The Corsica airtrip in June 2014 has been my best self-flying trip so far.
This island in the south of France has countless natural treasures to offer, ranging from gorgeous beaches to pristine mountain rivers and lakes. It is the home of the Corsican culture, from which stems delicious food and nice people. It has this island feel that makes it very special!
We flew ourselves from Paris to Corsica with a Cessna 172 RG, which is perfect for long distance thanks to its increased payload/range and faster speed.
One stop was necessary to refuel (we had a lot of payload considering a one-week trip, so not enough fuel for the whole trip to Corsica). Also, it’s nice to step out of the plane and walk a bit every so often. Total flight time is about 4:30.
We stayed in Corsica for 1 week, and stopped at 3 Corsican airfields: Calvi, Propriano and Figari. We also wanted to stop at Corte, but couldn’t because it was closed due to lack of tree cutting on the landing path. We decided to not land at Bastia or Ajaccio because they are larger international airports serving big and somewhat ugly cities, which were not attractive given our focus on nature and adventure.
Calvi is a medium-sized city, gateway to some very cute and typical towns on the northern coast of the island: Lumio, Algajola, L’Île Rousse.
A great remote beach, St Florent, is accessible via a small road or by boat – I’ve heard a lot about it, but we didn’t manage to go this time. Also, the Scandola natural reserve is a real beauty that we will explore next time around.
Arrival and landing
After one hour flying above the water, relying solely on VOR and GPS to navigate, with virtually no external visual reference, we finally spotted land! Corsica, here we come!
What a fantastic feeling to reach our destination! It was quite a long trip from Paris, and the one-hour flight above water was impressive, so seeing land feels like a real accomplishment. It really made us feel special. WE MADE IT!
At and around Calvi
Now that the flying part is over for a while, it was time to start activities on the ground. Calvi airport being quite large, it was not possible to set camp at the plane. Instead, we rented a car, and set out to explore the area. After some wandering, we decided to set camp somewhere near Algajola.
We had chosen to travel in June to avoid the tourist season of July and August. This paid off, as we found ourselves having a lot of space at the beach.
Overall, I recommend Calvi for just a full day, as you can stay at the beach and get a feel for the area. Add a day if you make it to St Florent or to the Scandola reserve.
Flight from Calvi to Propriano
We were quite unlucky because on the next day, Corsica got surrounded by thunderstorms, while we had decided to fly to Propriano. To be noted: the thunderstorms did not reach the area of Algajola or L’Île Rousse. That’s because of the northerly location of the coastal towns, and the westerly orientation of the wind blowing thunderstorms into Corsican mountains.
Regardless, we were lucky in our bad luck, as the meteorologist told us there would be a ~1-hour flight window between two thunderstorms. After carefully reviewing the weather reports and discussing with the expert, we decided to try and fly to Propriano. In case the flight was not possible in the end, we could always land at Calvi where the weather was unaffected by the thunderstorms.
In the end, the meteorologist was right, and we managed to fly in a clear sky that was surrounded by thunderstorms. It was quite a spectacle!
Propriano is in sight, we contact the airfield, but no one’s there (as expected). In this case, the procedure requires to orbit the airfield 500 ft above the traffic pattern and look at the wind sock, runway state, plus other things. Everything’s fine and the wind coming from the mountain means we will make an approach over the sea towards the runway.
As we were ready to touch down, hundreds of birds took-off from the runway! We aborted the landing and went around. This was a little trickier than expected. At low speed with full flaps and sloped terrain ahead, it’s harder that you think to climb with a C172RG. Next time I will turn left sooner and overfly Propriano outskirts, it’s safer than trying to climb on sloped terrain!
At the second try, the birds were gone and we landed safely.
We had the “pleasant” surprise of having an unexpected police control upon landing, which was just a formality of showing paperwork (license, medical certificate, aircraft insurance, etc…) and an aircraft inspection for safety (no hazardous goods, airplane manual available near the pilot, etc…).
Next, we decided to head to the town of Propriano! A few kilometers walking: just a piece of cake! Right?
Getting from airfield to Propriano
Walking to the town of Propriano was longer than we thought! We had decided for this option to avoid paying for a taxi. In the end we walked for more than one hour! Our recommendation: call a cab!
Plus, the walk doesn’t have any charm…
If you have time, you can also walk to the west of the airfield. You’ll need to cross the river walking. Water will come up to the middle of your belly (I’m 1’80m). It’s only practical if you don’t have tons of equipment to carry/non-waterproof in case you fall.
It’s a nice sea-facing town with a number of restaurants, shops, ice-cream places, etc… It’s definitely a tourist town but it is quite charming.
First things first, we find a bar/restaurant that’s facing the sea, and make sure it has TV on. It’s the World Cup in Brazil! (June 2014).
Next, we order food! We’re starving! Great to rest a little bit after so much hustling and bustling!
Cruise ships do dock at this small port-town.
We then returned to the airfield via paid autostop, probably 15€. We still weren’t ready to paid for a taxi! Still craving for adventure I suppose!
We set up camp near our mighty plane. And had a good night sleep.
We even observed a shooting star!
It is probably the main reason for landing at Propriano. You land and just walk to the beach. It’s just 15 minutes walk away!
We spent the whole day at the beach. Some of us did some wind surfing. It’s possible to do any kind of water-based activity: kayak, sail, catamaran, jetski, motorboat, you name it! The renting company is also a school and you can take classes on anything you like! This deserves to spend at least one full day, if you’re into water sports!
There’s also a nice restaurant a few steps away from the rental company/school.
To get to the beach from the airfield, it’s quite easy until you have to cross the river (again!). Else, just use the road and walk (20 min) or hitch hike.