Thursday, 22 July 2010

Flying Mooney M20E from Sturgate(EGCS) to Divača(LJDI)

The agreed pickup time was 22.5.2010. Day before I arrived from Tallin in Estonia to London Stansted and next morning I took train to the nearest station to Sturgate (EGCS) where I met with the previous owner. I had a training flight to become familiar with the airplane. The plan was to arrive home the same day. After full refueling I started the engine and after initial checks found that my GPS496 has problems due to interference with one of stations in the aircraft. At that moment I didn't want to make extensive checks so I decided to use just GNS430 and VOR receivers. After my first solo takeoff I headed towards Oostende (EBOS) in Belgium. I had to enter the Schengen area again and at the same time I wanted to refuel. The planned time was 1:30 so just enough to figure out if the fuel consumption is within the expected range.
The flight plan was quite easy: EGCS VEGUS AMVEL SUMUM DD EBOS and when preparing it I wanted to avoid all ATZs. After crossing coastline I had to descend due to A class airspace. The weather was all the time clear sky and therefore the only challenge I had was the aircraft. It took me some time to figure out how I must trim it.
Landing in EBOS with quite a strong crosswind was the first challenge. Before the landing I repeated in my mind: 120 MPH gear down, 100 MPH lower flaps, approach speed 80 MPH. Stable approach and keeping the right speed is the key to success. The runway in Oostende is long enough for some extra knots but this is a bad habit. The landing was far from perfect but still without any problems.
It took more than one hour for refueling and my slot for the flight to Locarno (LSZL) was well over and the tower didn't let me depart. So I had to park again, wait for marshaler to give me the ride to ARO. At ARO I had to phone to the ATC and they agreed I can depart immediately and the promised to fix the plan and send it to EBOS tower. After I was already in the airplane again the tower still didn't have my flight plan so I had to repeat the whole procedure. Finally I got the clearance for taxing to the holding point. Then tower called me that Switzerland notified them that Locarno airport will be closed when I will arrive there so the asked me for further instructions. I gave alternate airport St. Gallen - Altenrhein which was still opened. While waiting for response the controller declared that no VFR flights are permitted due to IFR conditions. I was waiting in prefect sunshine and really on the other side of the terminal area there were some low clouds. They asked me if I accept IFR clearance which of course I rejected as I am not IR certified.
The onl ypossibility was to go back to parking position. After parking I visited meteo office and they told me there is no possibility for weather improvement that day. So I asked ARO to help me find a hotel. Unfortunately all hotels were 100% booked and the airport inspector gratefully helped me with the offer to stay in the room for persons who are rejected due to invalid documents. After a small late lunch in a fast food restaurant I was checking the weather. Despite the official forecast the weather was again CAVOK at 21:00 local time, but this didn't help me a lot. I filed the flight plan for 5:00 AM local time. During the night the weather stayed CAVOK all the time so I was able to depart 5:25AM local time inbound to Locarno.
The filed flight plan was: EBOS LEQ REM CAV RLP FRI LSZL. After departure I was cleared to LEQ and after leaving Lille TMA they instructed me to contact Paris Info. At the same time they told me that due to early Sunday morning probably nobody is working and I will get no response from Paris Info. Of course they were right. I was flying at 9500 feet inbound to REM followed by CAV and RLP and avoided some restricted zones as I had no information if they are active or not and no contact with ATC. Finally I got contact with Reims Info. When close to Swiss border I asked to climb to FL120 and later on to FL140 to clear the Swiss Alps. I was impressed by the performance of my new toy: 500 feet/minute in average from FL120 to FL140. after clearing the summits I stared my descend towards Locarno where I landed after 3 hours and 25 minutes.
Quick refueling, fixing departure time in the flight plan and I was back in the air on the last leg to home airport Divača (LJDI). The route was my favorite one from Locarno following the south edge of Alps to Vicenza VOR and then to Ronchi VOR, crossing Slovenian border at RIFEN point and finally my home airport. Nothing special occurred during this flight and I safely landed for the first time in Divača. My wife was already waiting for me there and we immediately departed to Island of Lošinj (LDLO) to join other pilots who had a fly-in there that Sunday.
Allover time required to fly from EGCS to LJDI was 6:18, not bad!

