Night-stop in Le Touquet

Flying to Le Touquet from Stapleford for the night, with a reputation as the most elegant holiday resort of northern France, this chic French resort offers plenty to do, and it’s only 1 hours flight from London

We fly back the day after with some complex weather making planning and flying in heavy rain a different kind of challenge. General Aviation really does make it.

Short hop to France –

We brief for every eventuality before undertaking a short-flight across the English Channel to a popular resort in the General Aviation community.

We enjoy good flying weather on this relatively warm summer’s day to Le Touquet, and I bring an old friend with me for the occasion. Nick now flies for a UK airline on the Airbus as a First Officer, having completed his training to become an airline pilot.

DA40 TDI prepared for it’s flight to France

The aircraft was ideally fuelled the night before by the previous pilot. We had sufficient fuel to fly to France and back with enough fuel for diversions and any weather that may plague the flight(s).

I made the early morning commute from Central London to Epping where I would meet Nick, before making our way to the airfield to prepare the aircraft. We departed 1 hour 31 minutes late due to a few issues with transport on our way to Stapleford. Something you must expect for a flight in General Aviation.

Flight route to LFAT on SkyDemon with ALTN LFAC

We got airborne after a short in-flight programming of the GPS and aircraft for this VFR flight to LFAT. The flight was planned using SkyDemon and the flight plan was filed using AFPEX.

ATC Flight Plan to France –

(FPL-GZANY-VG
-DA40/L-SDFGY/S
-EGSG0900
-N0119A024 DCT ODUKU DCT BAKER DCT ODVIK/N0115A034 DCT LYD/N0143A050
DCT DEVAL DCT LFATN DCT NA DCT NB DCT
-LFAT0049 LFAC EGMD
-DOF/190617 EET/LFFF0038 DEVAL0038 OPR/ALTAIR AVIATION LTD RMK/DUAL
8.33KHZ VHF RMK/EGSG0900 LFAT0049 LFAC EGMD RMK/IRR RATING +
NIGHT RMK/PILOT ROBBIE xxxx xxxxxxxx +44xxxxxxxxxx)

After a relatively short take-off roll, we climbed away with some light chop making for an interesting climb out. The first 500 feet were a bit sluggish, but this was probably explained by the relatively low pressure and high temperatures and relatively high take-off mass exacerbated by minimal winds.

Shortly after departure we contact Southend Radar for a Traffic Service on a relatively busy patch of airspace as we track towards the South Coast. After a busy period with radar, we are transferred over to London Information for the crossing towards France. During this phase of the flight we are no longer given a radar service, crossing what for a single engine aeroplane is a vast expanse of water.

In the planning phase and briefing phase we discussed descending IMC outside the French IFR utilising my IMCr/IR(R). However the cloud layer was localised to the UK, which meant we could descend as planned inside the French FIR without the need to descend below the cloud base; because it was pretty much CAVOK from when we left the UK shoreline till landing.

We did briefly fly IMC as we climb up to 5,000ft for the final en-route part of the flight, through a thin layer of Cumulus.

Once we reached our cruise altitude, we then start planning our descent into LFAT to ensure that we are at circuit height at the appropriate time, and based on our ground speed we calculated 1 mile before the French FIR.

It is also during these phases of flight that we utilise the aircraft’s autopilot so that we can monitor the engine and fuel situation during one of the most critical phases of the flight.

Calculating our fuel and descent planning

As we make a gradual descent into France, the beautiful reality that we have just flown an aeroplane from London; the capital city of the UK to a beautiful French resort in just under 1 hour beckons.

After hugging the French coast for the last 5 minutes, we make a slow approach; joining right hand downwind for Runway 31 before touching down some 56 minutes after we departed.

Flying the VFR arrival route into LFAT.

After we landed, we tidied up the inside of the aircraft and made sure that we could head to the airport and depart within 30-40 minutes of arriving for our departure back to the UK. With a threat of severe thunderstorms, being prepared was the highest of importance.

Once we had applied the aircraft cover, we made a walk to the terminal were a quick check of our passports and clearance to enter the French Border was granted.

After clearing customs at Le Touquet

Night in Le Touquet –

A few weeks before the trip we planned to stay at the Holiday Inn resort which was a short walk to the main beach and only a short walk to the airport. Bright rooms come with complimentary Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, as well as minibars and coffeemakers.

The cost of this hotel for the two of us, was just over £110. Roughly £55 each. The hotel came with stunning facilities, such as clay tennis courts and a swimming pool. However time was limited and we wanted to explore rather than spend time in the resort; although it would make for a perfect weekend away.

Holiday Inn Le Touquet

Once we had a shower and unpacked our belongings for the night, we took the short walk into Le Touquet to relax by the beach. The beach contains these casual huts that serve local food and good quality drinks. They are a bit pricey, but I think the area in general is pricey.

We tried the O’safran – beach, bar, restaurant. We tried French Sausisson along with a Nutella Panini, which beware can cause quite a mess as the Nutella is viscous when hot. However a short walk along there appears to be better places; WAIKIKI beach looks great, and we enjoyed an ice cold Coca Cola from this location as we looked for places that would be open for dinner.

