HOP! Tour des Jeunes Pilotes 2014

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Photo courtesy of Thierry Tuduri

Thank you sponsors!

I mentioned AOPA and HOP! in my previous posts, yet I would be remiss if I didn't thank the following French sponsors and wonderful individuals who dedicated hundreds of hours into organizing the HOP! Tour des Jeunes Pilotes.

Fédération Française Aéronautique (FFA)
Jean-Michel Ozoux, President of the FFA
Unlike the US' Federal Aviation Administration, the FFA is not a regulatory government agency, but rather a public service group that supports and defends general aviation throughout France. It includes over 600 aéro-clubs, 400 aérodromes, 40,000 pilots, and 2,000 instructors. It is the FFA that first started, and is primarily responsible for, the Tour des Jeunes Pilotes. It was also the FFA that extended the invitation to AOPA to participate in the event by sending over a qualified candidate.

The FFA's mission (ever since its creation in 1929) is:
-To assist and defend aéro-clubs
-To preserve the number and quality of French airports
-To support pilot training and formation in aéro-clubs
-To help pilots become involved in aeronautical activities
-To defend the interests of private pilots
-To organize avation-related competitions on a national and international level

Website: ffa-aero.fr

Other French sponsors:

Total: Multinational oil and gas company. According to its website, airtotal.com, the company supplies fuel to more than 250 international airport worldwide in 75 countries.

Dgac: Direction générale de l'aviation civile. This is the French civil aviation authority. To my understanding, this is France's version of the United States' FAA.

CFA des métiers de l'aérien: A company that specializes in pilot formation.

info-pilote: The official magazine of the FFA. It did a marvelous job documenting each stage of the Tour.

The HTJP team of "jaunes" and "marrons":
Eric Savattero
Jean-Luc Charron
Daniel Vacher
Jérome Coornaert
Charles Hauton
Patricia Vincent
Claire Chasle
Jean-Luc Establie
Fernando Figueiredo
Thierry Tuduri
Sébastien Chretien
Kévin Dupuch
Nadine Chomarat
Jean-Pierre Vanrenterghem
Daniel Choureaux
Bertrand Sandre
Bruno Mortet
François Roy
Niels Adde
Cyril Godeaux
Nicolas Gravez
Bastien Belgacem-Gospos
Frédéric Doazan
Arnaud Formal
Christophe Lucas
Damien Bresson
Gabriel Eveque
Jacques Lumbroso
Alain Vaillere
Phil Clarke
Véronique Clarke
Guillaume De Buttafoco

Aug 1-3: Paris Le Bourget (LFPB)

16 August 2014

We all knew the HOP! Tour was going to go by quickly...when you're having such a great time, it's inevitable. With that being said, it was still hard to believe we were down to our last flight. The 70 mile stretch of land between Epérnay and le Bourget was to be our shortest flight yet, consisting of only 3 waypoints. The morning briefing dealt primarily with arrival procedures and radio communications at le Bourget.

A bit of background knowledge---The majority of commercial flights into Paris either arrive at Charles de Gaulle Roissy, which is located in the north of Paris, or Orly, which is in the south. Le Bourget is strictly used for business aviation and government officials. Also, it is the airport where Charles Lindbergh landed after completing his solo transatlantic flight in 1927. This flight was quite the momentous occasion because VFR (visual flight rules- which is what we were) flights typically are not welcome at this airport. In fact, to fly over Paris at all, you must be on an instrument flight plan. This was a BIG deal-- not just for me, but for all of my fellow pilots as well.

Can you spot the Eiffel Tower? 
I did something different flying into le Bourget that created a situation which made me reflect over the importance of Crew Resource Management (CRM) and situation awareness. Up to that point, I had done all my radio transmissions in French. Since le Bourget was such a busy airport environment, and I wanted to be on top of my game, I opted to do the radios in English. I knew that if I did this, Fernando would not be able to understand the controller, but we were both confident enough in my abilities at that point that he didn't mind.

