Rouen

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October 15, 2011

The final day time fly out of a very successful 2011 season was planned to be to Rouen in Normandy over the weekend of the 15th and 16th of October. I’m pleased to say that the weather was amazingly kind given the time of year and the 24 participants in nine aircraft had an excellent time.

The NWFG aircraft plus G-BSVB and participants were joined by regulars Gordon Horscraft and Chris Stratford in the Robin G-GEEP and Ian Brierley and friends also came along in Ian’s C172 G-BOYP. This was also the first outing for our new acquisition to the fleet, the C172 G-NWFS. This was in the very capable hands of Stewart Braddon and Kieran Hardiman, who amazingly got a weekend pass from the very pregnant Mrs H. Thanks Liz for letting him come out to play.

Included in the trip was our C150 G-NWFA which was bravely piloted over quiet a long non stop leg by Malcolm Jarvis and George Tunks. Joining the other usual NWFG trip suspects on their first fly out were Dave Longhurst and Rob Tyler. Welcome gentlemen.

The weather forecast was extremely good in the run up to the weekend which is not usually a good sign, however this time it held. With all the advance notifications sent in a few days before it was merely a question on the Saturday morning of getting the aircraft prep’d and the flight plans and Gen Decs in. With clear tafs all the way to Rouen it looked very promising. John did a splendid job of getting all the aircraft fuelled in good time and the NWFG ne was a frenzy of activity as the aircraft were loaded with pilots, passengers, overnight bags, lifejackets and probably a kitchen sink.

FA made an early take off to try and get to Rouen around the same time as the rest of us, especially as they intended to cross the channel at it’s shortest point, Dover to Cap Gris-Nes. Most of the other aircraft including Phil Fellows and myself were crossing the water from Lydd to the Abbeville VOR (ABB) via ‘Aleso’. This would give a slightly shorter sea crossing than the most direct route but was mainly chosen so that there was an opportunity to view some of the lovely French countryside. In ‘VB’s case this was also designed to hopefully give Mrs Bazire something nice to look at and avoid the inevitable ‘Are we there yet? after about an hours flying.

From Abbeville it was a straight track SW to the city of Rouen nestling as it does in a valley with the River Seine winding through it. The outbound trip was a delight from take off all the way to landing. No cloud, blue sky and great visibility. VB even had an opportunity to complete a planned air to air photo session with FS on the way. The only downside was quite a strong headwind which added about 20 mins to what should have been around a 1 hour 45 min trip. The route was very straightforward in terms of a nav ex and the radio work was reasonably simple but great experience for our newer members. Calls to Lille Info, Paris Info and then Rouen Approach all with their easy going but efficient helpful controllers underlined once again what a pleasure it is to fly in France.

With the latest info from the ATIS and a call to Rouen Approach we were told to continue inbound and report the field in sight. Joins were to be expected to be left hand downwind for R04. The airfield LFOP ‘Rouen Valle de Seine’ sits to the south of the city on a hill at 512ft asl and soon came into view from 20 miles out. Joining direct onto the downwind leg as instructed gave us a great view of the city out to our right hand side before turning base leg. Given the number of our aircraft as a group we were nicely separated and this made the circuit very straightforward With landing our clearance received we had a great view on the approach although we did have a reasonably brisk crosswind to contend with.

Getting fuel was a bit of a faff as expected as we had to wait for the refuelling man to come out in a van and deal with the aircraft in front first. That shouldn’t have been a problem but after dispensing fuel he had to drive back to the terminal to do the paperwork each time. Still there were lots of people throwing themselves out of a perfectly good aeroplane at great height over the airfield to keep us amused.

Malcolm and George arrived in a now rather thirsty FA quite some time after everyone else despite having left much earlier and joined the now rather long fuel queue. Still this was a blessing as it allowed Malcolm time to gently unfold George and prise him out of the cabin after being in one position for so long.

With the aircraft wrapped up and put to bed we headed off into the terminal to pay our landing and parking charges. An outrageous 10 euros, I love flying in France! The terminal was full of people involved in parachuting that weekend and parachutes were being laid out and repacked in one corner of the building. Once through the melee we eventually managed to get enough cabs to the airport to take us on the 20 minute journey to our IBIS hotel close to the river in Rouen. The IBIS was up to the usual standard, functional but with quite reasonably sized clean comfortable rooms.

