Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Return back to Slovenia – From Helsinki-Malmi(EFHF) to Divača(LJDI) In One Day

From Helsinki-Malmi(EFHF) to Olsztyn-Dajtki(EPOD)

On May 1st 2009 we arrived at Malmi airport at 6:30 and the security guy opened us the door to the apron at 7:00 hours. The airport officially opens at 9:00 local time but one can depart after 7:00 hours what is a very good solution. I have already paid all fees two days before and therefore we were able to depart after cleaning white frost from the wings. It was -3 degrees at 6:00 local time but the sun was shining and it was not hard to remove all frost.
I have filed the flight plan already two days ago. Essentially it was the inverted route tahe we have flown from Kaunas to Malmi. This time I decided to make a refueling stop in Olstzyn(EPOD) where they have a very nice 800 meter long asphalt runway. I contacted them by phone several days before and they offered me a ride to the petrol station which is just at the opposite side of the airfield.
Just before departure they have informed me that ATC had slightly changed the route which was: EFHF-NOKKA-DOBAN-LUTAL-BERIL-BOKSU-EPOD. After departure I had to activate flight plan via call to Helsinki Radar. After passing NOKKA point which is the exit point from Malmi CTR we were cleared direct to LUTAL point at the border between Estonia and Latvia. We climbed to FL100 and maintained this level until passing BOKSU point at Polish border. We had a good tail wind between 15 and 20 knots all the way to Poland. The whole flight was 3 hours and 47 minutes in clear sky. While we were crossing Baltic Sea I made some photos of Tallinn which I publish here.
Landing at Olsztyn-Dajtki(EPOD) on runway 10 was easy although we had about 20 knots of gusting wind almost in runway direction. Pawel, a very friendly young pilot, helped me with the refueling after he gave me a ride to the petrol station on the opposite side of the runway. The Aeroklub Warmińsko-Mazurski has very nice premises at the airport which were recently rebuilt by the City of Olsztyn due to rebuilding the motorway at the edge of the airport. My wife took pictures of several AN-2 parked on the grass apron.
I have filed the flight plan for flight from EPOD to Vyškov(LKVY) in Czech Republic already in Helsinki via Homebriefing while we were still in the hotel so we were ready for immediate departure.

Olsztyn(EPOD) to Vyškov(LKVY) in Czech Republic
The route from EPOD to Vyškov was quite simple: EPOD-AMUTO-DESEN-LKVY. While still in Helsinki I have checked the Airspace Use Program and as I expected there were almost no activity in temporary segregated areas (TSA) due to the holiday of May 1st so I was able to fly directly from EPOD to AMUTO point and then to DESEN point which is the border point with Czech Republic. The planned route avoided all TMAs. The weather was great and until reaching Czech border we had no clouds. We climbed to FL090 and maintained this altitude until we were close to Brno TMA where we had to descend do 4000 feet and finally we landed at Vyškov(LKVY) after 2 hours 31 minutes. During this flight we had again a pretty strong tail wind. While we were landing at LKVY we had quite strong head wind from 20 to 25 knots with a small cross wind component.
Mr. Antonin Chroust, head of operations, and his daughter Ana, who is also a pilot, expected us at the apron and kindly helped us to refuel with MOGAS and to file the flight plan at Prague Briefing for the last part of our journey from LKVY to home airport Divača(LJDI) in Slovenia. Vyškov has a pretty long grass runway of good quality. At the northern part of airfield area there is a aviation museum with a lot of MIGs and MI helicopters. Unfortunately we hadn’t enough time to visit the museum and this will remain for next visit in Czech Republic.

From Vyškov(LKVY) to Divača(LJDI)
We took off in a strong wind and headed towards Slovenia. The route was: LKVY-REKLU-TOVKA-ABETI-DIMLO-ME4-MS3-TREBNJE-LJDI. Due to strong wind it was pretty bumpy at low altitudes so I asked for FL080 and got approval. Unfortunately we had to descend back to 2500 feet what was request from Vienna ATC and we were flying at this altitude until we reached ABETI point where we crossed Hungarian border. We climbed to 4000 feet in Hungary and after reaching DIMLO point at Slovenian border we were cleared to climb to 7000 feet. Near TREBNJE point we encountered some thunderstorms and we headed more to the south to avoid them. After 2 hours and 27 minutes of flying we safely landed at home airfield Divača(LJDI).

Lessons learned
The whole trip was 5958 km long mainly with good weather. The average speed was 103,8 knots what is not bad for a Piper Cherokee 140. The cumulative flight time was 33 hours and 27 minutes. More than 95% of time the autopilot was switched on and I manually flew only the approaches and takeoffs.

The new JPI’s FuelScan-450 turned out to be of great value on such long trips where one has to fly legs longer then 4 hours. Unfortunately I had no time to test it before this trip (it was installed several days before) so I was still using my previous method of fuel consumption estimation. I found FS-450 very precise and now I am convinced that I can rely on it, not as the primary instrument, but as a very good additional indicator.
Although the weather was excellent 80% of the time we had to start this journey in rainy weather. We had to fly at the edge of the cold front in Bulgaria and on way back home we had to avoid some thunderstorms. Still all this weather changes didn’t prevent us to fly VFR and stay in VMC and therefore such trips can be made. If the weather would be below VFR minimums we would have to make an unplanned stop, but this time we were lucky and we had no delays due to the weather.

The weather was pretty windy either en-route or for landings and departures. One has to have good skills to cope with a windy weather and be capable to land or takeoff in a strong crosswind conditions.

A careful planning is essential for such trips and every hour spent in preparations was the best possible investment. The only flaw in my preparations was not checking the prices and availability of AVGAS and landing fees at different airports in Lithuania. I just checked Kaunas as an alternate destination and unfortunately it turned out that that was not the optimal choice.

The aircraft performed extremely well and I even didn’t have to add a single drop of oil. The engine was running smoothly and climbing to FL125 at MTOW is not a problem.

The communication was standard in all countries and I always stress to my friends that there is really no difference where you are flying. The controllers were very helpful everywhere and I got shortcuts even when I haven’t asked for them.

I found that simple and straightforward plans work best and ATC doesn’t bother you with a lot of questions. Especially this is true when you are flying in more “exotic” countries like Serbia and Bulgaria where strict usage of published ATS routes is essential. For these countries there are no Jeppesen maps and therefore one can only use a topographic or road map. For flight plan preparation I was using Jeppesen FliteStar and Navbox. I found that Navbox intersection point database was not up-to-date although I have downloaded the latest possible version. The most accurate database was the latest update on my Garmin GPSMap 496 which I used as the last check while I was entering the route to GPS. I also used the GPS time estimates to report EET to border points in section 18 of ICAO flight plan what was usually required by ARO offices in countries that were in former Eastern Block. Bringing GPSMap496 with me while filing the flight plan in ARO office was found as a good practice because many times I had to re-plan the route on the fly and new estimates for border points were required immediately.

Another very important procedure was consistently used when departing from aerodromes. Before start taxing or latest at the runway holding point I activated the entered route in GPSMap496. If the documentation for VFR departure required flying over some special reporting points either due to noise abatement procedures or other reasons I entered these special points in advance. Of course there were situations when the departure clearance was given in last moment while I was already lining up on the runway and it was different from my expectation so there was no time to enter these special points and therefore I had to amend the entered route while I was already airborn. But this was an exceptional situation and therefore in majority of cases it was easy to follow the entered route.

The GPS Track of Trip to Bulgaria and Finland

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