Wednesday, 27 May 2009

From Ljubljana(LJLJ) to Plovdiv(LBPD) via Niš(LYNI)

The evening before the journey started I had to move my airplane from my home airport Divača (LJDI) to Ljubljana (LJLJ) due to flying into non-Schengen countries and therefore a customs procedure was required.
I was planning the departure for April 23rd 2009 at 6:00 local time, the first possible time for general aviation aircraft to depart from LJLJ without paying additional charges for off-hours departure.
The planned route was: LJLJ – S3 – S2 – S1 – LETLI – NOVLO – DER – SOMUN - VAL – SOSEK – CICEV – RUTEV – TANGO - LYNI
The weather forecast for this morning was predicting a cold front crossing the Alps from the north and raining was expected between 7:00 and 8:00 local time. My wife was flying with me, so we departed from home at 05:00 local time and arrived at Ljubljana airport about 20 minutes before the expected departure time. The weather at that time was still fine but the cold front has already crossed the mountains. While unloading the luggage I realized that my pilot bag with GPS receiver, all airplane documents and aeronautical maps is missing and obviously I have forgotten it behind the garage door while hurrying to depart from home. My wife immediately drove back to home but the rush hour already began and I expected that it will take her about 1 hour 30 minutes to return with the bag. In the mean time I loaded all other luggage and warmed-up the engine. The weather was getting worse pretty fast and it also started to rain. Finally my wife returned and we hurried to the airplane and taxied to the middle of runway where we had to wait for some airplanes to take of before us. The visibility was still good enough that we could fly VFR.
After departure we exited the Ljubljana CTR at S3 point and contacted Ljubljana Information and got direct to LETLI point at the FIR border with Croatia. Just before the departure I checked the rainfall radar and the rain already spread about 30 km to the south-east of the airport. So I expected to fly in rain approximately 15 to 20 minutes. The weather further to the south-east in direction to Serbia was expected to be much better, practically clear sky. This fact and latest satellite images helped me to make a decision to takeoff in relatively bad weather which was expected to improve along the planned route.
When we were about 10 miles to LETLI point the weather improved and we entered perfect flying conditions. After crossing state border we were in contact with Zagreb information and we got a new entry point for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Instead of NOVLO point we got TEBLI point what was just a tiny change in routing. After entering Bosnia and Herzegovina airspace we were cleared direct to BLK (Banja luka NDB) and from there direct to DER VOR. We were flying in clear sky while the north part of Bosnia was hiding under low clouds and the visibility at Banja luka airport (LQBK) was only about 100 to 200 meters but was improving. Some airliners were in flying in holding pattern over BLK waiting that the visibility will improve and they could land. Indeed the visibility improved after we were close to DER.
After passing DER we entered Serbia at SOMUN point and continued to VAL and further to SOSEK point where we started prescribed VFR approach to Niš airport (LYNI). I was informed by ATC to expect standard instrumental arrival what surprised me very much. Therefore I have informed them that we are flying VFR and we planned the prescribed VFR arrival for LYNI airport what was later on accepted by ATC. The points CICEV, RUTEV and TANGO are local reporting points defined in VFR approach chart for LYNI. TANGO is the entry point into LYNI CTR and after that point we were cleared direct to NIS VOR which is located close to the threshold of runway 11.
Immediately after landing we requested refueling and the bowser came soon. We refueled with 113 liters of avgas 100LL what was not bad for 4 hours and 1 minute flight from Ljubljana to Niš(LYNI). I was checking the price of fuel about 14 days before and got the information that the price is about 1,04 EUR per liter. Unfortunately this is the price for domestic customers while the price for international customers is almost 250% higher, approx 2,50 EUR . This was really a big surprise for me, but nothing could be done. If I would knew this in advance I would fly directly to Skopje (LWSK) in Macedonia where the price of avgas is about 1,7 EUR.
