Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday



January was spent in office preperation for an Airborne Gravity Survey of the French Alps. The technical approach was similar to the 1992 survey covering Switzerland.

We would cover the French Alps, where gravity data was very sparse due to the rugged terain.

Three aircraft around the world performing similar surveys had crashed over the last two years. Many friends thought I was crazy to accept the operator position.

We would use the same Swiss Twin-Otter aircraft and military pilots I had flown with years before. I had ultimate faith in the crew and aircraft from 1992.



The LaCoste & Romberg

Model-S Gravity Meter was

installed and tested

at Dubendorf Air Base near Zurich.









The Twin Otter was flown from Zurich to Nice, France.

I would spend the next ten days here,

flying in the aircraft almost every day.


As the gravity meter operator, I logged about 50 flight hours.

The cabin is not pressurized, so we fly

with oxygen mask at 16,000 feet over the Alps.




Aerial view of Nice airport where we were based.

Each day as we left the airport, my passport was stamped out of France.

I would get a French entry-stamp returning that evening!


Project crew

on the tarmac

at Nice Airport

with Twin Otter HB-LID









Flying back to Nice in evening light.

Navigation Screen

shows survey grid and flight track






The weather was perfect from the first day,

and therefore the scenery absolutely spectacular!


The equipment I operatd worked without any failure,

which was a relief since the aircraft costs $100 per minute!









The High Alps,

Matterhorn on the right









The" Italian Mountain", we called it.

This dramatic peak is on the border

between France and Italy.


Mt. Blanc, highest point in Europe.

Our flight altitude for the survey was set

just a few hundred feet above this height.

Note the pointed rock in the foreground.

It is the Aguille du Midi cable car rising above Chamonix.






We often land at Sion airport, Switzerland, for fuel and lunch.

Behind the Twin Otter is a King Air plane operated for aerial photography by the same group.

The Swiss crew normally devised a flight plan which would have us refuel in Swiss territory.

This way they could enjoy real Swiss food and speak their language. Francophobic, a bit.



At the Sion airport cafeteria

the Pilot, Co-pilot, and Mechanic

file the afternoon flight plan

electronically from a MacIntosh notebook.




We would fly two missions each day,

from Dawn to Mid-day

and then afternoon to Dusk.





On the Riviera,

the beach at Nice is nothing to talk about.

Just look at the size of the gravel!







Most evenings we were too tired to go out for dinner.

We had to wake up at 4:30 A.M. !


One night we went out to a

nice restaurant in downtown Nice.




We had one day off waiting for a part from Zurich.

We went to Monaco for the day.

The harbor at Monaco.

The large ship center-right belongs to Prince Charles

.....or somebody like that.






An unusual unicorn

in the Monaco central park.



Strange creatures

on the streets of Nice

before Carnival










Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday