Tag Archives: VFR

Flight excursion to Menorca and Mallorca

Last weekend, with Luca and our children, we took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 to make a flight excursion from Toulouse (France) to the islands of Menorca and Mallorca, in Spain. The excursion was part of a “Fly out” organised by the Aviation Society of the Airbus Staff Council in which 5 aircraft would make the same trip.

The main purpose of the flight was to visit Menorca, and we flew to Mallorca to refuel before coming back. It is an excursion that in the Society we had been trying to make since 2015 but we have had to cancel it due to bad or uncertain meteorological conditions several times. The flight includes a leap over the sea of about 1 hour from the East of Bagur (in Gerona) to the North of Menorca and, as there are no safe landing spots in that area, you want to have more or less certain good weather along the route both the day of the departure and return flights.

22. a Formentor, Alcudia, Cap Farrutx

Cape Formentor, Alcudia & Cape Farrutx.

We made 4 flights.

Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) – Perpignan (LFMP)

Flight duration: 1h11’.

Flight_route_LFCL_LFMP

We included this first stop over Perpignan just to refuel the aircraft to the maximum before flying over the sea all the way through Menorca, so in case of bad weather or any other problem at the destination we could make a comeback to France or somewhere else in the Spanish coast. We selected Perpignan instead of other viable options such as Ampuriabrava for various reasons, among them lower cost of fuel and landing fees.

In the way to Perpignan the sky was overcast (OVC) at a low level around Carcassonne, and, as I did not want to fly on top for that leg, this forced us to fly just at 1000 ft above ground and to follow the highway to Narbonne rather than taking a more direct route to Perpignan over the mountains. You can see the route we followed above.

It was the first time I landed at Perpignan, but finding the field from the way points NL (in the coast) and NF was trivial. Once in the vicinity we integrated directly into the circuit for runway 31, closer to the fuel pump. There, we had a quick lunch and prepared for the following flight.

Perpignan_chart

Find the Garmin record of the flight here.

Perpignan (LFMP) – San Luis (LESL)

Flight duration: 1h56’.

Flight_route_LFMP_LESL

Just after the take-off from Perpignan we took a right turn towards the East and reached the coast South of waypoint EA. From then on we started climbing up to 5500 ft, the altitude selected for the flight over the sea (the highest, the better). In order to keep a high altitude you need to avoid the TMA from Barcelona, otherwise they may ask you to descend below 3000 ft. Thus, we went to the capes of Bear, then Creus and from then on South East heading to pass about 10 nm East of the VOR at Bagur. From then on we followed a series of IFR waypoints (NEMUM – AGENA – VERSO – TOSNU – SARGO).

TMA_BCN

Flying above the sea is not particularly eventful. You mainly need to maintain the altitude and attitude and the heading stable, as it is very easy to loose references with the difficulty to distinguish the horizon.

As far as radio communications are concerned: we were first transferred with the Gerona traffic control and then to the one of Barcelona. The communications were held in Spanish. Easy, as long as you have a flight plan and follow the announced route. Those frequencies were mainly used by commercial flights going to/from Barcelona or Palma, mainly Vueling flights. Also good to know is that as you fly away from Barcelona at some points you may not be heard by the control; no worries, keep going and sending the messages.

About an hour later we had in sight the North of the island of Menorca, the cape of Cavalleria. But before that, approaching the way point of SARGO (about 25 nm or 14 minutes from the shore) you need to descend down to below 2500 ft, though the control will ask to go down to 1000 ft AMSL as that is the limit of the air space class A around the main airport in Menorca, Mahon.

Cavalleria

Cape of Cavalleria.

Once in sight of the shore we requested to follow the coastal line to the East down to the East Corridor for Mahon in order to reach San Luis from the East (the control had however proposed to surround the island around the West and South).

San Luis_chart

Following that route we took the opportunity to take some nice pictures of the coast, the lighthouses and the fortress of Isabel II at La Mola.

