D-Day 80 Part 3 – “The Greatest Aerial Armada”

It was eerily quiet at St André…just me and a couple of other aircraft. For a bit I felt as if I was in the wrong place.

And then, off in the distance, some dots in the sky and the gentle drone of several Piper Cubs approaching…

They landed and taxied to the pumps. One of them turned out to be an Auster, not a Cub. It’s the one in British markings:

It turns out that the early arrivals had been given permission to fly on the 6th. They had done a 10-ship formation down the beaches and flown past the commemoration ceremony as the veterans were arriving. They even appeared on French TV.

The following pics are from various participants (not mine):

Wonder of wonders they even got permission to fly while the US President was on the ground. The temporary helipad with Marine One and escorts:

Soon more and more aircraft returned and the queue for the pumps stretched almost all the way to the runway…

“The Longest Yarn”

One of the late arrivals was a French registered Fieseler Storch, the German equivalent of the Cub. Stranger danger..!

We were planning to brief in the evening for the next day’s flight along the beaches, but word came that Joe Biden was still hanging around and timings needed to be flexible. Take off was set at 1000, with brief at 0900, and “wheels” from the hotel in Évreux at 0745 to get to the airfield at 0800.

The food truck opened for business, and the special cider bottles were broken out…

The food was excellent and filling. Hot and spicy:

…and the cidre was much appreciated, as well as the beer on tap. Here’s the Spanish contingent having fun:

Five Spaniards in two Piper Cubs? How did they do that? They brought a car with them, alternating driving legs. It was very useful for logistics and reduced the burden on taxis and other drivers.

On the way up through France one of their Cubs had blown an exhaust. With Iza and Arnaud of the L-Birds team on the phone organising things, the exhaust was taken off, driven to a welder, fixed and back on the aircraft within about six hours.

By now the last aircraft were being refuelled…

…and tied down on the grass as the sun started to set behind the hangars:

There was just time for a quick team photo before the shadow hit the aircraft:

And then it was off to the hotel. Tomorrow would be the big day!