DINAN AND ANGERS – 26th/28th July 2018

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26th July 2018

The long weekend trip to Dinan and Angers in France was eagerly anticipated by our members after our highly successful Channel Islands Trilogy the previous month. Both of these stops were to be for most a new experience. Dinan a delightful and picturesque town in Normandy and Angers a larger and historic city some 90 nm further south. Needless to say, a fair bit of planning went into putting the trip together and Malcolm J did his usual excellent job of liaising with the French airfields are arranging the PPR’s and overnight parking where necessary.

We had had a period of six weeks of calm and settled fine weather in one of the best summers in the UK for many a year but the storm clouds were figuratively gathering when it became evident that Phil who would be accompanying me in ‘VB’ would not be able to get out of an important meeting on the Friday. However, as we were planning to stay in France for the next week a simple ‘Plan B’ had us leaving on the Saturday morning to catch up the group in Angers that afternoon. Having settled that the group would be heading out on the Friday with the customs stop being made at Rouen (LFRG), a relatively quiet and friendly regional airport just outside one of my favourite French cities. We had used Rouen before on various trips due to it being a simple, economical and efficient way of getting into mainland France.

Well back to the storm clouds, as the week leading up to the trip progressed in typical fashion it appeared that the long hot calm summer was coming to a temporary shuddering halt over that weekend with rain high winds and low cloud sweeping in across France and then the UK. Assessing it with Malcolm on the Thursday evening it looked like the Dinan leg was going to be quite comfortably doable but to avoid the worst weather we would have to miss out Angers and return early on the Saturday afternoon via Cherbourg. Annoying but at least something was salvageable and having done it for so many years we are well used to the weather scuttling our plans!

So on the Friday morning the crews gathered and did the long prep for these over water trips. We had three of the group 172s taking part plus PA28 NUKA and they were being joined by the GEEP and Tony and Trish Chapman in the Arrow BBBN from Stapleford.

Clouds begin to gather

Various routes were being taken but most elected for the reasonably direct route from Seaford (SFD) with the relatively long water crossing to Dieppe before heading inland to Rouen. I watched as each aircraft headed off from North Weald and then kept checking Flightradar24 as to their progress as well as the METARS along the way like some aviation old mother hen!

For those taking part, it was all pretty straightforward, routing down to the QE2 Bridge and then basically straight south towards SFD, speaking to Farnbourgh East and then London Info for the crossing. Once mid-Channel it was over to Paris Info and then to Rouen Approach. The weather was fine, clear and with a few scattered clouds here and there and the groups approach into Rouen was very easy with great views of the city on the downwind leg.

As always things take longer than anticipated and it was soon time for the guys to get cracking from Rouen for the 142 nm run to Dinan especially given the small approaching cold front ahead of the main event that was tracking eastbound faster than forecast. With the headwind preceding the front the run to Dinan wasn’t the quickest and a few of the group needed to route around some large showers that appeared on the route although fortunately with the lack of controlled airspace on that route some course deviations didn’t present any problem. However it was somewhat distracting for the crews who couldn’t fully appreciate the beautiful rolling countryside due to the air becoming, how shall we say, ‘a little lively’ at times, although there were some great views of Mont St Michel to the north. Dinan is located just SW of Dinard which handles commercial traffic and as a result has a 1500ft ceiling around it similar to what the guys are used to at North Weald. With the crews all speaking to Rennes North it wasn’t an issue in routing directly towards the airfield. Dinan Trelivan (LFEB) is a lovely airfield with an 830m tarmac runway aligned 07/25 but is French calls only on the radio. Our guys are getting much better at this and fortunately due to the less than perfect weather the frequent parachuting wasn’t taking place so all the aircraft could position for a simple downwind join for R25. The weather now wasn’t great, the wind had picked up and there was some rain in the air, not enough to be an issue but it rather spoilt the experience of landing at this lovely airfield.

Approaching Dinan in better weather.

With everyone safely in and parked on the large visitors’ grass parking area, the very helpful lady in the office called cabs to transport the crews into the town. Several hotels were being used but the trusty Ibis in this case Centre Ville was being used and is ideally located. Once into the hotel, the guys went off to explore this most stunning of French historic towns and to try and arrange a suitable place for a group dinner that evening. Needless to say, this trip was shaping up to be a bit of a jinx and the group ended up being split between three different establishments due to the town being overrun by a huge cycling event which was filling the local hotels, bars and restaurants.

Dinan at its best.

Over dinner things just got better when it became quite evident to the crews from the latest TAFs that there was going to be a lull in the weather that evening and early morning but the main event low-pressure system was barrelling towards western France much faster than anticipated. The decision was therefore made to get out of Dinan quite early to avoid the worst of it.

After breakfast, the guys got out to the airfield to prep the planes and by this time the cloud was rolling in at around 2500ft and the wind was picking up to around 18/20kts but more or less straight down R25. The planned stop on the way back was to be Cherbourg before crossing the Channel towards the Isle of Wight and along the south coast. Unfortunately, the morning TAF showed 30kt+ winds at Cherbourg by late morning. It was then basically every crew for themselves and making their own decisions with several deciding to do a very quick customs stop at Cherbourg, others going to Deauville and a couple considering returning to Rouen. One saving grace was that with the wind right on the tails it was going to be a pretty quick trip back.

It did actually work out fine and nobody got stuck by the weather which was just as well given the bad weather lasted for another four days. It was rather turbulent on the way back as one would expect but at least once over water, there was a respite with Gordon in the GEEP having a ground speed of 168Kts at one point!

Everyone was safely back to North Weald by early afternoon with certainly some good experience gained and an interesting baptism of fire for Bob Ivison on his first group fly out.

Not one to go down in the NWFG fly out records as a great trip which was a real pity as the CI’s previously had been such a stunning one. It was also a pity that the guys didn’t really have time to see more of Dinan which really is a gem of a town in that area of France and very much worth a visit, on a couple of lovely days of course.

The Rance River at Dinan

Thank you to all who took part and persevered in the less than ideal conditions.
Paul

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North Weald Flying Group operate out of the Squadron at North Weald Airfield.

The airfield is 10 miles south of Stansted and can be seen from the M11. Follow signs from the A414 and on entrance to the field, follow the perimeter track all the way around the field until you arrive at the distinctive Squadron building.

email: paul@nwfg.co.uk
phone: 01992522090