The plan for today was for me to do my cross country flight of at least 270 km (150 NM) that includes full stop landings at 2 aerodromes different from the departure aerodrome. I should’ve done it 3 days ago but it was cancelled because one of the airfield where I was suppose to land (Carpentras) was closed that day and the wind was a bit strong. So my instructor and I decided to postpone it.
So here I was, ready to fly solo for the first time in a cross country flight. The weather was just perfect that day. No wind and a clear blue sky. A bit hot though, 25 degrees at 10 o’clock in the morning.
METAR LFMV 290800Z AUTO VRB02KT CAVOK 25/11 Q1017 NOSIG=
The chosen route was LFMV – LFMU – LFNH – LFMV (Avignon, Béziers, Carpentras, Avignon) which is 176NM long. The plan was to fly the first leg (LFMV – LFMU) at 1,500 feet, the second (LFMU – LFNH) at 3,500 feet and finally the last one (LFNH – LFMV) at 1,500 feet.
From the route above, there were quite a few controlled airspaces to get through including restricted zones. It’s not really a big deal, but I had to keep in mind that my transit might not be accepted or a different route may be given to me (depending on the controllers’ availability and the amount of traffic).
LEG 1 – Avignon (LFMV) – Béziers (LFMU)
I did the walk-around, put some fuel and few minutes later I was left alone by my instructor with the hope I will come back in few hours. I run the usual checklists, taxied to the runway and then got my clairance to take off runway 17 and report passing SW at 1,500 feet.
I was approaching SW and needed to report my position to the tower as instructed but when I called, nobody answered even though I could hear them speak on the frequency. I started to troubleshoot the problem and then realised that the issue was with the push-to-talk button in the yoke. I’ve then used the passenger headphone jack socket instead and using the right yoke push-to-talk button I was able to talk to the tower again. HURRAY!
I could’ve turn the plane around but I’ve decided to continue as this was a minor inconvenient and I could also plug my headset directly to the intercom in the event of a failure of the second push-to-talk button.
So here I was on track and hoping this minor inconvenient will be the only one. I then talked with Nîmes Garons then Montpellier, followed the costal line and soon I was with Béziers tower preparing the approach for the runway 09. The METAR at the time of my arrival. Not too bad.
METAR LFMU 290900Z AUTO 09012KT 070V140 CAVOK 24/15 Q1016 NOSIG=
LEG 2 – Béziers (LFMU) – Carpentras (LFNH)
The second leg was pretty much the same thing at the first one. As I was flying at higher altitude than the first leg, the frequencies weren’t the same, but overall less radio was needed. Started with Béziers tower and switched with Montpellier approach, Camargues control, Avignon tower and then Orange approach for the transit towards Carpentras.
Carpentras is a uncontrolled airfield. So no direct air traffic control on the airfield; no clearance delivery, ground, or tower positions on the field itself. The pilots themselves control all ground, taxiway, and runway movement and operations of their aircraft, and each pilot is responsible to see, be seen, and maintain separation from other aircraft and objects.
I was the only one in the vicinity and I landed runway 31 with a bit of a cross wind, 13 knots (24 km/h)
LEG 3 – Carpentras (LFNH) – Avignon (LFMV)
This leg was very short, 15 minutes flight time. I Took off runway 31, spoke with Orange approach and then Avignon tower for a direct final runway 17.
Overall a very good experience, even the issue with the push-to-talk right at the beginning. I couldn’t expect better for the weather. The view of the coastal line was outstanding. It’s definitely a route I will do again when I will have my PPL.
Here are few pictures of the flight