Paris back on 25 June. I’d agreed terms with Pascal, a breakdown recovery contractor, to uplift it from the garage where it’s been ever since and bring it back down to the Dordogne where I can arrange for the repair to be diagnosed and carried out by a trusted mechanic.

I didn’t want to raise the question of a release fee with the garage as that would have been an open invitation for them to make up a figure and quote me, so I was keeping my fingers crossed that if the subject was raised when Pascal arrived to take the vehicle away, any amount quoted would not be extortionate. In that case, Pascal said that he would pick it up for me to reimburse him when he arrived with the vehicle.

As it happens, Pascal phoned the garage a couple of days ago and then contacted me to say that they’d quoted a figure to him of 60€, which I was quite happy with and told him to go ahead and pay it on the day. Shortly afterwards I myself received a telephone call from the garage and said that OK, 60€ was OK by me, to which the reply was, ‘No, no, the amount is 90€!’

So what I can only interpret as the garage’s deviousness has continued right to the very end of the sorry saga. I had no choice but to agree to the charge in order to bring matters to an end and contacted Pascal to tell him that he should go ahead and pay it. In reply, he said that he’d be able to pick my car up today and earlier on I received the following picture by SMS.

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So at last I’ve managed to extract my car from the garage’s hands and I think that it could have been worse. The name of the garage is Point S in Villeneuve la Garenne and during my dealings with them, I have come to the conclusion that ‘S’ stands for slippery. However, on second thoughts, maybe they should change their name to Point G, because the French for slippery is ‘glissant’ 😉

I’m now just looking forward to my car arriving back with me on Monday and can only hope that that will be the start of bringing what I think can only be described as an unedifying story to an end. At least I hope so.

July 24, 2018

The darker side of France

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Regular readers will recall that right back on 25 June I headed north in my Kia to pick up the wing slat from Centre Les Noyers, the Savannah people, to repair 77ASY, but that before arriving there my engine expired and my car ended up in the breakdown company’s depot in the north-west suburbs of Paris.

It would have remained there untouched for at least two weeks according to my roadside assistance company and when I queried this, they said that if I wanted to I could look for a garage myself. So the next day I rang the breakdown company requesting their assistance using their local knowledge (my roadside assistance company is based in Nantes, hundreds of kilometres away) and sure enough, they said that my car would be moved to a local garage who could do the repair once they’d inspected it and identified the problem.

So far so good. I let things be until the next week as the garage told me that due to their volume of work, my car would join the end of the queue and would not be inspected even, for at least a week to ten days, so when I dropped in there a week later in Victor’s Citroen Aircross to clear it out, I again asked when they’d be able to look at it.

Once again, the answer was not encouraging, during some time the following week was the earliest that they could promise, so I just had to bite the bullet and wait. Eventually I received a phone call. They said that the problem was the turbo and that if they couldn’t ‘clean’ it, I’d need a replacement. Not unexpectedly, I then got a follow-up call saying that I’d definitely need a replacement but that they couldn’t give me a ‘devis’ (repair estimate) for the moment, as the only turbo they could find cost 500€, which they thought to be too expensive.

For the moment, then I felt optimistic as it appeared that the garage had my interests at heart. That was until the next day when I received a phone call saying that the total cost of the repair was 1600€, not unreasonable for a main-stream, high street garage, which I knew this one not to be having been there myself. When I asked how much of that was for the turbo itself, I was told 1200€!

Naturally I asked how come if 500€ was too expensive the day before, they now wanted 1200€ but was met with almost dumb silence, so I asked for the estimate to be emailed to me. Sure enough, it included 3 hours labour at a reasonable 65€/hour, a full oil change (not required, but OK) plus some other odd items, but right at the top there was the turbo at 1200€.

They had tried to disguise the brand but not enough for me to be able to find it on the internet. I was shocked to find that not only was it a poor quality Portuguese item (I was told later) but that I could source it myself for 4-500€ and the garage, as trade, much cheaper. Indeed, I could myself source much better quality exchange units on the internet for 3-400€, so it was pretty obvious that I was being ripped off.

