Dear fellow pilots
Next week I’m heading to the island of Martinique for a 2-week holiday with some friends.
I’ve suscribed to the local aeroclub, which operates Cessnas and PA-28s, hoping to fly around the island and maybe cross to the Guadeloupe or Marie-Galante.
I would like to know if any of you have been there lately; any tips or advice would be welcome and much appreciated.
Thanks in advance
We did it! Flew around the island of Martinique from TFFF (Fort-de-France le lamentin). With a fellow pilot, we rented a Cessna 172 at the local club and toured around.
The weather is quite challenging for a VFR-only pilot, due to frequent tropical shower rain. One can take off at TFFF under blue skies and find 2km visibility just 10kms away. For that reason, we did not dare to cross to the Guadeloupe. Another difficulty is the lack of alternate airfields on the island, the nearest ones being Dominica (TDPD) or Saint Lucia (TLPC).
Note the F-Oxxx registration, “Oscar” corresponding to french overseas territories. For tax reasons, new planes for export are also sometimes delivered with a temporary F-O registration (e.g. F-OIMD)
TFFF at take-off:
Unstable weather (shortly after the first picture was made…):
Low visibility flying isn’t a problem in the Caribbean. It’s not as if you have big terrain problems over the sea, and all airports are located just off the coast.
@Peter – if you survive 6 hours in a TB then surely you can make it to Florida by commercial and start a tour from there :-). As you’re IR rated you’ll have no issues with renting for the Caribbean. Longest legs are 4h in a PA28. If you love Greece, you’ll love flying the Caribbean.
Merci for the Diamond Rock aerial photo. I spent my first “self-earned” holidays on Martinique in November 1972. A former patrol boat took us from the Club Med to the Diamond Rock for scuba diving – phantastic underwater place with deep caverns where the light falls in like in Notre Dame …
Have not been there after 1972.
Alboule (and Peter), those are great photos and thanks for the explanation of F-Oxxx registration. It’s interesting that small pieces of France exist around the world, and in the Americas.
I remember as a kid being very bored in a French hotel room, and in those pre-internet days being reduced to reading the phone book for entertainment. I noticed that French overseas territories had the same phone number format as local numbers, which intrigued me at the time. Also that in the short version of the world’s technological history that was for some reason in the front of the phone book, all the achievements listed were by French industry
That was in a village called Florac, waiting for a group to arrive 25 years ago. I’ll be with the same group this summer, in Corsica. I like it there…
I’m new here but I’ll pitch in because I flew in Martinique in January 2015.
First as Alboule said correctly, there is, to my knowledge, only one real aeroclub at Fort-de-France and it’s Horizon Caraïbes. The Aéroclub Martinique does not welcome outside pilots and is basically a training school for local pilots to go on to the airlines with heavy state subisidies. I had called them ahead and made every possible effort to arrange everything before hand only to realize this there.
Horizon Caraïbes on the other hand was super nice and friendly. I came on one day at 1600 and came out with an appointment for check out with an instructor the next morning at 0900 and had a PA28 for myself that entire day. More efficient is almost impossible.
The checkout with the instructor was enjoyable and lasted 0.6 hobbs. I bombarded him with questions to make sure my preparation was correct and he gave me lots of useful information. We then took off for Guadeloupe. Easy going flight slaloming in between what we would call here TCU. French ATC just like in France. High quality, very friendly.
Two days later we planned to go to Grenada. More TCUs than the previous flight and some light rain. Slaloming in between was easy with plenty of space. Lots of non-radar procedures but nothing special. While passing the Grenadines, we tried to contact Grenada and failed. The island was about to be covered by a really big CB and another one was approaching. Turned around and went to St Vincent. Ate lunch there. Had to pay fuel in USD as with most places in the Caribbean apparently. Other than French ATC is, let’s say, interesting but in the end works out.
Now this is where it gets fun. The St Vincent airport (TVSV) is in a sort of valley like Megève to some extent such that you cannot see the weather coming from the East (where the dominant winds come from). Aeronautical information and flightplan filling is mandatory and a struggle. Remember that 1-hour delay that you saw in ATPL/IR theory for flightplan filling but wondered where it was applicable because in Europe it’s more like 10 minutes in practice ? Well, there it applies and you will see them file it via some sort of Telex machine. Customs, police and immigration is a little chaotic but in the end it works fine and they were friendly.
After the one-hour delay expires, nice tropical SHRA on the field and 20kt tailwind. I do the performance calculation : if the runway is flat (it’s not it’s downslopping but I wanted this margin), I can’t accept more than 15kt tailwind. The rain stops but remember you cannot see what comes next due to the valley configuration. In the end, tailwind reduces to 15kt and we take off. Everything was fine after that but it was a very interesting situation.
You really have to watch for alternates because it’s very correct, there really aren’t many and if you want fuel you must have US dollars. It’s a little more grass roots than Europe but the views are really worth it.
Antoine, very much welcome to this forum, soyez châleureusement le bienvenu! It is nice to read such a fine report full of practical information (even if I don’t think I’ll be flying in those quarters, anywhere soon). On top of that, your English is near perfect, could provoke a blush with some native speakers. Well done, and I hope to read more of your writings.
Is it possible to rent a decent twin in Florida for say 15 days and fly the Caribbean? What kind of experience/licence/medical would they require? Any place to recommend?