Monday, February 9, 2009

Paris (LFPG) - London (EGLL) / Boeing 747-400 (N705ML) / IFR

I have some great airport scenery for a number of European airports, but flying in Europe is a constant source of frustration. Part of it comes from the hodgepodge of regulations that change every few hundred miles along national borders (especially for VFR), but most of it comes from the sheer lack of documentation. Finding anything resembling charts, plates, or general information is extremely time-consuming, with little bits and pieces here and there on the Web and some things that are simply missing entirely. And there's no place to look up real-world routes, either, nor is it possible to hear any ATC from most countries. It's like the Dark Ages, compared to the U.S.

Nevertheless, this was one of those rare occasions when I decided to fumble my way without adequate paperwork from one European city to another (I don't fly across the pond because it takes too long). Today it was from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris to Heathrow in London. It was a rainy, cloudy day (not to be confused with a dark and stormy night). The procedures and AIRAC in the aircraft are up to date, but I have no documentation telling me which procedures to fly (this was offline), and Europeans like to have a procedure for every combination of transition and runway, with no apparent rhyme or reason to their naming strategy.

Anyway, I finally found something on SimRoutes, then picked a departure and arrival that looked okay. Every arrival into Heathrow seems to include some bizarre, serpentine path near BIG, which I promptly abbreviated to a fairly straight line to the approach. The flight was less than an hour long, and it was pleasant enough. But not knowing so many things about the flight eroded my enjoyment considerably. That's one reason why I flew offline (but there wasn't any useful ATC online, anyway).

This wasn't a commercial flight; I flew my own, private 747-400 in this case (N705ML). The 747 is huge but always a pleasure to fly. We went through a great deal of moderate turbulence, though, with the wings wagging most of the way.

I did an autoland at Heathrow as visbility was marginal. I nearly put one of the main gear in the grass trying to turn onto Golf for gate 322, as I was following the wrong stripe on the ramp and failed to look out the left window. It was raining at Heathrow, just as it was at Roissy, with practically identical weather. It was clear at FL280, though.