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CFO European Flyin 2001

Erald dropped me a note one day a while back to share his opinion that it was time for another CFO flyin in Europe. I could not have agreed more, and the die was cast.

Of course his wife Ingrid was an essential partner in this, but she was just as excited and plans started to come together.

Erald had an idea to wrap the CFO gathering around the only airshow in Belgium, at his home airport of Sanicole. He knew the movers and shakers at that event and was sure he could get us special treatment as part of the event.

This would be a first, and most likely an only for CFO. We have always chosen to do our flyins separate from other events, other than very informal gatherings at Oshkosh. They might be the day before or after, but never a formal role in the event. On this special occasion we gave Erald the green light and he put the plans together. We'd see how it unfolded.

The night before the Cardinal group had already started to assemble. Debbie and I had come a few days early to get acclimated to the time zone, which we did with the kids in Amsterdam.

A couple of Flyers arranged their plans to bring them in the night before. We got to get right into Cardinal talk. And we got to see the airport this event would be held at.

Sanicole is a private airstrip, rather short by American standards at 700 meters, about 2100 feet. They tell me that's a nice private airport there.

The land on which it sits is evidently military. One Flyer mentioned that the map had a notation not to make emergency landings on the other side of the road, for fear of bumping into unexploded ordinance. Military indeed!

But the proper side of the road had a feel not unlike a small American airport. The people were friendly, the airplanes familiar and the talk was of flying. It was a comfortable place. We had a nice supper and evening at the airport. The trip back to the hotel at Genk was far from early.

Sure enough, Erald had made us an official part of the program. This was our first clue.. high billing in the program! We were part of the static display, an example of what private aviation looked like for all the attendees.

As such we were given badges, tickets for drinks, access to the VIP areas and all sorts of other benefits. We even had a couple of special areas set up on the airport.

Perhaps most important, we were allowed to move freely among the Cardinals, which were nicely set just off the public area. It worked out very well.

I never did hear the history of the airshow, too busy enjoying it to do any good reporter style research.

But it was clear that much of the aviation being done in this area was based on the military. We rubbed shoulders with the jet pilots and parachutists, and were treated to an early airshow as they practiced their routines.

Erald said that they used to land and take off from the event airport, but a rash of incidents had changed things. Now they took off from another strip somewhere nearby and flew into the area for their routine. That left enough room for the expected 50,000 people to attend.

As our Cardinal Flyers arrived at this scene they were welcomed by the tower, landed in turn and were cleared to special numbered parking areas. This sign let them know that they were on friendly turf.

We heard a few stories of the way that airspace is handled, a subject that would come up much later at departure time. As a private airport it was important to be on good terms with the powers that be.

Erald had the way greased, the tower seemed to practically know each Cardinal Flyer by name as they arrived. He had prepared the authorities well.

In time a good number of Cardinals arrived, by my count it was 8 but may have been 10. The picture above is a composite, since they had the long-term folks parked separate from the overnight people, but this was essentually the lineup.

We started our official CFO event the day before the flyin, which had a normal feel to it. While folks were setting up and working hard to prepare, we retired to a large blue tent where Erald had prepared things for us.

I was able to plug into a large video monitor and the discussion began. A few folks had questions, and I was able to bring up photos to help the discussion along.

Of course the discussion led to more questions, to more photos etc. In spite of language we had a nice talk about things Cardinal.

It was interesting to me that this was a very normal discussion. Folks were concerned about the same things as at our events in the states, and came up with not only a few new questions but many new answers. I was reminded that Paul and I are less experts than we are reflectors of the expertise of all who fly Cardinals.

It was interesting to notice a number of differences in the Rheims Cardinals. An extra screw here or there or a different detail, there were enough things to keep me wondering a bit. Just as I would point out something that I thought was unusual we'd see that most of the Cardinals on the field had that feature. It was interesting and a bit humbling.

And just like in the USA, sooner or later we got down to looking at the aircraft themselves. It appears that CFO members around the world are not afraid to get their hands dirty and take a look at what's really going on.

One detail that came quickly to my eye was the silencing systems on some of the Cardinals. This one came from Germany, where they have the strictest requirements for sound levels.

I heard this one depart but it was hard to tell if it was much quieter. Our ears adjust so quickly.. it did seem to have a different note at least, and probably was lower on the decibel scale.

Only the German registered aircraft had this sort of external modification for exhaust.

For instance, this FG had the full blown system that I had seen on other aircraft in a previous visit to Germany. This system was labelled as a C177B muffler system, so it was made for the aircraft, not a retrofit from something else. I have a video of this aircraft departing that we may need to listen to together. To my ear as I was taping it was not dramatically different. Several people commented that on a Cardinal much of the ground noise may be from the prop, which helps make sense of this observation.

