Blériot Centenary Rally 2009
On Sunday 25th July 1909 Louis Bleriot because the first pilot to fly the English Channel, from Calais to Dover. In 2009 a mass fly in of microlight aircraft was being planned to celebrate the event. Keith Negal organised the through the BMAA and EMF.
Several members of The WFAEC had booked on the “Bleriot” trip and we decided to go to France a few days early and tour around before joining the main group at Calais.
On Tuesday five aircraft and eight people met up at Headcorn. Allan Lindsay from Northern Ireland, Rupert Derham in his Thruster, Ian and Helen Harban in their Quik, Kevin and Brenda Wood in their Skyranger and Anita and I in our CTSW. We set out around lunch time and had a pleasant flight down to Dieppe to clear customs and for a night stop. This was our first continental trip in the CTSW and we gradually pulled ahead of the group. French ATC were very helpful and we eventually arrived at Dieppe. The thermal conditions were a little strange. At 1000’ in the circuit I cut the throttle put 30’ flap and went up! The first circuit was aborted but we got down on the second. As is usual on these trips we stayed in the local ETAP, clean cheap and you can cancel up to 1800hours.
On Wednesday we set off for Chartres. We had good weather all the way, but after landing we could see torrential rain where we had been shortly before. We all went into town to do our tourist bit around the cathedral and finished off with a fine meal as usual.
The weather had deteriorated on Thursday when we set off for Deauville. As we were slightly faster than the others we were able to pass back cloud reports to the others. Deauville is a regional airport and we followed the arrival procedures without problem. The highlight for us was hearing an Air Maroc airbus being told to expedite his backtrack as there was another aircraft on final approach. Us in the CTSW. One or two of our aircraft were held for a while but eventually we all joined up on the grass parking area. Allan was particularly amused to be marshalled in by a marshaller with 2 paddle boards as if he was an airliner. We were joined at Deauville by Jeff Thomas in his Skyranger and the group was now complete. Overnight we stayed in Honfleur, a very pretty town with plenty of shops and cafes.
On Friday the weather had further deteriorated with low cloud, rain and strong winds in the north. As slot times had been issued we set off to Abbeville to meet these. There were NOTAMs in force for the fly in and we had to quote our slot times to get into the NOTAM’d area. The wind at Calais was intense, and by mid afternoon the wind was 28kts gusting 38 straight down the runway. I eventually managed to get the CT down and was not happy until she was well tied down. The rest of our group survived although a couple of flex wings were blown over and damaged.
We joined the official reception in Calais that night but after a long series of speeches we left to get a meal. Just before the food and drink arrived at the reception!
Next morning there was a rather disorganised briefing and Calais ATC wanted a 1 or 2 minute spacing between departures. With 94 aircraft and the Patrouille de France to get airborne the timings soon went by the board. Unfortunately the mass overflight of Dover never took place but the weather was good for the flight home. In addition to the Bleriot flight 128 French ULMS were on their tour of the UK and 33 Belgians who went to Sandown.
A full report on the Bleriot celebrations is in the Microlight Flyer, September 2009 edition.