Fly­ing aden­ture: A Greek Odyssey Part 2

Part 2 Fly­ing the C182 to Greece us­ing a hard-won In­stru­ment Rat­ing wasn’t quite trou­ble-free. It’s now time to con­tem­plate the re­turn trip

Pilot - - CONTENTS - Words: Stephen Walker Pho­tos: Sally Ge­orge

Af­ter en­joy­ing an idyl­lic hol­i­day, Stephen and Sally em­bark on their re­turn jour­ney

Two weeks into our Greek Odyssey and 1,800 miles from my home base at Den­ham, I had my first ac­ci­dent. Read­ers may re­mem­ber from Part One that I’d flown my groupowned Cessna 182, G-MICI, with my fly­ing part­ner Sally, across ten coun­tries and a de­cent chunk of the Mediter­ranean, all the way from the UK to Si­tia on the eastern edge of Crete. It had taken us over a week to get there in what was turn­ing out to be by far the most chal­leng­ing and ex­cit­ing aerial tour of my pi­lot­ing life. Since then, we’d spent a few days feast­ing on fish and feta, swim­ming in azure seas, mar­vel­ling at how far we’d trav­elled in our lit­tle fly­ing ma­chine, and watch­ing the weather with a wary eye. Now it was time to start home. And that’s when it hap­pened.

We’d ar­rived at Si­tia air­port at mid­day in­tend­ing to fly 150 miles west to the tiny Io­nian is­land of Kythira, nestling at the south­ern tip of the Pelo­pon­nese. The plan was to grasp a per­fect op­por­tu­nity and turn this into a low-and-slow VFR sight­see­ing ex­pe­di­tion over and around a num­ber of stun­ning Aegean is­lands. Given the tor­tu­ous com­plex­i­ties of most air­port open­ing times in this part of the world−not to men­tion the almost to­tal ab­sence of av­gas and some­times sky-high fees− we’d de­cided not to land at any of those is­lands along the way.

Ac­tu­ally, let me re­phrase that and say that we had orig­i­nally thought of land­ing at one of them, Naxos, but the op­er­a­tor rather put me off by sug­gest­ing that if I didn’t stump up the de­manded cash on ar­rival he could al­ways take my aero­plane. That took Naxos off the list. Kythira, on the other hand, was cheap, cheer­ful and−we had been told−ut­terly un­spoiled. So it was Kythira or bust.

Si­tia air­port, mean­while, was packed−largely with Ger­man tourists head­ing home. Our han­dlers led us past the long queues at se­cu­rity, earn­ing a num­ber of an­gry glances in our di­rec­tion. Then we were out onto the apron where MICI siz­zled in the sun­shine. I was car­ry­ing a

large box of oil. Not, I con­fess, the Aeroshell W100 kind, but de­li­cious extra vir­gin olive oil har­vested from the groves of Zakros on the Cre­tan coast. It was to prove my un­do­ing. Think­ing how lucky we were not to have to face all those dread­ful queues, I man­aged to trip over the tiedown hook un­der our left wing and fall flat on my face. Eight cans of the finest qual­ity olive oil scat­tered in all direc­tions over the tar­mac ap­prox­i­mately fifty me­tres from a Ger­man­wings Air­bus A320. I’m sure I saw the pi­lot ap­plaud­ing. I bet the wait­ing pas­sen­gers were.

Be­fore this trip, Sally and I had se­ri­ously con­sid­ered do­ing the ex­cel­lent BMAA First-aid course but some­how life had got in the way, with the re­sult that the var­i­ous plas­ters and ban­dages she man­aged to stick over parts of my face and body had a dis­tinctly am­a­teur­ish qual­ity. But they did the job which is what re­ally mat­ters. Once we’d cleared the cans of oil off the apron−all for­tu­itously in­tact−we de­cided to get go­ing pronto. With a quick thumbs-up to our Ger­man pi­lot friends, we tax­ied to the clifftop run­way, stepped on the gas, and fi­nally were on our way.

