Every year in France, just a few weeks after the massive (and grueling) bicycle-world event, another tour takes place which is much more gentle, low-key, and more fun for us ultralight pilots: le Tour ULM. Organized by the national ultralight association (FFPLUM), this year’s tour included 150 ultralights of every shape, size and make.

Planning for this event is significant as it includes a number of programs within the tour: a youth program, an instructor program, a concurrent competition, etc. A large truck follows the group with trunks belonging to each crew - including tents, sleeping bags, etc. Another truck hauls the portable toilets and showers, yet another is a mobile mechanic’s shop with everything needed to fix a flat tire or to completely rebuild a Rotax. Then there are the caterer’s vans… A helicopter follows for emergencies and two DGAC (FAA) air traffic controllers fly along to take over local control towers while the tour arrives/leaves (landing all those planes quickly and smoothly would be overwhelming for some of these quiet little airports along the way: a 2-hour+ process at a steady 1 landing per minute… and it is not steady!

Every year, a half dozen or so Zenair owners participate. This year was no exception. Yvan Barge (Barge Aviation) and I joined the tour during one of its nearby stops with two planes (Yvan in his CH 601 XL and me with a STOL CH 701). There were two other 701s and four Zodiacs.

This STOL CH 701 (above) was built as a school project and is now very much enjoyed by project participants. It was powered by one of the few Jabiru 2200 on the field – surrounded by a sea of Rotaxes…

This CH 601 UL is over ten years old and has participated in seven tours already. The owner and his wife know the routine well and greatly enjoy this annual event, traveling in comfort and camping by their plane for the week. Nice weather helps!

Here is Yvan’s 601 XL and tent. We had just finished fine-tuning his second CH 640 the day before. He will now be flying it across the country, demonstrating it to flying schools and aero-clubs. The Zenair CH 640 is the only all-metal low-wing 4-seat kit-plane currently allowed for use as a commercial trainer and as a tow-plane in France.

This Zodiac CH 601 XL is operated by a club whose focus is the visually impaired. The near-blind pilots are accompanied by specially-trained co-pilots so that they can enjoy flying, but also participate in events such as this tour. The determination and dedication of both team-members was inspiring to see.

An empty field just a few hours before, it transforms into a busy and colorful parking/camping area for twelve hours… then the peace returns…

The Zenair Europe STOL CH 701 demonstrator (top), and a shot through the tent-flap early in the morning… Can you just hear that buzzing sound? It was a very friendly gathering. If you enjoy reading French or for more information on the Tour ULM, you can visit the FFPLUM website.

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Comment by Bob McDonald on August 9, 2010 at 10:41am
Thanks for sharing the experience. Looks like lots of fun.
Comment by Sebastien Heintz on August 9, 2010 at 10:26am
Thanks for the post! That would be a fun trip to go on.

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