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

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