I suggested to the garage that I’d source an exchange turbo, quite adequate for a vehicle of the age of mine, but the garage wouldn’t have it, for reasons of ‘guarantee’ they explained, which merely confirmed my view, as this is quite a common practice here in France. Evidently they supposed that this old fool would fall for their game and they’d make a killing, but they failed to recognise who they were up against.

The first thing I did was to call the roadside assistance, who are part of my insurance company. After explaining what was going on and having their client service agent agreeing that the price was excessive (‘prix de voleur’ or thief’s price) they said that as I’d arranged for the vehicle to go there, they’d fulfilled all their obligations under their contract and the problem was all mine.

I told them that I didn’t accept that as my car was moved to a garage selected by the breakdown company who was their agent but they refused to budge and effectively washed their hands of the problem and abandoned me, their client, to my fate. So you can guess that when the whole matter is resolved and I have my car back, which insurance policy will be summarily terminated with the reasons being explained in full.

My priority was therefore to remove my car from the garage as soon as possible, so my next port of call was the breakdown company who took it to the garage in the first place. My idea was to get it moved the few kilometres from the garage back to their depot and as I blamed them to a large part for the subsequent problem, I hoped that they’d do this for free, or at least for a very reduced price. Their first question was, ‘Who will be paying, my insurance company or me?’ and I said that for the time being at least, they should assume that it would be me.

After a minute or two they came back with their response – the cost of bringing my car back to their depot would be 200€, a figure that I found gobsmacking for reasons that will become clear shortly. They then said that they could give me a preferential rate for bringing the vehicle the whole way back to my house, so I told them to go ahead. First they began to quote me to transport it to Angers and when I queried that and told them that I lived in Plazac, they began working on their numbers again.

Imagine if I’d said, ‘OK, go ahead’ on the basis of the figure they’d quoted and my car had ended up in Angers at the house of someone else in their computer system. It doesn’t bear thinking about, and neither did the price that they eventually quoted of 4000€, which is somewhere around the current value of my car (4-4500€) in full working order.

So that was two avenues closed during which my view developed over a considerable period that the French are not only useless at customer service but in fact don’t even know what it is, was confirmed in spades. The lesson is, don’t expect to rely on anyone providing a service here in France, even one that you’ve already paid for and might reasonably expect to receive, because when it suits them they will drop you like a ton of bricks and/or look for an opportunity to rip you off.

So where was I at that point? Luckily I had already come across two websites, Shiply and Fretbay, on which you can ask providers of transport to quote for jobs, on this occasion the transport of my Kia Sportage from Villeneuve-la-Garenne, Paris, to Plazac. Quotes began to flood almost immediately into my mail box and pretty soon it became obvious that I could get the job done by a contractor using a proper flatbed breakdown vehicle with a winch to load the car as it won’t start, for around 500€, which puts the original breakdown company’s ‘special’ quote of 4000€ somewhat into perspective.

The stumbling block was that I wanted to get the vehicle uplifted and away from the garage by the end of this week, which was a problem for some contractors who need anything from seven to ten days notice. I ended up doing a deal with Pascal for not the lowest price that I received because he promised to do what I wanted by this coming Friday, Thursday even, as he understood the reason for my urgency when I explained the situation to him.

So that just leaves one last problem. Here in France, it’s common for garages to charge for their devis as they argue that it takes them time to inspect and diagnose the problem. This may or may not be unreasonable but they usually inform you what the charge will be and this did not happen on this occasion. Also, if you decide to remove the vehicle afterwards, not only do you have to settle the devis beforehand but if you have taken too long to arrange the removal, they might also charge you for ‘stockage’ (parking) while it was in their care.

My natural reponse would be to counter both of those charges because (a) the repair cost was much higher than they’d implied it would be, (b) they didn’t inform me what the cost of the devis would be beforehand and (c) as they had sat on my car for three weeks without even looking at it, my taking less than a week to uplift it from their premises is more than reasonable and should not be chargeable.

