Wim and I had originally planned to set off on our west coast trip later this week but we had to make a decision by last weekend whether to go or not and in the event decided to put it off for a short period. At the time it looked as though the weather on the west coast might become unfavourable come Friday or Saturday, although now it looks as though it would have been almost a perfect week to go. However, Wim and Sophie have gone off in their campervan to go walking in the Corrèze instead so there’s no going back.

In the meantime, I’ve been continuing with the necessary preparations. One of the things that I wanted to do was transit the Class D airspace of the Aerodrome de Lorient at the northernmost end of our flight before landing at a small ULM airfield at Querlarn to top up our tanks and beginning to head back south again. The route through the Class D was to follow an established light aircraft corridor, as shown in the following pic.

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Class D airspace in France is usually designated as transponder only and neither Wim’s nor my aircraft have one fitted, so I knew that we had a small mountain to climb. However, I thought that by stating our case and indicating that we would be planning the transit on a Sunday when there’s expected to be little commercial and/or military traffic at Lorient, they might give us a Special VFR with just radio contact. But unfortunately today I received an email saying that regrettably a transponder is mandatory to transit their corridor. In the French Air Pilot, Lorient is shown as being closed for C.A.P. (Circulation Aérienne Publique), being restricted to commercial and military use, and I don’t know whether this has something to do with it or whether all French Class D is strictly mandatory transponder and I aim to find out by phoning Brive or Bergerac and see what they say. But in any case, Lorient is now off limits so we’ll have to look at an alternative.

Any alternative would involve dropping our plan to land at Querlarn as transiting twice around the Lorient CAS would not be worth it. I can think of at least three others – we could head straight for our next planned stop, which was intended to be a night stop-over, change it to a refuelling stop and carry on from there. That might not be a bad idea as at present, the whole trip is timed to take 5 1/2 days and this change would get it back to exactly 5. Then there are two alternative larger airfields that we could drop into instead of Querlarn, LFES Guiscriff and LFED Pontivy, three if you include LFRV Vannes, which runs a very large ULM festival every year, all of which would incur slightly less flying time than the Lorient transit and landing at Querlarn. So it’s far from being a disaster.

I did have one success, albeit a somewhat mixed one, today, which I’ll explain. X-Airs have fabric flap covering their fuel filler that’s held in place around its edges by Velcro. Unfortunately, over time the Velcro weakens and the flap begins to come loose and start flapping in flight, which knocks the Velcro out even more. Eventually, with an older aircraft like 56NE, the Velcro cannot hold the flap closed in flight due to the passage of the air and whenever you land, you find it wide open.

The only permanent solution is to remove the rear fuselage cover and replace the Velcro, which is neither cheap if you pay a pro to do it, or easy if you do it yourself, which is why I put it off when I had 56NE at my mercy in my garden a week or so ago. However, I had another cunning plan, which I put into effect today, involving adding toggles and elastic loops to the corners of the flap and the following pics show how I did with it.

First, the flap hanging open is it now always does after a flight.

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Now, the flap with my cunning toggles and elastic loops added, both items having been acquired from Ebay. They are not stitched to the fuselage cover itself but only to the Velcro.

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The final result with the flap closed and the loops in position over the toggles (note the carefully selected, fetching yellow colour of the toggles).

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OK, so far, so good, but why only a mixed success, you might ask. Well, the length of the elastic loops has to be carefully calculated so as to get the flap pulled tight enough on the toggles but not so tight that you end up over-stretching the elastic of the loops. You also don’t want the loops to be too long or the flap will, well, flap around in flight and, I guess, end up pulling one or more of the toggles off. Muggins here cut three sets of loops of varying lengths and elected to fit the middle-size ones. I then promptly picked up and fitted the long ones, so straight away the flap is not pulled as tightly as I would have liked. Oh well, I’ll just have to see how it goes and whether what I think might happen as a result (as above) actually does, dang it 😕