First, an update on 24ZN, the X-air ULM that I recently acquired and have re-registered to bring over from the UK, where it has been for nearly twenty years, to a new life in France. The previous owner was informed that it would be very costly to have its UK permit to fly renewed due to the onerous airworthiness regulations that apply there, but the rules are completely different in France where there are no such barriers to getting an admittedly elderly, but otherwise airworthy, aircraft back flying again.
But after giving it a thorough clean-up and check-over, changing a few parts that were either visibly worn or just suspect and making it totally airworthy to tackle a Channel crossing within an hour or so of taking off after not being flown for around five years, it’s still in its hangar in the South of England. The reason is the appalling weather that has continuously affected southern England and northern France and which continues even as I’m typing this on account of the most active Jetstream for many a long month creating a constant stream of high winds and rain sweeping in from the Atlantic. And this has been almost without respite for over a month.
There have been a few small weather windows but these have been short and far-between. My original plan was to make the flight south over three days, but as time passes I’m beginning to think that I’ll be lucky to get a window as long as that. When I flew MYRO south back in 2012 I did it in just two days, and that was starting from Stoke which is twice as far from the Channel coast as Headcorn is, from where I hope to be taking off this time around.
My reasons for going for the extra day were two-fold. Firstly, in MYRO I was able to head south from the French coast and land at Abbeville in order to close my flightplan and clear French customs. That isn’t possible any more because Abbeville has had its customs facility withdrawn and now I have to head north into Calais and then head south again adding an estimated 30 – 60 minutes to the total flight time. Secondly, I was originally able to end the first day at Wanafly to the north of Limoges, the flying school that was then run by Dave and Amanda Lord. However, they’ve now returned to the UK and their airfield is no longer available as an overnight stop.
My plan was therefore to make the first day little more than a short hop to overnight in the on-airfield hotel at Abbeville. The second day was then to finish up at Bellac, still to the north of Limoges but some way further south than the old Wanafly airfield at Azat-le-Ris and the third day was then going to be another short hop from Bellac to Malbec. And this may still remain the plan, although I’m now beginning to have second thoughts.
If, as I suspect, I’m being over-optimistic about getting three consecutive ‘fine’ days in which to do the flight, maybe I ought to think about scaling it back again to two? After all, the X-Air with its 582 engine is something like 5 kmh faster than MYRO was with its little 503, so even with the inconvenience of having to drop into Calais first rather than Abbeville, surely it should be possible to do the flight in the shorter time-frame, especially as I’ll be starting out from closer to the Channel than previously?
Actually, I think that it is but it would mean making some further adjustments. My new calculations show that on day one I should fly, as before, for a refuelling stop at Le Gault St Denis to the north of Chateaudun. Last time with MYRO I asked the school owner there to get fuel in for me but now I know that I’ll be able to take on fuel at Abbeville keeping my jerricans full with which to top the X-Air’s tanks up at Le Gault.
But my plans would then change. Instead of flying onwards down to Bellac, I’d end day one at Le Blanc, a town some way further north. I know from having flown past it just a few weeks ago in my Savannah that there’s a nice little airfield there with a lovely long hard runway on 04/22, just the heading that I’ll need for the north-easterly winds that I think will prevail. There’s also fuel there, although I can’t bank on anyone being available to supply me with it at this time of the year.
And not only that, the airfield is not far from the town itself, just a couple of kilometres, and I’ve already located a suitable small private hotel that would not be too far by taxi with a Super-U service station only 200 metres away should I not be able to obtain fuel at the airfield. I’d only need to fill one of my jerries to have enough fuel for the final short leg the next day from Le Blanc to Malbec.
So that’s the direction in which my thoughts are heading for the present and it’s now just a matter of watching the weather for the next window of opportunity. Poor weather with very high winds is forecast in the south of England and northern France over the next week or so but then it is likely that the winds will moderate for a sufficient period to allow me to complete the flight. I shouldn’t mention it for fear of alerting the weather gods, but that could be around the 11/12th of November… there, now I’ve gone and done it 😐