Tag Archives: Toulouse-Lasbordes

Flight excursion to San Sebastian

One of the goals that I had for this year as a recently qualified private pilot was to make a flight crossing the French border. For this purpose, last July I approached a colleague, Asier, who had obtained his license years ago and already had the experience of having flown to San Sebastian, the destination chosen for the flight.

We took a day off at the office to have time enough to make the return flight on a day and avoid constraints with the availability of airplanes. The weather was very good early in the morning all the way from Toulouse to San Sebastian, with only some wind, and a few gusts by the coast.

On the way to San Sebastian we would make a short stop over by Pau. On the way back we had planned another one by Tarbes, but in the end we skipped it. The outgoing flight took us 2h28′ (engine running time, including the stop over) for over 176 nautical miles; the return one, 2h04′.

The navigation went rather well even if we didn’t make use of the GPS and just navigated using the charts, compass and VOR… It basically consisted in departing from Toulouse Lasbordes and flying around the CTR of Toulouse via the southern itinerary. Once arrived at the SN way point we took a west heading towards the VOR of Tarbes (TBO) and from there we sought the integration in the CTR of Pau. At Pau we simply went to the general aviation parking, drank some water, refreshed ourselves, rearranged some papers, visualized the second part of the flight and got ready for departure. While at the holding point we had to wait for an airliner and a French Air Force CN-235, a nice view considering that both Asier and I used to work for Airbus Military.

chart-route-ss

Navigation log.

Navigation log.

It was when flying around Pau that we noticed that the temperature of the oil was rather high, almost in the red zone of the arc. As the pressure was OK we decided to simply reduce the rpm. The action was succesful in lowering the oil temperature back to the green area of the arc, but we were forced to fly for the rest of a very hot day at a somewhat slower speed (between 150-170 km/h vs. the planned 180-200).

Final approach at Pau airport.

Final approach at Pau airport.

From Pau we followed the transit towards Biarritz via Orthez and Dax that follows more or less the high speed way and river Gave de Pau. We flew around Biarritz by the North and coastal transits. The bay and beach of Biarritz are wonderful on the ground, even more so from the air. In general it is a very recommendable experience to fly from Biarritz to San Sebastian, as despite of the turbulence that you may encounter the views are breathtaking. See the pictures and video below.

Atlantic coast.

Atlantic coast.

Biarritz

Biarritz

St Jean de Luz

St Jean de Luz

Leaving St Jean de Luz,the French air traffic controller bid us farewell in Spanish. Those were the first words in Spanish I ever exchanged in the radio as I obtained my license in France and the FCL055 to be qualified to speak in English when flying abroad, but I had never flown by myself to Spain. We then contacted the air traffic control at San Sebastian, who were waiting for us. While talking to the controller I felt very awkward, as despite of being a native Spanish and having reviewed aviation phraseology in Spanish the previous days, the terms and sentences didn’t come natural. I am sure that I used plenty of expressions that are either not correct or not in use. I noticed a couple of them by myself (“back track” the runway was employed by the controller in English, rather than a Spanish form I used or “Responde” for the transponder); there ought to be many more.

Air space around San Sebastian was very quiet. We demanded a clearance to make a detour by the bay of San Sebastian and come back to the airport in neighboring Fuenterrabia and it was granted without hesitation. Basically we could do as we pleased, we just needed to report when approaching the airport. After taking some pictures of the bay we headed back to the airport and we flew through the port of Pasajes, which I had visited on ground a few months before.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

Entering Pasajes.

Entering Pasajes.

It took me a while to spot the runway in long final but the landing went smoothly.

Final approach to San Sebastian airport Fuenterrabia.

Final approach to San Sebastian airport at Fuenterrabia.

We then went to have lunch with a relative of Asier at a close by restaurant and later had a walk through the village centre (Fuenterrabia).

dsc_0130

About 3 hours later we came back to the airport. Just in time to take-off and leave before the weather deteriorated. Clouds were approaching the airport from Pasajes, thus we took off heading North (runway 04), with heavy cross wind (310 degrees, 15-20 kt) in what was the most difficult take-off I have experienced so far. Once on air, at Biarritz the controller adviced us (and any other aircraft around) to either land or fly inland as soon as possible as a front was approaching from the sea. So we did, turned east, inland, and continued our flight towards Toulouse.

Biarritz

Biarritz

The rest of the flight went very smoothly, even though we skipped flying over Tarbes after having slightly diverted from our planned route as demanded by controllers.