A few people find the solution to these issues by keeping their aircraft under FAA certification. This seems to reduce the hassles in several areas, replacing them with the new hassles of finding an FAA certified mechanic to sign off maintenance.

Oh, and in Europe they call them Engineers. I suppose it's best to stay on their good side as well.

With the field prepared for the flyin, the participants (of which we were a part) were ready for an evening of conversation. We had waved goodby to the two who came for a short visit and retired to the airport building for supper.

There was plenty of good fellowship among the larger group, since the afternoon routine warmups had been a virtual private airshow. The pilots, workers and VIPs had plenty of ground to cover as they discussed the days flights.

Here again I got the feeling that in Europe, those who aviate tended to flock together more than I was used to. Where in the US we might find the military, commercial and private aviators sticking more to themselves, here there was more tendency to mingle.

It was fun to have Duane and Audrey Allen in attendance from California. They were able to work this visit into their travel plans, and Duane was everywhere with his camera.

I'm sure that we'll see an address shortly where Duane will push up a number of his photos to share with us/

Duane spent a few hours trying to get those pictures up right away, but he had not had any luck with that by the time I left.

The European approach on such things seems to be to provide complete systems, computer printer etc, with a system that lets you push up files from home then pull them down on the road. They must have a more Desktop based culture.

Once the official airshow started we found that again Erald had worked things out well for us. We had a special area for CFO folks to watch the airshow from.

With all those people on the field, a clear view with chairs was quite a precious commodity. And Erald plied us with coupons good for free beverages, which made the warm afternoon quite bearable. It was an excellent day for an airshow.

And an airshow we had! There were plenty of acts that any attendees of Oshkosh would have felt at home with, including routines by an Extra and a Sukoi.

A few of the local military jets came by to beat up the field, some unfamiliar ones with names like Jaguar and a more familiar F-16 Falcon.

This photo showed a mix of familiar and rare, as a P-51, a Spitfire, a Hurricane and a Corsair flew by. We got to see them together and hear them separately, a very interesting and uniquely european combination.

At the other end of the spectrum was the crane formation. Similar to the 'flying home' story (or so I'm told), these fellows had trained these cranes to fly with their ultralight.

They brought the cranes to the runway in a van, took off in a less populated part of the airfield and brought them over in formation.

It was interesting to watch them fly together. The Ultralight was working hard to find a steady pace, perhaps due to the winds, but the cranes adjusted with grace.

This ultralight had a substantial wire guard around the propeller, evidently a little bumping is not uncommon during flight. It was quite the thing to see.

Erald continued to bring us from event to event, always another surprise around the corner. Duane captured him in one of his directorial moments, here most likely letting us know that it was time for a barbecue.

Once the airshow ended, the public slowly drifted away. A couple of our Flyers hoped to get out of the airport before the day ended, in once case with enough time to get home before closing time.

And again we faced the European attitude toward airports. In the US an airport that closes simply becomes uncontrolled, open season, fair game for any who would choose to stop by. But in Europe they really roll up the runways.

Luckily EBLE was a little more open, and our aviators were able to depart after the ATC folks left, but not without challenge.

I think it taxed the depth of Eralds diplomacy to negotiate, but he found a person in authority who said the Cardinal could depart if only we could get all the people off the airport overrun, where they were admiring one of the military helicopters. Eventually this was accomplished and the way seemed clear.

No sooner had they climbed into the Cardinal, however, when another helicopter was towed to the runway and deposited, there to sit while a thorough preflight and warmup had been accomplished.

Eventually that obstacle flew away, with a short airshow of his own. I suspect our German friends will always remember their view of the Apache helicopter in a strafing run down the runway as they back-taxied. From our perspective it looked pretty neat!

A few of us wiled away the evening, using up the last of Erald's beverage tickets, and enjoying a few more discussions on all things aviation. There was plenty to talk about, between learning about the differences and comparing the similarities.

In time darkness arrived, later than normal due to our northerly location, and we returned to the hotel. Morning would bring departure of many Cardinals from EBLE and of a few of us by car and train.

Allens went on to Brussels to visit friends, we took a few days to visit Paris. As I write this we're over Nova Scotia, headed for home. We'll remember this CFO flyin for some time.

Already there is talk of doing another European CFO flyin. Will it be wrapped around an airshow? Perhaps not, as that format was limiting to those who might prefer to fly in and out. But something will come together.

In the meantime, if you want to get a little culture at a CFO flyin, you might want to check out Paul's plans for getting together a CFO flyin in Australia. Now that would be an adventure!

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