Pilot Story - New Caledonia
Dernière mise à jour : 16 mai 2021
Thursday, February 15th 2018
Paris – Caracas
Position : 29°N 22'0” / 55°W 51'0”
800km East of Bermuda
820 km/h (with 100 km/h headwind) My colleague (let's call him “M.”) told me his past experience, as a transport pilot in the French Air Force. One of his stories in particular made me dream and travel instantly. I hadn't any choice but sharing it with you. This career diversity, with its unbelievable experiences, makes Air France cockpits uniques in the world.
Aircraft: C160 Transall
Crew: 5 (one captain, one pilot, one navigator, one flight engineer, one cargo hold flight engineer)
Air Force Base: Nouméa, New Caledonia, Pacific.
Period: March 1991 – March 1993
9AM, local time. Daylight takeoff from “Nouméa la Tontouta” in a Transall. 40Mn of flight to join “l'île des Pins”. On board, mechanical pieces for territorial police and dry supplies. After takeoff, right turn, maintaining 500ft above the lagoon, at a speed of 210kt.
A Concorde pilot, who asked to fly the Air Calédonie's ATR 42-300, takes off from Nouméa Magenta airport at 9.15AM. Above a stunning blue sea, we were speechless facing such a marvel. The ATR is climbing to FL70 (7000ft).
From up there, he has a diving view on the lagoon, and can easily observe the aquatic faun. 9.22AM, Air Calédonie's captain contacts us on frequency to warn us about “foam and whales, 15km from radial 200 of the Ouen island.” We were really touched by his generosity, because he had to continue his route… After a brief consultation, we decide to have a look at it.
To do so, we needed to deviate a bit from our flight plan. Believe me, it was worth it. Only few seconds after we arrived on the scene, we had the chance to surprise a whale and her baby whale rising to the surface. Apnoea champions, humpback whales need to rise to the surface sometimes, to take some oxygen. And if you are lucky, they are real pro when it comes to show off.
What a show…! After a couple of minutes in wonderment, to watch what mother Nature more beautiful has to offer us, we needed to catch our route back, to land at the “île des Pins”, and join this much talked-about ATR (who arrived a couple of minutes before us).
Because of his plane disembarking, we didn't have the chance to thank this captain, who offered us one of our best airman moments.