To conclude this post, find below:

  • a video we made during the flight. Despite having played with the camera for most of the flights, of having collected over 1 hour of footage, most of it is about flying in the countryside, not that interesting to watch. However, I rescued the approach and landing at Pau and the flying along the coast in the way back, which are worth seeing (~10′).
  • the navigation log as it was after using it during the flight.

Used navigation log.

Used navigation log.

If you liked this post, find in the page Flight excursions of this same blog, a list of posts describing similar experiences to other destinations.

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Flight excursion to Najac

I discovered Najac literally by flying over on the way to Villefranche des Rouergues (LFCV) during a flight lesson with my instructor back on July 17th, 2014. That day, when I came back home, I immediately told Luca: “we have to go on an excursion to Najac“.

We did.

Back in April 2015 we made a weekend excursion doing a night stop over in Najac and visiting other nice villages (mainly) around the Tarn river. Luca wrote two nice posts about them with plenty of bright pictures: Najac and Route verte (including Castelnau-de-Montmiral, Puycelci, Bruniquel and Saint Antonin Noble Val).

Time passed, and I got my private pilot licence last November (1) and for the first flight with passengers (Luca and Andrea) we decided to go again to Najac.

On the way to Najac we would fly by Cordes-sur-Ciel and on the way back we would partially follow that route verte by St. Antonin de Nobleval, Bruniquel, Puycelci… basically the same trip but up above in the air.

The flight would be short, as estimated when preparing the navigation. It would take about 57 minutes of flight time plus around 10% to take into account the wind, some more minutes for the integration back in Lasbordes… about 1 hour and 10 minutes (2).

Navigation log prepared for the trip Toulouse Lasbordes – Najac.

Navigation log prepared for the trip Toulouse Lasbordes – Najac.

Find below a view of the chart to have an idea of the circuit:

Chart view of Toulouse Lasbordes – Najac.

Chart view of Toulouse Lasbordes – Najac.

Let me share some pictures of the villages and a video taken by Luca:

Family picture at Lasbordes.

Family picture at Lasbordes.

Puycelci.

Puycelci.

Cordes-sur-Ciel.

Cordes-sur-Ciel.

(1) As described here “My path to the private pilot licence (PPL)“.

(2) In the end it took 1.37 engine hours (or 1h22′), a bit more than estimated… due to  departing Southbound and not having found Cordes-sur-Ciel straight away plust some time spent in circling villages.

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Flight excursion to Auch

A couple of weeks ago I asked my flight instructor about destinations for a short flight excursion (from our base aerodrome in Toulouse – Lasbordes), a nearby aerodrome with a nice bar or restaurant with some spots worth to see on the way. At first thought he recommended: Auch, Cahors and Gaillac.

I had booked an airplane in the aeroclub for last Saturday some weeks ago and we were lucky again in having good weather for the day, mostly clear and sunny in the beginning. So, at 11:30am we drove to the aerodrome. Destination: Auch.

A friend, Rapha, had also recommended Auch and he was going to join us for the trip, but other activities prevented him for being early at the aerodrome. After receiving the keys of the plane a bit late, at 12:53 I was starting the engine.

Fox-Golf-Sierra-Bravo-Juliet, DR-400 au parking ACAT, 3 personnes abord, avec l’info Bravo, pour un vol destination Auch, sorti en début de vent arrière piste 15, pour rouler au point de arrête.

The flight would be rather quick. That was good as we were late in departing and the guy at the restaurant had told us to arrive before 13:30… when preparing the navigation I had estimated the return flight in about 62 minutes, plus some plus 10% due to the wind, plus some 10 minutes per integration and taxing in each aeroport… that woud make it about 88 minutes or 44 minutes per leg. We knew we would not make it (12:53 + 00:44 ~ 13:37) but we decided to give it a try and see if we still were able to get some food. If not, at least we would have trained the crossing of Blagnac’s CTR plus landing in Auch, an aerodrome I had never landed in before.

Navigation log prepared for the trip Toulouse Lasbordes - Auch.

Navigation log prepared for the trip Toulouse Lasbordes – Auch.

Transits through Toulouse Blagnac's CTR.

Transits through Toulouse Blagnac’s CTR.

The flight to Auch went very smooth even if it took longer than estimated (55′ of engine running in total) (1). Radio communications with Toulouse information and Blagnac’s tower went well and we quickly got clearances to cross the CTR and the axis of Blagnac’s airport runways. That feels good. Seeing those Airbus’ and Boeings down there and even making some commercial flight wait a minute in the runway while you cross the axis. 🙂

Once you fly over the airport the next highlight of the flight comes: over flying Airbus’ Toulouse facilities, seeing from above the delivery centre, flight line, A330 FAL, A350 FAL, flight test aircraft, Beluga’s, etc., you name it. See a short video filmed by Luca below.

