Can you tell us a bit about the Nielles-les-Calais aerodrome?
The Neilles les Calais aerodrome was established in 1992. The start of its creation was led by several people who set up the base by erecting a hanger for storing ultra-light aircraft. Then the base was approved by the General Management of civil aviation. Then after a declaration was filed with the prefecture, a new association was born, called the Astomates.
Many years have gone by since its creation and some people have left for professional reasons. One of the pioneers passed away prematurely. Others simply stopped flying in order to manage the site. Only a few pilots remain determined to support the on-going existence of Nielles.
Since it could not be set up at the Marck aerodrome, Opale’R joined Nielles in 2014 to continue paramotor flying. This perfect cohabitation proves that the combination of ultra-light activities can turn into an advantage for everyone.
How did you develop you passion for ultra-light aviation?
Since I was very young, I dreamed of attaining the feeling of freedom that comes with flying. Then my passion for mechanics steered my education in that direction. Later around Marquise, I put together a small group of volunteers to supervise young people with an interest in model aircraft. The association of “big names” for model aircraft, experienced pilots and aviation devotees like me made it possible to develop quickly: what a pleasure it was to pass on our knowledge to a new generation and see their own constructions develop in the air! This journey lasted several years. Spending a lot of time at the Marck, Alprech and St. Inglevert aerodromes does not come without risks! The fact of seeing amateur pilots take off, land, and work on their own aircraft really made me grow in my own right.
The aeronautical association Louis Blériot and its teachers also assisted me a lot with instruction pedagogy.
Since then there have been surprising meetings with training and drone enthusiasts, work with an electronics genius who developed innovative products for the school, and this has only encouraged me to share my knowledge further and pursue my passion to the fullest. You can understand what I mean when I say that this activity does not come to fruition through the work of only one person, but through the investment of all the volunteers who work and give their time only out of devotion.
Who can fly ultra-light aircraft?
Sessions are organised for people starting at the age of 13 to initiate them in the theory of navigation, the history of aviation, regulations, safety, meteorology… Then an exam is given by the Committee of Initiation and Space and Aeronautical Research at the Academy of Lille.
People at the age of 15 can then start flying. They must take a theory course before passing a common theory exam for all ultra-light classes. Once you’ve passed, this exam remains valid for the rest of your life, like a driver’s license. At the same time, you can take practical courses in an ultra-light category of your choice, paramotor, ultra-light trike, fixed-wing…
To practice, generally you just need to be in good physical condition, approved by doctor, and also have a partner willing to devote the time needed for this discipline…
Exploring without too much difficulty the magnificent landscapes of the Opal Coast.
The charm of the different colours of the seasons.
The endless pleasure of starting up the motor, the rigor of the checklist before departure, lining up with the airstrip and the thrust that propels you into the air…
So many pleasures for those who have earned it!
From 8 years old and up, it is also possible to fly in a two-seater without any aeronautical skills, but only as a passenger.
How much time does it take to be able to fly solo?
Flying is not natural. It’s normally reserved for birds. That’s why this learning process must only be pursued according to a person’s abilities. Some people only need a course of two months and others need many months. All of that depends on the level of hard work and commitment each person puts into it as well as personal or professional constraints. The fundamental component in this development always remains the meteorology of our region. Of course we do not force future pilots to quickly pass the exams, so we only offer instruction rates, with equipment included, that encompass the start of the course through the passing of the exam.
You organise air “baptisms”. Can you explain this a bit?
For paramotor aircraft, we are equipped with a craft that is able to carry people with reduced mobility. In our team we have two doctors as well as two masseuse/physical therapists who can determine if it is possible for people to fly or not.
For a bit now, it has also be possible to perform an air “baptism” with a paramotor by taking off on your feet. That means that the instructor and the student, or the “baptised”, are under the same wing. However that still requires solid physical condition in order to run during the take-off.
This method is now used in the paramotor certification training. Without this method, the student’s first flight would be done alone and he would only be in contact with the instructor via radio. It gives the impression of being a bit alone for the first flight.
We also have an ultra-light trike, a real air motorcycle that we can push up to 62 mph per hour, It has a fuel capacity of 13 gallons enabling a nearly four-hour flight.
For the flight, we adapt to the wishes of each person, while of course complying with all regulations.
Whatever aircraft is used, we can communicate with the pilots during the flights through microphone/speaker systems that are fitted in our helmets. Flight suits are available in all sizes.
Is there a specific area that you enjoy flying over the most?
When we take off from Marck or Nielles, we are spoiled by choice. Everything is excellent. We have a magnificent region. The baptisms are general done on a strip of coast up to Boulogne-sur-Mer. Then we pass over the quarries in Marquise on the return to the air base. With students who have recently earned their certification, I normally ask them to make a flight above land. Flying above the area of Audomarois is also great. Often people who are first discovering ultra-light flying never imagined the richness that nature has given to us.