Upgrade to a faster airplane - Mooney M20E

My old Piper PA-28-140B Cherokee was a great airplane, an excellent starting solution for getting flying experience. She was equipped for long tours, the only problem was that the cruise speed was between 105-110 knots and with a 20 knots of a head wind the cruise speed dropped down to 90 knots. At the time when I was buying my Piper I was also checking a possibility to buy one Mooney. It was back in 2007 when the aircraft prices were not so low as now days due to financial crisis. Unfortunately the lowest prices for Mooneys at that time were between 60.000 and 70.000 EUR and I couldn't afford it. Especially I was looking for one aircraft in Germany M20F with turbo-normalizer with the price of 66.000 EUR. Then I bought my Cherokee D-EHFK. After about 2 years I started to think about the possibility to start training for instrument rating (IR) and immediately it was clear that IR rating means nothing if I will not practice it in my flying. Unfortunately Cherokee was just VFR certified and upgrade to IFR would cost me quite a lot of money.
The cheapest solution would be to find an IFR certified airplane which would be also faster. So I started again with regular checking of PlaneCheck website. I was checking Cessnas, Pipers and Mooneys. The German Mooney was still unsold after two years and now the price was only 45.000 EUR. I started a discussion with the owner and got the documents from the latest annual check. Then in January 2010 I found a very nice Mooney M20F in Austria at Wiener Neustadt. The airplane was in great condition, IFR certified, German register, but not capable for commercial usage as the engine was over 12 years. The price was 58.000 EUR and if the owner would reduce it to 50.000 EUR I would probably buy it.
I decided to inspect Mooney in Germany with the turbo-normalizer. Due to some projects at that time it was hard to find the right time for inspection as it was still winter weather. So finally I drove to the north of Germany. There was a fresh snow on the runway and the owner didn't want to make a test flight what was a big disappointment for me. During the inspection I found corrosion on several places and it was obvious that the airplane was somehow neglected during last years and was maintained only as much it was necessary to keep it airworthy. They were trying to sell the airplane already for 3 years but with no luck. When I came they reduced the price to 35.000 EUR for quick sale. The airplane was registered just for VFR and would need immediate investment of about 12.000 EUR to make it ready for IFR certification. They told me that there is also another potential buyer interested for the airplane. Immediately after return to home I had to go to Macedonia for one week and then I got the email from the owner that the second buyer paid the deposit and they sold the aircraft to him. I felt somehow deceived but at the same time I was happy as the required investment was not so small.
Then one day I found Mooney M20E, production year 1966, located in United Kingdom, call sign G-ATOU (see the album). The price was 31.900 EUR, engine overhauled in 2001 with 1200 hours to go, propeller overhauled before 3 years, so still 3 years to go. Avionics was IFR - Garmin GNS430, Garmin GTX330 S-mode transponder, Narco DME890, Narco 810 TSO as second COM, Narco 825 TSO as second NAV, Narco MBT-12 marker receiver and Honywell ADF-T-12C ADF receiver. Finally full IFR avionics! I have immediately contacted the seller and after some negotiation he guaranteed me number one buyer position and we agreed that I come next weekend for inspection.

So I used my Miles&More award miles for a free ticket to Manchester and also reserved a rental car with GPS as I had to go to Sturgate airfield (EGCS) where Mooney was located. Driving on the left side of the road for the first time in my life was a night mare.
I was very happy with the results of the inspection and we signed the agreement and I had to pay a deposit within 3 working days. After return to my home I performed some more checks with the mechanics and then decided to pay the deposit, and after some days the whole price.