San Luis is a non-controlled aerodrome without radio. Therefore, you must stay connected to the frequency of Mahon and land at your discretion, with a circuit to the East of the runway (02/20). The aerodrome is managed by the Aero-club of Menorca. In their site you may find contacts and charts (old ones being in use). There are not official fees but a contribution is expected; 10 euros for landing, 5 for parking. These are paid at the restaurant by the apron, which serves very decent menus and where the staff will be happy to help you calling for  taxi.

We spent the remaining of Friday afternoon and all Saturday enjoying the beach and the hotel’s pools, including a beer on Saturday night with the colleagues from the Society at a bar by the beach, Es Corb Mari (in Son Bou).

Find the Garmin record of the flight here.

San Luis (LESL) – Son Bonet (LESB)

Flight duration: 1h10’.

Flight_route_LESL_LESB

As the aerodrome of San Luis doesn’t have a fuel pump we could refuel at the main airport of Mahon, but as it requires to contract handling (with expensive fees) we preferred to fly down to Son Bonet (in Mallorca island), which landing fee is less than 7 euros, no handling contracting is required and there is free parking for a stay below 2 hours.

We filed the flight plan on the phone with Menorca airport (at this time the number for flight plans being: +34971157138). On ground, we were already connected to the frequency of Menorca and right after take-off we were cleared to turn West and cross the axis of the airport in our way to the West corridor which took us to the South coast of the island up to the cape and lighthouse of Artrutx.

From Artrutx we flew over the sea towards the bay of Pollensa (making use of its VOR), in Mallorca, and then we flew within the inner side of the island following the road from Alcudia to Mallorca by way of Inca. When leaving Inca we passed with the frequency of Son Bonet (123.5) around which English is mainly spoken as there are quite a few helicopters flying in and out. Finding the aerodrome coming from the road was trivial and we easily integrated into the circuit for runway 23.

At Son Bonet we paid the landing fees (~ 7 euro) and filed the flight plan at the small office by the parking. We refuelled (~3.05 euros per litre of Avgas 100LL) and had some lunch before the long  flight to Toulouse.

Find the Garmin record of the flight here.

Son Bonet (LESB) – Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL)

Flight duration: 3h04’.

Flight_route_LESB_LFCL

Once we were ready at Son Bonet, we got on board and departed from runway 23 again, took a right turn to the West during the climb to fly North of Son Moix on the way to Esporles to reach the coast of Tramuntana in order to fly along it up to the cape of Formentor.

Flight_route_LESB_LFCL_2

In the past, we had visited several spots along the way of this coast on the ground. The landscapes are remarkable. This time we wanted to get a view of them from the plane, which was breath-taking.

Once we reached Formentor we took a heading to the North and followed another series of IFR waypoints (KENAS – SULID – AGENA – NEMUM) to reach the East of the above mentioned VOR of Bagur, cape of Creus and enter back into French air space. This time, as the weather was clearer than during the first flight of the excursion, we maintained 5500 ft altitude until we had exited the TMA of Carcassonne.

Find the Garmin record of the flight here.

Some general remarks:

All the navigation logs were again prepared using the tool Mach 7, and during the flight we used the help of the AirNav Pro on the mobile phone (no tablet, though it would be easier). For Spain we had 1/1.000.000 chart from AIR MILLION (Editerra) and the 1/500.000 from Rogers Data. Neither of them has the IFR waypoints marked on them, so you need to write them down yourself in advance.

VFR aerodrome charts in Spain are retrieved from the site of ENAIRE, which in my opinion is less user friendly than the French equivalent. The charts themselves are comprised of too many different documents to handle; it is better to have a simple single PDF of 2-8 pages s in the French case for VFR. On top of that, not all small aerodromes have the information in ENAIRE, try googling about them or contact the local club.

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Flight excursion to the Flying Legends airshow at Duxford.