Next surprise was a call from local ARO office that my flight plan from LYNI to Plovdiv(LBPD) was rejected by Bulgarian ATC. The last evening before departure I checked NOTAMs and I found a restriction for VFR flying around Sofia in radius of 40 kilometers due to some European Community event taking place in Sofia. In last minute before I filed the flight plan via Homebriefing I changed the route to LYNI-NISVA-MOREK-USALI-WAK-RUMEN-LBPD. As this route was not a standard ATS route it was rejected by Bulgarian ATC. They proposed another route which started at Bulgarian border at DOLAP point to GOL VOR and then to RUMEN point and finally LBPD. Then Serbians started to complicate and I had to fly from LYNI back to RAVAK point and then proceed to DOLAP like I would be flying IFR. Of course all this negotiation took some time and several visits at ARO office. Finally the plan was accepted and we were already sitting in the cockpit when they notified us that we can’t take off because the Bulgarian ATC stopped receiving all flights from Serbia and it is not known how long the restriction will be in place. Then only after two minutes we were notified that we can start the engine and take off if we are ready to depart immediately. Wow, what a relief! We taxied to holding point for runway 29 and got the departure clearance and were also cleared for immediate takeoff. Initially we climbed to 5000 feet inbound RAVAK point and then turned towards Bulgaria. Later on we climbed to 7000 and 8000 feet and crossed the Bulgarian border at DOLAP point. There was a cloud layer over mountains later on in Bulgaria and therefore we climbed to FL100 and maintained this altitude until final descend to Plovdiv. After were out of 40 km radius temporary prohibited zone around Sofia we got a direct route to RUMEN point which significantly shortened the flight. We got a straight in approach for runway 12 and safely landed.
Plovdiv airport(LBPD) is opened 24 hours what was a surprise for me because they don’t have a lot of traffic. We parked besides a small business jet which was the only airplane on the apron. There were two Cessnas parked on a special parking place – obviously two local GA airplanes.
A very pleasant and helpful hostess came to accompany us to the airport building where we had passport control. I asked them if it would be possible to bring some regular car gasoline to apron as they have only JET fuel. They already promised me this possibility in advance but I just wanted to have a clear situation. They confirmed me this possibility as it was promised in advance. Taxi arrived pretty soon and we drove to the old center of Plovdiv where a hotel was reserved for us by Bulgarian Oracle Users Group (BGOUG) in a very nice small hotel “Boris Palas« with very good food and nice room. After having a good luch and early dinner at the same time we walked to Plovdiv downtown to see this very old town. Unfortunately we have forgotten the camera in the hotel so we didn’t take any photos.
Next morning two attendees of BGOUG gave us a ride from Plovdiv to Pamporovo where the conference took place. I had my presentation in the very first slot after the opening speech of BGOUG president Milena Gerova. The dinner was followed by a fabulous party with very good music, so we couldn’t resist dancing whole evening. The only moments we were not dancing were when almost all attendees were dancing Bulgarian national dances. The atmosphere was getting better and better and for years I haven’t attended such an awesome party on any Oracle related event. It was really a great party. Unfortunately we had to go sleeping around 01:00 as the planned departure in the morning was scheduled for 6:30. I woke up at 5:00 and checked the weather. I noticed that the cold front which was coming from north from Romania across Carpathian Mountains was much faster as it was expected. A kind guy from BGOUG took us to Plovdiv airport which was on his way back to Sofia.
First I went to the aircraft and took out the canisters and we drove to the nearby petrol station. While I was carrying the canisters to the apron the customs offices checked them with a great smile. I was surprised how cooperative they were. Then I went to ARO office to file the flight plan and after that to the operations where I paid all the fees. Landing here was pretty expensive (approx 73 EUR) but the personnel was extremely cooperative and helpful. At 10:07 local time we took off for Debrecen (LHDC) in Hungary.

The GPS Track of Trip to Bolgaria and Finland

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