When James Anderson suggested I fly his brand new ELA 0-7(S) back from Spain to the UK – provided he could come too – I was only too happy to oblige.We’d been down to Spain a month earlier to do a few hours of shakedown flying – which simply showed the aircraft was in wonderful shape,needed no adjustments and was ready to go.

So it was that I stepped off an EasyJet flight at Malaga to meet James in seriously baking heat.We travelled by train to Cordoba and thence to Fuento Obejuna,where the ELA factory is based, by bus..The following morning was spent at the factory,me to sort out the backseat area which would be my ‘home’for the next few days – trying to organise my maps in neat order for the trip.James had bought a brand new Garmin 296 and insisted on having that fitted and ELA finished the job off with new registration lettering. A lieu surly lunch and we had run out of excuses why not to go so in the mid afternoon sun, temperatures peaking at 40C we lifted off from the strip at Fuento Obejuna for our first leg to Cassarubious,just south of Madrid – loaded with our bags and 72litres of fuel. In the cruise,indicated airspeed showed a steady 80/85 mph,pretty good considering the very full load,heat and thin air and after some interesting countryside,Cassarubious showed on the nose at just over two hours.

Refuelled and after a walk around some of the very interesting hangars at Cassarubious it was time for the next and final leg of the day,around the complex Madrid control zone out to the north toward our overnight stop at Roblidillio.Unfortunately the Garmin just wouldn’t perform for him – so it was left to me to map-nav our way through the various zones of Madrid.Fortunatly I have always enjoyed DR navigation and this next leg was particularly challenging.Anyway,map agreed with watch and Mk1 eyeball and in due course we were well to the north of Madrid with the friendly people of Roblidillio.

The great thing about this kind of flying is that it is a real adventure.It’s seat of the pants flying and never being quite certain of where you are going to finish up on a particular day – or who you are going to meet along the way.Fortunatly Leandro,the proprietor of a small shop at the airfield delivered us to a small hotel in his village.

The next day(Friday) dawned clear and hot.James was concerned to get his GPS fixed and after a lot of to and froing on the phone,it was agreed that the Garmin dealers in Madrid would couture out a replacement(195) the following morning,so we spend the day relaxing and doing some local flying from Roblidillio. As ever,things never quite go to plan and James replacement GPS didn’t arrive until midday Saturday.Never mind,James was working to make sense of the replacement and whilst I was very happy to map nav(noit the easiest thing over the Spanish desert),even a ‘DME’ distance to run to the next TP(turning point) would be useful.Once airborne I let James play with his toy and as ever, happily flew the ELA from the back.Eventully his head came up to announce he had managed to fix the next TP into his box of tricks which also gave us a ground speed of nearly 90knots,thanks to a light southerly wind.Out next stop was 150 miles north at an Ultralight field called Lumbier,fairly close to the Pyrenees.The miles ticked away over a mix of mountains and dry,featureless plains with little in the way of habitation,along our track. Lumbier is a small airfield and we landed there in baking heat – and absolutely no one around.It was completely deserted.No shop,no fuel,no nothing.

The options were either to sit around in the hope that someone would turn up to fly – or try another airfield and the only was around was the airport at Pamplona,about 20 miles up the way.I had been told that ultralight were not allowed ar major airports but I gave Pamplona ops room a phone call to ask anyway.Surprise,surprise, “no problem “ came the reply to my request to land there.”we are an ultralight gyroplane “,I repeated. “Sokay” replied the ops man. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth,we quickly lifted off the tarmac at a still deserted Lumbier and head to Pamplona,establishing two way comms at about 10 miles.I reported ‘echo’ point and then told to report downwind,which I did.It was only on finals that the controller asked whether we were an ultralight – to which of course I confirmed we were. “Ah” says the bemused controller, “ultralight aircraft are not allowed to land here…….except in an emergency.Do you wish to declare an emergency?”

“Negative”,I replied,but adding “ we are short of fuel”.

The response…”Okay..Echo Papa Six is cleared to land Pamplona”.