Two weeks ago, Albert, a work colleague, and I took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 airplanes to make a flight excursion from Toulouse to Northampton Sywell, Old Warden and Duxford (England) as part of a “Fly out” organised by the Aviation Society of the Airbus Staff Council, in which 6 aircraft would make the trip.

The main purpose of the flight was twofold:

  • Visit the Shuttleworth collection and their evening flight display on Saturday 14th July.
  • Visit the Flying Legends airshow at Duxford, hosted at the Imperial War Museum, on Sunday 15th July.
Mont Saint 34_Michel

Mont Saint Michel.

During the trip we were to make 6 flights: Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) – Cherbourg (LFRC), Cherbourg – Sywell (EGBK), Sywell – Old Warden (EGTH), Old Warden – Fowlmere (EGMA), Fowlmere – Laval (LFOV), Laval – Toulouse Lasbordes. In all about 14 hours of flight time, which we split among the two of us, together with sharing the navigation and radio communications workload.

Flights_picture

We prepared the flights using Mach 7 online tool, with which we generated the flight logs and routes for GPS, which could only be charged onto Albert’s smartphone, I replicated them in my Air Navigator app on my phone as well, however we did most of the navigation by way of following the paper charts.

Chart

Having to fly most of France from South to North, we decided to overfly some castles of the Loire Valley (Chenonceau, Cheverny and Chambord), the racing circuit of Le Mans and Omaha beach in Normandy (which we couldn’t see well due to the presence of clouds at the time we passed). See below some of the pictures we took of those places (with the smartphone, no pro cameras on board).

1_Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau.

2_Cheverny

Château de Cheverny.

3_Chambord

Château de Chambord.

4_Le Mans

Racing circuit of Le Mans.

We then made a stop, refuelled the airplane, ate some energy bars and departed for England. The weather seemed uncertain and there were several air traffic restrictions due to the Royal International Air Tattoo going on at Fairford, preparations for Farnborough air show, and the visit of Donald Trump, staying at Buckinghamshire. However, our colleague found a corridor through which we could fly smoothly past 15 h local time. We over flew the English Channel (La Manche) and approached the islands by first flying over the Isle of Wight (where I stayed one month during the summer of 1999 working at Camp Beaumont in Bembridge, at the eastern corner of the island, pictured below), the Hayling island leaving Portsmouth to our left, then up North by way of Winchester, Reading, Oxford and then Northampton. But as you can imagine, as there are not sign posts in the sky we were flying following the instruments and different navigation references close to those places. We took the opportunity to over fly Silverstone racing circuit.

5_Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight.

6_Silverstone

Silverstone racing circuit.

We then landed at Sywell, where we stayed for a night at the Aviators hotel, by the aerodrome, an ideal place to make an overnight stop.

 

The following morning we made a short flight to Old Warden, a small grass aerodrome where the Shuttleworth collection is based.

I found about the Shuttleworth collection some years ago in Twitter and started following their account (@Shuttleworth_OW). They happen to have arguably the largest collection of flying aircraft from the 1910s and 1920s. They do have the oldest flying machine in airworthy condition, a Bleriot XI from 1909. Rather than introducing the collection with a few paragraphs, I share here this video from their site:

For me, visiting the collection was a dream come true, moreover on a day in which they would fly most of their airplanes. See below a few pictures.

10_Bleriot XI

1909 Bleriot XI. The original oldest airplane in airworthy condition.

11_Triplanes

1920s biplanes (DX60X Moth, Southern Martlet).

12_Bristol Boxkite

Bristol Boxkite 1910 replica flying.

9_Avro Triplane

Avro Triplane 1910 replica.

I wanted to share a short video I took of the Bristol Boxkite 1910 replica flying just after taking off (a replica built in 1965). It took its time to gain some altitude, always at quite low speeds. It never went much higher than 50 ft. It was wonderful to see it flying.

