Flying locally in Fayence

What I like about Fayence is the familiar feeling. I come here since 1994 with (large) interruptions in between, and though it always feel as if you left only the day before. They have got the same instructors as when I came here 15 years ago, the same procedures and the same cozy atmosphere.

By 11.15am, the air mass gets unstable and the first pilots making long overland flights take off. By 12.30pm , most of these experienced pilots are all gone. When you fly locally, you can take off after lunch.

The Fayence airfield is located at 250 meters altitude. They typically tow you up until a height of 950 meters close to what they call here “La Pente”, meaning the military airfield of Canjuers. This “pente” is a first hill where one can easily find thermals. Pilots tend to fly very close, and I mean VERY close – some 7 meters from the hill to get the best winds. This is very exciting. From here, one continues to “Malay Sud” a mountain somewhat higher, where you need to have a minimum safe altitude of some 1400 meters to make it back to Fayence in every condition. From the Malay Sud,  you fly very close amongst the hills to Malay Nord where you need to have a MSA of 1600 meter. You’re now nearing the outskirts of the “local” of Fayence, meaning the Mont Lachens at 1700 meters. You cannot cross the Mont Lachens when flying locally, that’s forbidden.

I made some 4 local flights following this path, all of these flights took a couple of hours (between 2 and 4). This is pure fun and it boosts your energy levels so much

Briefing in Fayence

After the splendid flight I made to the Mont Blanc with Michel Trial, I was authorized to fly “solo” again on a glider in the local area (note that I did not glide for two years – although I started gliding thirty years ago) This means in Fayence that you get a Ka 6 at your disposal and that you can fly from Fayence to the Mont Lachens (1700m).

How does a typical day looks in Fayence ?

As of 8.30 am, pilots are gathering in the local bar for a typical French breakfast, meaning a croissant and a (strong) little coffee. By 8.55 am , all the pilots go to the briefing room where Christian GAUDEFROY (the chief pilot of Fayence) starts his daily briefing at 9am sharp. It is not appreciated when you arrive late. The briefing consists of several parts: 1) short discussion about the flying activities of “yesterday” whilst mentioning the most important facts. 2) A very detailed and professional weather briefing by “Pierre” , covering all weather aspects you can imagine. After Pierre’s weather briefing, you know what to expect. 3) Who flies what ? Every pilot needs to tell what he likes to fly and chief pilot Christian Gaudefroy distributes the individual planes to the pilots so that everything matches wonder well. He marks the initials of every pilot on the blackboard. 4) Now, all pilots get a parachute and a battery 5) Finally, pilots go to the hangars to tow the gliders outside and put all the material in the airfield. This typically takes an hour, so by 10.30 am all gliders are ready for the day.

the longest flight

My license is still valid, but it is always a good idea (and it is an obligation as well) to make a check flight with an instructor. In Fayence, you have several professional gliding instructors as well as a chief pilot. One of the instructors, I’m close with is Michel Trial. He just became 65 years and he brings 25.000 hours of gliding experience. What I like about Michel is his enthusiasm. After so many years, he is still extreme enthusiastic about every single flight. He has a profound knowledge of all the mountains in the Southern Alps…if I would only 10% of his experience, I would be happy.

Michel proposed me to take the ASH-25 glider, which is one of the best you can rent in Fayence. We took off at 11.15 am sharp heading North into the Alps. This became the most exceptional gliding flight of my life, breaking all records. Or what should one think about : 550 km realized, more than 3000 meter altitude gain and a total duration of 8 hours. Awesome in every single way !

Our plan was to fly straight to the Mont Blanc. We got near, but did not manage to fly around it. I guess we would have needed some oxygen as well. We were able to climb to 4200 meter, which is really high for a glider.

Michel teaches me how to pick up the best winds in the Alps, we tend to fly very close (less than 5 meters) from the ridges. A sharp lookout is therefore always necessary. When flying with Michel, I notice he has a profound respect for the mountains he flies over every day. He knows the hideaways of many birds and 

Going to Fayence

I started again with gliding this summer. I practice gliding since 1979, the last years I exclusively do so in Fayence. This is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France.
Fayence is one of a series of “perched villages” overlooking the plain between the southern Alps and the Esterel massif, which borders the sea between Cannes and Saint-Raphaël. Fayence is a charming old Provençal village popular with tourists. The village is located on the road to Mons, which later on joins the Route Napoléon (linking Nice to Grenoble through the Alps).
Some high-standing resorts have settled nearby the village in the recent years: the Domaine de Terre Blanche at Tourrettes, Var and Domaine de Fayence attracting a foreign clientele.  The airfield is located 1.5 kilometres (1 mi) south of Fayence and Tourrettes.It is home to a large gliding club, the Association Aéronatique Provence Côte d’Azur (AAPCA) and to three microlight schools. Runway 10L has two small tarmac landing strips for the exclusive use of gliders.
The aerodrome of Fayence-Tourettes (ICAO: LFMF) is one of the only airfields in Europe where one can practice gliding the whole year round…even in winter time. Amazing !

Here’s a view from the village of Fayence, which overlooks the airfield.