 The approach into Paris was actually extremely simple. We were cleared to land Rwy 03, and my greaser of a landing positioned us right after the C1 exit. We kept rolling, expecting Twr to instruct us to vacate the runway at C2. That wasn't the case. Instead, she told me to do a 180 and back taxi to C1. Despite Fernando pointing and motioning towards C2, I turned the plane around and headed in the direction I was told. It was then that we simultaneously saw the Falcon 2000 taxiing towards us via C2, and we understood why the controller had given us those instructions. Obviously, nothing bad occurred in this story; still, it was a good example why it's crucial for the pilot and copilot to
communicate effectively and to always be aware of their surroundings.

Le Bourget is home to the French Air and Space Museum (Musée de l'air et de l'espace). It's actually quite extensive and very impressive. We all enjoyed walking around and viewing the exhibits. Over the next couple days we dined underneath the Concorde!

There was a concluding ceremony, but it wasn't exactly what I expected. The overall 'competition' was based on a cumulative score of points derived from the cross country flights, the rallye, our flight planning sheets, and the horrible European private pilot written test.
I ended up placing within the upper half of the scores-- not exactly where I would have liked, but still not too terrible for a low-time pilot who was flying a new plane, in a foreign country, in French.
However, they also presented awards for certain achievements like best fuel estimation and the best written test score. To my complete and utter surprise, I won the competition for the most landmarks identified. Of course, if it weren't for Fernando, there's no way I would have won... but I graciously accepted the award and called him up on the stage with me. Then I had to make a speech! The 'award' consisted of an armful of aviation-themed souvenirs: a French headset, three signed and autographed books, a miniature model of a HOP! ATR-72, cockpit organizers, and so much more. I was blown away.

Alain from AOPA France came to support me during the closing ceremony. I was so glad he was there; most of the pilots had family members and friends that traveled to Paris for our grand finale. However, he DID force me to try real French cheese. I tried not to gag. I only like mozzarella.
Departure day was bittersweet. I didn't want it to be over, but I knew that I had made some wonderful friends and great memories. It will be exciting to return one day and reconnect with everyone, and I'm looking forward to seeing what awesome career pilots come out of the group. More than anything, I'm glad that I was able to share my experiences with you, and I hope the best for all you pilots out there! If you ever go fly in France, you can always take me with you...

Fin d'histoire

"Make your life a dream, and turn your dream into reality."
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

July 30- Aug 1: Epérnay (LFSW)

15 August 2014

We had great weather for the flight from Dieppe to Epérnay. Like I mentioned in my last post, Fernando and I stopped for Jet A at Reims- Prunay, an aerodrome that was just 15 minutes from Epérnay. I caught a glimpse of the price of fuel: 2.22 euros/liter ($11.24/gal) AVGAS and 1.57 euros/liter ($7.95/gal) JET. Total, one of the 2 major fuel companies in France, provided the fuel for the entire event.

The airport of Epérnay consists of three grass runways (pistes en herbe), and zero hard-surfaced runways (pistes en dur). That meant it was going to be my first time landing on a grass strip! It was a really cool experience. In fact, the well-maintained grass actually softens the landing impact. There were yellow cones marking the taxiway boundaries and white cones for the runway boundaries.

Everyone was excited to visit Epérnay because it is located in the heart of the champagne cultural region of France. In fact, as soon as we landed the first thing we did was visit the cellars of la Champagne de Castellane. The tour was very informative, but the majority of the work was done for the season, so the workers were all on vacation. On top of that, we were prohibited from drinking alcohol throughout the entire HOP! Tour. So, no champagne tasting at the end. The directors had already informed us that there was to be one exception: we would be allowed 1 glass of champagne the next day at the banquet reception at the Hotel de ville (city hall).