We stayed the night over at the camping by the aerodrome and in the morning we departed for Fowlmere, another grass aerodrome a few miles from Duxford. The taxiway at Fowlmere was fully packed of small airplanes (including the Antonov An-2 coming from Germany that you can see below) and tents of pilots that had been camping the previous night or would camp the following one, as we did.

 

We got a faboulous breakfast at the airfield and then drove to Duxford to attend the Flying Legends air show and visit the Imperial War Museum.

Flying-Legends-2018Our Fly out was organised by a fellow British colleague, Derek. He recalled how being brought to Flying Legends as a child by his father had been a marking moment. He only came again decades later. The air show is one of the biggest and best classic aviation events in the world. If you have the chance to visit it once, do not hesitate, go.

This year the show commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force and the 50th anniversary of the filming of Battle of Britain which had Duxford as one of the locations and some of those very airplanes as main characters of the movie. Other locations of the filming were the Tablada airfield in Seville (where Airbus Defence has facilities), the coast in Huelva passed as Dunkirk or San Sebastian as if it was Berlin.

There are plenty of aircraft to see up close, from the flight line, many exhibitors come with  books, models, clothing, memorabilia, etc., you’ve got the museum in itself (!) to visit, you have literally dozens of WWII birds flying, among them: Supermarine Spitfire (we saw a formation of 11 of them flying), Hawker Hurricane, North American P-51 Mustang and resident Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B (only B-17 in flight in Europe)… By the end of the day you will be more than overwhelmed, exhausted, but with that smile of wonder when watching those jewels fly up in the air while you hear the engines roaring, the music and the explanations from the commentator of the show.

21_Flying Fortress

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B.

20_Flying Fortress

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B.

 

See this short video of the Balbo formation flight at the end of the display with 25 single engine WWII birds flying…

After the show we headed back to Fowlmere where we had dinner with three other colleagues (French and German) before walking to the airfield to camp by our airplane, which felt as the aviation of the beginning of the XX century.

22_camping

Fowlmere_4

Monday 16th July, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, was the day to come back to Toulouse. The weather seemed good in England and to cross the channel but not so in France, so we took it with calm. We flew through the East of London, crossed the channel and then overflew all the coast of Normandy down to Omaha beach, then we headed South West to the Mont Saint Michel and then to the airport of Laval. There we rested for a couple of hours, ate more energy bars, studied the meteorological conditions to go further South and finally departed back to Toulouse Lasbordes.

24_London

London skyline.

25_Qeen E II bridge & Littlebrook Power Station

Queen Elizabeth II bridge and Littlebrook Power Station.

26_Thames

Thames river estuary.

27_Cliffs d'Etretat

Cliffs of Étretat, Normandy (France).

28_Le Havre Pont de Normandie

Le Havre. Pont de Normandie.

29_Oil tankers

Oil tanker ships departing from Le Havre.

30_Sword beach

Sword beach (British). Normandy Landing.

31_Arromanches

Remainings of Arromanches mulberry bridge.

32_American cemetery Omaha

American cemetery at Omaha beach.

33_Omaha beach

Omaha beach.

Mont Saint 34_Michel

Mont Saint Michel.

Main takeaways and afterthoughts:

  • The airshows and visits were totally worth it. Dreams come true.
  • Over flying those castles, circuits, beaches, historical landscapes… you can imagine, breathtaking.
  • Radio communications: much easier than expected, in England as well (even if the there were lots of radio frequency changes to be made around London). French in France, English in England.
  • We made ourselves follow in each air space. It forces you to interact more with the control but it adds to the safety of flight (traffic information overflying Saint Michel or the castles is advice-able).
  • Flight plans: in France they are not required for the long flights we did South-North flying spaces E and G. But we filed them. It allows the control to better follow you. They know your plans, they give clearances for D spaces without hesitation.
  • All the terrains we visited in England required PPRs (a colleague took care of this).
  • To fly into England a GAR report must be submitted in advance.
  • We didn’t touch a single sterling pound in the four days, credit cards almost did the trick for everything. A colleague had to pay for a taxi and a meal. We could have avoided that by selecting alternatives which accepted credit card payment.
  • We had to divert due to the meteorological conditions when arriving to one of the destinations. Clouds and fog were closing our visibility. We found ourselves with no more than 3-4 km of visibility and flying very low, so we turned back. The two diversion aerodromes we had initially selected would not do the trick (in the middle of the cloud region). We had to look for a third one in flight. That was stressful. Luckily we were two pilots on board: one keeping the airplane on air, the other navigating, looking for a suitable aerodrome and downloading the aerodrome chart (we carried about 30 on board, but not the one we finally needed). Lessons learnt: never spare charts, you may need them; ensure you’ve got batteries and chargers on board (you may need them in the worst situation), if you are the only pilot on board, but have passengers with you, try to get one of them briefed in advance of what can he or she do if something happens.

