Thursday, August 26, 2010

Le Blanc, France 1973

I must say that it is not always possible to enjoy the things to see and do in the different parts of the world when you are working.  Work generally takes a priority over everything else and so a lot can be missed out on if time does not permit it.  The other thing that enters the picture, is there is always time constraints and a schedule to maintain.  We were not on a tight schedule for this assignment, but I did have a lot to do and weather and unforeseen maintenance problems were always a concern.  Most of my time was focused on two of the three student pilots and the third pilot when ever he could find time for flight training.  I couldn't help thinking about WWII and the major battles that must have been fought in these wide open spaces of France.  So much of the country was not populated and every now and then you would see an enormous mansion, or maybe you could even call it a French castle.

A French Chateau

It was not uncommon to see these large old buildings like this sprawled over big acreages.   The training went very well and I was able to complete all the flight training necessary to give flight checks.  The third remaining pilot elected not to continue the training because of his other business commitments.  One thing I did learn about this small village community, is that they were very active in flying gliders.  On the weekends the families would gather at the small  airport and take turns flying several club gliders.  The women would prepare picnic lunches and the kids would play games in the grassy fields.  Everyone throughout the day would help out taking turns flying the tow airplane or helping hold the wings of the gliders in place to make ready for take off.

I had time to get a little stick time in a glider

So with the training and other business nearly completed, Jack and I were at least taking advantage of all the hospitality that was given us during our stay.  Sometimes at the days end.  We would sit outside on the sidewalks in front of our hotel and enjoy a glass of wine and wave and visit with the local people.

Hotel in Le Blanc, France

One of the student pilots I trained, Pierre Ding (pictured below).  What a character.  We became good friends and later on we met up in the United States.  Pierre rode a very vintage Harley Davidson motorcycle and many times late at night, I could hear him roaring down the empty streets of Le Blanc from my hotel room.  I think he was quite surprised that I could ride his motorcycle without any difficulty.  These old Harley's had what was called a suicide clutch and were not user friendly to the rider.  I cut my teeth on riding old Harley's in my younger days.  Like anything else, you never forget.

Pierre Ding and his vintage Harley

We had been here in Le Blanc for nearly three weeks and it was time for us to pack up and head back to Paris in our rental car.  Jack slept all the way back allowing me to do the driving.  If you think folks in California are rude drivers, it's nothing like driving in France.  These people would honk their horns at you and roll down the window and shake their fist.  Jack and I arrived back in Paris late in the day and checked back into our hotel just across from the Eiffel Tower.  We treated ourselfs to a nice big dinner and discussed our plans for our trip to England.  Jack would catch a train from Paris and go out to the coast of the English Channel and I would go back to the Le Bourget airport and prepare the J-2 for the channel crossing.  We were all done in France and I was looking forward to being in a country where everyone spoke English.  More on this later.............................

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