Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Few years ago I had done some work in Macedonia (FYROM) and one of my customers urgently called me and wanted me on-site for some diagnosis and troubleshooting with their Oracle RAC system.
In recent months my schedule is very tight so the only viable solution was to add Saturday to the schedule. During winter months it was not a lot of opportunities for flying with exception of local flights and one skiing trip to Zell am See (LOWZ). So this request came just in right time as the weather was excellent. Due to some obligations in late afternoon on Thursday I decided to depart from Ljubljana (LJLJ) on Friday morning at 6:00, March 11th 2011. A day before I had flown the aircraft from my home airport Divača (LJDI) to Ljubljana airport.
Due to freezing temperatures there was some tiny ice on the wings so we had to clean the wings before we were ready for departure. The weather was clear but we had the same problem with the ice as any outside parked car with the ice on the windshield.
The route to Macedonia was quite simple due to VFR flying rules:
LJLJ - S3 (CTR exit point) - NEMEK (border point with Croatia) - NIVES (Bosnian border point) - IDASI - GAC - PERAN (Montenegro border point) - NIK - POD - RETRA (Albanian border point) - MAVAR (Macedonian border point) - SKJ - LWSK
The flight took 3:09 what is an excellent time for such distance. The average cruising speed at FL110 was 143 KT.
This was the first long distance flight with the new JPI EDM-700 instrument installed. I bought the version with fuel flow. Monitoring engine parameters like CHT (Cylinder Head Temperature) and EGT (Exhaust Gases Temperature) for all 4 cylinders is a very nice feature. On my previous airplane I have installed just fuel scan JPI FS-450 and found that for long distance flying such an instrument is really a "must". With EDM-700 with fuel flow one can really precisely lean the mixture. My Mooney has GAMI injectors installed so I can fly lean-of-peak (LOP) and thus reduce the fuel consumption even more what gives me a greater autonomy.
The flight was without any problems as the sky was clear without any clouds throughout the whole Balkans. After clearing Ljubljana CTR and until flying below Terminal Ljubljana we were flying 1000 FT AGL. Only after leaving terminal we climbed to 7000 FT inbound to border point NEMEK. Before we were handled to Zagreb Approach and later on to Zagreb Radar we started climbing to 10,000 FT. Before reaching Bosnia were instructed to climb to FL110 in order to stay in the controlled airspace over Bosnia. Before Montenegro border we were passed to Podgorica Approach and got immediately direct RETRA. Before this point we were passed to Tirana Radar and then to Skopje Radar before we reached MAVAR point. When we were closer to Skopje we were passed to Skopje Approach and got direct SKJ VOR which is only few hundred meters away from RWY 34 threshold at LWSK.
Immediately after arrival to Skopje airport I was instructed to call Macedonian CAA. They told me that since February 16th there is a new procedure in place in their AIP which requests that one should make a prior announcement of the flight to Macedonian CAA. Until this amendment only a flight plan was enough. Obviously the reason for this amendment is 20,00 EUR fee which has to be paid in advance to CAA what looks like a new source of money for them since they are now on their own and have to earn money. At the same time Macedonians say that they are approaching EU Community, however with such behavior for VFR flighst they are practically the only exemption in EU. Currently I know only that Bulgaria and Romania request a prior announcement, but they do not charge one for that.
Fortunately my friends, Macedonian pilots, helped me with solving the problem and Nikola Davidov paid the fee for me on next working day.
After clearing this problem we left for Skopje's sport airfield Stenkovec where my friends were already waiting for me to arrive for the first time with Mooney. Stenkovec is only about 10 minutes flight away from LWSK. They have a grass runway of a very good quality and therefore landing there with retractable gear was no problem.
Immediately my Mooney got new nick name in the style of Macedonian language - Munjot.
I had to work until late evening and only after 21:00 we were able to gather together again in one restaurant. It was a great time to chat with my Macedonian colleagues and drink excellent Macedonian wine "T'GA ZA JUG".
Next morning I had to work until approximately 12 hours and then I returned to hotel where my friend Jernej Bizjak, also a pilot, was already waiting for me. We went to Stenkovec and after having a real black (Turkish) coffee we departed to LWSK for border control and refueling. The landing fee at LWSK was quite expensive - 45 EUR. Before TAV took the LWSK airport it was only about 25 EUR. The price of the AVGAS was 1,95 EUR/liter.
The flight plan for returning home was slightly different. Instead of flying over Bosnia we stayed at the cost of Adriatic Sea and crossed Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar and the turned inbound to DOL. The last 7 minutes of flight were in night conditions and this was my first night landing with Mooney at Ljubljana airport (LJLJ). The flight back took 3:28. A strong "jugo" - a south west wind was expected to blow along Adriatic coast but unfortunately the forecast was wrong and we had a head wind.