Sunday, June 1, 2008
A French field - of flight
It's been another long day, but despite hiccoughs, a better one than the interminable wait for a short flight from Venice Marco-Polo to Paris Orly yesterday. Still, we are here now, and today was unforgettable.
One of the cornerstones of the trip we planned was a visit to l'Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis where, every year, they have Le Temps des Hélices airshow.
Airshows are both all the same and yet different, and each nation imprints something of their national identity, both deliberately and accidentally on the event. Here follows a short picture essay of this amazing, unique Gallic event. (You may need to click on and enlarge some of the photos, go on, it won't hurt. If there's enough interest, we can add a few more too. I only took 1,200 or so.)
Part of the recreators' camp in the early morning. An Armee de l'Air Pilote de Chasse and a Free French Garcon.
Two of the hard working groundcrew take a moment's break, and mirror a set of Armorial bearings as they lean against a Bleriot. Fancy the Channel, anyone?
The Bleriot with a Moraine Saulnier - both from the 1900s.
These aircraft have rotary engines. That's because the engine does rotate (See here for a great animation of this elegant design.) Ah, the smell of burnt caster oil.
And a lovely pair of red devils...
I think we are in France, somehow. I'm sure there was no cork tip on the Gauloise either. By the way, the bike's a Bleriot too.
We met up with Paul and Mark at the end of their impressive 10 day around Europe trip (we'll see you and raise you...) and another group of UK visitors, Andrew, Kev and (another) James who were communally blown away by this magnificent event. They were the guests of Andy Jones of the French Memorial Flight, and thanks to Andy, we were also able to join the Flight's evening BBQ in their 20th anniversary year. The 'Tea' was remarkable, and the evening very alcoholic, powered along by a bizarre conversation with young Frenchmen about the 'why' of Vegemite, my fellow Aeroplane scribe Melv's appalling jokes and - I'm not making this up - a good humoured recreation of some of the odder moments from Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines by a French and German duo. If there had been a pair of balloons, blunderbusses and a sewage farm (and La Ferte Alais is one of the few places in the world where that ingredient list is quite likely to be found...) I'm sure a re-run would have taken place for national honour. To hear a well lubricated German engineer stating that 'there is nothing a German Officer cannot do' is something else.