Yes, I know it’s been a long time since I posted anything here!
The plan was to make our first cross-channel trip as a bit of a birthday treat for myself a couple of weeks ago. A faulty battery in the aircraft coupled with thunderstorms quickly put a stop to that.
So, with a serviceable aircraft and the weather looking good, myself and Mel managed to make it on attempt number two this weekend.
As usual, I did all my planning with the fantastic SkyDemon software. If you have been living under a rock for the last 18 months and still haven’t tried this, you really must!
So, armed with PLB, life raft and life jackets, off we went. The plan was to cut just underneath the south western corner of the Gatwick CTA and coast out over Hastings.
I have to say that I found Farnborough East radio absolutely horrendous. There was some kind of beat interference on all transmissions both from controllers and other pilots – it made some of the RT almost unintelligible.
Once clear of the CTA, we climbed to 5200 and before too long, we were over the channel. The weather instantly changed from an overcast drizzle to clear blue skies. We were soon past the last bit of CAS so climbed to 6200 feet for the rest of the crossing. Before we knew it, we were at the FIR boundary so contacted Lille.
This – to me – seemed almost entirely pointless as just five minutes later it was time to begin our descent and contact Le Touquet tower!
It seemed to take an eternity to descend back to circuit height, and we were given a surprising ‘join downwind left hand for 32’ – this contradicted the airfield plate, and the advice I’d received from other seasoned travellers. I asked him to repeat just to be on the safe side, then joined as instructed.
The landing was a bit interesting to say the least. I still find it a bit difficult controlling the taildragger on hard surfaces – I had better get some more practice in… Anyway after snaking down the runway for an eternity (including missing the first intersection), we finally taxied to the apron and shut down.
Not sure what to make of Le Touquet itself. Everything was vastly overpriced – typical tourist town… That ghastly swimming pool complex on the beach just needs blowing up – it’s astonishingly hideous!
The airport was really nice though and there are some frankly stunning properties nestling in the tree lined lanes near the airport. Some of them were breathtaking – I dread to think the value of them, but they must be multiple millions.
We walked both ways between town and the airport – it’s a gentle 25 minute stroll which anyone should be able to manage.
I can heartily recommend the ‘Scoop’ restaurant – it’s on the main road on the way between the airport and town. Very good food at reasonable prices.
On the return trip, visibility crossing the channel was seriously nasty – there was no visible horizon at all. We followed the same route as the outbound journey and it took about 25 minutes longer due to the wind.
For anyone who hasn’t done the cross channel trip yet and is apprehensive about it, I’d say just get on with it and do it. It’s no different to flying in the UK apart from a few bits of extra paperwork. I really do not understand why some clubs enforce a mandatory ‘cross channel checkout flight’ with an instructor. It’s hard to believe this policy is anything other than a money-making scheme.
Where next? Well Cherbourg is the obvious choice, but I’ve been given quite a few other interesting suggestions too…
Clouds and rain over Blighty…
.. gave way to clear blue skies over the channel …
One of many large vessels seen
It was a beautiful day in Le Touquet
Downwind for 32 LH, this is the view over the right wing
Just a bit of fun – here’s the approach in time-lapse 🙂
A windy beach!
The next day, Bravo Oscar was found where we’d left her…
‘Orrible weather on the way back 😦
Coasting in over Hastings
One of the many new schools in Swindon