But it’s the old story, they have my car. Despite my view of the garage’s actions as I’ve set out here, I’ve adopted a very reasonable and friendly tone in all of my dealings with them. As of now, when I said that despite great difficulty due to my being in the Dordogne and my car being with them in Paris, I’d managed to arrange for it to be picked up by the end of this week at the latest, and hopefully Thursday, they said that that would be fine and no ‘frais’ or charges were mentioned.

The problem however, will be if when the transporter arrives to load my car up, they play silly beggars and refuse to release it until an additonal charge is paid. I’ve told Pascal that if that happens, there’s nothing that I can do beforehand, as if I ask them if I owe anything, I’m sure that they will make a figure up and ask me to pay it. So in the event, I’ve said to Pascal that if a figure of 100€ or less is proposed either he should refer it to me and I’ll settle it by debit card or, as he has suggested, he’ll pay it and add it to the amount I’ve left to pay after subtracting my deposit.

So there you have it, a sorry saga that has been as gruelling as it’s been long as it’s all been conducted in French, of course. I’ve found someone locally who is prepared to have my car dropped off at his place, find out what’s wrong and repair it for much, much less than the Paris garage’s figure, so all I can do now is keep my fingers crossed, hope that the uplift from the Paris garage goes as planned without a hitch and it’s safely delivered to my mechanic here in the Dordogne.

But what a salutary lesson it has been on how things are done here in France, how you can so easily fall into the clutches of people with reprehensible morals and how even those whom you have paid to guard and protect your interests in a crisis will drop you like a hot brick when it suits them to do so.

July 22, 2018

Two Weedhoppers

We enjoyed a great little flight today and for the first time Wim’s single seat Weedhopper, known affectionately as the Red Baron, and my two-seater flew together. The rough idea was to fly ‘in formation’ but there were too many turns and course changes to do that for very long. Even so, as we were flying at about the same speed I had Wim’s aircraft in sight nearly the whole of the time.

We left fairly early, at about 9.30 am, because we knew that as the day heated up it would become more thermic and less enjoyable in our two rather light little aircraft. Wim initially flew into Malbec and our planned route was to head for Condat via Rouffignac and Camping le Coteau de l’Herm, the latter having been acquired this year by Victor’s daughter and son-in-law.

Then we planned to continue on to the airfield operated by the ULM Club at Terrasson that up to today I’d flown over but never landed at, and finally to head for Galinat and then our respective home airfields.

Everything went according to plan and it was great fun. I stayed quite close to Wim as far as Rouffignac but due to the sweeping turn that he made over le Coteau de l’Herm, I lost quite a bit of ground and lost sight of him a bit below me for a short time. However, I then spotted him again and followed him into the by now well-known airfield at Condat with its long, sloping hard runway. Here are some shots of the two Weedhoppers parked on the apron there.

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Then on to Terrasson, which is a large commune with new and old sectors situated straddling the two banks of the river Vézère. The next few shots show it while I was approaching the town, the last of which giving a glimpse of the ‘old town’ with its big old church perched on the hill.

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Here are some shots of the two Weedhoppers parked facing the west sides of the hangars on the airfield of the ULM club. Yet again on what was an ideal flying morning, there was nobody but us to be seen. Sadly, French ULMistes don’t seem to appreciate how fortunate they are with the relaxed (and therefore relatively inexpensive) flying regime in their country and don’t seem to be half as enthusiastic about flying as we ‘foreigners’ are.

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From Terrasson, I took the lead for the first time for the leg to Galinat. In fact, Wim took off just after me and initially overtook me in my Rotax 503 powered two-seater in his 447 powered single seat aircraft. This was partly due to the fact that I began a steeper climb to go over the hills whereas Wim climbed less steeply to skirt around them, but by the time that I took the following shot of Montignac-Lascaux as I flew by, I was back in front again at higher altitude.

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I landed just before Wim at Galinat and here are the two aircraft parked there afterwards. Sadly, due to inactivity, Galinat is not as spick-and-span as it used to be and when I have more time, I must go and give Christian a hand as I promised I would a few weeks ago, to get things back into shape.

