Photo of Microlight Flying Over Wiltshire

Clearprop! Fly To Cherbourg

Have you ever wondered what it might feel like to jump in your own plane and fly to France? Read on to find out more about a recent flight we made to Cherbourg in our Ikarus C42 microlight aircraft. With a flight time of around two hours from Swindon it is not as out of reach as you might imagine and we want to encourage as many people as possible to have this wonderful experience.


Crossing the Normandy coast line

Well, it was time for a flight to Cherbourg and for the school to make use of the new flight planning facilities. The forecast was looking good so we decided to file a plan. After a wait of some six weeks we finally received the password for the new National Air Traffic Service (NATS) Assisted Flight Plan Exchange (AFPEx). This allows us to file flight plans over the internet. The team at NATS offer great support for new users and were happy to ensure we had completed the plan correctly. Essentially the information was the same as was required on the fax form however it was important to ensure that everything was done in the correct format. The plan was to fly directly from Redlands, our home airfield, to Cherbourg. A total flight time of two hours.

Safety equipment on and ready to depart With all the planning done it was time to leave. Safety was an important consideration for us on this trip as we would be spending around 45 minutes over water. The school has invested in immersion suits and lifejackets. These are comfortable although we may have resembled astronauts as we made our way to the aircraft. We also carried an emergency location beacon with the new frequency and GPS location.

With our flight plan activated we were on our way. Passing an Extra going the opposite way we gave a little wing waggle. The other pilot reciprocated with a barrel roll much to our amusement. Heading over the familiar territory of Popham and the Isle of Wight we then climbed as we departed UK shores. We had around 12km of visibility which meant that for a good part of the water crossing we would not be able to see land.

Ship in the English ChannelThere were of course lots of ships and some smaller vessels which provided some reassurance in case of the unlikely event of an engine failure.

As we approached the FIR boundary and were handed on to Deauville control it was a strange feeling to suddenly have our ears filled with French language as it was only a short time previously that we had been on the ground in the UK. With text messages coming through from Vodafone offering concierge services on arrival it was clear that our destination was not far off.

Crossing the beautiful Normandy coast line with little fishing boats and lighthouses, now under the control of Cherbourg Approach, we very quickly spotted the airport. A vast expanse just a short distance inland. Being a quiet day at the airport we were asked to join directly downwind. Turning onto final we were somewhat struck by the incredible Cherbourg peninsular and the Normandy coast line amount of tarmac stretching out before us. We were soon on the ground and directed to our parking slot by the tower. Total flight time was exactly 2 hours. We next walked through the empty arrivals hall to the office where we paid our 10Euros landing fee and requested fuel. After this we were directed to the cafe/bar where we enjoyed a baguette and discussed the trip. The English speaking staff at Cherbourg were all very friendly and helpful.

Fuelled up and ready to leave we headed out over the sea and contacted control to establish a crossing service for the danger area. As the danger area was activated we prepared to put our planned diversion in around the edge. This would have added around 15 minutes to our total flight time. However, after a quick call to Plymouth Military, we were soon given clearance to transit. The controllers proved to be both very professional and very helpful. With the sun behind us visibility was better on the way home although we could not see land until about ten minutes before reaching it. As we came over the Isle of Wight and called Southampton we were struck by the workload of the controller. He was covering Solent Radar as well as Southampton and it took a while for us to get a call in to tell him our intentions and request a Basic Service. However, once again the professionalism of the controller shone through as he warned us to look out for traffic and gave us his instructions.

With a pleasant flight back over familiar ground it was not long before we were back on our home airfield. Total flight time 1 hour 45 minutes. Having closed our flight plan it was great to have proved that the new systems in place work and we can now make a trip to France in a microlight aircraft directly from our home. This means that we don't have to route to Lydd or Sandown to file a flight plan or to get customs clearance. This would normally add around 45 minutes to our journey each way due to circuits, landing, paying fees, re-fuelling etc.

With several club members wanting to make the trip under the guidance of a school instructor it won't be long before we are once again leaving UK shores on an exciting adventure across the water.

If this has encouraged you to take the leap then you can read more about our navigation training offers on our advanced navigation page. As well as trips to France we also offer a range of other navigation training scenarios as detailed on the navigation page. Should you wish to make a trip under the guidance of an instructor that is not detailed then please have a chat with us to discuss your requirements.

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