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Across France

Posted by on 17 May 2011

Sunday 15 May – Blue skies over Avignon but a strong, cold wind was blowing too. At the airport the Mistral was blowing due south, gusting at 40nmph. Fortunately it was coming straight down the runway so we took off (take off speed is 65) within what seemed to be 20 metres, and reached a staggering low ground speed of 24nmph at one point on the climb.

ATC let us fly direct to Montelimar, so we didn’t get a chance to overfly the city. However, just 15 mins later we realised that radio contact was lost as we reached Orange. Neither of the radios seemed to be working and the hand-held only gave us the recorded from the Orange military.

Kim switched the transponder to squawk 7600; the number indicates radio failure. (7700 indicates an emergency, 7500 a hi-jack.) We considered going on to Lyon Bron, but we would have caused chaos in air traffic control. Fortunately the long runway of Valence was coming up and was suitably placed for the Mistral.

Dramatic clouds over Lyon

Blind calling and seeing no obvious activity we landed there and found a closed, deserted airfield. A phone call back to the UK gave us some options to fix the problem. (Kim had accidently pressed a mysterious button when checking radio beacons just out of Avignon.) We also learnt how to use the hand-held radio properly. Kim phoned Avignon control who had been monitoring us on the radar and knew we were at Valence.

An hour after landing we were back in the air following the Rhone, routing round the west of Lyon to avoid controlled airspace and a massive storm.

Heading north past Macon to the Burgundy vineyards at Meursault before switch west to avoid more rain and over a very unpopulated part of France west and north-west of Dijon.

The destination was Troyes. We’d previously planned to land at Beaune (French radio only), Dijon (closed that day) or Lyon (too far south). Landing was dramatic with rain and gusting winds as we came down. Nice landing.

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