You quickly arrive to the Leroy Merlin in Colomiers (point WD) and then turn Westerly towards the Bouconne forest (WF) and further ahead you leave the CTR (at WH). Then you only need to keep exactly a West heading (270⁰) easily aided by Toulouse VOR for about 22 nm (12 minutes at our speed, ~ 115 kt) until you find yourself above Auch aerodrome.

Chart view of Toulouse Lasbordes - Auch.

Chart view of Toulouse Lasbordes – Auch.

We flew the vertical of the airport, integrated the circuit in the cross wind leg, right after another plane which had just taken off. Reduced speed, put the carburetor heating on, activated the electrical pump, deployed flaps in take off position, gave a message with the radio, reduced speed to 150 km / h, trimmed the aircraft and gently proceeded towards base leg, lost some altitude and found ourselves in a final leg with a runway of  1,900 metres to land, four times of what we needed.

Final approach to Auch (LFDH).

Final approach to Auch (LFDH).

We taxied to the parking, locked the planed and called the restaurant: “I had called you from Toulouse, we’ve just landed, we know we are late, are you still serving food?”

Jean Philippe, a Belgian chef who resonates very much with the charm of the Gers, was cooking at the grill, welcoming guests at the restaurant, picking the phone, giving casual conversations to all customers in all four corners at any time from any place within the restaurant… running the show.

The menu… we had not ordered anything and saw the aperitif (kir), water (wine, if we had not refused it), bread, soup… coming to the table. The soup, “carbure” (as I later learned) is a traditional soup cooked with meat and vegetables from the previous meal; definitely the best dish of the restaurant. I then asked how did it work with the menu, the ordering… Jean Francois pointed at a corner: “it’s a buffet, you take the starters there, I take charge of the meat”. The starters included all kinds of salads, vegetables and sea food.

Once we had eaten half of the salad, an unannounced pâté came in. “Please, taste it”. Then came in the meat. A pork chop here, a steak there… then another one. A beef steak… With a tray already full of meat in front of us, I hinted “that is more than enough, we won’t be able to eat that much!”. “Don’t worry…”

We then took some desert (from another buffet in another corner) and to our regret we had to leave quickly back to Lasbordes to try to give back the plane on time for the next pilot.

The all-included menu cost 19 euros per person. Check out the restaurant (“Aerodrome d’Auch Lamothe”) and book your table here (phone call).

I booked a plane at the aeroclub for 3h30′, but in order to enjoy the trip in a more relaxed way, I recommend to arrive there before 13h and to book a plane for no less than 4 hours (if departing from Lasbordes), to ensure you have time to enjoy the lunch with time enough and so that the departures do not feel like a rush.

(1) The actual engine running times of both flights were:

  • LFCL – LFDH: 0.93 FH, 55′ (taking off from runway 15, southbound then towards EN)
  • LFDH – LFCL: 0.84 FH, 50′ (taking off from runway 18, then holding at WH some minutes waiting for the clearance)

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My first landing in Blagnac (LFBO)

I think this post is better understood just by watching the video (find referenced charts below):

Find the Visual Approach Chart of Toulouse Blagnac (LFBO) [PDF, 846KB] from the Service de l’Information Aeronautique (SIA). Main pages to follow the video are shown below:

Visual Approach to Blagnac. Special attention to route followed from Lasbordes, EN - EA - EB.

Visual Approach to Blagnac. Special attention to route followed from Lasbordes, EN – EA – EB.

Visual Landing in Blagnac. Special attention to waypoint EB (water tower) and clockwise aerodrome circuit to land on 32L.

Visual Landing in Blagnac. Special attention to waypoint EB (water tower) and clockwise aerodrome circuit to land on 32L.

Taxiing in Blagnac. Special attention to the crossing of 32R by way of M4 and N4. Note parking Golf. Departure from 32R by way of N1.

Taxiing in Blagnac. Special attention to the crossing of 32R by way of M4 and N4. Note parking Golf. Departure from 32R by way of N1.

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First “solo” flight!

My instructor had kept saying to me in the previous lessons “one of these days I’ll release you for the first solo flight” (but then in French). Today, August 30th 2013, the time has come.

I arrived today at the aéroclub René Barbaro, in the aerodrome Toulouse-Lasbordes (LFCL), at about 18:15 (16:15 UTC… to keep it #avgeek). When being asked what would be then plan for today, my instructor, Thierry, immediately answered “est-ce que ça te marche si on fait trois tour de piste et aprés je te lâche?.” To that question one can only answer: “oui, bien sûr!“.

