Le Retour

· by Steve · Read in about 3 min · (586 Words)

I’m back; refreshed, revitalised and a little bit sunburnt. The weather was absolutely fantastic for April - we didn’t see a single cloud for the entire 4 days, and whilst we’re not the laying-on-the-beach types (when you grow up in a place where a beach is always within spitting distance, the novelty isn’t quite there anymore), just being outside walking around for that time was enough to absorb a fair amount of solar radiation, most of it on the bridge of the nose. If it wasn’t the wrong time of year, I could stand in for Rudolph just like that.

The hop over to Normandy was only a 30-minute trip in one of the world’s most fun passenger planes - the Britten-Norman Trislander. These have served our islands for as long as I can remember, and everyone seems to enjoy them, pilots and passengers included, just because everything about flying in them is so unlike modern air travel. It’s basically a (small) minibus with wings and 3 engines strapped to it - you have to take turns to get in because there’s just simple side doors with fold-down seats, and the pilot (there’s only one of them) sits in front of row 1 and chats happily to anyone who feels like it. The plane itself feels wonderfully primitive, especially when you can see all the controls and instruments that whilst they’ve been modernised a little, look mostly like the 1970’s originals, and the noise the engines make as you take off makes you think you’re in a Spitfire. If you’re in the back, it feels like you should be manning a gun turret whilst humming the theme tune to the Dam Busters, and if you’re in the front you can watch all those interesting dials do what they generally do, and resist the urge to flip any of that temping array of switches that are all quite easily within reach. All the modern security precautions feel rather silly when you’re sitting directly over the pilot’s right shoulder and could just as easily hijack the plane via a merciless tickling attack. Given the size of the plane, it’s also rather inspiring to watch an experienced pilot drift one of these things in on a cross-wind from right behind him, watching the runway bob and weave through the front window as he makes little adjustments and almost always landing with more grace than any large aircraft I’ve been in. Several of the pilots I’ve had in the past were retired RAF pilots and I’ve heard them say that they would much rather be flying these than a larger commuter plane, because without the fly-by-wire and all the other modern gizmos it’s more like real flying. I get travel sickness on just about everything that moves, but I can still see their point.

Anyway, good food, good wine and good weather made the trip a worthwhile one (and the wine we packed in our case even survived airport handling, so hurrah). I’d just like to apologise to all French readers for my casual butchering of your language whilst I was over there. I do try, but having spent more time in Italy recently, now I just get mixed up and throw random English and Italian words in, in an attempt to be even more unintelligible than I would otherwise be. Probably something to do with leaving it until the day before to get out the ageing phrase books I guess. Ah well, maybe next time I’ll be more prepared…