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Afterwards we left separately, Wim to head off for his airfield at Plazac, and me for Malbec. All in all, I clocked a flying time of just under 1½ hours and my best landing of the day? The last one at Malbec, the trickiest of them all. Very satisfying 🙂

July 7, 2018

Très français, très chic!

When I told my consultant on Thursday that I’d driven to the hospital in a 2CV her reply was , ‘Ah, très chic!’ So it was doubly so today when I drove to Malbec in Victor’s 2CV and then pulled my little French Weedhopper out of the barn for its first flight landing away from the airfield.

My plan was just to ‘do’ the usual local airfields with which I’m very familiar on a small local tour lasting about an hour or so taking in Galinat, with its 450 metre up-sloping grass runway, Condat with its enormous up-sloping hard runway on which you could land a turbo twin and Sarlat with it’s long, flat hard runway that I expected to be quite busy on a day like today at this time of the year.

Sarlat only accepts radio equipped aircraft for that very reason and also because there’s parachuting there at this time of the year. However, although I saw the jump aircraft taking off, there didn’t seem to be any parachuting going on today.

Today was forecast to be benign early on but becoming a scorcher later, so my plan was to get away by about 9.00 am or so in order to get back again before it became too thermic. However, due to the usual unforeseen hiccups eg I’d forgotten that I’d removed the velcro from the back of my tablet that’s needed to attach it to its mounting bracket in the Weedhopper, so after getting hold of some more off Victor that saved me driving all the way home again, it was 10.25 am before I actually got away.

After passing over Victor and Madeleine’s house my first heading was for a landing at Galinat that should have taken not much more than 10 minutes or so. However, as I approached the airfield from the direction of Thonac, I could see that there were obstructions on the runway. These turned out to be hay bales that are everywhere in all the fields at the moment as the farmers have been very busy as a result of the fine weather harvesting fodder for their animals.

I decided that there wasn’t sufficient space to avoid the ones along the side of the runway so after passing along its length, turned left and took a heading for Condat without landing. It was a pity because with Galinat’s runway being so long with a slight up-slope, it’s a great place to come in a bit fast and practise your flare and hold-off when you’ve had a bit of a lay-off from flying, as I have.

After leaving Galinat behind me, I took a couple of shots through 28AAD’s windows. First a shot looking forward with Condat’s runway in the left-centre of the screen in the middle distance and then one of Aubas with its little ‘barrage’ (weir) on the river Vézère.

The Dordogne from the cabin of Weedhopper 28AAD

Aubas from the cabin of Weedhopper 28AAD

As usual (almost), when I got set up to land at Condat there was a choppy cross-wind and I had the surprising experience of a sudden very high nose-up attitude in the Weedhopper after landing, with its nose wheel way up off the ground while rolling on its main wheels. I can’t remember ever experiencing such a thing with MYRO and I wonder if its due to the French Weedhopper having larger diameter main wheels? Mind you, I can’t remember its happening with the X-Air either so it probably isn’t and it was maybe just due to a sudden strong gust hitting me just after I’d touched down.

Here are some shots that I took of 28AAD at Condat after I’d signed Roland’s movements book that the police insist that he keeps.

Weedhopper 28AAD at Condat sur Vézère

Weedhopper 28AAD at Condat sur Vézère

Weedhopper 28AAD at Condat sur Vézère

Then off to Sarlat. After taking off at Condat, you fly towards the face of a low range of small hills. Usually in the Savannah, and even the X-Air, I pay no attention to them because by the time I reach them I’m already at height. However, this wasn’t the case with the Weedhopper, which was climbing at only 500 ft/min at about 6200 rpm on its little 503 engine, so just to be sure I turned slowly away from them to the right towards Montignac, until I was satisfied that I’d more than cleared them.

Then on to the town of Sarlat. And it was then that I realised just how slow the Weedhopper is! I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but I now realise why people thought that I was crackers to fly MYRO from the UK right down to the Dordogne. Compared to the Savannah especially, it seemed to take an age to see Sarlat come up and pass by under my right wing, and yet another one to get into the overhead of Sarlat-Domme aerodrome.

