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Mike's Pilot Log: South to South Adventure

We had two Mirage fighters fly in front of us

Dominique helped us find two jerry cans to fill the trike. The price of fuel in France is better than in the UK, but it's still very expensive at more than a $ per litre. After saying our goodbyes we took off for Vittel where we were going to meet up with Francis for lunch. On our Cape-to-cape expedition in 1995, Olivier and I landed in Vittel for lunch.

There were two military airfields that we had to fly past, which was fine, because they were able to track us and direct us away from the jets. We had two Mirage fighters fly in front of us in formation … at very low speed. I didn't realise that they could fly so slowly – I guess they were doing about 100 knots.

We landed at Vittel and met Francis who was organising the European junior horse trials. After taking him for a short flight and enjoying a good lunch, we headed south-west towards Autun, where Olivier was waiting for us.

In France they have low level air corridors which the fighter jets use. The corridors must be avoided because the jets fly at very high speeds. The corridors usually start at ground level and go up to 2700 ft above ground level (AGL). We were above the first corridor when Greg screamed at "Dad, a jet…." My heart nearly stopped! I looked left and spotted it shooting directly underneath us at the speed of a bullet - it was about 1,000 ft lower than us.

OK, enough with the jets now!

An hour later, as we were passing a restricted area to our left, I saw four Mirages on our left, at the same level as us, turning towards us! I cut the power and dived as hard as I could. The Mirages shot over us to our right. I checked the map and the GPS and we were definitely out of all controlled and restricted airspaces. Go away! We stayed just above the forest we were flying over at the time, until we were sure they were gone. After five minutes we climbed again and were just settling down when the whole episode occurred again. This time the first jet must've seen us because as he approached us I suddenly saw the other three Mirages turn away to the left.  I guess we scared them!

As we approached Autun we saw a trike taking off from the taxiway. Within a minute Olivier was next to us and we waved wildly to each other. We had a really enthusiastic meeting with Olivier, Andre and Martine. We chatted about our experiences and flights and after a few hours Andre and Martine took off in their Robin to fly back to Geneva.

Later, Jean-Michel Dizier, the owner of DTA, the manufacturer of Olivier's trike, arrived. As the sun started to go down, we pushed the trikes into a hangar and headed off to Jean's (another one) home where we had an enjoyable evening. In France you always have great food and good wine. The French cuisine is known to be about the best in the world.

Sleep was blissful – but there were still fighter jets roaring through my dreams.


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