The landing fee ?. Four Euros!!. We were told it was not possible to file a flight plan for an ultralight from Pamplona and they could only let me out via echo point(I suppose to keep us cleat of the ILS on the N/S runway)..So we booked out VFR back to Lumbier where at least wee could stay and anyway,I wanted some local views on the route I had selected through the mountins of the Pyrenees on our next leg into France. At least when we arrived back at Lumbier there was some activity,including Javier who was the local ultralight instructor there.A quick scan over the map confirmed that my routing via the Pyrenees was good,with no hidden problems or power cables!. As to flight plans between countries,they simply don’t bother –the Spaniards fly into French airfields and vise versa –sans flight plans. So with bags of fuel left from our trip into Pamplona it was farewell to Javier and off on our next leg,an evening flight through/over the Pyrenees. I have to admit,that,prior to getting that far,I did have some slight anxieties about flying a gyroplane over such hostile ground.Howevr the ELA had performed beautifully thus far,even through the thermals and high ground behind is,that it really had inspired confidence and so it was that the flight over the Pyrenees was made comparatively easy and straightford by the wonderful aircraft. Our route took us just north of the Pamplona zone and then choosing the right valley to fly due north toward the border.The valley was fine,the floor climbing steadily and we with it,basically following the road.However the road chose to disappear into a tunnel and ahead and towering above us was the most emormous ridge,with high peaks either side.Things were getting serious.From then on it was a series of high ridges and then drops beyond of several thousands of feet and then several repeat performances of the same. Eventually we crossed the border and were able to descent a little,eventually to spot our destination airfield,the beautiful alpine grass strip of Itxassou. Itxassou is set in the French Basque country not far from Bierittz and we were greeted by John Claude Larre who seemed delighted and surprised to see us and the ELA.We just managed to squeeze the 0-7 into the hangar with the gliders and off to find a hotel in the village. It was Saturday evening and the French had just won their latest match and our useless ‘team’ had lost to Portugal – so the French had a double celebration that evening!. John Cl;aude fortunately was not a football fan so we had a few beers and did the usual aviation chat and stories.We settled down to a wonderful dinner and John Claude promised to collect us the following morning,together with cans for fuel,which we could get filled at the local mini-market.

Sunday morning dawned dank and horrible.There being very little wind to blow the mist away,vis remained at about 4 /5 kilometers,right into the afternoon.Bierittz were forcasting thunderstorms along part of our route and recommended we route further north up the French coast before turning inland nr Bordeaux.Fortunatly all the huge danger areas in that neck of the woods were ‘cold’ that day,so we could route low level parallel to the coast.So it was that we bid farewell to our French hosts and lifted from Itxassou and a very misty afternoon and grubbed our way around the Bierritz zone – helped by being transponder equipped,so they knew exactly where we were,in less than good visibility. The route up the coast took us to Arcachon(famous for the big sand dunes) and we landed there to top up with fuel,never quite knowing whether or when we were going to meet one of the forecast thunderstorms and therefore have to divert from our intended track – so having lots of fuel was the order of the day.Arcachon proved equally friendly and helpful and after a leisurely pit stop and pick up of fuel and weather,we were on our way inland to route around the south/east corner of the Bordeaux zone and then north over the Gironne toward our intended overnight stop at Saumer.We actually had to divert from track several times and,coupled with a headwind, we decided it prudent to drop into Niord Suousse,where again e were met by friendly helpful people,who opened up the fuel pumps specially for us,to get us on our way.After more good wishes and free Cola,we were on our way for the final leg of the day,to Saumer on the River Louire,arriving there in early evening.The place was deserted apart from a few parachutists and we negotiated with them to put the ELA ‘to bed’ next to their Pilatus Porter.A hair raising ride in the club van had us delivered to an extremely nice(and expensive) hotel in time for drinks and dinner.Parachutist generally are a pretty weird band of brothers,but also extremely warm and generous.The group at Saumer were no exception. Monday morning dawned slightly gloomy.It had rained during the night.I had arranged to meet James at 8.30am in an attempt to get airborne before lunch(for the first time on the whole trip).No James.The receptionist could not stir him..”Mesuer,maybe he is dead”. “Okay,well if you manage to revive him,tell him I’ll be at the airport waiting”. I hopped over the hotel fence and yomped across the airfield to the tower,the news from mesuer ‘meteo ‘ was not good.The sky was black and gloomy to the south and thunderstorms threatened to cut us off to the north and west.I did the maps and freqs and stomped around the place,kicking buckets in frustration.If we didn’t get off soon,we would’nt get off at all and the forecast for Tuesday was little better.Eventually James turns up.He looks guilty,” ok,we ready to go”. .

I run up the stair for conference with M Meteo.”Ah mesuer,if you go now,immedietly,maybe it is possible”. I run downstairs and onto the apron, check brakes on and start up,to get warmed up whilst we get suited up and stuff stowed away.We are airborne for 10.50am,a record for the trip. We cross the Liore and the leg is Saumer to Dieppe.I map read for the first 10 miles.He’s a little left of track which I tell him to correct.At forty miles there should be Le Mans and that’s big enough not to miss – isn’t it.I make the mistake of putting the map down,relaxing and taking in some of the French countryside.Eventually what should have been Le Mans appeared – but it wasn’t.I ask James what the heading is and his reply is not what I wanted to hear. “that’s way off”,I say. “Well it’s got to be right ‘cos that’s what the GPS says” There follows a debate about the merits of GPS versus a solid line drawn on a map,helped by a compass and watch. Ten miles further up the way and I eventually win the argument and the ELA is put on a northerly heading to take a cut at our original track.I work feverishly in the back to try and fix our position but the French countryside is being awkward and anonymous – much of it looking the same.We drone on,constantly making time and fuel calculations and eventually at 2hrs.40m.we cross the Seine and we are where we want to be at last.At just under three hours we land at Dieppe,having done the great circle route to get there.

