Blois Ultralight Show - France

Sept 4th / 5th 1999

By Andy Silvester

Some weeks previous to the show, Willem Vlugt (one of France's two Jabiru Dealers) approached ST Aviation to invite UK Jabiru owners' to the large Ultralight show in Blois, France. Blois is between Orleans and Tours, and is situated in the very picturesque 'chateau' region of the Loire valley, about 200 nm south of Calais. The Blois show is roughly equivalent to the Annual Popham Microlight fair in UK, but is about twice as big an event. 

The original plans were for Three Jabirus to make the trip; Vic and Claire Leggott and Graham Geary in their SKs, as well as myself and Edwina (Ed) my wife. French bureaucracy prevented us getting the 'necessary' permissions to fly in France until the very last minute, and unfortunately the others had made other plans by then.

So, Ed and I set out on Friday 3rd September, and flew to Blois in three 'hops', landing at Lydd to file a flight plan, Abbeville to close it and then direct to Blois. The trip took 4 hrs 10 min over 346 nm, an average speed of  about 82 kts; not bad considering the time taken for takeoffs and landings! The Jabiru really is a 'go places' machine and it's not until you make some long-ish trips that you fully realise just how comfortable and quick it is.

The airfield for the show is not shown on charts, and seems to be used only for this event. It's a large grassed area with a defined runway (land on the left, take off on the right under control of marshallers). While the runway is pretty smooth, the taxiway areas nearer the stands are quite rough and test the Jabiru undercarriage, especially at max. weight! For the first time, I was quite glad of my choice of  'mid' - size wheels on G-BYCC, though with care and slow taxiing, there were no problems.

The organisers at Blois (Christian L'Homme and his wife) had provided details of local hotels and we checked - into the Renaissance hotel in the nearby town of Blois

Hotel Renaissance - Blois


Willem and Isabelle's Jabiru dealership stand

              On the Saturday morning, we met our 'hosts' Willem and Isabelle; they had driven the previous day for many hours from the South of France where they run a successful microlight club and school, as well as the Jabiru dealership. For once, the weather in the south was terrible, with low cloud and rain, whereas at the show it was CAVOK all weekend! Our Jabiru was displayed on the stand, and there was lots of interest in both the aeroplane and the engine, an example of which was displayed on its packing case in a prominent position. My French has never been too good (except for ordering beer, which I seem to be able to do effortlessly in most European countries), but over the weekend I learned to converse (very basically, with lots of arm waving) with other aviators in terms of the Jabiru's performance and attributes. One friendly guy insisted I tell him how many kilometres I had flown to the show, how much fuel I used and how long it took! I had to send him away while I got the rule out on the chart...........I nearly ran out of fingers and thumbs working it out, but he seemed impressed with the answer anyway.

Another Jabiru (UL) arrived on the Saturday afternoon from Willem's club on the south coast of France  as they'd been delayed due to the bad weather there. The UL is owned by Frankie, and he and his mate Hans and I made friends as we used sign language and the odd mis - pronounced word to communicate a huge amount of knowledge and experience about flying and Jabirus.  Their aeroplane is shown in the picture, together with Willem (in the yellow shirt) and Hans (in the black shirt) and Frankie (just seen over Hans' shoulder! - sorry guys, should have got a proper group shot!) Hans, originally Swiss, is retired from the French Foreign Legion and the sort of bloke you'd want on your side in, well, any situation, really.
The other French Jabiru Dealer had a stand at the show; his name is Alexandre Patte and he had an SK on show. In addition, I was particularly impressed with his engine display which was a complete 2200 suspended on a spring balance from the roof of his tent. With two - litre oil containers added, the whole lot totalled 60kg exactly.

Try that, Rotax!!

One or two people even lifted the engine to check that the gauge zeroed, which of course it did. Suspicious lot, the French.............

Alexandre Patte's Jabiru Dealership stand

As well as the show, we were keen to 'sample some of the local ambience' which of course is made from grapes, and is coloured either red, or white. Ed and I took some 'time out' on the Sunday to visit a local winery  - the Chateau Monmousseau in nearby Montrichard on the Loire. Well worth a visit - they have 15km of tunnels for storing millions of bottles of fermenting wine - the temperature was a welcome 'cool' and we were free to roam around, but with a warning that it's very easy to get lost!


Exploring the tunnels at the Monmousseau winery

Aero Club at Alencon

So, with farewells all round and bottles clinking in the back, we lurched skyward for the return home. We had decided to take a few extra days in doing so and chose to break the journey to the north French coast by stopping at the Normandy town of Alencon, with its airfield within a walk of the town. We couldn't have chosen better; a very friendly aero club offering free hangarage for the night, a choice of reasonable hotels within 500m, and the regional Met. Office next door! Asking how much the landing fee is at such places always seems to cause much amusement............

The following day we fuelled - up and set off for Le Touquet, arriving 1 hr 30 min later having covered 140 nm in smooth conditions. Unlike 'London Information' (who provide a good Flight Information Service in exchange for the occasional position report etc.), 'Paris Information' seem fairly underwhelmed by the whole idea of providing help. After asking a couple of times for the regional QNH and getting the response that 'we do not provide routing information' I set 1013 on the alt., climbed to FL50, gave them a position and never heard a word until I changed to Le Touquet!

We stayed a couple of days at a nice B&B near the dunes and rented bikes from the airport to get around. For those who haven't been, Le Touquet is a very nice location in the summer with good restaurants and local attractions - thoroughly recommended!

Approaching Le Touquet from the south

Our final trip home was taken in one 'hop', and having filed a flight plan at le Touquet, we let the south - westerly tail-wind speed our return to Riseley in just 1.5 hrs, an average speed of  96 kts.

I'm hoping that next year, there will be a bigger gathering of UK Jabirus flying - out to Blois. Thanks to Willem and Isabelle, Christian L'Homme and his wife, and the other organisers of the Blois show. It is highly professional, and well - worth a visit. There's also plenty to do, see, drink and eat, too!