After this excursion I have completed just above 120 flight hours, and I am quite happy with the flight training provided by the aeroclub and system in France. Before the excursion we had some uncertainties about some aspects of the flight. In the end all of it was much easier than expected.

 

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Flight excursion to Malause’s phare aéronautique

Last Sunday, yet again, we took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 airplanes to make another family flight excursion.

On the occasion of the previous excursion, last week, I introduced the phares aéronautiques, i.e., aeronautic lighthouses that were set up in 1920s to allow night flight navigation for l’Aéropostale courriers. Last week we spotted a couple of them to the South East of Toulouse. This time, we wanted to spot a couple of them to the North West of Toulouse, on the way to Bordeaux, in the villages of Canals and Malause.

Last week, we prepared quite well the spotting, checking in Google maps different views of what we would try to see from the airplane so that we could easily recognise them. This time, we prepared less, just marking a cross in the map with the approximate location of the phares and hoping that we would identify the lighthouses on the ground.

Well, the task proved as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack. We missed the phare of Canals in the first leg. We then continued over flying the Canal Lateral up to the water slop of Montech (1).

montech_1

The navigation of this flight was rather simple, as once over the Canal Lateral we kept flying over it northward up to the Pont-Canal to the East of Moissac (2).

Moissac

We then flew along the river Tarn until it flows into the Garonne and then the Garonne until Malause. We then knew that the phare would be to the North of the river, the canal, the railway and a secondary road. See it below.

Malause_1

If you haven’t been able to spot it, it’s OK. You’re not the only one. We didn’t spot it at first sight. We flew in circle to have a second chance. I reduced the speed from 190 km/h to 150 km/h, to see if at a slower speed we would see it better.

Malause_2

Saw it already? Not yet? Don’t worry, I didn’t either. But you see, I was at the controls, at the left side of the cockpit. But you… you have here a frozen picture, you’ve got no excuse not to see it. In fact, you’ve got the picture because Luca is starting to be a hell of a spotter.

Malause_3

Once at home, I researched a little bit and found this local website about the phare (in French), with a couple of pictures, some data, history of these phares and a nice chart from 1932. It explains that the lighthouses started to be built in 1923 and that by 1932 there were 140 of them across France. This one at Malause was operated by the family Jolly until 1948/1949.

2012_12_30_Cartographie_Phare_St_Exupery_01

On the way back to the aerodrome of Toulouse-Lasbordes we passed by Moissac and Montech again and failed to spot the lighthouse of Canals again. Next time.

Montech_2

Finally, see below the navigation chart with the route followed marked on it. The total engine running time of the excursion: 1h15′.

Mapa

(1) See here a post in which I described the concept of the water slope and a post about another flight excursion in which we took some more pictures of it.

(2) See a post about another flight excursion in which we took some more pictures of it.

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Flight excursion to Montferrand’s phare aeronautique and the Pyrenees

Last Sunday, we took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 airplanes to make another family flight excursion.

