Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Great flying weather

We seem to be going through a spell of blue skies and little wind here in the Dordogne. Sunday was the first of those days and as it has been damp the week before there were a few clouds forming. Time to go flying.
We went over to the airfield and within 20 minutes had the Tanarg fuelled and checked ready for flight.
After take off we headed east and climbed, the clouds were getting a little thicker by the time we were at 4500 feet. The cloudbase was 4000 or so. The air was very smooth with a slight wind from the east. The temperature was around 5 or 6c at that altitude.
Jude started taking a video and we descended toward the cloud. Just before we were at cloud level we saw the circular rainbow in a cloud with the silhouette of the microlight in the middle of it.
Here is the video:

Monday, December 15, 2008

The new airfield

This post may be of interest to anyone who wants to build their own airfield in France.
We found a farmers field which was being used as an airfield by Bernard who was flying an old Air Creation flexwing. There was a hangar that was big enough to fit Bernard's machine on a trolley and my machine with the wing removed. At that stage the airfield was not official.
Bernard moved away to a different part of France and the owner of the land offered to let me buy the hangar and rent the land as long as I made it an official airstrip. I engaged the help of a couple of my French flying friends and set about compiling a dossier for the Prefecture (local council). The dossier consisted of a couple of air photos, maps showing the airstrip, letter from the owner giving permission and a few other odds and ends. We took the five copies of the dossier to the Prefecture and waited.
Within a week we got a phone call from the aviation police asking if they could come and visit the strip. The visit was very informal, they checked the aircraft paperwork and insurance, and then my licence. They went away happy.
The next week we were visited by the DGAC (similar to the CAA), who measured everything with some high tech equipment. They had a couple of observations, one being that the windsock was to be repositioned away from the runway, and that we could only land and take off to the north due to the trees at the south end.
There was also a visit by the local police to check the security and danger to the public, but they did this on their own.
Today, 6 weeks after submitting the dossier, we received the letter giving authorisation to use the land as an airfield.
The total cost of this proceedure was a big zero. All the work and visits were completely free.
The next step is to submit the airfield to the website so that it is there for others to visit if they wish.
If microlight pilots from the UK wish to visit then here is some further information:
The strip is about 20 km south of Perigueux in the Dordogne. It is officially 150 meters long, but has about 80 meters usable either end. There is a slight upslope towards the south. I have no objection to anyone parking overnight and there is no landing fee. If people care to contact me then I can arrange to have lead free fuel available at normal garage cost prices. There are local B&Bs around or pilots could camp next to their aircraft for free, but there are no toilet or food facilities at the moment.
The wind sock will be removed and re-positioned to the west of the runway.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Winter day out

Got up this morning to a cold day with bright blue sky and winter sun. There had been a frost overnight and by 11 O'clock the temperature was up to 5 degrees.
Just after lunch time found us at the airfield and getting the Tanarg out of the hangar. Winter days are great for flying as the air is thicker and engine, propeller and wing performance is much better. Jude and I donned our warm flying suits and gloves and took off for a flight around the local area. 10 minutes later we were at 2800 feet and enjoying the calm air air and fantastic visibility. We could see the snow capped mountains of the Massif Central about 90 miles away to the east.
We wandered over to Wim's airfield but there was no sign of him. We continued to Galinatt airfield where we could see Regis's aircraft on the ground, we waved. Jude asked over the intercom whether we should go south to Sarlat/Domme airfield and see what was going on there. We landed there 45 minutes later after flying around at 60 mph (100 kmh). The microlight hangar was open when we arrived overhead, so we know that Jean-Michel would be there with his Aircreation Trek and a hot coffee. After taxing to the hangar we could see that the Trek had the HKS engine running. We shook hands with Jean-Michel and accepted the hot coffee as he was about to take off to give a flying lesson.
While we waited for Jean-Michel to finish buzzing the circuit, a Skyranger landed. The pilot came accross and was very freindly as are most French microlight pilots. Shortly after him two autogyros arrived and Jean-Michel landed with his student. Time for another coffee.
As we were preparing to leave the autogyro pilots asked if they could come along and have a look at our airstrip. We said yes, of course. We are used to flying with Wim and Regis and have to try and keep our speed down to 55 mph to fly with them, which is a little slow for the 100 hp Tanarg. The autogyros were a different matter, they cruise at 80 to 85 mph. We took off first and set the Tanarg to fly at 70 to 75 mph with an autogyro at each wingtip.
25 minutes later we landed at our strip and were given a fantastic flying display by one of the autogyros. We waved and off he went.
All in all a great days flying even if it was cold and we had only flown for 70 minutes.