Flight Log of Sous-leutenant Gerald Anoise: Flying from Etampes to Belfort-Chaux by way of Epinal-Mirecourt.
So today is the big day, I start my flight to the last Escadrille in France flying Bleriot-XI-Militaires,
BL-47, originally from Rheims, but since the Alsace region is not so busy, the big wigs at Armee d' la Aire have shipped the squad and their old workhorses, to sunny, (and cold) E-SE France in foothills of the Vosges. Word has it we will be flying cover escort for a Maurice Farman squad at Chaux, Esc. MF-29.
It is a cold morning, I have layered up in most of my clothes and the sheepskin sidcot to make packing my kit easier. But surprise. I have a companion. Emmanuel Poitiere also headed to Chaux. He is a Sargeant and has been interning at observation and running the Chaux aircraft shop. He was at Etampes readying our latest 'new' aircraft, 3 Bleriots, and has a bet on whether he can handle a full day of near subzero weather in an open cockpit.
There's a thin dingy fog roiling over the aerodrome, it is below 4 degrees centigrade with it possibly thawing a tiny bit if the sun can melt through the murk. The good thing is the weather is calling for light westerly winds, and a general clearing trend. Luckily Manu is a small chap, and most of his kit is bound East on a train, as is my bigger trunk. Our aero is a beauty, recently recovered, and re-engined with a LeRhone 7C 60 HP rotativ, with a monobloc carburetor with fuel and air control, and will make at least 120 KPH in cruise. We wait outside while the subalterns adjust and fuss over the little plane with fuel and oil. Soon it is time.
We take our seats. the seating is more snug than the cockpit of a Bleriot XI-2, and we have carefully loaded as much errata as we can safely fit between our floor and seats. I pump up the tank, get the fuel flowing and wait as the engine is primed and pulled over a few times. "Contact", the little LeRhone sputters to life and I coup the magneto while adjusting the tampier levers. Chocks away, and we trundle off. The engine revs slowly build and we are aloft in a few hundred meters. The climb is slow as I get the engine leaned to full revs, we're allowed only a few kilos of additional weight, besides our own weight and fuel, and the Bleriot is going to be leisurely about gaining altitude.
We climb above the mists, you can see some of Paris from about 200 meters up but the mists close again as we circle to the east from our Westerly aimed departure. A full moon sets behind us. There are areas of light frosting on the open ground below and the sun is just breaking to eastern horizon.
We average about 90 KPH while in climb, so to keep the engine well spun and loaded lightly. The newly risen sun is glinting off a big water course to our NE, the Seine, to intercept our eventual guide of the railroad tracks east from Paris. We pass over the train our gear is stowed upon, (we're hoping..) some 40 minutes into the flight. I level the Bleriot at about 1180 meters and pull the tampier back a little.
This wind is damn cold, I thank the assembly crew for mounting a small windscreen, it becomes my shield against the shrieking bite of the wind on my head. Manu has wrapped his face up with a long scarf, only his googles show from beneath is flight helmet. The mists clear more and a bank of Eastern clouds, underlit by the rising sun greets us.
I'm sure we'll make at least Mirecourt by mid to late afternoon, but I suspect this flight will have a few stops. I have marked out a few aerodromes that we can turn in at if our little overloaded Bleriot doesn't take well to our bulk and the cold. But for now the engine spins sweetly, holding 1190 rpm, and we easily hold altitude.
To be continued..
Barmy OFFer in questionable standing, maybe collapsed in a corner?