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262. Friday 1 July 2016. Grounded!

01/07/2016

It’s been a manic few days.

On Tuesday we arrived at Ancona in the late afternoon, but were more or less first off the ferry. But we hadn’t even got off the ramp when the customs wanted to see inside the trailer. And so we delayed a whole ferryful of vehicles while they took a look inside, and got their mates round to have a look as well, and the local reporter took a photo for the Ancona news, and so on. Still, we were away in reasonable time, and headed off to Parma.

Despite having spent most of the day lazing in the sun on the ferry, we were tired by the time we reached Parma, and the hotel was very self-effacing and had no obvious advertisement, so we drove past it and did a large detour before a nice young lady came out waving at us as we drove slowly past to assure us we’d arrived!

Parking the trailer was an issue as always, but the rooms themselves were excellent, and breakfast in the restaurant downstairs was great.

Wednesday was a lovely drive through the Alps, in better weather than on the way over, and we were snapping away all the time.

2016-06-29 Italian Alps

We got to Montagnat in reasonable time, where the hotel was a fairly routine chain, but met our requirements.

I cracked the whip for the following morning as we had a huge 600km to cover and wanted to get to the airport by 1500 in order to get 1264 rigged ready for the BIG day on Friday. In the end, we achieved it pretty much exactly on time, thanks to sterling efforts from Theo and Noel, who did the vast bulk of the driving.

Getting in to Albert was something of a challenge, but we met Dick Forsythe of the WAHT there who helped guided us through the security stuff, and the operations manager Morgan-Jeffery Hugon enthusiastically showed us where we could rig, and there was sufficient space alongside the WAHT’s Albatros DVa and BE2e for storage.

As we were packing up, many hundreds of coaches were lining up on the hard standing ready to ship people into the ceremony the next morning.

Rigging complete, we headed off to Cambrai, where Stephen Saunders (who had re-appeared having come back out from the UK in his car) had found us accommodation.

We set the alarm for 0530 in order to be at the airfield by 0700, but were delayed by half an hour by the multitudinous road blocks in place because of the tight security.

Eventually we got to the hangar, and found the pilots of the BE2e and Albatros DVa preparing their machines. We set to with ours, and were soon ready to go.

Radio Bristol rang and wanted a short chat on air, just as the Royal Family landed to go to the ceremony. We noted the snipers on the roofs around us…

At about 1130 we all headed off to look at the windsock to decide whether it would be possible to fly, and unanimously decided it wasn’t. Although the speed was acceptable, it was too far off the runway line to be safe, when considered with the limitations of the strip itself.

Although we’d been expecting this for more or less a week, the final decision was a very bitter blow, and left all of us thoroughly deflated – and Theo and I absolutely exhausted.

We headed back to the hangar with our heads low, and helped run the engines of both the Albatros and BE2e – both of which appear to have problems which will preclude them flying home until they are resolved.

All in all, a very downbeat end to what might have been an absolutely unique, unforgettable day.

Still, the weather tomorrow morning looks as if it might serve, so we might get flying yet…

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