After an eleven hour day loading the Mirage IV and all of the associated support equipment, the drivers from Sarrion were glad to be finally on the road. They drove just a few kilometres away to a nearby truck stop for the night. The following morning, they set off in a six vehicle convoy comprising of two standard trucks, two support escort vehicles and the two Convoi Exceptionnel loads carrying the aircraft.
Heading across the French countryside on a sunny spring morning, not on the Peage toll routes as you may expect, but cutting across country using the French D Roads, the convoy made surprisingly rapid progress. The rear wheel steering system of the trucks made them surprisingly agile around the many small roundabouts and by lunchtime they had made good progress.
A French roadside truck halt was an education for us, as the drivers enjoyed an aperitif before sitting down to a three course lunch of classic French dishes that anyone would have been happy to eat. All for the price of a fast food meal in the UK. We couldn’t help but think that they were in for a surprise at UK motorway services.
Following an overnight wait, at Le Harve, the two trucks carrying the aircraft were loaded onto the Brittany Ferries sailing from Le Harve to Portsmouth. Brittany Ferries were extremely helpful, allowing us to film and photograph the loading as well as broadcasting a Facebook Live directly from the loading ramp of the ship. If you missed the live feed, you can view it below.
Having arrived in the UK late on Wednesday, the two drivers met with a UK escort vehicle and set off from Portsmouth for what turned out to be a challenging day. Just a few miles into the journey, the convoy was stopped for an inspection by UK Driving Standards Agency. A two hour roadside battle with British bureaucracy followed.
Apparently the failure to pre pay a £10 per day ‘road tax’ for the vehicles triggered a fine of £300 per vehicle, on the spot. With no way to pay from France, the Museum team of director Ian Reed and French speaking Sandrine Bauchet talked through the frustrations and eventually the Museum paid the fine, with Sarrion transferring funds to us. All good to go, until a Government inspector says, ‘Yes, but. What about the £10 per day tax…….?” It was going to be a long day.
Eventually, in the early evening of 30th March and just missing a live TV broadcast slot thanks to the two hour delay and argument with UK Driving Standards Agency, our Mirage finally arrived at the Museum. The media crews were on hand to record the event for evening news, plus we were able to live stream the arrival on Facebook. If you missed the stream you can catch up in the video below.
The following morning at 7:00 AM, with the clock ticking on our expensive trucking assets, a volunteer team of our engineers from the Museum under the direction of Heritage engineer Gary Hancock swung into action to finally unload our Mirage with assistance of our ever enthusiastic French drivers and a huge crane from Central Crane Hire of Hull.
By 9;30, the aircraft was sitting on British soil in the grounds of the Museum and the drivers headed south for a long drive back to HQ at La Rochelle. At the Museum, our team began preparations for the process of re-assembling the Mirage IV for public display.
On 2nd April, David Dron, one of our French volunteers will arrive to begin the process of fitting together our Mirage and setting her onto those long undercarriage legs ready for public display at the Museum and an official handover ceremony very soon.