Archive for the ‘Travelogues’ Category

2011 8 Sep

Megara was again a pleasure. Quick turnaround, easy fueling, and efficient ATC. About the only thing missing was a cold coke machine ;-) Now, if it also could be used directly from Croatia, it would be perfect.

Easy flight to Kerkira, IFR feeling in VMC conditions. Great ATC all the way. Listening to some Swiss music only broken by radio chatter on FL85…

Kerkira was very busy at arrival. But we knew things from the first time and handling just got us out for the evening. All the paperwork was done the next day before departure.

Statistics
Planned Distance: 194 NM
Actually Flown Distance (TO to LDG): 198.4 NM
Top Ground Speed: 180.1 kts
Average Ground Speed: 150.15 kts
True Flight Time: 01:20
Block Time: 01:30

2011 8 Sep

Fueling went pretty smoothly, until the Olympic DH8A serving Sitia arrived ;-) Well we already had the fuel, but felt like paying, so we waited *G*. Apparently this isn’t granted in Greece… A cashier in a department store joked when we bought an item that wasn’t theft protected: “Why didn’t you just take it? *G*” Oh well…

Takeoff in cross-windy Sitia was again quite the challenge, even more so than the landing. The ground handling and weathervaning of the tail being quite a hand / feet full. Glad the RV takes off so quickly and the RWY itself was plenty big as well.

Sitia was also one of these AFIS fields that tried to play ATC. So he held us on ground for about 12minutes before he let us go, applying some kind of procedural IFR separation or whatever. We could have been airborne in the first minute and since it was VFR/AFIS technically there should have been no restriction. Fortunately the 30kt wind was helping keep temperatures down with the engine already running.

The flight itself was smooth, got a great clearance from Heraklion to climb to FL85 and we flew back economically and with less headwind over Santorini/Milos heading to Megara. The next downfall literally was another procedural (and probably non-ATC) FIC operator, which apparently couldn’t think 2 minutes ahead… Anyway, she ended up requiring us to descend from FL85 to 2500ft in about 15NM! Very uncomfortable experience with ears popping and a large temperature change. Based on the way she acted previously, i was already expecting a smooth letdown through the Athens TMA.

The approach into Megara was easy, with only about 7kts westerly winds. 

Statistics
Planned Distance: 227.7 NM
Actually Flown Distance (TO to LDG): 221.2 NM
Top Ground Speed: 169.4 kts
Average Ground Speed: 136.1 kts
True Flight Time: 01:38
Block Time: 01:55

2011 8 Sep

Since all our places of interest in Karpathos were very close to the airport, we were able to get some nice pictures with a wide rigth turn departure.

Handling went great again with the same friendly staff from Swissport Karpathos as on the arrival. Also, things went remarkably smoothly in Greek terms, meaning we could fill all papers and pay all fees in the same office :-)

Also, Karpathos proved our simple yet efficient gust lock designs… They held up to the strongest winds and gusts of at least 40kts during our stay without causing any scratches, damages, falling apart or whatever nasty thing could happen.

It was only a short flight to the local fuel station, Sitia.
The wind situation there however was quite extreme. With 300° at 30kts for RWY 23.
You can see the extreme crab angle in some of the pics. GPS puck to spinner tip is the reference aircraft centerline. And yes, it was a smooth landing and yes, it was even a very well established approach. Wing low decrab in the flare works brilliantly with the RV, much better than with some other planes i’ve flown.
And yes, I am glad we built the -A version, and no, I wouldn’t want to do it in a taildragger.
The ground handling after the landing was trickier than the landing itself.

Statistics
Planned Distance: 53.3 NM
Actually Flown Distance (TO to LDG): 58.7 NM
Top Ground Speed: 156.9 kts
Average Ground Speed: 119.3 kts
True Flight Time: 00:30
Block Time: 00:42

2011 8 Sep

Before leaving for Karpathos, took our local friend Vangelis on a tour around the island, it seems he liked it ;-).

One thing that got me literally upset at Rhodes was an extremely rude and unfriendly HCAA representative. In fact, he was so rude that i will try to file a report against this individual. Simply to help all the other employees at the airport who complain about him for ages but cannot speak up and to help future GA pilots. It’s one thing to discuss about whether having to pay a 12€ passenger charge for my flight attendant without crew ID or not, that’s about a 50/50 hit or miss on the airports i know for a 2-seater small plane ;-) I figure, hey you can always ask. But the aggressivenes and rudeness of this individual was simply unbelievable, one of the “wrong movie” type experiences.

The reason we were visiting Karpathos is that a couple, who is close friends of ours, was on holidays there – windsurfing. Karpathos is known to be very windy, pretty much all the time. That’s why surfers love it. And therefore i had anticipated a challenging approach… Anyway, I was ready, waiting for the wind, but nothing special until touchdown… The usual 15kts in RWY direction, but that was it.
We took extra care tying down, though. Again, awesome handling by very friendly Swissport staff.