 

After a quick freshen up it was off to explore the city. Although parts of Rouen are quite industrial the old part of the city is a delight with fantastic narrow streets of half timbered buildings dating back hundreds of years. The IBIS was an easy 10 minute walk from this area and the whole skyline is dominated by the city’s two huge Cathedrals. Rouen has a very long and bloody history including being the place where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake in 1431. In recent history the city was heavily damaged by allied bombing in WW2 prior to and during the Normandy landings in 1944. This is still very evident on some of the Churches and public buildings where bomb shrapnel damage has been left unrepaired and is clearly visible as a lasting reminder of the conflict to this day. If you should consider visiting it is well worth reading about this city’s long and turbulent past.

Wandering through the old streets revealed many architectural gems as well as high range shops in lovely settings. Unbeknown to us this was Normandy gastronomical weekend and we stumbled upon a very large open market stretching over three streets and a square with the multitude of stalls selling local produce including a lot of Calvados, Cider, Escargot, Foie Gras and delicious looking crepe’s.

Dinner that evening for our 24 intrepid travellers was in the appropriately named Brasserie Paul in a square next to the illuminated Notre Dame Cathedral, a great setting. A reasonably large choice from the set menu had us tucking into various starters including I’m pleased to say quiet a few sampling the very good Escargot.

One item on the main course choice was a little suspect, quiet a few of our number tried the ‘Sirloin Flap’. The origin of this was never established, despite quizzing the waitress. To Linda Winstanley and Stewart Braddons horror I convinced them that it was probably the loser in the 3.30 at Deauville racecourse that afternoon. Come to think of it I was probably right. With a few little beerets and bottles of local wine taken care of it was time to wander back through the quite streets to our hotel.

Pulling back the curtains the following morning the view of the Cathedral spire was somewhat obscured by a thick fast moving mist. This had been forecast to clear later and we had planned for another tour around the city before departing for the airport around lunch time. Once again the guys meandered off into the surrounding streets and the old buildings took on a strange milky glow with the mixture of heavy mist and sunlight above. The temperature was also pretty cool as we walked along the banks of the Seine.

With the mist finally lifting we headed back to the airport by cab. With the flight plans in and the aircraft prep’d we donned our life jackets for the return leg. The forecast was for clear weather with no significant cloud over France but the possibility (Tempo 40) of a 1400ft cloudbase back in the Essex/Stansted area. As we were making our final preparations for departure a long line of cloud could be seen approaching from the East but it was still sunny and very warm on the apron.

After listening to the ATIS we called for start and were told to stand by due to the parachuting taking place. After the last parachute was down a good 10 to 15 minutes later we got our clearance and taxi instructions. Our lady controller was now referring to us over the radio as the ‘British Squadron’ which was rather sweet!

Departing from R22 with a right turn out gave us another great view over the city and we turned onto track back towards ABB. As we headed further east and changed to Paris Info the band of cloud was above us at around 3000ft and the air underneath was on the rather murky side. As the cloud was well broken and there was no problem with airspace most of the group elected to climb on top into the bright sunshine. Skimming across the top still gives me a buzz even after all these years. There we stayed until mid channel when the cloud just melted away giving us a great view of the south coast ahead of us. With no sign of the forecast cloud it was an easy cruise back into North Weald in near perfect conditions.

This really was a great trip especially over a whole weekend at this time of year. Many thanks to all in our large group who made it as usual a very entertaining and humorous couple of days away. Excellent flying with excellent company. A special mention to Malcolm Jarvis for all his efforts in dealing with the PPR and advance customs notifications and Phil (Fish) Fellows for being our weather guru. Rouen is a very interesting City with a very helpful airport and is a relatively easy flight. It wouldn’t present any problems even for quite inexperienced pilots. It’s a good next step up from the cross channel hops to Calais and Le Touquet. For those that haven’t done it, give it a thought for next year.

Regards to all,

Paul

Pics,

1. FS first outing en route.
2. Rouen old City.
3. Group dine out.
4. The Cathedral at night.
5. Morning explore.
6. Rouen city after departure.
7. Phil on top.

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Contact us

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.bazire54@gmail.com
phone: 01992522090