Escapee Alex Ledger took a trip to Normandy where he paramotored over the beaches of D-Day, where the Allies first began their long drive to the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Axis powers.
Ever since watching ‘Saving Private Ryan’ I had wanted to visit the D-Day beaches. In 2011 I toured the First World War battlefields and was lucky enough to fly over the Somme. The European flying season ends in November and every year I drive back from Spain through France with the aim of flying in Normandy and every year my hopes are dashed by the weather. However in November 2012 I finally got lucky! I was travelling with Kevin, a Scotsman who had sat the final Paramotor course of the season. As he was self employed he was in no rush to return home, so when I told him there may be an opportunity to Paramotor over the D Day beaches he jumped at the idea. The only catch was the 1000 mile journey in a fully laden Ford Transit with a top speed of 65mph! During the painfully slow trip we constantly updated the weather forecast for the Normandy area.
We calculated that if we drove until midnight on Day 1 and left by 9am on Day 2 we would reach Normandy in time to take advantage of the light winds predicted in the afternoon. By some miracle we achieved this and to our astonishment the conditions were great. For the take off and landing area we chose some fields on the coast next to the Longue sur Mer battery, half way between Arromanches and Port en Bessin. On D-Day, three of the four guns in the battery were disabled by the British Navy and it is still possible to see the extent of the damage they caused. After fueling the paramotors and making a flight plan we launched and headed West. We could clearly see the surviving pill boxes, gun batteries and trench lines which zig zagged their way along the cliff tops. After 20 minutes we reached Omaha Beach and had a fantastic view of the immaculate American Cemetery, which is the final resting placed of 9,387 US servicemen.
At this point we turned around and headed back. Due to a tail wind we covered the ground considerably faster, allowing us to bypass the landing area and fly over the British built Mulberry Harbour. Arromanches was chosen as the location to construct this portable, temporary harbour which consisted of a series of concrete caissons that were towed across the channel on June 9th, only 3 days after D-Day. The harbour was the Allies only port during the Normandy campaign and although planned to be used for only 3 months it remained active for 8. It is still partially intact and I was fortunate enough to fly low over some of the surviving caissons which are clearly exposed above the water line.
Upon landing both Kevin and I were ecstatic after such a fantastic flight. In our excitement we had neglected our cold weather clothing and after 45 minutes of being exposed to the elements we welcomed the opportunity to warm up! Unfortunately this was to be our only flight as the following day the autumnal weather returned, however we were content with what we had achieved. No doubt the next time I return the conditions will not be suitable which makes this experience one I will never forget. Watch the Vimeo video.