The Secret of La Canourgue

In the summer of 2007 we went on holiday to the south of France. We settled in the Georges du Tarn region, a beautiful area where the river Tarn carves a cañon out of a high plateau. As a dedicated GA afficionado, I checked out all aerodromes in the area. In fact, I found one on walking distance from our house in La Canourgue!

The town of La Canourgue

Aviation chart of the Lozère region

Of course, this aerodrome “La Canourgue” needed to be thoroughly checked! I follwed the signs…

Another blinded sign

Blinded sign

But what was wrong with those signs ??? All of them were covered or made unclear … it felt like the locals were ashamed of this airfield !

Danger sign

When approaching this arifield, visitors were warmly welcomed: “Acces forbidden” ! I felt so welcome already !

As a trained aviator, I could not be stopped by such ugly signs, so I continued and walked towards the holy concrete of the airstrip. It was set beautifully amongst the hills, showed copiuous upslope for a fast stop when landing and allowed to be quickly airborne when taking off from this rather high altitude when it is hot and humid outside.

Runway of La Canourgue airstrip

Sloped runway at La Canourgue

Buit that concrete was truely delapidated: full of stones, markings were hardly visible. It was immediately clear that it had not been used anymore in a very long time… Question was: why??

Worn out runway marking

The windsock was let down…

Let down windsock pole

This was this bizarre rooster locked up in a cage, sitting very close to the runway … Who would put a rooster there ? and why ? I started to feel eerie and caught myself looking behind me a couple of times. I was still on a “Access Forbidden” area, you know …

Rooster along the runway !?

I discovered a telephone booth near the runway. The phone was ripped apart…

Broken telephone booth

There was an old waterpump installation and pond that might one day have served as a source to fill up a Canadair waterfighter on his way to a blazing forest fire in the area … or am I just fantasising this???

Manual water pump

As a real discoverer, I took careful notes (see below) on my topographical map. The map didn’t have the airfield indicated. As the map was dated from the early eighties, the airfield ought to be younger than this.

Map

Every here and there, I found empty cartouches in teh grass, clearly indicating that someone had been hunting here. Was this hunter still here? Would he be looking at me at this very moment through his visor? Time to get out of here !

I had never felt so unwelcome on an airfield, and I have seen many already.

Strange to find a cartouche here !

When descending at the other side, I passed this lovely littel village. Would these people have a hand in the demise of the airfield of La Canourgue? Would these be Greenies, who could’nt stand the aircraft noise anymore and who would have done anything in their power to close the airfield?

Peaceful settlement of Conques

At home in our holiday residence, I asked the local guy what was worng with this airfield. What was wrong with the picture? Why could a beautiful airfiled like that be subjected to the nature elements and a hunter?

The old man started his first sentence with a sign. Here was a long story coming: at the time in teh late eighties, early nineties, the president of the Languedoc-Rousillon region was a person who lived in La Canourgue. He had access to spare money from Europe (regional development funds, you know) and decided to do some development of his paternal village: under the excuse of the danger of forest fires, he bought some lands up in the hills and had an airfield made. The excuse was that the firefighters (les Canadairs) needed an airfield in the region in case of local fires. However, the primary use of the airfield was to serve as a local landing strip for his corporate aircraft he had to serve his function os presient of the Region! Of course, this created a lot of jealousy and people turned aginst the airfield. There was never any serious use by the GA community either. When this politicians days as president were over, he gave a hunting concession on this airfield to his friend. This guys decided to erect a fence to keep the game close to his barrel. This fence was built way too close to teh airstrip, seriously affecting the safety, so the local community decided in their infinite wisdom to close the airfield on the basis of safety …

What a sad story !

Being back home in Belgium, I check the airfield on Nav2000. This is the extract (in French):

QUOTE

Aérodrome fermé en 2006.

Aucune dérogation n’est accordée, puisque la sécurité est mise en cause ….

Raison (source: mairie de la Canourgue):

Cet aérodrome est propriété en partie de la commune, en partie de sectionaux. Que sont les sectionaux ? C’est en sorte une propriété collective, locale, du domaine privé, appartenant à des habitants de hameaux: http://www.ruralinfos.org/xthemes.php3?id_article=802

http://www.montpellier.inra.fr/lameta/paysages/documents/SECTIONO.pdf

Un “sectional” a posé sur 650m une clôture bordant la piste et au plus près (par malice ?), dès lors, la sécurité n’étant plus respectée et après avis de la DGAC, l’aérodrome a été fermé. Notons que ce “sectional” réclame à la commune 10e le mètre (il ne doute vraiment de rien !) pour enlever sa clôture.

Comme l’aérodrome ne rapporte strictement rien à la commune, sinon de futures possibles complications, la fermeture a été hélas décidée.

Ces problèmes de clôture en bord de piste ont déjà eu lieu à Luchon, Propriano, mais ont été heureusement résolus ….

UNQUOTE

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