Jon flew his first cross-channel trip over the Easter weekend, to have lunch in Le Touquet with his friend and colleague, Alastair. Apart from having to file flight plans and inform French and British border officials, this was a remarkably simple and highly enjoyable journey.
We’d originally planned to go to Jersey for a couple of days, and had even booked hotel rooms, however it very soon became clear that despite the forecast being perfect for flying on Good Friday, the following days were to be dominated by strong winds, heavy rain and hail storms. We opted for a day trip to France instead.
Le Touquet is no more than a 1 hour flight away in a PA28 from Biggin Hill, but because it crosses the English/French border and involves crossing 20+ miles of sea, flight plans have to be filed. In addition Le Touquet customs require 2 hours notice of your arrival, and the UK Border Force want you to file a GAR form 4 hours before you return. I did this all in SkyDemon, and it worked very well – except the flight plan addresses for the return leg didn’t seem to be complete, and I had to insert them manually.
We coasted out at Lydd, speaking to their approach control, and then were asked to freecall Le Touquet tower mid channel in the cruise at FL55.I’d pre-briefed the reporting points into Le Touquet, and once I’d accustomed to the rich French accent, the controller’s English was perfectly understandable and the arrival straight forward. We received very good traffic information from the French controller, and were slotted in behind two other arrivals from the UK.
It was just a short walk to the terminal from the aircraft, and on this occasion there were no customs officials to greet us. We paid our landing fee, the helpful staff called a taxi and within 10 minutes we were sitting down ordering lunch.
We had a delightful walk along the beach promenade, stopped for a drink in a cafe, toured the shops, bought souvenirs, and relaxed. The return weather was always going to be just as good if better than our outbound leg, and so unlike many other trips away, this time I wasn’t constantly checking TAFs and METAR reports! Conscious that Le Touquet can suffer from very sudden sea fog, we didn’t leave it too late to return, but we had enough time to walk the 30 minute route from the town to the airport.
This was a highly pleasurable trip, and one that I intend to do again and again. The landing fee was 30 Euro, which seemed very reasonable, and the staff and ATC were excellent.
Video: Biggin Hill to Le Touquet VFR
Video: Returning from Le Touquet