The next day we had a flight in the vicinity of Verdun, France. As the flight to Dieppe was our WWII history lesson, the flight over to Verdun was a time to reflect on the First World War that ravaged the French countryside. In fact, the battle of Verdun was one of the longest and most devastating engagements of WWI. It consisted primarily of trench warfare. As we flew over the fields and forested areas, the cemeteries and war monuments testified to the horrible slaughter that took place almost a century ago. From now on, every time I think about the war, I will always have the those images, especially the trenches and white crosses, ingrained in my mind.

Back at Epérnay, we spent the rest of the day interacting with kids, showing off the planes, and enjoying the nice weather. The five of us girls enjoyed a traditional flight in the DC-3. I got the privilege of sitting jump seat during the landing. What a classy plane. Solid and dependable American manufacturing at its finest!

 That night, we went down to city hall and had our one drink of Champagne inside an extremely fancy building. I must say, it was well worth the wait!

Next airport: Paris le Bourget

Milka plane

July 28-30: Dieppe (LFAB)

14 August 2014


The flight from Granville to Dieppe was significant for nearly all of us pilots as we overflew the beaches of Normandy (les plages du débarquement). During the morning briefing, the directors delivered a brief history lesson. They recalled the events of 6 June 1944, the largest seaborne invasion in history, in which 160,000 Allied troops crossed the English Channel during Operation Overlord. The American troops landed at Utah and Omaha beach, the British at Sword and Gold, and the Canadians at Juno beach. Although it is known as "D-day" in English, in French it's called Jour J. It's hard to imagine that only 70 years ago, thousands of soldiers-the same age as us- were sacrificing their lives to free western Europe from German control on those very beaches.
First rain...
From the air I saw cemeteries, bunkers, bomb-ravaged fields and WWII monuments. Like the previous flights, we were given pictures to identify landmarks along the route, but rather than taking the pictures from Google maps, they supplied us with black and white photographs taken during the war. It was challenging, but authentic. As surreal as the experience was flying over these historical sites, I did wish we had the opportunity to explore them on foot as well. Oh well, one day perhaps.
...then clear skies for a while

When we arrived at Dieppe, the sky was dark and the ground was wet from an earlier storm. I was interviewed by a few journalists and met some locals from the Dieppe aéro-club that were extremely nice and welcoming.

Oldest house in Dieppe
Once everyone arrived the directors arranged for a tour of the city for anyone who wasn't too tired. It ended up being a neat excursion. We rode a little train and, along with seeing churches, castles, beaches, and other structures of historical significance, we passed out flyers advertising the HOP! Tour airshow.

The next day's meeting was a big disappointment because it was rainy. We were supposed to fly another private-pilot maneuvers circuit (un boucle), but it was cancelled. We hung around the airfield all day and tried not to get too wet. There were still families who braved the bad weather to come see the planes, so we held cockpit demos as usual and let them fly the simulator. Later on, a Beech Staggerwing and a T-6 texan came down from a nearby airfield.

Quick nap

This was also the stage of the Tour where everyone became incredibly fatigued. We hadn't had much time to rest during the last week; it was always "go, go, go!" I think the rainy weather was also a contributing factor. We caught many bleus taking a quick nap. Each time, we would crowd around and take pictures, occasionally waking them with a foghorn.

Hey, that's my plane!

Later that evening, we took a group picture around the Antonov, the big blue biplane. My favorite part was climbing up on the wing. Half the young pilots were arranged on both sides of the top wing, and the other half had to stand in front of the plane. See photo, below.

Afterwards, in preparation for the next morning's flight, we tried to pump Jet A into the two diesel planes. However, the airport manager couldn't get the machine to work. Obviously it had been a while since they had last used it. So, after a few failed attempts, we decided to stop once again for fuel along the route to Epérnay. I couldn't complain; I really liked visiting the additional airports. It meant more time and more landings in the logbook...

Next airport: Epérnay (la Champagne!)