At Dieppe,it’s hot and deserted.We make our way to the airport restaurant/bar.There are two people,a woman behind the bar and a bloke sat on a stool,with his face buried in the glass of something or other,only looking up to take a drag from the fag,held in the other hand.We order drinks and casually mention that we are flying to England.The geezer with the fag mutters,with a weak smile,that it is not possible to go ‘direct from here’,adding,’I am the tower and I am closed so you can’t file a flight plan from ‘ere’.

I politly say,”no problem”,we will go up to Le Touquet and file from there”. However,since we’ve done a tour of northern France to get here,we are a tad short of fuel so I add, “ but we would like to buy some fuel”. A look of sheer delight from our host ,a lump of ash falling from the end of his fag as he says,” ees not possible,I am the fuel and I am closed”.

Now I’m getting really pissed-off.

“so when d’you reopen then?” With a flourish our friend replies,” tomorrow afternoon”.

I’m becoming bored with diplomacy and just want to smack the bloke. I leave James to have a go and sidle out into the sunshine,settle myself against the ELA and quietly write up my journal.Eventually a friendlier Frenchman comes along and we chat about flying and the merits of PT6’ v Allison turbines and it turns out that he is the pilot for the resident parachute club.I tell him the story of Mesuer Twat from the tower and he laughs and I’m relieved to hear that everyone else on the field thinks he’s a Twat also. Anyway it turns out the Parachute club have access the the fuel so,provided we are happy to pay them cash,they can dispense us fuel.Bingo,I give James the SP and we are quickly fuelled and we thank our parachuting friends profusely.I’ll never call any of them weird again. It’s seriously hot as we launch for a fairly leisurely 50minute flight up the French coast past Beurck Sur Mer and into Le Touquet. At Le Touq I leave James to look after fuel whilst I go off in search of flight ops to file a flight plan for the Channel crossing into the UK. Paperwork done,we don our lifejackets and look like we’re just off to a fancy dress party.Anxious not to be seen looking so ridiculous,it’s time to go. We get clearance to taxi and the tower mentions that Rochester,where I’d filed to,would not be accepting traffic after a particular time.I acknowledge and we get airborne.The flight up the coast and the channel crossing are completely uneventful.The ELA purrs away.We cross the cliffs north of Dover and eventually pitch up at Rochester.Sadly they have just closed and can’t accept us so we elect to cross the Thames estuary and land at Southend On the ground,it’s a hot sticky evening and after putting the toy to bed we walk to an hotel around the north side of the field.Here is the culture shock after Spain and France.The hotel is naff,expensive and the food rubbish.I walk out in search of somewhere better. The following morning I’m up early and have everything arranged in neat piles for the final legs home. We are ready to go by 10.30am but are grounded by a headset wiring problem which is eventually fixed by the early afternoon,We eventually get airbone at 2.00,amid the threat of developing thunderstorms in the south and midlands and head north for a planned landing at Gamston.The flight is relaxed with generally good visibility and we top up with fuel at Gamston for the final leg to Kirkbride. North from Gamston,we call Doncaster for a flight information service which is acknowledged.The controller gives us the info and say “but I don’t suppose you have a transponder?”. “Yes,we do actually”.You could almost hear him falling off his perch with surprise/ .So with a ‘squawk’ set up we cruised up through the numerous military air traffic zones including Leeming.As their circuit was clear we could track directly up the A1 to Scotch Corner.As we neared Leeming I asked the controller whether they would like to take a closed look at what they had been talking to for the last 30minutes.A pause before they came back with an ‘affirmative’,so we were cleared in very low level.As we whistled past the control tower.we could see everyone inside,silhouetted against the lowering sun,waving very enthusiastically at us.It really was a lovely sight. Bidding farwell to Leeming we crossed the Pennines into Cumbria and 2 hours after leaving Gamston we were in the circuit at Kirkbride to land for the last time.

The trip was truly superb.The ELA made the journey easy.It performed flawlessly and covered the 1240miles in around 18hours,averaging around 70knots over the ground.Not bad for a fully loaded two seat gyroplane,flying in pretty hot conditions.

Would I do it again ?. You bet…wouldn’t you ?.

Roger Savage

Roger was recently asked to fly James Anderson’s new ELA 0-7s back to the UK from the factory near Cordoba. Picture shows Roger(left) with James Anderson just before climbing aboard the 0-7 for the epec journey back to the UK.

Sunset of Roblidillio,North of Madrid

Typical Spanish desert landscape on the flight from Roblidillio to Pamplona at the foot of the Pyrenees.

Crossing the Pyrenees from Pamplona into France

Crossing the Seine.

Crossing the English coast – white cliffs of Dover.

Roger (left) and James at Southend airport after crossing the channel.

Almost home – Passing Penrith in Cumbria.

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