The alarm was much too loud and much too early … 5:30 am
– I wasn't used to getting up early after 2 weeks of easy living. I woke Gregory, packed my stuff and carefully checked that Greg took just the basics. For the next few weeks we would be very heavy, so any luggage
at all was a luxury. After a quick breakfast, Mara took us to Rushett Farm where the trike was parked.
It was quite a job packing the trike. After an hour
of careful packing I managed to fit Greg into the wing and tied his rucksack on the prop. Really? We actually tied his rucksack on the right side and my bag on the left side. Greg is tall at 6ft 4in - I had to find
a new place for the 4 spare prop blades that I carry so that he could put his size 11 shoes into the trike as well. Eventually, after getting in and out of the trike a few times to check that we had everything in
place and safely tied on, we said our goodbyes and took off for Headcorn, which was to be the jumping off place for the flight to France.
The extra weight worried me a bit – this was the
heaviest the trike had ever been. It wasn't the strength of the trike that was a concern, the extra weight meant longer take-off rolls, longer landing rolls, and in the unlikely instance of an emergency landing, the
extra speed and momentum mean a much more spectacular crash. Guessing the weight would be 73 kg for me, 77 kg for Greg, 70 kg of fuel, 60 kg of luggage, spares etc. and about 215 kg for the trike … that makes about
495 kg total take-off weight. Not too bad!
The take-off roll was longer than usual – about 120
metres – and the climbout slower - this gave me a good indication of how to judge the take-offs and landings for the next while.
We circled once over the farm to get some height and
then headed towards Headcorn. We had to fly around the airspace of Biggin Hill and Gatwick. It was an easy flight of 40 minutes but I very carefully watched the engine instruments. The revs were up to 4,600 in
cruise and the temperatures went up a little. We had a tailwind of about 10 knots (20 km/h) but the turbulence wasn't bad.
At Headcorn I filed a flight plan for Calais in
France and after doing a bit of paperwork and having something to eat, we took off for the coast. We flew over the huge railway station, where the cars and trucks drive onto the railway coaches for the trip through
the famous Channel Tunnel to France.
We passed the white cliffs of Dover after flying over
the memorial that looks like a huge 3-bladed aircraft Propeller – if I had to guess …. it is the Battle of Britain memorial.
Out over the English Channel the water was quite
choppy – the wind was blowing at about 20 knots on our three-quarter rear. There were so many ferries, yachts, tankers and liners in the Channel – no wonder there was a collision last week between a Norwegian
passenger liner and a super tanker. At one stage I counted 14 large ships and 7 yachts and small boats. The hovercraft were interesting to see too, with clouds of mist around them as they floated along.
At Calais we went into the tower to meet the air
traffic controller and get my package of maps that Olivier had sent there by DHL for me.
I must admit, it is quite strange not flying with
Olivier. I have become so used to operating as a two-man team. I think the break has been good, though …. we have lived with each other 24 hours a day for the last five and a half months and a break often gives you
a chance to appreciate your partner. It has been during this break that I have had a chance to think about our partnership and appreciate his enthusiastic, cheerful spirit and strength of character.
Greg was enjoying the flying and not too tired yet,
so I filed a flight plan for Spa in Belgium, where the Formula 1 race was going to be. I had no idea what would greet us in Spa; all I knew was that the airport was quite small. A quick top up with Avgas and we were
on our way again.
Between Calais and Spa, the route took us through
lots of commercial and military airspaces. I worked hard, changing frequencies and dealing with all the other aspects of the flight and the aircraft. It was a great flight though, we had a tailwind all the way, the
visibility was about 10 km and the few clouds about produced only one drop of water on my visor. We flew over beautiful French and Belgian towns, over castles and historical ruins of buildings of what looked like
castles and a cathedral.
At one point, we flew past a microlight airfield where we saw trikes and motorised paragliders. There were some trikes doing circuits, and we considered landing – but we were running against time with the sun setting, so we decided to press on.
I expected to see hundreds of aircraft at Spa, but
there were only eleven. Did I have the wrong weekend? On landing we asked the man who directed us to our parking spot if the Grand Prix was on and where was the race track ?…. "Bonjour Monsieur, it is this weekend
and the track is 3 km away, but Michael Schumacher is not here, sorry. He has a broken leg."
Yes, please ….that's a big fat positive on that, thank you very nice!
We checked in with the Civil Aviation people in the
terminal building. They really were expecting swarms of aircraft with so many staff! Landing fees were 750 Belgian Francs for the weekend. I nearly had a stroke as I incorrectly worked it out to be about 200 US
Dollars. It's actually closer to $20.
At the restaurant on the airfield we met the
restaurant owners Xavier and Natalie. They offered us a place to stay for the next few nights, but we decided to sleep next to the aircraft for the first night and to take up their offer for Saturday night. We had a
few beers and some spaghetti and headed to the trike. I placed the groundsheet and our sleeping bags under the wing in case it rained – which it did in the middle of the night, but only for a short while and very