July 26-28: Granville (LFRF)

14 August 2014

Next stop was Granville, whose name literally translates to "great city." It was another day of coastal flying and diverting for Jet A.

Bombardier Global Express
The airport we stopped at halfway was called Dinard. I didn't realize at first that it was a fairly big airport. We saw a Gulfstream V and a Global Express sitting on the ramp. (I looooovvvvveeee biz jets, so I felt right at home) Also, the airport is a stop for Ryan Air, and there happened to be a flight departing that day, so it was an hour wait until they could get over to our planes.

The best part of the flight to Granville was passing the island of Mont Saint-Michel. Since it is a popular tourist site, we couldn't fly through the restricted airspace around it. So, the best picture I got was the one on the right. The one below is a closer view of the island.
Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

When we finally made it to Granville, there was already a crowd waiting for us at the airport. The next day was to be the biggest airshow yet. The city did a great job advertising for the HOP! Tour, and there were a lot of vendors that showed up as well. That afternoon, we did something creative and spelled out the words "HOP!" with our bodies on the ground. A photographer flew overhead and took a picture of us. The photo below wasn't the aerial photo, but you get the idea!

Merci Sébastian Ctn
That night we stayed at an international hostel right next to the sea. It turns out that the USA women's rugby team was also staying there. That hostel also gets the award for the worst breakfast of any place we stayed. The French aren't big on breakfast to begin with, and the meal typically consisted of a slice of bread with nutella spread. However, at this location, it was particularly revolting. Still not even sure what I ate. It wasn't bread, though.

Rather than fly that day, the directors had prepared for us a special written private pilot exam. I imagine it wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't been in French, or in units that I typically don't use, or if I had known how to review the material before the HTJP. Sadly, I wasn't able to, and so I endured the 80 questions of pure torture. As soon as I finished, I knew my chances were shot. The good news is that I didn't get the worst score out of the group! What a surprise.

 After the test, we went back to cockpit demos. A grand total (pun intended) of 15,000 people came to this airshow. For France, that's a large crowd! It was also extremely exhausting for us working the demos. I made a point of always introducing myself as an American so the people understood right away my limited vocabulary. It was great working with kids, though, because they had such a good time. Also, I learned a lot from interacting with them.

Du monde!

Later that evening, we had our typical evening of flight planning, food, and speeches. Oops, I almost forgot another highlight of the day: filming the 'bloopers' reel for the HOP! Tour video. Every day the multimedia crew put together a 5 min documentary of that location's events. At the end was a funny segment that was either a full blooper, or partially staged. Fred, the camera man, convinced the guys to jump Fernando and stick him in a nearby porter potty.
It was absolutely hilarious in person, and you can see the clip online on the main page of the HTJP website: http://www.ffa-aero.fr/fr/frm_TAJP_Presentation.awp

Next airport: Dieppe

Cap 10

July 24-26: Landivisiau (LFRJ)

13 August 2014

Approaching the Atlantic Ocean
The flight from Niort to Landivisiau was especially exciting because it was my first time to fly over a body of water larger than a reservoir. We had life jackets of course (les gilets de sauvetage). The view was incredible; unfortunately, my photos don't do it justice. We stayed relatively close to the coast as we crossed over to the cultural region of Brittany (Bretagne).

Since the route was fairly long, it was determined that several planes would stop halfway for fuel. Also, since the military base we were flying to did not have Jet A, the two diesel planes had to divert as well. We ended up stopping in Vannes. I was especially pleased to stop because I have a good friend who grew up there. The north of France is extremely green because it receives a lot of precipitation. We expected the weather to be somewhat formidable, but it ended up being rather nice.