The days on Karpathos were spent hanging out with great friends, chilling at the pool, eating good food and simply enjoying vacation. And of course we were able to celebrate my fiancée’s birthday in style.

Statistics (Local Flight)
Actually Flown Distance (TO to LDG): 99.3 NM
Top Ground Speed: 168.7 kts
Average Ground Speed: 136.3 kts
True Flight Time: 00:44
Block Time: 00:48

Statistics (LGRP – LGKP)
Planned Distance: 82.3 NM
Actually Flown Distance (TO to LDG): 71.3 NM
Top Ground Speed: 172.8 kts
Average Ground Speed: 144.4 kts
True Flight Time: 00:33
Block Time: 00:37

2011 8 Sep

After a few awesome days in Santorini, we continued our trip to Rhodes. First of all because Rhodes has Avgas available but I also had spent a great vacation there previously, some years ago.
When we departed Santorini, it was in the middle of one of their “busy days”. Unfortunately these are nowhere published, so you can not actively plan around them. Despite all of that, we got again great and relatively quick handling by Swissport.

The flight itself was uneventful, with great service by Greek ATC, first Santorini TWR letting us do sightseeing over Imerovigli, opposite to where we were going, and then Rhodes TWR for taking us in without delay, even with traffic. In a lot of other cases i could “feel” the Greek ATC being rather cautious and unexperienced with our RV, greatly underestimating mainly the departure performance and little time required. So they let us hold on the ground a few times even though there would have been plenty of time for a quick early turn VFR departure. But generally, ATC has been great, with good and understandable English (LGKR, LGMG, LGSR, LGRP and some enroute TMA’s.). This doesn’t apply so much to the AFIS operators, however (LGML, LGKP, LGST and FIC, which possibly are controllers though). They are not allowed and trained to do ATC service (but somewhat tried and acted as if nonetheless), their English and radio proficiency we found quite poor and as soon as there was more than one aircraft at the same time, they got extremely nervous and heated up on the radio.

Another interesting nuance was the FIC giving you instructions like “report when in contact with Santorini APP”. Now, for a single radio airplane, this is simply not doable without leaving the frequency unannounced to get in touch with the other station. And even for a dual com like us, the range of the second antenna in our case is not up to par with the first. Anyway, we did it the “Greek way” and did fine ;-) but it was one of a few interesting catch 22’s we’ve seen.

Of all the Swissport stations we used for handling, Rhodes was the most chaotic and unprepared. Overall it was still ok service though.

The island itself is very busy, traffic on the roads in the major centers was quite a pain compared to elsewhere and I thought the island got even more touristy in the negative sense since the last visit (loud groups of el cheapo package tourists being bussed in etc…) We still found some nice spots, though. But we definitely didn’t dig Rhodes town as much as expected because of this and our choice of hotel near the city center was a disappointment compared to all the other hotels we enjoyed.

Since we only spent three days, there was no point in changing our plans, but in retrospect, we’d better spent the days in Santorini and used Rhodes or Kos just for fuel.

Highlights was a dinner with local Greek friends (from the previous visit) in a good restaurant off the beaten track. And a great tour of the island with a nice VW Polo rental car, which was a cut above the standard rentals that you normally get when booking economy.

Statistics
Planned Distance: 149 NM (without sightseeing)
Actually Flown Distance (TO to LDG): 142 NM
Top Ground Speed: 178.4 kts
Average Ground Speed: 150.7 kts
True Flight Time: 00:57
Block Time: 01:04

2011 29 Aug

Again, the departure time was pretty much given due to the short daily opening time of the airport.

The flight itself was very short at approx 35min. Since the fuel uplift from Megara has to get us through Milos and Santorini to Rhodos (only there is Avgas available again), a more economic cruise setting was used. Also, because of traffic at Santorini, there was no way to climb above 2000ft. We had to do an orbit once west of the field due to traffic, but didn’t really mind as it was the perfect spot to get a first impression of Santorini from the air ;-)

Then we checked in at the hotel “Irida” in Imerovigli, which is a true gem. Could not have chosen better :-)

Statistics
Planned Distance: 54.3 NM (without sightseeing)
Actually Flown Distance (TO to LDG): 71.3 NM
Top Ground Speed: 189.8 kts
Average Ground Speed: 120 kts
True Flight Time: 00:35
Block Time: 00:39

2011 29 Aug

Milos is a small volcanic island in the Western Aegean sea, slightly west of well-known Santorini (Thira).

The island is interesting for its many beaches, very moderate touristic development (majority of inhabitants still work in mining/natural resources) and laid back atmosphere.

Due to a runway extension project, the airport is currently open for just 2hrs a day, to accomodate the single Olympic Dash 8-100 flight to/from Athens.