This time the purpose of the flight was twofold: (1) we wanted to spot a couple of phares aéronautiques, i.e., aeronautic lighthouses that were set up in 1920s to allow night flight navigation for l’Aéropostale courriers, close to Toulouse, and (2) we wanted to take benefit from a sunny day around Occitanie to make a tour around the snow-covered Pyrenees, something we already did about a year ago when we completed the route of the Cathar castles (see here a post about it).

See below the quick reference paper navigation log prepared for the flight.

Nav_log_new

A few months ago, a friend of Luca, Tijmen, tipped us on the existence of these aeronautic lighthouses. See in this website a map with the precise location all of them had, including those still standing.

Map_phares

We succesfully spotted the 2 phares closest to the East of Toulouse-Lasbordes aerodrome, located in Montferrand (just to the East of the wind turbines by the A61) and Bazièges (just to the North of the silos marking the waypoint SB). See a picture of the first one below (2 houses to the left of the wing blue tip).

Wind turbines

IMG_20170319_112316917

Once we had spotted the phare in Montferrand, we took to the South to start the climb to above 10,000 ft in order to fly over the Pyrenees.

Pyrenees_afar_1Pyrenees_afar_2

Approaching the Pyrenees, we flew over the old castle of Montsegur, which we had already seen before when we flew over the Cathar castles. See below a couple of pictures, in context and in detail.

Montesegur_1

Montesegur_2

Once up there, we just enjoyed some minutes of flying around, spotting skiing stations, seeing possible routes through the mountains towards Andorra and Spain, enjoying the breathtaking views, taking a few pictures…

Detail_navigation

Over_wing

Over_dashboard

Selfie

Finally, see below the navigation chart with the route followed marked on it and the navigation log as used. The total engine running time of the excursion: 1h28′.

Nav_chart

Navigation_log_used

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Compétences linguistiques langue anglaise (FCL.055)

La semaine dernière j’ai passé le contrôle de compétences linguistiques langue anglaise (FCL.055) VFR (1). Je m’avais mis cet objectif au début de l’année et au moment de démarrer avec la préparation j’avais un peu de difficulté à voir comment préparer l’examen. C’est la raison d’écrire ce petit article, pour partager les quatre ressources que j’ai utilisé.

VolfictifLe site du « Ministère de l’environnement, de l’énergie et de la mer » (2) offre quelques bonnes exemples de comme le contrôle se déroulera (un exemple de vol fictif et deux exemples de écoute de bande). Je conseille de les reviser, surtout celui du vol fictif pour voir comme le scénario va être présenté au candidat.

Autres exemples d’écoute de bande. Le magazine de la Fédération Française d’Aviation, Info Pilote, a depuis des années une page dédiée à l’utilisation de l’anglais dans les communications aéronautiques.

  • La compilation des enregistrements de ces bandes se trouvent sur le site « Anglais pour voler ».
  • Des versions PDF de chaque page dédiées aux communications en anglais des différents numéros d’ Info Pilote pendant des années peuvent se trouver ici.  (c’est utile si tu n’étais pas abonné au magazine il y a 10 années ou si tu ne gardes pas les vieux magazines).

Avec ces deux dernières ressources tu peux bien préparer l’exercice d’écoute de bande et voir des différents niveaux de difficulté.

Finalement, pour voir des exemples des situations inhabituelles avec des traductions proposées de français à anglais, cette autre site, Cockpitseeker, a un bonne répertoire (+300 situations).

Effort. Je m’étais mis des horaires pour étudier rigoureusement. Finalement, je n’ai pas suivi ces horaires que dans la moitié de la moitié des jours avant l’épreuve, mais j’ai bien étudié entre 12-15 heures de lecture et écoute de bande, avec un bon résultat à l’examen.

(1) Ancienne FCL1.028.

(2) Le nom du ministère peut changer assez suivent, je suggère de cliquer sur les liens ou faire un petit recherche sur l’internet.

(3) Pour l’inscription à l’examen, toute est bien expliqué sur le site du ministère, et la mise en œuvre d’un site internet dédié, OCEAN.

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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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