Left crosswind Rwy 22 at Vannes

As we ate lunch at Vannes, we watched skydivers parachute out of a PC-6 Turbo-Porter. The real show wasn't the skydivers but the jump plane. It would just fall out of the sky effortlessly after dropping the load of jumpers, and its short field landings were remarkable. After 5 drops, the plane came over to the Jet A pump to faire le plein and I was able to jump up in the left seat. It looked really, really fun to fly.
At the Vannes aéro-club there was a sign advertising cours de pilotage (pilot training), vol d'initiation (initiation flight), and bapteme de l'air (air baptism). I had no idea what the difference was between an initiation flight and an air baptism, but the other pilots did. They told me that the initiation flight was your first flight if you were interested in taking flight lessons for a PPL (private pilot's license). I suppose we would call that a "discovery flight" here in the US. An air baptism is for individuals who have never, ever flown before--not even commercially. Leave it to the French to come up with a cute term for something like that.

We were ready to leave Vannes for Landivisiau shortly after lunch, but faced an issue. We were the first airplanes to depart that morning because we had to divert for fuel, but the long caravan of planes was still moving along the predetermined route and we didn't want to merge into the traffic for safety reasons. So, the four of us ended up flying 5 miles to the north of the route, paralleling it, to the naval base. Now, throughout the Tour, each plane was equipped with a GPS tracker that was used to grade your ability to maintain course and altitude (and groundspeed, to an extent). Since we were specifically told to fly off-course, supposedly we weren't penalized for those legs. However, I never saw my corrected points sheet, so I'm not so sure...at any rate, you can't sweat the small stuff. There was so much more to the HTJP than using GPS to fly in a straight line.

Le Rafale
Landing at Landi was a non-event. It did shock me how green the landscape was. Also, I thought it was funny as I turned off Rwy 08 that there was a tractor bailing hay between the runway and main taxiway. On a military base, ha!

The French Navy was way more excited to accommodate us than the French Air Force. They had set up some interesting tours of the facilities, and we saw Rafales, Super Etendard Modernisés (SEM), and Falcon 10s. We learned that they are in the midst of a 2 year process to phase out the SEM. They put on a 20 minute air show just for us. One of the Rafale pilots gave us an excellent tour of his plane, and allowed us to sit in the cockpit and ask questions. I asked if we could take it for a spin. He said "no" to my sitting on his lap.

In the evening, we had our customary cocktail soirée and met with journalists and military officials. The picture to the right shows one of the servers in the traditional Brittany attire: black dress, white apron, complete with the headdress. I really liked the food here; we ate savory crepes, chocolate mousse, and a dish that I thought was green beans, but ended up being sauteed seaweed (les algues de mer). I still ate it!

Les 5 filles

That night we stayed on base, so we got to sleep in an hour later than usual. The next morning we had the briefing for our rallye aérien. This activity proved to be the most challenging of all. The goal was to fly a course without GPS so as to precisely hit each waypoint within 5 seconds, while at the same time identifying the position of certain landmarks given to us through a series of photos. Like I said, piece of cake...

Even after the briefing, I was still mostly confused about how it was going to work. Fernando seemed like he knew exactly what to do, so I let him show me some techniques and figured I would learn on the go. However, halfway through the rallye the timing starts to mess with your head. You're processing so much at the same time, and you start to over-think things. For example, at one point I could have sworn we needed to speed up to get to the waypoint on time. Fernando, however, pulled back the power to slow down. I had the hardest time convincing him that we were farther behind on the course than we wanted to be...my French just wasn't doing it for me that day. We finally completed the rallye, mentally drained. Despite our poor performance from the timing standpoint, we found an incredible amount of landmarks, which helped our score considerably.

Another highlight of the flight that day was when I was on short final for 26. One of the jokesters of the group, Clément, loved my French accent on the radio, and he was always a couple planes behind me. After I repeated my landing clearance, he came on frequency- and without missing a beat- said "Sooo Hot!" I burst out laughing, and my instructor had no idea why...

That evening, we went to a training company called iCARE and we played around in the CRJ 200/700 simulator. The next morning was incredibly foggy. However, as soon as the sun started to rise, the fog dissipated and we were ready to head off to our next adventure.

Next airport: Granville
At Vannes airport