It became clear as I approached the overhead that something was going on at the airfield. There were many more aircraft than normal on the parking and even the grass in front of the tower together with flags and banners and initially I was worried that I was gatecrashing some event or other. I hadn’t bothered to read the NOTAMs and this was a lesson learned, even for local flights to ‘well known’ airfields at this time of year.

However, I then spotted another small aircraft landing on runway 10, which I was setting myself up for, so decided to continue and landed nicely without incident. I decided that in view of the number of parked aircraft, I’d park the Weedhopper away from the main parking outside what used to be the ULM club hangar and walk along the side of the taxiway to the ‘Acceuil’ to sign the movements sheet.

There were lots of people milling around together with Breitling banners, tables for this and that and so on, but I don’t know what the event was actually for. I’d seen the parachute jump aircraft departing shortly after I’d landed but there was what appeared to be a separate group over to one side outside the parachuting marquee, so I don’t have a clue what it was all in aid off. However, I found the movements book, which had been moved from its usual place and taken outside, signed it and decided to get away a bit pronto as the wind already seemed to be rising, which it always seems to at Sarlat because of the airfield being located on the top of a plateau.

Before I went though, here are some shots that I took of the Weedhopper on its parking place outside the old ULM club hangar.

Weedhopper 28AAD at Sarlat-Domme

Weedhopper 28AAD at Sarlat-Domme

Weedhopper 28AAD at Sarlat-Domme

The flight back to Malbec took exactly 30 minutes and whereas I’d had some leaway for speed and height for the landings at both Condat an Sarlat, this time at Malbec I didn’t. As I hadn’t flown for several weeks, it made me concentrate as although it wasn’t yet too strong, there was already a choppy cross-wind gusting from the right on the approach. But I needn’t have worried. It wasn’t my best ever landing, but they all don’t have to be, and after touching down and taxying up the runway, I switched off outside the Savannah’s hangar with a smile on my face.

I’d done what I’d wanted to do and achieved what I’d wanted to achieve, so that was good at a time when I’m still coming back after my chemo. Any niggles? Not really, other than the Weedhopper’s slow speed over the ground, which I’m not accustomed to these days after the Savannah. I also thought that there was a lot of vibration, maybe due to an unbalanced prop. After shortening it a bit, I’d taken care to balance it as I thought, but maybe my efforts weren’t quite good enough.

I also noticed that where the Weed has been standing in the front of the barn fully exposed to the hot morning sunshine, its engine cover had stuck to the propeller’s painted tips and a thick chunk of paint had been removed from one end when I took the cover off. Whether this would be enough to account for the imbalance I do not know, but I think that it’s something that I’ll need to look into when I have the time.

But otherwise, what a great morning’s flying and how wise to get away when I did to miss the rising winds and turbulence that are both active and increasing as I type this, just before the start of the England-Sweden World Cup football match. So I must go!!

July 3, 2018

One down, one to go

Problems, that is. As I said I was going to in my last post, yesterday I was off back up north again in Victor’s Citroen that he’d kindly loaned me for the journey. I left home at 7.00 am and the first job was to clear out my car which at the time of writing is still in a garage in Villeneuve la Garenne in the northern Paris suburbs, where I arrived in the early afternoon. The drive around the Paris Péripherique was the usual mayhem but fortunately my little satnav didn’t let me down and I got to within 500 metres of the garage before missing the right turn, going straight on and having to go around the block in chaotic traffic.

As well as doing the usual tyre, brake and suspension work, the garage was stacked up with vehicles like mine awaiting more major repairs and after I’d emptied it of my stuff and transferred the ladder and board on its roof to the Citroen, I was disappointed to be told that I’d be lucky to get any news on its repair this week, but more likely next. So my breakdown assistance were more or less right about the leadtime, except if I hadn’t intervened and got the Kia moved from the breakdown company’s yard to a garage when I did, the leadtime wouldn’t presumably have started until they had got around to arranging it themselves some days hence.

