Well, I thought I would try out blogging again. I tried it once years ago on Blogger, but made it too much like a personal journal, not something I’d actually want to share, nor would anyone actually want to read it. I am thinking now of something that might be of interest.
What to write about? Well, I thought I would start with something I am familiar with, small airplanes. I will write about each of the different airplane types I have flown, either as pilot-in-command, student, or as a passenger getting a little “stick” time.
The picture above my Dad took while I was flying a Robin DR400 over France under the tutelage of Richard Girard out of Salon Eyguiere airport. Salon is a town in Provence with this grass/gravel airstrip. Gravel strip? When I looked a Mooney in one of the hangars, I was dismayed at how many dings in the prop there were and how badly it needed to be dressed. They had a small paved square pad for doing runups to avoid blowing gravel (I guess). But flying rocks seems like a bad idea.
This Robin had 180 horsepower, which I thought was a good thing if all three of us were going up. We took off from Salon and I did some basic airwork then returned to the airport and greased it on (Richard Girard’s comment was “yeah, yeah, we know you are a good pilot”, French sarcasm?) When we took off again after a glider tow departed, but the glider suddenly turned back around to the field. Richard took over and avoided the glider. I thought we had plenty of room, but I guess he wanted to give it lots of room.
We then flew at low altitude (there was controlled airspace about 1500 feet) over to the airport at Avignon where I flew one touch and go. Next, we flew towards Mount Ventoux. This mountain is often included in the Tour de France. As we flew along it, Richard kept motioning for me to fly closer to the mountain. I was not comfortable getting closer than a few thousand feet and told him so. We flew down the west side, observing the retired nuclear missle launch facility on the top (why did they put it there?). Then as we flew around the south side, Richard took over and said, I will show you how to fly down the mountain. We descended to about 200-300 feet and and descended parallel to the terrain. This was quite a trip, reminding me of a video game. Definitely had the feeling of speed at this low altitude. We then turned south again as Richard said he would show us the “French Grand Canyon”. It was a fairly deep canyon, maybe 1000 feet. It had a highway alongside with overlooks. Richard thne warned me, “look out for blue cars” whereupon we did a wingover and proceeded to fly down the canyon! I looked back at my Dad, who is also a pilot, and we both had that “what is he going to do next?” look. After flying down the canyon, we did a few steep turns over some very scenic towns and then flew back at 200-300 feet to Salon. I was definitely getting used to flying low, below the surrounding hills. After we landed, Richard showed us his two airplanes. One was an older Robin, a taildragger with 90hp. The other was a homebuilt by the same designer, 180hp. He called this his mustang substitute. (He had flown armed versions of the T-6, T-28, and Fouga Magister in the French Airforce Reserve). I have some pictures of those if anyone is interesting.
The Robin is a fun plane, with control sticks and a canopy that slides forward. The gull wings are a bit tricky in cross-winds as they seem to present a lot more side surface to the wind. While it had a metal fuselage, the wings were fabric covered. I haven’t seen one yet in the states, though I am sure they are around.
Here is a Google Map view of the airport:
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