I was over-optimistic when I entitled my last post ‘Nearly there’ as I’d totally failed to take into account the labyrinthine nature of French bureaucracy. But maybe I’m being unfair, because at the end of it all, when you’ve surmounted all the hurdles and succeeded in getting an otherwise anonymous aircraft onto the French ULM register, you’re ultimately left very much to your own devices and allowed to get on with things with little interference from the ‘authorities’. That certainly can’t be said of several other countries in Europe and absolutely not of the UK.
The stumbling block was the document that I’d mentioned in my previous post, namely the ‘fiche d’identification’. I must say at the outset that I was wrong in my interpretation of the French rules. A ‘fiche d’identification’ dated and signed by the aircraft’s manufacturer (ie not the person who actually built it in the case of a kit-built aircraft, but its constructor) that proves that the aircraft in question meets the requirements for it to be described as an ULM and also conforms to the original specifications filed by the manufacturer must be filed with every French registration application.
Usually a ‘fiche d’identification’ is provided by the constructor when the aircraft is originally sold and submitted to the DGAC when it is first registered. When it is re-sold, therefore, subsequent owners never have to bother about it. It may well be that when my X-Air was exported to the UK, a ‘fiche d’identification’ accompanied the kit, but I don’t know. When my pal acquired it around 10 years ago, I made up a document file for it as all of its paperwork was just chucked in a box, but its all still in the UK and for now I’ve been unable to go through it again. I’ve been told that I’ve written ‘certificate of conformity’ in the contents, and that may refer to the ‘fiche d’identification’, but at present I just don’t know for sure. However, I suspect that it was actually just lost or mislaid as there was no need for it in the UK.
But all is not lost in such a situation as Rand Kar, the French worldwide X-Air distributor, is still around in the Loire Atlantique and is willing to supply a copy – at a price, namely 200€. This may seem a somewhat princely sum for a simple colour copy of a filed document, but given that it plus a one-off registration fee of 20€ is all that it will cost to get my X-Air onto the French register, it’s not worth baulking at compared to the high annual cost of permitting the aircraft in the UK.
But there’s a catch – Rand Kar will only provide the said copy if they are provided with the original French serial number of the kit – and the DGAC will not accept any other number either, including the (different) serial number allocated to it by the BMAA for its UK registration. So if it’s not among the paperwork, then there is a problem, and in any case, if I’m to make my Ryanair flight to Stansted next Friday to get the X-Air ready to fly over, I needed to get it sorted by the end of this week, ie today, or by Monday or Tuesday of next week at the latest.
The key to the problem was getting hold of the aircraft’s French serial number and Rand Kar seemed the best place to start. They said that they do have all of the serial numbers but in the period in question (1998/99) 49 were shipped to the UK and they have no knowledge of either the UK registrations or the names of the customers. However, they said that the Wessex Light Aeroplane Co Ltd, in the person of Gordon Salter, the UK importer, would probably still have a record. So I phoned him, he said that yes he does have the information on file even for all those years ago, but that he’s on holiday in Menorca until Monday week! He said that he’d let me have the info after he gets back but that’s too late for me of course.
So after sending Gordon a SMS with the X-Air’s registration and original purchaser details, I needed to think about how else I might be able to tackle the problem. I wondered if the BMAA might have kept a record on the build paperwork, so I gave them a ring. Roger Patrick, ex P&M and the new Technical Officer, said that he’d have a look for me and a minute or so later came up with the only reference that he could find in the form of a kit number. This seemed very promising to me and soon after sending it to Rand Kar, I received the welcome confirmation that this referred to a red and grey X-Air sold into the UK in the period in question ie my aircraft.
So the problem was solved and shortly after paying their fee by debit card, I received my aircraft’s correct French ‘numéro de série’ (serial number) and a copy of its ‘fiche d’identification’ that enabled me to complete all of the paperwork necessary to get it onto the French register. In view of the ever-shortening lead-time, I’ve asked for the new registration to be emailed through to me as soon as it’s available, and hopefully that will happen on Monday. After that I’ll have enough time to put my plan into action to fly over to the UK and fly the X-Air across to France when the weather is suitable. I’ve already got my route and flightplan worked out, but more of that later. For now I’m just relieved that the registration logjam has at last been broken 😉