When it comes to planning an adventure, make sure you have all bases covered. By Christelle Launai of Air Courtage.
On 27 April, a fleet of 23 ultralight aircraft left Montauban for a two-week trip to St Louis in Senegal, to participate in the second running of the Mermoz Rally (www. raid-mermoz. com). This adventurous event aims to follow in the footsteps of the great pioneers of aviation -Jean Mermoz and his illustrions colleagues who worked for the Aeropostale Company founded by Pierre-Georges Latécoère almost 100 years ago, and dedicated to airmail transport between the European, African and American continents. The Rally is almost 6,000 miles long, with stopovers in Spain, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal. Along the way participants enjoyed a great diversity of landscapes... and the magic of the desert. The event was essentially designed for the VL3 Evolution, produced by JMB Aircraft, which is particularly suited to this type of experience, as they are one of the fastest side-by-side ultralight aircraft, yet can still land in less than 500ft. As Air Courtage handled the insurance cover for the organisers, and of most participants, I had the great pleasure to fly with them as far as Fez, in Morocco. If you are planning such an adventure for yourself then there are are a few things you might avant to consider prior to setting off on the journey.
It is important to make sure that all visited countries are duly covered by your insurance. In respect of this trip, Mauritania had to beadded for all participants, as this country is a standard exclusion of all aviation policies worldwide. You may also want to enquire about what conditions and limitations apply to coverage of aircraft repatriation in the event of damage that can't be repaired locally. You would probably not be willing to abandon your aircraft in some far-off location - scenic or not.
During the trip
As the best way of dealing with the risks is prevention, please bear in mind that adrenaline can impair your judgement! Willing to make the most of the trip, participants may be more tempted to take-off in circumstances that they wouldn't normally. And do pay particular attention to keeping your aircraft in good condition. Flying longer legs, probably in hotter temperatures, can take its toll so don't assume all is well -check before flight. The Mermoz Rally was a great experience for the lucky participants who took part. Although almost every day they had to face difficulties, each lime the team, which included a mechanic, doctor, instructors, fuel manager, organisers and chief pilot, swung into action to find solutions, and all contributed to the successful completion of the event. Perseverance and friendship were the key factors that lead to this success, as well as a continuons focus on safety. As an encouragement to your safe adventures, I defer to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry from Wind, Sand and Stars: I am not talking about living dangerously. Such words are meaningless to me. The toreador does not stir me to enthusiasm. It is not danger l love. 1 know what I love. It is life.