But anyway, I’ve just got to bite the bullet and be patient until a message or email drops into my inbox from the garage with the vital information that I need. So then I could turn my attention to the next problem, namely that of the Savannah’s damaged slat. Readers may wonder why I was originally heading north with a ladder and board on my car’s roof, and here’s the reason.

I reasoned that many French Savannah owners who go for the slat-to-VG wing conversion wouldn’t do the job themselves but would instead deliver their aircraft to Centre Les Noyers, the Savannah distributor, to do the work for them. Afterwards they’d have little or no interest in having their old slats returned to them, especially if based some way away from Les Noyers when the transport costs would be prohibitive and the chance of having them delivered undamaged would not be that great.

I therefore thought that Les Noyers must surely end up with a pile of old slats in the back of one of their hangars which might otherwise end up only going for scrap, so gave them a telephone call to find out. The answer that I received was, ‘Yes, what colour is your aircraft?’ and to cut a long story short, I ended up doing a good deal with them for a second-hand white one. And that was the reason for having the ladder and board on my car roof as a means of holding the slat safely and securely for transit during the 7 hour drive from Les Noyers, which is situated between Beauvais and Pontoise in northern France, and the Dordogne.

So after leaving the garage in Villeneuve la Garenne behind me, I headed off to the north-west and Les Noyers, where I arrived in the latter part of the afternoon, by which time the day had become scorching and airless. The journey was also not helped by the fact that all French roads that don’t have a central ‘separator’ between the opposing traffic flows have now had a 80 kmh speed limit slapped onto them, further slowing things down, but eventually I found myself outside the Les Noyers offices and hangars waiting for the lady who runs the office but was working from home because it was so hot, to arrive to open it up for me.

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Les Noyers have a very neat and tidy setup which is surprising in one way in that there is no approach road to the office or a car park. Instead everything, the office and hangars, is set in the middle of neatly mowed grass which you have to drive over as the lovely lady also did to greet me shortly after I’d arrived.

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After re-emerging into the back of the office from an adjacent hangar with a white slat she and I enjoyed a conversation about this and that while I drank a welcome can of cold Perrier and it was then time to load the slat onto the car roof. I turned down a kind offer of help because with the long drive that awaited, I wanted to do the job myself so I knew that it was done exactly as I wanted, and it took me over half-an hour in scorching sun before it was loaded to my satisfaction.

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It was then time to start heading homeward. After my experience the week before, I’d already decided that I’d spend the night in the Première Classe hotel at Orléans West, where I arrived at around 9.00 pm. By then stormy weather was threatening and I kept my fingers crossed in case it did start to rain heavily and weakened the duck tape that I’d used to secure the slat to the wooden board. Luckily that didn’t happen.

On this occasion I found the hotel to be disappointing compared to the one I’d stayed in at Nenterre the week before. For starters the evening and night were hot and muggy and unlike the hotel in Nanterre, this room didn’t have any kind of air conditioning or cooling even, so although very tired by this time, I slept rather fitfully.

Also, you hear some nightmare stories about these budget hotels and I have to say that when I inspected my bed before getting into it, although the bed was well-made and the sheets etc were neat and tidy, I found that they contained a few black hairs which could have meant that they hadn’t been changed after the previous guest. I have no idea however, if this was actually the case.

After taking a quick breakfast in the hotel, I eventually got away from Orléans this morning at about 7.30 am. With the slat on board, I took the drive back very easy, never driving over 105-110 kmh and averaging around 100-105 kmh so as not to expose the slat to any excessive air pressure that might have caused it to bend. The journey therefore took a bit longer but I was rewarded by arriving at my house dead on midday with the slat in the same condition in which it had left Les Noyers.

I was also delighted to find on inspecting it closely before taking it into the hangar that it’s actually in better general condition than the one that it’ll be replacing, so once again a minor disaster will result in the aircraft being improved. And now that the slat’s in the hangar at Malbec, it means that that’s a problem solved, leaving me immediately with just that of my car repair to resolve.

I just hope that that goes as smoothly as getting hold of the replacement slat did, but I can now only wait and see 😉