September 27, 2018

Rassemblement ULM Ste Foy La Grande

Doesn’t time fly! At the time of writing, it was ten days ago on 16 September that Wim and I flew into Ste Foy la Grande in our Weedhoppers, and Victor drove there, for an ULM fly-in and barbecue. And a great afternoon it was too, well supported by visitors by road and air, especially as it was the first time that ULM Evasion who are based on the airfield had put together such an event.

Although our main destination was Ste Foy la Grande, Wim suggested that we could also drop into LF2469 Campsegret along the way, a new private ULM airfield at about half distance that was opened just over a year ago. So that was our plan, as shown on our route for the day, below.

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As Wim only had 35 litres of fuel on board the Red Baron (compared to my just over 50 in 28AAD, my Weedhopper), we decided that it would be best for him not to waste fuel by landing and taking off again at Malbec but that I’d make sure that I was all ready to go with engine warmed up and I’d take off when I heard him approaching. The idea worked well, and here’s a shot that I took of 28AAD while I was waiting for him to come overhead.

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Helped by my GPS system, I’d found Campsegret the day before on my way back from Ste Foy la Grande in the Savannah and as I was using the same system, I had no problem locating the airfield again and landing there in 28AAD. Not so Wim unfortunately. For once his normally impeccable dead-reckoning navigation let him down and while I was on final to land at Camsegret I spotted him off to my right trying to locate its runway, but in the adjacent valley.

I shot a video during the flight, as I also did the day before in the Savannah, which I hope to produce shortly, and in it while I’m taxying back up Campsegret’s runway to park 28AAD, Wim can be seen passing by to the south still searching. Here’s a shot that I took of 28AAD after I’d parked while waiting for Wim to land, which he eventually did, fortunately without wasting too much fuel!

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Campsegret’s runway has a declared length of 300 metres but we both got the impression that it is actually quite a bit less. It is also not helped by there being a slight down-slope from the threshold and like most runways here, you always land in one direction (01) and take off in the other (19). Although flying conditions were perfect that morning, there was actually a slight tailwind when I landed, although it didn’t affect me by much. Here’s a shot of both Weedhoppers parked there near the threshold end.

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There’s a white Skyranger based at Campsegret and while we were approaching, we’d seen it take off and head towards the east. There was nobody at the airfield, therefore, so after a brief walk around we took off to head for Ste Foy with me in the lead in 28AAD. When we arrived, there were a couple of ‘pendulaires’ (flexwings) ahead of us, so we slotted in and landed behind them. This was the first time that I’d landed on runway 10 at Ste Foy so it was a new expereince that gave me a different perspective of the airfield.

The taxy up to the parking area was also much longer than when landing from the opposite direction and here’s a shot of Wim talking with an interested onlooker, of which there were several as our two Weedhoppers stimulated quite a bit of interest, after parking in the ranks next to 28AAD.

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Now some general shots of the assemblage of aircraft, which included ULMs of many types, ‘avions’ (Group A aircraft) and even a couple of helicopters. In some shots the parked ranks look a bit thin but they were taken while aircraft were still arriving. And what a coincidence! Note the registration of the elderly Quicksilver in the foreground of the next shot – 33AAD ie ‘AAD’ in the Gironde département. And what’s the registration of my little Weedhopper? Yup, 28AAD ie ‘AAD’ in the Eure-et-Loire.

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There can only be one ‘AAD’ in each of France’s 96 départements, excluding the overseas territories, so it’s quite amazing that both of them from the two adjacent départements were there on the day, the more so as ‘AAD’ is quite an old reg and some ULMs carrying it must surely by now have fallen by the wayside.

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Whenever you walk around a group of parked ULMs in France, you come across many (very many!) more types than you do in the UK where the convoluted type approval rules crush all marques excluding those with fat wallets from entering the market (with the result that the market is now effectively moribund, although that’s another story). Here’s one that I’ve never seen before. I don’t know its name but I suspect that it is a very pretty little home-built.

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And here’s a tandem two-seat Quicksilver.

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It brought smiles to our faces because it’s probably a school aircraft that has been subjected to more than its fair share of hard landings and as a result its main axles had been bent and its main wheels splayed out. No problem. All they had then done was lash a steel cable between them to stop them splaying any more. Imagine the fits that inspectors in the UK would have with such an arrangement! However, apart from making the aircraft sit much lower to the ground than normal, it appeared to work pretty well. Not well enough for me I must say, but OK apparently for this aircraft’s pilot 🙂

Here’s a very pretty little vintage Jodel. I’m not sure if it was an ULM or an ‘avion’ but I think probably the latter.

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And here’s an ULM of a type that you see for sale every now and again on Le Bon Coin. I think it’s called a C5 but I’m not sure. It’s quite pretty but I’m not a big fan of the wing strut arrangement as I prefer to see struts in a ‘V’ shape with a single attachment at the fuselage end. I don’t much fancy the idea of getting between the struts to enter the aircraft, but that’s maybe just me.

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And here’s another shot of the same aircraft with a ‘pendulaire’ pilot next door doing what all ULM pilots are good at – lying in the shade under their aircraft’s wing before getting themselves ready for the flight home.

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Another general shot.

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A Skyleader 200 – never to be seen in the UK as far as I know as not UK ‘type approved’. How stupid is that.

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A very pretty Zenair 601.

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Another general shot of the Zenair flanked by a couple of Skyrangers with a Robin ‘avion’ in the background.

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The Robin. Not a new design but still beautiful in my eyes with its classic curves.

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Then we came to the Classic Quicksilver, all cables and tubes with its pilot readying himself for takeoff in the middle of his ‘birdcage’.

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After he’d taxied out and taken off, the reason became clear when he set off two red smoke flares on the Quicksilver’s wingtips and commenced a number of very low passes over the airfield.

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And not just the airfield – also the hangars, parked aircraft and the crowd, although nobody seemed to mind too much. Imagine the screams of outrage from all bodies of authority from the CAA downwards if such a display had taken place in the UK. Here it was regarded as just a fun end to an enjoyable day, but I have to say that given a few of the pilot’s low and slow turns and manoeuvres, I did breath a small sigh of relief when he made it back down safely.

And then it was time for the flight home. Wim left just before me as I was involved in a conversation with a prospective purchaser of my X-Air, but we both agreed afterwards when we met up again for drinks at Wim’s that it was a thermic nightmare compared to our flight to Ste Foy in the morning. But never mind, my landing back at Malbec was a peach compared to that the day before in the Savannah. So it just shows, you never can tell what to expect 😉