Fennec  in  the Sunrise

the cockpit

MORE   about




My flight log


More aircraft stories




The Discovery

      January 1964, as a young sargeant mechanics, just graduated from the French Air Army apprentice program, I report to the BA107 Villacoublay airbase, in the neighbourhood of Versailles. For some reason I can't remember, I am not expected and there is no bedroom assigned to me. No matter, they give me one of the (individual)arrest cells for the night, but thanks God, do not apply the punishment protocol.

     During the next days, I learn to know my new unit, GRERALA 0037 which will later become GERMAS 17/107, but before all, I discover those aircrafts I will have to work on : the T-28 "FENNEC".

     These planes just come back from Algeria  (1962) where, in 1960, they replaced the aging T-6 Harvard, providing observation and ground forces support missions. Now, they are based on a few mixed (civilian/military) airfields in Lille, Rennes, Lyon, Bordeaux, and of course Villacoublay, and are used for training and maintenance flights for reservist pilots.

    As mechanics, we have two missions :

1- Provide the daily maintenance and flight preparation for the reservist pilots

2- But we also provide 50 and 100 hours maintenance for the whole french T-28 fleet.


     Here is an overview of that second mission.

     It starts with an extensive cleaning in order to give us the best possibility to detect any defect in the frame and all other components  (cracks and rust being the major ones).



    Then follows a ground test to check the 1425Hp engine performance and also to enhance possible leaks on the engine and on the various liquid circuits (engine oil, fuel, hydraulic oil)


     As a next step,we bring the T-28 in the workshop where, for the two next weeks we will execute all the cheks and settings required by the maintenance book : oil change, engine valve rockers settings, firing magnetos  settings, cylinders pressure test, replacemant of bad cylinders, flight control cables settings, hydraulic circuits tests and so on...



And it's only when this is over that the fun part of the job begins !

     It is evident that the machine will not be flown back to its squadron without an ultimate check. That's why the procedure requires a test flight during which the mechanics reads the check list to the pilot and records the results.


# 110 ready for takeoff

     Some of us do not like to fly (all shipmen do not like to swim), we are only four to volunteer for those flights which gives me the opportunity to make 20 of them in aone year period.

     My prefered ones occur when one or more engine cylinders, or the propeller have been replaced.

     After a cylinder replacement, we have to fly for one hour  at 700ft AGL keeping he runway in sight, just in case the new (remanufactured) cylinder would seize. Pilots do not like those flights and generally let the mechanics handle the stick while they read a book and smoke a cigarette or a pipe. (see note at the bottom of page)

     After a propeller replacement, we have to test the operation of the propeller rpm regulator which involves some aerobatics. What a pleasure ! During one of those flights, the pilot proposes to let me try a roll,



and a loop


and a dive



        No need to tell you that despite all my care the result has not been very aesthetic !


     Of course, it sometimes happens that a test flight goes wrong. Four weeks before I join the group, during a cylinder replacement test, the engine made a piston rods mixup, forcing the pilot to land gear up in a valley  located next to the airbase but 100ft below. Personally, I have only had one alert once the electric generator output cable burned filling up the cockpit whith fumes. My first reaction is to jump out (we have a parachute) but after a second evaluation, no flame being found, the pilot decides to go back and lands safely.

     Another funny event occurs during my first first flight on the T-28. To better understand the story, you need to know that the seat safety belt is spring loaded and equipped with a manual locking lever. Strangely, that first flight happened after a propeller replacemant but, being a rookie, I didn't know yet about the test procedures.

     After taking off, the pilot climbs and, as I feel comfortable, I unlock the belt tension spring in order to better be able to look at everything, inside and outside the cockpit. At the end of the climb, the pilot says something thru the mike which I do not understand, not a single word, but I answer : "OK , everything's allright". Why do I lock the belt again ? I don't know ! But my fingers are still on the lever when my notepad and pencil get off my knees to climb to the top of the canopy. The aerobatics session has begun, followed by all kinds of dives and ressources during which the G'meter recorded up to 9G's. That was my first black curtain.

     But when you are 20, life is nice and finally it ends with the best picture of all, the warrior's rest.



Click on the link below to  see nice detail pictures of the Fennec N° 142 proposed  by


The pipe smoker is identified, he sent me that mail  (June 2007)

"I was surprized to recognize myself as the man who smoke a pipe during the run-in flights!!!  Going back thru my flight logbook, I found that it was on Apr. 4, 1964. On your own logbook, there is a small mistake with my name (GILLOU instead of GUILLOU).

But what a good souvenir ! Since that time, I have flown 17000 hours with Air France and retired 10 years ago."

That plane, Fennec N° 75 was sold to the Argentine Navy where she was flown as 1-A-279.

On Jan.30,1974, she hit the Rio de la Plata water. Both crew members were injured but saved.