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!)

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