02/06/2011

A fortress in the Citadelle

The General Aviation Centre to the north (Jura) side of the airport is in the area called La Citadelle. It has become worthy of that name, but obviously allows in some interesting visitors


It all started when I read that the Falcon 900 of the Ben Ali family, currently blocked somewhere at the airport, came here on 10 January for maintenance work. This type of work is sometimes done in the workshops to the north of the airport runway, so I thought that the next time I was in the area I would have a look at this area. Of course, I never expected to see this aircraft: it has surely been hidden somewhere safe.

My first impression when going there was that it has changed in the past few years. I used to be able to walk into the central office each time that I noticed that a jet aircraft there had kept its auxiliary power units operating much too long (they make an annoying whine, and when there is a northerly bise wind blowing then this noise gets wafted all over the houses in that region). More than once the central office people, who knew the rules, called up the pilot for an explanation: if he said that he was waiting for the passengers to arrive then they sometimes told him to wait in silence!

This time, I discovered an area with barbed wire all around, big metal gates and the entrance to the offices only allowed by going past a security guard and producing proof that you had a reason to be allowed in. That is modern life for you!

I was also curious to look at the cars parked all around there. There is a paying parking area and also a lot of free parking places adjacent to this paying area. Not surprisingly, the paying area had a number of cars which could indicate the sort of people that can afford to fly in private jets: I saw a very nice red Ferrari, plus a big 4x4 BMW with an obviously personalised number plate.

The free area was also interesting, as well as being full (someone in a car asked me why real fliers like him could not find a parking space there). I did a quick count of the car number plates, discovering that about one third were Swiss: Geneva, Vaud and the rest of Switzerland in about equal proportions. Almost all of the rest were from France; normally local, indicating clearly the number of workers coming in from nearby regions of France.

What WAS interesting was that, as well as three cars from other countries of mainland Europe, there were two that had registrations from Jersey, one of the Channel Islands. One can wonder why people from there should drive to here, rather than taking a plane (there are direct flights)! Did they bring anything with them, or will they be taking anything back? Is it perhaps (perish the thought!) related to the status of the Channel Islands as one of the places in which very rich people like to open bank accounts or register companies?

Your guess is as good as mine!

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