After a beautiful and atypical career, Didier Gouloumes, ULM pilot, preparing for his big departure. He counts, from October, take a well-deserved retirement. He looks back on his fifteen years of profession.

Born in Limoges, Didier Gouloumes settles in Reunion in 1979. He then worked in the construction sector (Construction and public works). It's in the years 1990, in Pierrefonds, working at the time on the construction of the Saint-Etienne river bridge, located between Saint-Louis and Saint-Pierre, that Didier made his first flight in a microlight (Ultra-light Motorized Glider) off the cuff, with his colleague, Eric. « I was out of the question that I would go up in there. I drank two Ricards before going ! He says, amused. I finally got a taste for it and I never stopped ".

Discovering a new passion, the intrepid character, already a motocross fan, spreads its wings to its new life. It's in 2005 that he decides to enroll in a flight school, Papangue ULM, based at Roland-Garros airport, in Sainte-Marie, in order to obtain his patent. He first took flight lessons with an instructor, before being convinced by Jean Hily and turning to the ULM, with whom he then follows an ultralight pilot training. "To become a pilot, I passed a patent, with a practical part and a theoretical part, similar to the highway code, whose final exam was in the form of a multiple-choice question of around 40 questions. Regarding the practical part, as long as you do not master an exercise 100 %, without stress, we do not go to the next step, to be sure to be able to handle the situation in the event of an unforeseen flight " he explains. He worked in this company until 2008, as an ULM pilot and instructor, where he teaches and trains around fifteen students, before becoming COO at Alpha ULM, in Saint-Paul.

" It's a passion, to fly. I remember, when I started, if i didn't fly for three days, I was sick of it ! », he declares. It’s at the controls of an FK9 SW, bought by Adame Ahmed, owner of the company Alpha ULM, in 2008, for which Didier personally takes care of the maintenance, that he lets his clients discover Reunion Island from the sky. It was aboard this same model that he discovered the Reunion sky when he first joined Papangue ULM. In fifteen years of profession, Didier flies approximately five thousand hours, for a national average of fifty hours maximum per year per pilot. Indeed, tourism lends itself to this activity in Réunion, where winter is milder than elsewhere and where thefts are possible throughout the year.

Time for the big jump

He tells about his first solo flight : “It was a rant ! He throws. It was in the midst of chikungunya. There weren't a lot of customers. I was taking classes with my instructor every day and felt ready. One Saturday morning I said ; let's go ! I dropped it off and decided to go for it myself. I got my certificate on Monday ". Son longest flight, Didier does it at Alpha ULM. It remains for the enthusiast, a very good memory. " That day, the weather was super good and my passenger, very pleasant. The flight lasted about an hour and a half. I sometimes extend the routes, when I see that the person really appreciates the experience, he develops. This time, I decided to fly thirty minutes longer than the initial duration of the tour chosen by the customer ".

"You have to know how to stay humble and not say to yourself : the sky is mine. You have to trust the moving clouds, this is a sign of turbulence. Generally, the machines are reliable, it is the human factor that causes accidents ", he says. Well prepared for possible incidents, Didier never really worried about the shaking. He shares a little anecdote ; "There are times, you wonder what you are doing up there ! It happened to me, with a passenger, to have an engine failure on takeoff. There was a bug, then a flashback and more power. This is the worst that can happen. When we hit the ground, we were well shaken. The craft is dead, but we are alive ! I told him ; It's okay ? Yes ? Hé ben on descend ! ». For the enthusiast, in this kind of situation, the luck factor plays a lot, but the main thing is to know how to keep calm.

What the pilot likes most about flying, it is the wonder of the passengers. Sharing their impressions, that's what he thinks, makes a flight enjoyable. "There have already been tears. Customers were blown away. I like to introduce people to this. ». The landscapes he takes the most pleasure in flying over, these are the circuses, changing depending on the weather, as well as the lagoon. "When I started this job, I often flew over the volcano, by habit. But it's not the prettiest. Mafate particularly pleases me. It's very beautiful and the fact that you can't go by car, this inaccessible side, it adds something. », he indicates. Didier also traveled to Mauritius three times aboard his aircraft. A first time in 2009, with Papangue ULM, then with Amhed, Alpha ULM manager.

Didier is part of the disciplinary committee and is the only one in Réunion to have had the ULM mountain label. He will take, from October, a well-deserved retirement, while wishing, as a final word, a long life in aeronautics.

Texte Célia Mussard
Photos Pierre Marchal