A month after receiving my license and only one general handling flight as post pass, I sign up to the longest single leg I’ve ever done. Stapleford (EGSG) to Rouen (LFOP), a round trip of approximately 300nm.
Throughout the summer months Stapleford Flying Centre does ‘fly outs’ to try and allow PPLs to hour build in a fun way, meet other flyers and build their capability by flying further afield. The August fly out was to Rouen in North Eastern France. 13 people in 4 PA28 Warriors and 1 PA28R Arrow left Stapleford at approximately 0900am taking a variety of routes. A large proportion went to Dover and crossed the channel to Calais and took the coast all the way south to Rouen. I took a more direct route making my way to Hastings on the south coast and crossing the channel pointing toward the Dieppe VOR and south to Rouen. I was flying the route out meaning I could have a beer at lunch and enjoy the route home!
The morning’s weather was in many cases on VMC minimums. On making my way down to the south coast I was pushed to 1200ft due to cloud struggling to see my waypoints. At my second turning point I was thoroughly in IMC conditions flying on instruments in cloud. This was only legal as we had an instructor with us in each aircraft who are all CPL/IR qualified. If it was me on my own, I would have diverted to a neighbouring airfield or returned home. After climbing through layers of lower level cloud I leveled off at 3000ft and cross a very horizon less channel which made me exceptionally disorientated. The mixture of haze and cloud gave no horizon, so there was no escape from flying on instruments over the channel.
Navigating to a known point across the channel using dead reckoning, radio navigation aids and a GPS as a comfort blanket made an all together condition challenging journey less draining. From the coast it was due south to Rouen where we joined a very quiet circuit to the sight of a colossally long runway meant to land 737s. We were first and by a long shot. It was almost 45minutes before any other aircraft had shown up and indeed one of the aircraft had diverted due to worsening conditions. Thankfully, the haze and cloud eased up throughout the day on the return leg.
I was now deemed as cross channel checked. This is a sign off by an instructor in accordance with the flying order book, that I could take an aircraft abroad without losing it!
Key take away – divert and don’t delay diversions if conditions are pushing you further into the ground.
All in all, the most challenging 150nm ive ever done, and a fantastic learnig experience.
Some snaps on the way home:
Leaving LFOP with Rouen city on our left
Leaving the French Coast behind by Dauville VOR
UK Coast by Lydd (EGMD)