Being a Monday though, places seem to be closed or shut early. So we had to be extremely picky. Until we found Restaurant La Vallée du Kashmir. Which interestingly enough is nothing do with France. We are British and an Indian can always be a first choice when you are hunting for something good to eat.

It was extremely busy, with every seat full so we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. The food was delicious, with a lamb kebab to start and a relatively spicy curry followed finishing with dessert which was all part of a deal.

After we decided to make the walk along the beach to burn of some of that delicious food we had. We was greeted to a beautiful sunset which felt like the true calm before the storm.

Summer 2019 – Le Touquet Beach

After a good nights sleep we checked the weather and decided to head into town for a much needed breakfast. As we had slept quite late, and the hours time difference making it feel later than it actually was – we headed to Jean’s Cafe which luckily served breakfast/brunch past the normal time.

Jean’s Café takes it inspiration from the markets, the individual producers, animal breeders and fisherman.

Jean’s Cafe
Jean’s Cafe

With a long afternoon/evening ahead – we had to stock up on energy and enjoyed a crepe before heading back to the hotel to collect our belongings. With a few hours to go, we elected to walk along the beach before making our way back to the airport via the Holiday Inn.

Challenging flight back to UK –

One of the most challenging flights I’ve had to plan for, utilising Windy, the MetOffice rainfall radar and various other tools such as Skew-T’s to accurately plan for what should be a routine channel crossing from Le Touquet to the UK.

With severe weather warnings out, I had to question all aspects of the planning to ensure a safe flight back to the UK. We depart a hot and humid France, for heavy precipitation from high altitude convective clouds.

Pre-Departure at LFAT

Having made the final touches to the trip a few days in advance, with the filling of the flight plan 48 hours in advance based on the weather model predictions. It was quite interesting to see that the models were very accurate to within a couple of hours of the actual radar conditions.

This was a challenging flight to plan for, as in all aspects it was a very dynamic situation. I overlay the route and rainfall radar that delays our flight by 1 hour.

Weather clearing London area at 20KT to the NNE.

It was the radar watching and careful planning from experience, that we could avoid the worst of the weather. Once we was sure that the weather currently over London was clearing, and that the band to the SSW would not affect our planned flight we would depart Le Touquet for the UK mainland.

I planned the route so that if we had to divert to Lydd, we could and if we couldn’t make it to Stapleford, we could make it to Southend and if that failed we had the option of Lydd. Hence why we flew over or within close proximity so that at all times we had a get out plan. Calais was also an option hence the routing via Dover and routing close to other airports. It ensured we was within 10 minutes of landing from the moment we decided to divert.

Once airborne the weather was interesting. We climbed up above some thin layers of cloud, before reaching light precipitation on the English coastline. As we descended into London, we experienced heavy precipitation for the rest of the flight. The radar showed this, but I presumed an extensive weather system. However in this rain somewhere was embedded cells. Which we could just make out during our transit of Southend, something quite evident looking at the radar replay.

Rainfall radar during our flight
TAF EGLC 181350Z 1815/1821 08005KT 9999 FEW040 PROB40 TEMPO 1815/1821 4000 RA SHRA=
TAF EGMC 181350Z 1815/1824 04004KT 9999 FEW040 PROB40 TEMPO 1815/1824 4000 RA SHRA=
TAF EGSS 181103Z 1812/1918 VRB04KT 9999 SCT045 TEMPO 1812/1916 7000 RA SHRA PROB30 TEMPO 1812/1814 4000 +SHRA PROB30 TEMPO 1904/1909 2500 +SHRA TSRA BKN004 BKN048CB PROB40 TEMPO 1909/1916 BKN014 BECMG 1912/1915 29010KT=

ATC flight plan to UK –

(FPL-GZANY-VG
-DA40/L-SDFGY/S
-LFAT1300
-N0120A018 DCT NB DCT NA DCT LFATN DCT MOTOX/N0140F060 DCT
DVR/N0137A034 DCT TANET/N0133A024 DCT ODUKU DCT
-EGSG0048 EGMC EGMD
-DOF/190618 EET/EGTT0017 MOTOX0017 OPR/ALTAIR AVIATION LTD RMK/DUAL
8.33KHZ VHF RMK/IRR RATING + NIGHT RMK/LFAT1300 EGSG0048 EGMC EGMD
RMK/PILOT ROBBIE xxxx xxxxxxxx +44xxxxxxxxxx)

(DLA-GZANY-LFAT1400-EGSG-DOF/190618)

As we flew towards Stapleford, the rain continued to get heavy but there was no cloud. Just reduced visibility. Any cloud was in excess of 7,000ft. But the threat of CB’s was at large and we quickly made a fast approach into Stapleford after 50 minutes airborne.

Oversight & YouTube –

I hope the route I am taking is going to make me a better pilot, and to share with you all the new skills that I hope to learn. Whilst this will be a long road to having the Instrument Rating; I hope I can provide you with an oversight of my progression and as I develop my skill set and airmanship in exclusive videos on my YouTube channel. 

I hope to share with you guys in a unique editorial style with me breaking down thoroughly and honestly everything that went wrong from pre-flight, to landing to debrief, what I have learnt from it and what steps I am putting in place to make me a safer pilot in the future.   I’ll be using the reference material above along with Standards Document 01 (A) to assist in my endeavours. 

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