It’s already one week that you are flying in the States. It’s a little bit different from your experience in Europe so how does it work to fly here?
To fly here in the US is quite simple, much easier than in European countries like France, Belgium or Germany. What is more complicated is the radio here because you really have to have the ear for it. You have to understand because the American accent is really fast. However, if you mention that you are from Europe and ask to communicate a little bit slower, you will get some help. All and all, for the long navigation flights, there is practically no restricted areas, you can climb up to 18000 ft without speaking to anybody, so this is quite amazing. What you have to be careful about, especially in the area where we are now as I fly back to Arizona tomorrow, is the weather. There are huge thunderstorms here, this is really impressive.
You are here to make the demo for the JMB aircraft? You flew all the week. How many American pilot did you fly with?
Yes, I think that it should be between 50-60 American pilots, but we had many different levels of pilots including non-pilots who are just coming to check out the plane. There was a lot of pilots of course, general PPL owners, so the level is really good, it’s going well, pilots here are really careful. What is a surprise to me a bit is the fact that they are really quickly afraid of the clouds. Back home, we would go a little bit closer to the clouds, local pilots are more careful. The level here is really good of course, we had pilots of F-16, F-22, F-35 so of course there we are speaking another level. They are all in love with the VL3.
You recognize them immediately…
Yes, I feel it immediately, but sometimes they are humble, they don’t say anything, but after 2 minutes of the flight, I would say, you are a military pilot and they would agree… I am enjoying it, it is really funny, I am learning a lot, we are never at the end of learning. It’s now 6 years that I have been flying for JMB in the US, so every year I am learning something new and it’s always a pleasure.
You mentioned, that in 2016 you came with your own VL3 to Oshkosh, following the North route from Europe?
Yes, together with my friend Serge and Harald, two VL3’s aircrafts, we started from Calais because of the customs, then Scotland, Island, Greenland and Canada flying with the 912 engine back then. It was a long flight…
Did you carry an inflatable rescue boat?
Yes, it’s mandatory. It was checked before you leave Scotland, you need to have a rescue boat, special suit, satellite radio and everything that you need to survive a little bit of water. It’s not a complicated flight, what is complicated is to have a good weather. You need to be sure, because if you arrive to Greenland, you can not arrive there and turn back even when the weather is changing really fast there.
It must be a little bit scary, to be on top of the frozen see?
Yes, it is for one hour, but after one hour it’s too late. You say, okay I am here, so I will keep going. The little noise in your engine, you ask yourself what is going on? You can not climb really high, so yes it’s a little bit stressful however, like we always, the engine does not know that you are on top of water, just the pilots know well. I am not a big fan of doing this, but we had to do it and it was super funny.
To fly here with the VL3 which is in an experimental category, which license do you have?
I have the CPL, American IFR where I had to prove that I comply with everything in terms of medical, license and of course my renewal every two years that I had to re-do before to start. I had to find an instructor here who checked my IFR, everything was done in an hour. It was going really well, he was happy to fly with me in a VL3 which was the plane we used so it was cool, no problem.
So here we can fly in IFR with the VL3?
Yes, we can fly with the VL3 in IFR but it has to be equipped with the right IFR instruments, everything doubled but it’s not any issue, like I said, it’s really easy, much easier than in our country.
So US is a aviation country?
Yes, of course, it makes me think bit of Australia because I was flying there also. It’s really made for the pilots, this is super cool. We have a bit of the feeling when we are going back to our country, me the Belgium and for you France, that they are a busy to kill the small aviation by placing lot different rules, but here it is really the freedom and the safety is there also, you don’t have to think different.
Olivier, thank you and again congrats for the Mermoz raid!
Thank you, I think that this one was the most beautiful raid that we ever did. It will be complicated to make it better but we already have a lot of requests for the next edition. It will be cool, we will give you more details because we will make small changes which will be really funny.