Michael McCafferty - European Biplane Tour

Why Am I Here?

Reims, France

Yesterday's forecast of a rainy Reims didn't come true. It was a great day here, but the forecast of rain on the north coast of France, my destination, was accurate, so I wouldn't have been flying anyway. It would have been a perfect day to sleep late, then go sightseeing and champagne tasting, but I figured I should spend some time with my flight manuals and charts. I didn't feel comfortable with my last flight, and I thought I could use some more preparation and review of the airspace.

And if things work out with the weather tomorrow, I may go for the English Channel crossing, and since it's another international border, it will require just that much more planning. So while the rest of the visitors to Reims were enjoying a spectacular summer day, I was stuck in my room with lots of charts and papers and books, making phone calls, and figuring out how to deal with the various governmental aviation agencies involved.

Here's an example of tomorrow's flight notes:

Get last minute weather information for current conditions and forecast for destination airport and enroute reporting locations.

File flight plan.
Preflight inspection

Set altimeter to Reims(Prunay) field elevation of 312 feet
Set Radio 1 to 118.05 Reims(Prunay) Information
Set Radio 1 (standby) to 129.12 LeTouquet ATIS
Set Radio 2 to 119.80 Reims(Champagne) Approach
Set Radio 2 (standby) to 120.37 Lille Approach

GPS destination set to Reims (Champagne) VOR

Take off Reims(Prunay) runway 25 or 7, depending on winds
Runway 25, turn right immediately to 269 degrees to avoid noise sensitive area, Then turn right to heading of 070 degrees
Runway 7, straight out departure.
Climb to 1300 feet
Intercept 305 degree radial of Reims(Champagne) VOR and turn left along radial

Call Reims(Champagne) Approach on 119.80, announce intention to overfly their airport at 1000 feet AGL
Set transponder code assigned by Approach.
Call Reims(Champagne) Approach again on 119.80 when at reporting point "Sierra One", 7 miles from airport on 305 degree radial.

Navigate between two tall radio towers (925' and 1083'... I'm at 1300') on the way from "Sierra One" and "Sierra Two".

Call Reims(Champagne) Approach again on 119.80 when at reporting piont "Sierra Two", 2.3 miles from airport on 305 degree radial.

Follow instructions from Reims Approach until out of the area.

Reset GPS for LeTouquet airport, turn to new heading.

Contact Lille Approach on 120.37, advise them of my destination, altitude, and request info on any active military areas.

Climb to 4400 feet to overfly/underfly various Restricted airspaces along the way, but moving to the left or right of other airspaces which may be active, depending on advice of Lille Approach. At the same time, alter course as needed to stay clear of any clouds along the way, and then try to get back on course.

Call LeTouquet ATIS for weather, runway, winds info on 129.12
At about 10 miles from LeTouquet, intercept 296 degree radial and report position to LeTouquet Tower on 118.45.
Reset altimeter to values given by LeTouquet Tower.
Descend to 1000 feet.
Report again to LeTouquet Tower when over reporting point "Echo", 5 miles from airport, on 296 radial.

Land on assigned runway.

Do all of the above while keeping my head on a swivel looking out for other air traffic, and while also looking down at my navigation charts to confirm actual location according to landmarks (rivers/lakes/cities/towers,etc) on the ground, and turning knobs, pushing buttons, talking on the radio, controlling the plane, monitoring instruments and engine status, and still trying to have FUN!

Are you kidding? How can anyone have fun when they are doing all this work? What ever happened to just jumping in the plane and going flying? That's what I do when I'm flying in the desert around the Fun House. I just look outside, and if there's daylight, then I look at the windsock. If it's still attached to the pole, then I go flying! No METAR/TAF weather reports to get and decode, no flight plans, no ground control to ask if I can start up my plane, no control tower to call to request permission to take off and land, no restricted airspaces (ok, not as many), no noise sensitive areas, I can fly a lot lower, there are no landing fees, gas is a lot cheaper, and they talk English!

So why am I here?

(To be continued...)

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