We could notice an increased workload on the tower, when after completing a sightseeing tour of the island, our approach fell almost together with the single Olympic inbound ;-)

Again, runway 08, shortish and this time with a x-wind component of 23kts gusting 28kt. Definitely the harshest winds that our RV has experienced so far. Smooth landing with the wing-low technique working splendidly.

Statistics
Planned Distance: 104.8 NM (without sightseeing)
Actually Flown Distance (TO to LDG): 135.6 NM
Top Ground Speed: 177 kts
Average Ground Speed: 136.4 kts
True Flight Time: 01:00
Block Time: 01:13

2011 29 Aug

Final destination for the day was Milos Island. But due to the fact, that there is only a very short list of airports that carry anything else than Jet Fuel in Greece, we had to make another tech stop.

Basically, you can only get Avgas in the Athens region (Megara and Athens), on the eastern edge of the Aegan (Kos and Rhodos) and in the South (Crete airports). For all the islands in between you have to carry enough fuel for the way in, the way out and obviously alternate and final reserves.
Since Athens is prohibitively expensive, this leaves Megara as the only (and what turned out to be excellent) choice. Megara is originally and still is a Greek Air Force (helicopter) base that has become the prime Greek GA airport. Other than requiring another special permission days ahead of the first visit, this was a great, efficient (30min), low-cost (no landing fees, no compulsory handling, comparably cheap Avgas) fuel stop. Quite the opposite of Foggia.

For once, the trickiest part was the actual piloting. There was a strong northerly wind, which produced severe turbulence along the coast and delivered a crosswind component of 20kts+ on the active runway 08R. But the RV-7A handled it really well, would not suggest flying to Greece to taildraggers, though ;-)

Statistics
Planned Distance: 194 NM
Actually Flown Distance (TO to LDG): 199 NM
Top Ground Speed: 173.6 kts
Average Ground Speed: 138.9 kts
True Flight Time: 01:26
Block Time: 01:36

2011 29 Aug

The third and final leg of the day was crossing the Adriatic sea to Kerkira, Corfu, Greece. For this we mounted comfortable lifevests that we got just before the trip. Since it was already later in the day and we “lost” one hour due to time zone offset, the sun was perfect for some nice evening pictures.

Kerkira is heavily used by GA as entry/exit point into Greece, naturally due to its location in the northwestern corner of the country. Therefore the airport is quite used to hosting transient small airplanes. Nonetheless, a handling agent is required. We can highly recommend Swissport with the AOPA contract. Things went really smooth and considering the circumstances and effort, the 24€+tax are a very good value. As mentioned before, flying VFR in Greece requires a bit of advance planning, establishing contact by phone/fax/email etc… beforehand. But once that’s done, everything runs remarkably smooth and with few hassles and chicanes. If they could only get rid of these last few paperwork-nags it would be even better…

Picked a great hotel, “Arcadion”, in the center of Corfu Town, quite close to the airport and within walking distance of shops and restaurants. There we spent two days exploring Kerkira and taking a rest from the 5+ hours of flying on the first day.

Statistics
Planned Distance: 232 NM
Actually Flown Distance (TO to LDG): 244.4 NM
Top Ground Speed: 187.6 kts
Average Ground Speed: 146.4 kts
True Flight Time: 01:40
Block Time: 01:49

2011 29 Aug

Foggia was selected as fuel stop for its location and reputation. There are very few airfields in southern Italy which have Avgas, offer customs and are close enough to the final destination of the day, Kerkira.
The lack of proper (fuel available) alternates for Kerkira, practically require the fuel stop to be close enough to allow for a return to the departure airfield even when over the final destination.
Unfortunately, Foggia did not live up to its good GA reputation (eddh.de, other sources). We lost more than an hour on fueling expensive at 3€/l (approx 16$/gal!!!) Avgas and watching an airport rep taking forever to print a paper slip to enable us to pay the landing fees of another twentyish Euros. To top it off, despite emails and phone calls ahead of time, customs was not organized as it should have been. We were lucky that this didn’t delay us any further.

While Greece took a lot of effort for flight planning and then the actual operation turned out to be very easy, Italy was quite the opposite. At first sight, Italy is pretty easy flight planning wise, but then turns out to be quite a pain for operation. Controllers tend to have a VFR-averse attitude and airspace structure is set to mainly keep you below 2000ft AGL. Despite this, I managed to get a decent economic cruising level of FL115 for the better part of the flight, but it required hints and suggestive communication all the time.
Also, the scenery along the Italian Adriatic coast is quite boring.

So based on our experience and the excellent reports out of Croatia (which we will fly through on the way back) I would advise against taking the Italian route unless necessary for weather or other reasons.

Statistics
Planned Distance: 404 NM
Actually Flown Distance (TO to LDG): 424 NM
Top Ground Speed: 182 kts
Average Ground Speed: 153.5 kts
True Flight Time: 02:46
Block Time: 02:57