I was reading some recent Facebook posts on challenging trips and it reminded me of some over the years …
Somme 80 Year commemoration
The plan was to fly a politician (Jersey Chief Minister) from Jersey to Abbeville … picking up the Chief Minister from Guernsey on the way for the large European wide remembrance of the end of the war
Of course .. by midday we had gale force fog in Jersey … the Guernsey Chief made it over .. just .. on Aurigny inter island … we then sat and watched the forecast play out with fog and wind and more fog and more wind
Eventually it started to get dark … we were already on version ‘F’ of the plan … so I popped down the hill near the airport and picked up 4 lots of Fish and chips .. so at least we wouldn’t go hungry
Abbeville had already been discounted .. grass strip and no lights .. but the event was a massive security issue .. with many very senior dignitaries attending and the absolute NEED auto be on time at a set time for bussed entry to the service
This left Caen as a possible alternate … and the Chiefs travel in by Road. The fog had now been replaced by lashing wind and torrential rain.
With night firmly in place and temperatures starting to plummet … the viz picked up .. dramatically … but the rain and wind took its place. We called Caen and tower said they would accept us but drop dead time was 22:00 local .. with a flight time of approx 40 mins Jersey would be close to closing too.
In the end we took off in relatively clear blackness .. with wind and rain and headed due East for Caen … the plan being to land .. meet the local French Government agent who would take them by Road … I would overnight in Caen and fly out to Abbeville next day
Landed at Caen in total downpour .. backtracked and exited .. just in time to see the tower lights turn off and then a fun time getting out of the now locked airport … met by the local support staff and dropped off at Kyriad in Caen …and they continued for what turned out to be a horrendous stormy journey by Road to Abbeville arriving in the early hours of the next day.
I ended up chatting with an American chap and his 2 kids in the Kyriad bar, explaining what and where Jersey was and gave each of the kids a £1 jersey note ! Which thrilled them.
Next morning .. bright and breezy … fuel up an hop to a foggy Abbeville and wait for the end of service and flight back … direct to Guernsey first for drop off and then back to Jersey
Coffee Machine Analysis
This was, bizarrely, a raffle flight around the island for my local school but the winner asked if I could take her and hubby and a friend up to Birmingham for the NEC exhibition on catering equipment
The day arrived … what was possibly the windiest day I’d known . . 50 on the tail … having that much on the tail wasn’t all it was jacked up to be … porpoising all the way up to Coventry .. we duly landed and taxied into a quiet Coventry .. taxi up to the NEC and a day looking at 20 or so coffee machines !
During the morning I was checking the return weather and it was classic Jersey .. 50 mph winds (from the S) and clouds BKN below 100 but lifting and dropping at regular intervals
We set off and had one of the slowest journeys I can remember .. even the seagulls were passing us as we slogged Southwards
We got to about 15 miles N of Jersey and they had just gone below 100
We looked at options … Jersey, Guernsey AND Alderney had all just dropped .. so it was Dinard ! Dinard had been flight planned as an alternate … dropping into their straight in approach we settled onto a French runway from Coventry instead of Jersey … I’d suggested we all brought passports .. so ended up after the short taxi down into St Malo for a fantastic very French evening … staying In the Novotel Thalassotherapy centre along the coast
Short pop to Dinard to Drop Off
It was just a short trip … 25. Mins or so to drop a friend down in France … it was end of the day … just finished work … weather had been pants but base was sticking at about 700 as it had been all day
So, you make that call to the Met .. hoping that somehow in talking to them, between you, you can talk that base up and to STAY put !
We ended up taking off in the venerable old PA32 G-CI … just as dusk was coming … landed at a beautifully clear dark crisp night in France … quick through customs to meet my favourite Gendarme lady with the gun !
Headed back out to the now dark aircraft … hot start.. never great on a PA32 but I’d got used to coaching them into starting 3rd or 4th turn
About 10 mins into the flight I got a totally unexpected double hit …. Jersey dropped from its 5 hour BKN at 700 to BKN 200 … and, just as I was digesting that … the panel lights went out 😮
I’d flown this PA32 for many years and grown to accept its foibles …but not too many night hours in her
I had a small pen torch so popped it in my mouth and started to liaise with Jersey about diverting to Guernsey .. flying past the extended centreline for runway 26 at Jersey .. I could see the coastline ..but not the runway at Jersey
As I droaned on in the darkness towards the bright lights of Guernsey … I could hear a chap heading South from the U.K. towards Guernsey .. and clearly lost and in some distress
I stayed quiet . .. letting the amazing controllers talk him in below the ,cloud base that he was clearly not comfortable with … but, at BKN 900 doable … but felt he had had a long trip down south and was not planning this issue at the end
Having held off , circling in darkness ..not great with black water and black sky .. i was cleared to land 09 and rolled to a stop and all the panel lights returned
Speaking with the very white faced guy who had just diverted to Guernsey as we both sat with a cup of coffee … he was talking about heading off on the final leg to Jersey .. THAT NIGHT !
I persuaded him to pop along to the hotel .. just down he road from the airport in Guernsey … and have a good long sleep ! Wake up .. have a nice breakfast …. And a lovely sunny 15 mins trip down to Jersey in DAYLIGHT… he accepted the suggestion … never met him again ….but hope someone looks at me one day .. and gives the same advice .. and I ACCEPT !
An hour later …base lifted at Jersey … and I hopped back …booking the old bird into engineering (again) !