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About strange times

Dear friends, sponsors and supporters,

April 2020… as I start writing this newsletter, like all of us, I am confined at home. It’s a very strange feeling because since the beginning of the year I can’t believe how time has flown, even faster than me!

2020 began with a flying start even though it was still off season; no time to lose to prepare for the sporting season. I did a couple of aerobatic training camps, in Visan and Le Castellet, with my coach Pierre Varloteaux.

Mid-January I swapped my flying suit for my business suit for a two-day marathon set of keynote speeches. First in Avignon, then Paris to finish in Angers. An extremely worthy experience, as it allowed me to fine-tune my speeches. Like in sport, there is nothing like practice! I am more and more at ease doing this and always enjoy sharing my passion with people, be it with fans, or company executives and staff.

On 20 January, TF1 finally broadcast the portrait of me they had made during 2019. If you missed it you will find it under the tab TV/Press of my website or my Facebook page Team Mélanie Astles. I was very pleased with the result, as the TF1 team managed to convey my passion very well, and also my will to pass it on.

On 22 and 23 January, I spent a magic moment at Studios Provence in Martigues for a BMW event Fast Start 2020. Two days of positive exchanges with the BMW teams and staff. Very happy to meet again my ambassador friends Ari Vatanen and Loïc Peyron for a reconstitution of our winning trio “Earth-Sea-Air”.  I feel very privileged to be an ambassador of BMW, which gives me wings to always go higher.

In the last part of January, I attended two more training camps in Le Castellet and in Visan..

February will be a month to remember for me, 6th February to be exact. For the first time, I organised a big event at Avignon airport, to thank my sponsors and present AIRMEL future activities.

The evening started at sunset, when I gave a freestyle demonstration, while on the ground Pierre Varloteaux was commenting and explaining the principles of aerobatics, the figures, the competitions and so on. After I landed, I made a speech in front of the 120 spectators who were present and Ari Vatanen, who was one of my guests was kind enough to join me on stage. An excellent buffet and drinks were then served. I thank Helen Traiteur for an impeccable spread and organisation.  The guests and particularly the children were able to take a good look at the plane and take lots of souvenir photos. I had organised a draw, the prize being an initiation aerobatics flight with me in the two seater Extra 330LX. By the way, we are preparing our reservation internet site for initiation aerobatics flights, which will start soon in Avignon.

Everything went well, the demo, the weather, the attractions, the drone race, the friendly atmosphere… it was a fantastic day!

In the second half of February, we had another training camp organised by my coach Pierre Varloteaux at Le Castellet.

I then had a little private getaway near Monaco, where my parents and my brother live. There, I had the opportunity to meet Natalia Langsdale for an interview. Natalia works from Monaco where she runs a youtube series of interviews in the luxury world. Quite a pleasant moment with Natalia, who has such a lovely and lively personality. Interview on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MZhwUohPDU

At that point, little did we know what ordeal the whole world was going to have to face mid-March.  My coach had organised a couple of training camps, at Requena , near Valencia in Spain. I flew with F-HMEL above the Mediterranean and the Balearic Sea, in gorgeous weather. The first training camp took place in the first half of March. There were participants of various nationalities and all went well, great training sessions and happy times with friends. I felt very happy with my progress which was important as the sporting season was due to start soon.

The next training camp was scheduled for the second half of March, and of course, was cancelled due to the Coronavirus crisis. We were lucky to be back in France just before the confinement started.

At the end of March, I was due to attend FIDAE 2020, in Santiago de Chile, in Chili, which is the biggest aviation, defence and security event in Latin America, similar to Le Salon du Bourget in Paris. There, I was invited to give several aerobatics displays during the week of the event. Obviously, the event had to be cancelled, and the next one will be in 2022. Big disappointment as you imagine.

The whole world is living a terrible epidemic and time is not for self-pity but for supporting each other and doing our best to end the pandemic and rebuild. My concern today, like all of us, is to stay indoors, stay healthy and make sure my family and friends are safe.

I will keep looking at the clouds from the ground, patiently waiting to be able to continue drawing figures in the lovely sky above.

To all my sponsors, supporters and friends… and most of all to the doctors, nurses and everyone involved in helping the sick and fight this battle, as well as those who are still working to keep our society running, I hope you and your families are well. We all owe you our thanks and respect.

Be calm, be brave, stay safe and see you soon when we will have defeated the invisible enemy.