A second daytrip to Deauville in France (first was in February) but this time in glorious weather, taking a couple of friends who I’d been promising a flight to for some time. My original destination was Lannion, which I’d not flown to before, but at the last minute I found out they were closed for painting the runway. I had got as far as filing a flight plan the day before, and the tower controller kindly rang me up to warn me. I don’t know when the NOTAM advising closure was posted, but I’d like to think I would have checked that as part of my more detailed flight planning during the evening before. At that stage, I was still checking which airports allow flights from UK and what notice is required for customs/immigration checks (see this online map of French Ports of Entry I created). The weather was looking great – a large High Pressure parked over the UK for most of the week, sunshine predicted. The only minor concern was fog in the early morning due to the clear skies overnight, but this would clear quickly.
I filed IFR outbound using autorouter, submitted the return VFR flight plan and GAR form via Skydemon. Unlike most French airports, Deauville doesn’t require any prior notice for customs/immigration.
It’s great when passengers are excited about making a trip. Richard and Sarah had clearly been looking forward to the flight and making it across to France. I had arrived around 8:30 and just finished preflighting the aircraft when they arrived. We pulled the aircraft out of the hangar and I let them walk back to the terminal building and wait there while I refuelled the aircraft.
IFR Airways outbound
Autorouter so simple and straightforward to use. It works through a variety of different route options before prioritising the best (usually the one with lowest diversion from a straight line direct route). What’s best about this service is that it’s completely free. It even includes flight plan submission and GAR forms, plus a simple messaging interface from your smartphone to request additional information (eg latest weather) or delay filed plans.
The IFR route filed was
EGBJ N0144F090 MALBY L9 CPT N859 SITET/N0142F070 A34 ETRAT ETRAT4D LFRG
Our departure clearance on the ground was something like
Hold position, London Control clears G-CORB to join controlled airspace 5 miles north of MALBY level at FL90, squawk XXXX, expect 1xx.xx after departure
Readback confirmed, followed by
Gloucester clears G-CORB turn right after departure runway 09 ontrack MALBY
I also read back the Gloucester clearance but requested a north (ie left hand) turnout after departure and return over the field at 4000 feet, so that I could reach FL90 by the required point. The cloudbase was fairly low, a thin layer broken at about 1000 feet, but we were quickly through that and emerged into very clear blue sky by FL50. We switched to London Control at FL70. My requested departure routing worked well, and I reached FL90 just in time, having balanced that target with keeping the engine cylinder temps below 400C throughout the climb.
London Control was busy as usual, and I listened out carefully for instructions. Initially following our planned routing to CPT, we were switched to a heading (e.g. turn right 10 degrees), then later turned further right a couple of times, effectively cutting the corner on our route down to Goodwood. By then we had a very good view of the ground, and could see Southampton, Isle of Wight and Hayling Island all very clearly.
I changed tanks just before we coasted out, having used about half of the fuel for the journey by then. At the country border SITET waypoint we were handed over to Paris Control, and then relatively quickly to Deauville Approach. I asked for an early decent and was granted FL70 initially, later 3000 feet. We got radar vectors around the east side of Le Havre (a prohibited area) and then a visual approach for runway 12. There was little traffic and we were Number 1 to land from quite some miles out, with one other English voice on the radio requesting a transit overhead. I did have trouble picking out the field on base leg even at four miles, then realised it was much closer than I’d thought, so made a fairly rapid descent on base leg to position for a stable final approach and landing.
I was kept on Approach frequency for landing clearance and ground taxi instructions (it was the same controller as the tower that day) and parked up on the marked bays.
We went directly to Customs (actually passport control), who checked our documents and then to the clearly marked Landing Fees office. Efficiently processed, the clerk asked if we wanted a taxi and called one for us which took about 5 minutes to arrive. The standard question is which town centre you want to go to – Trouville is nearer and on the east side of the river, Deauville on the west – but both so close they merge into one and easily walkable between.
We walked around the town, where there was a film festival on. Some unusual sights were a number of highly decorated life sized cows, and the price list for the local premium hotel took a second glance – £400 for a basic room per night. There are a couple of Casinos there which makes it seem not unlike a Mediterranean French resort. The beach was vast. The town centre has got much of the charm of Le Touquet, although we didn’t see the equivalent of those lovely tree lined suburbs. We ate in Trouville, on the east side of the river, having a very leisurely and enjoyable lunch in the sunshine.
We walked through the town centre, along by the marina and across the bridge into Trouville. There were many restaurants to choose from, even a Chinese, and we sat under the awnings to enjoy a very relaxing, tasty and well presented lunch. I tried the “Floating Island” desert – a sort of custard and soft meringue mix.
There was an international film festival on, which added a bit of life and activity. We walked down to Deauville beach which is enormous, even more so with the tide out, and my passengers enjoyed paddling in the sea on such a warm (25C) sunny day. I wasn’t so tempted but did enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Much better than being stuck in the office all day.
Time passed quickly and I delayed the flight plan by an hour to give us a full five hours on the ground. It would have been much easier using Autorouter/Telegram with a simple message. Instead, SkyDemon required me to login to their website and make the changes, which I’m not used to doing on the phone (had to lookup the password). It’s a shame that can’t be done from their App directly.
Our departure was VFR and we had little delay getting back to the aircraft. I didn’t ask for my clearance prior to reporting ready for departure, so this was discussed on the radio while I was backtracking. I had intended to fly direct to GARMI and this was approved with a right hand turnout (on runway 12), so turning through 180 degrees and remaining west of the field. Once it was established I wasn’t going anywhere near Le Havre, that was no problem.
I climbed up to FL50 after crossing the coast and changed to London Information shortly before the border. Once details were exchanged, London pre-empted my next question by confirming the danger areas were cold “on the hour” (i.e. after 5pm UK time). Great timing, since we would arrive at 5:03, avoiding a short detour along the south edge of that danger area.
I then asked for an airways transit of Q41 at FL50, something I’ve tried unsuccessfully before because we didn’t know the correct procedure. London Information warned me this was highly unlikely, and a few minutes later confirmed that London Control were far too busy to accommodate my request. Unlike the previous occasion, where I had to descend into cloud to fly underneath the airway (below FL35), the weather was CAVOK and visibility all around was great. However I still prefer to have a bit more altitude “in the bank” for any sea crossing and would have preferred to continue at that level. There is a proposal to reclassify it to D now that the Trislander fleet which used it have been retired. I can only hope that change is successful and happens soon, guessing that airspace clearance would then be delegated to Southampton.
We descended as we neared the coast and I negotiated a VFR transit from Sandbanks to Poole with Bournemouth, not above 2000 feet before climbing. Further north near Frome we flew over and circled at low level around my passengers’ home, which they were very pleased to see. Remaining fairly low (around 2000 feet), we quickly cruised back over Bath and Badminton at a ground speed of 150 knots before contacting Gloucester. They immediately gave us a left base join for 09 which was straightforward. Back to the hangar to wash the bugs off and then the Aviator to wash the thirst away, making it all in all an extremely enjoyable day out.
PIC today: 3:30
Total PIC: 314:05
Total Time: 447:00