Thus, we took the Robin DR-400-120 Petit Prince with matriculation number F-GNNI (Fox(trot) Golf November November India). A mainly wooden French plane which is quite popular in France. The aircraft has a piston engine which delivers 120 HP, cruises at about 200 km/h, has an empty weight of about 600kg (573kg as per the latest rapport de pessée)… you can see it below:

Robin DR-400 F-GNNI.

Robin DR-400 F-GNNI.

As Thierry proposed, we first made 3 tours de piste, that is 3 laps around he aerodrome circuit.

Despite of some comments on the landings, one take-off performed with flaps retracted (see #Jk5022), at the end of the third landing Thierry got off the aircraft, got his walkie-talkie to hear and intervene in the communications if needed (which was not needed) and went to aéroclub office.

Then, I was finally alone in the plane.

Message to the radio (the tower was not working by then, thus I sent a message to other aircraft in the frequency, 122.7): “Toulouse-Lasbordes, DR-400 au parking Airbus, je roule au point d’arrêt piste 34“. I then went through the different check lists, going through each step in a mixture of Spanish and French (I normally proceed with the list in French but then it felt strange to talk to myself in French thus: “giro al sur y la bille va a la derecha, el cap y el compas decrecen…”).

At about 17:35 UTC, I finally pronounced the words “Fox November India, je m’aligne et je decolle, piste 34“, and with that there I went! (I had to align and take off rather quickly as there was another airplane about to announce its entry in finale).

Aerial view of the aerodrome Toulouse-Lasbordes, LFCL (note that today evening the runway in use was the 34, thus, what you see closer is the end of the runway).

Aerial view of the aerodrome Toulouse-Lasbordes, LFCL (note that today evening the runway in use was the 34, thus, what you see closer is the end of the runway).

From then on, an easy flight around the aerodrome that did not take very long but meant a big step for me ensued; a big reassurance. Let’s go through it. Come on board with me…

Take-off: even if I could have taken off at a lower speed, due to the heat and as precaution, I was going to rotate at about 110km/h. Up until then I repeated “the runway is cleared, la vitesse monte, the runway is cleared, all parameters are green…“. I saw some birds flying low and crossing the runway, so I gave myself some seconds before pulling the stick backwards… “je décolle!“.

Climb: immediately after taking off, I had to push the right pedal to compensate the engine effects. During the first phase of the climb I ascended at about 130 km/h (a bit faster as I was alone in the plane) and at 760ft, or 300 pieds sol, I proceeded with the check list après décollage: “volets (flaps) de premier écran à rentrées, pompe électrique off and check that all parameters are still green“. Proceed with the climb now at 150km/h.

Integration in the aerodrome circuit: You can see in the pictures below the aerodrome circuit, both as it appears in the aeronautical chart [PDF, 644KB] and with a satellite image.

Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) carte of the aerodrome (Carte VAC).

Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) carte of the aerodrome (Carte VAC).

View of the "circuite de aérodrome".

View of the “circuite de aérodrome”.

As soon as I had passed the village of Balma I turned East still ascending (following the green line upwards and to the right as per the satellite image). Then, just between Balma and Pin-Balma (blue circles in the satellite image) there is a farm which serves as starting point for the aerodrome circuit.

There, I announced myself again: “Fox(trot) November India au début de vent arrière piste 34“. I then reduced the gas from 2,500rpm to 2,000rpm, switched on the electric pump, the carburetor heating and deployed the flaps to the first position (10º)… with those settings the speed should come to 150km/h. I then noticed that while performing these actions I had gained some 200ft (above the 2,000ft of the circuit), which I proceeded to lose quickly and, once corrected, I trimmed the aircraft for 150km/h at 2,000ft QNH.

When I spotted the Château de Pechestier (see carte VAC above), I turned right following the ligne à haute tenstion, reduced the power from 2,000rpm to 1,500rpm (keeping the speed at 150km/h) while losing altitude from 2,000ft to about 1,100ft when over flying the commercial centre at the turn between the sectors étape de basse and finale.

Final approach: “Fox(trot) November India en finale pour un complet“. I then deployed the flaps to the landing configuration (60º) and fixed my sight on the number 34: “vitesse (> 120km/h) – le plan (3.5%) – vitesse – l’axe – …“.

Landing: I believe that one has been the best landing I have performed so far. I guess I was so concentrated that I definitely did my best… I slowed down, exited the runway, “Fox(trot) November India la piste est dégagée, je roule au parking et quite la radio“. I then proceeded with the different check lists, went to the parking of the aeroclub, turned off the airplane… and that was it!

Thierry: “Well, How does it feel the first solo flight?”… the first solo flight.

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