Sunday, July 31, 2005

Where to next ? Greece ?

Tomorrow is Swiss national day. That means a holiday. Yippee! I'm just giving some thought as to where the next adventure should take me, because I've got a weeks holiday coming up. The ideas on the table involve Croatia, Malta, Crete and Rhodes, oh and England (because I've never flown there on my own). Yesterday I went to Zürich airport and looked for VFR charts for Greece. There didn't seem to be any available at all. Sounds like another Morocco ! Also, most airfields on the islands seem to be ppr and the distances between them quite large. Even so, it would be a great trip to make. Maybe I'll fly from EDTD through the alps and head through Croatia (where VFR charts are readily accessible) along the dalmatian coast, then cross into Italy (to avoid Albania) and head over to Corfu, making access to Greece easier.

In the mean-time I'm planning a short hop tomorrow to Colmar (France), which I'd like to visit. Happy days.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

SEP License Update

Just got back from a trip to the UK (flew with Swiss). The CAA are still processing my sea plane license. They acknowledged my payment of £70 for this privilidge !

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Spain, Morocco and Corsica in a week.

Hi All,

I just returned from a trip around Spain, Morocco and Corsica. Alot has already been written by MCR flyers about these areas so I'll just write here a couple of tips which may be of interest to others flying to some these places:

My round trip was from Donaueschingen (EDTD) - Ampuriabrava (LEAP) - Castellon de la Plana (LECN) - Jerez de la Frontera (LEJR) - Fez - Marrakesh - Jerez de la Frontera - Ampuriabrava - Propriano - Donaueschingen

1. Ampuriabrava (LEAP) - This is a great little coastal airfield in Spain just south of Perpignan. 550m asphalt. There is a lot of parahcute jumping going on but there is a tower where they speak English, Spanish (I don't know if they also speak French) to help. There's a nice 3 star hotel (Castel Blanc) about 5 minutes walk from the airfield. It cost €28/night for a nice room. Avgas was available at €1.22 /lite for full price. If you say its a "commercial flight" you only pay €0.77/litre - I filled FPZAM brim-full (AVGAS is €1.80 at my home airfield EDTD). They have a security guard so the plane should be safe overnight. Landing fees and overnight parking cost €16 (quite expensive but the fuel prices made up for it).

2. Castellon de la Plana (LECN) - This is a rather empty airfield but is useful because it lies quite far into Spain and is a small, no hassle airfield - good for a stop-off and refuel. They have avgas. When I arrived I got landing instructions in English. I did not stay overnight but I understand that the town of Castellon is not very inspiring.

3. Flying in Spain in general - Effectively you have to file a flight plan for all flights. It was uncomplicated to fly through military spaces. FIS was good and understandable in English. I lost reception of the FIS frequencies on several occasions when flying inland, due to mountains. Controllers gave me no problems whatsoever and didn't care much what I did. I did not transit the VFR routes through Barcelona though.

4. Jerez de la Frontera (LEJR) - I went there because I needed a customs airport to go to Morocco. It's a bigger airport with tourist-terminal and jets, but still not too busy. The controller was a bit stressed due to heavy traffic at the time I arrived. On the ground you have to wait for a small bus to take you from the parking to the terminal. Take everything you need with you because you can't get back to the aircraft without passing through the passenger terminal again ! Therefore this airport is not convienient for a quick stop-over since you waste loads of time messing around in the terminal. There's an information booth in the terminal where you can get hotel information. The town of Jerez is really nice. I reccommend hotel 'El Ancla' in the town centre. It cost me €35/night and was adequate. Laning fees were very cheap (I think €7).

5. Fez - Huge runway, no traffic. Approach was easy. Controllers and ground staff nice - not too beaurocratic. They have AVGAS. I stayed overnight at hotel IBIS Massoufir- by the station, although there are much nicer places to stay in Fez. Landing fee was about €3. Arrival and departure cards must be filled out. On departure, 3 seperate people wanted a departure card filled out ! For a private flight you have to put the aircraft registration and type on the back of the card.

6. Flying in Morocco in general - This was fine except for the lack of information. I used copies of the Jeppesen IFR approach charts for runway altitute, direction and airfield layouts. They expect you to fly via VFR routes to certain VFR reporting points (which should be programmed in the GPS because some of them are virtually impossible to find visually!). Problem is that the Moroccan VFR chart seems no longer to be available. I used TPC charts which were fine for topography, and GPS for the VFR points. Controllers were ok but a bit 'vague' with some messages. I got an instruction from Casablanca control: 'Call Casa'. What the hell does that mean ? If I go there again I'd try to get all the allowed VFR routes between VFR points noted first. If you have just the VFR reporting points in your GPS you still don't know which ones you can fly between direct. I also got clearances to fly through some military spaces, with no problem.

7. Marrakesh - A bit like Jerez but Moroccan style! Approach was no problem. I wanted to do customs here so had to pass though arrivals amongst lots of tourists, and then go around the loop through departures, amongst more tourists - wasting a lot of time in the process. Going through arrivals I was stopped by a customs officer who had spotted the TPC charts poking out of my bag. Opening the charts he explained to me that the one which contained Marrakesh was 'false' because the southern part of Morocco was marked as 'Western Sahara' - a sore point for the Moroccans. He then confiscated the chart, gave me a receipt, and sent me on my way! Great. Landing fees €4.

8. Propriano - Fantastic of course ! My first ever long flight over the sea was from St.Tropez to VFR point MERLU and in to Calvi and south along the coast past Ajaccio to propriano, wearing my belt-lifejacket (very practical lifejacket that goes around your waist through your normal belt-loops. The jacket is in a pouch and you can pull it over your head if you need to ditch). Propriano was just as superb as I'd been told, with the end of the runway virtually in the sea. It was such a glorious day and I had time to admire the azure blue of the sea whilst approaching. No-one answered my radio calls (in English) so I made an overhead approach and landed. No hassle, perfect weather. There's a great restaurant at propriano, so I took a salad whilst checking the weather. Luck I did. The weather was due to close in the next day and stay bad for several days after. Not wanting to get stuck in Corsica (beautiful though it is), I decided to make a run for it after lunch and head back to Donaueschingen in Germany.

After refuelling with Avgas and filing a flight plan, I returned over TORTU direct to Genoa and back through the Swiss alps to Donaueschingen. The Genoa controllers were relaxed but north of Genoa I had to descend to the ridiculous 1000ft agl that the Italians love so much. Tracking due north between the Voghera and Saronno VORs', the visibility got steadily worse. I opted to head to Como and then proceed over the Splügenpass into the Rhein valley and Switzerland. Over Como I saw some seaplanes landing at the seaplane base there and thought it would be awesome to try that one day. The conditions over the Splügenpass were acceptable but not good. On the Zürich information frequency were only myself and the controller - which is often a sign that one is flying VFR when one shouldn't ! However, there was no real problem and I could cross into the Rhein valley safely and head north to lake Constance, then northwest back to Donaueschingen.

During the trip FPZAM performed perfectly. The flying was great. The only small problems I got occured on the ground, as usual.

JAR PPL Licence Renewal Ripoff

I just got my renewed JAR PPL(A) flying license delivered through the post. This involved sending £59 to the British CAA. They then sent me a new set of papers almost exactly the same as the ones I already had, but with a new 'renewal date' written on them. Rip off ? You bet ! I don't see why these papers have to be renewed every 5 years, other than to feed the coffers of the CAA.