One of the interestin­g things about fly­ing lit­tle aero­planes in Greece is that there are barely any other lit­tle aero­planes fly­ing about in Greece. The ap­palling bu­reau­cracy ap­pears to have killed most of them off. This means that you have the sky vir­tu­ally to your­self, but it also means that con­trollers have an in­sa­tiable de­sire to know ev­ery­thing about your flight at almost ev­ery minute. Within the first half-hour of leav­ing the coast of Crete, we must have been asked for estimates to this or that way­point on our flight-planned route at least ten times. It was worse than the nav­i­ga­tion test for the PPL. Thank good­ness for Sky­de­mon!

But that wasn’t the whole of it. Mat­ters were ad­di­tion­ally com­pli­cated by the pres­ence of an ex­tremely long and con­vo­luted NO­TAM con­cern­ing a huge air and sea mil­i­tary ex­er­cise across prac­ti­cally the en­tire Aegean. Even Sky­de­mon−nor­mally so help­ful with these things - ap­peared to be stymied by the sheer un­in­tel­li­gi­bil­ity of this NO­TAM, merely draw­ing a great big cir­cle around most of Greece where the ex­er­cises were sup­posed to be tak­ing place at var­i­ous times dur­ing the day. And if all that wasn’t enough, the Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties then waded in with a very long NO­TAM of their own, in which they stated that the Greek NO­TAM was en­tirely il­le­gal un­der var­i­ous cited con­ven­tions go­ing all the way back to the 1923 Lau­sanne Peace Treaty and should there­fore be to­tally ig­nored.

You can prob­a­bly guess where all this is go­ing. The Greeks im­me­di­ately re­sponded with a sec­ond, even longer NO­TAM, coun­ter­ing that un­der no cir­cum­stances should the Turk­ish NO­TAM be ob­served, cit­ing another bunch of an­cient in­ter­na­tional treaties which all added up to the blunt mes­sage that the Turks were, ba­si­cally, way out of line. No won­der poor old Sky­de­mon was get­ting con­fused. So was I. Any­one read­ing these no­tices would think World War III was about to break out just as Sally and I were off to do our lit­tle aerial tour of the Aegean is­lands.

My phi­los­o­phy in these sit­u­a­tions is es­sen­tially to soldier on and hope that no­body would re­ally want to shoot down a Cessna 182 and thereby start a war. I’ve also learned over the years−and I don’t just mean this from a fly­ing per­spec­tive−that the fur­ther south you go the more rules you tend to get and the less any­body takes any no­tice of them. This was the prin­ci­ple we were about to put to the test.

The first is­land on our route was San­torini−a cel­e­brated, pic­tureper­fect Greek idyll of white­washed houses and churches cling­ing to a cliff, al­beit one scarred by too much tourism. As we ap­proached its coast, I asked the friendly fe­male con­troller if we could de­scend to 1,000 feet and or­bit over the har­bour. She agreed and down we went, skim­ming over the tops of yachts and cruise ships an­chored be­low the town.

I’d seen in­nu­mer­able pho­to­graphs of San­torini taken from the van­tage point of the town it­self, and very pretty they were too, but noth­ing quite pre­pared me for the op­po­site view as we lev­elled out over the wa­ter and looked back up. The lit­tle town perched per­ilously on the spine of a cliff, a daz­zling con­fec­tion of streets and build­ings ap­pear­ing for all the world as if the whole lot might fall into the sea at any mo­ment. We stared, amazed. It was worth more than all the NO­TAM and end­less ETAS just to get that in­cred­i­ble view.

It was at this point that the San­torini con­troller cut across our reverie and an­nounced that, be­cause of the NOTAMED Greek mil­i­tary ex­er­cise, she’d been ad­vised by Athens In­for­ma­tion that we could not fly our planned is­land tour and that we were to pro­ceed im­me­di­ately and by the most di­rect route pos­si­ble to our des­ti­na­tion, Kythira. This was a ma­jor blow. For the briefest of mo­ments, I won­dered whether to ex­plain that I was ob­serv­ing the Turk­ish NO­TAM in­stead, but cau­tion pre­vailed. This was not a time for ar­gu­ments about his­tory. We’d come three-quar­ters of the way across Europe to see the Aegean is­lands and we weren’t go­ing to be stopped now. Think­ing I de­tected the mer­est hint of em­bar­rass­ment in the

con­troller’s voice, I de­cided to act on it.

In the same tones I re­mem­ber us­ing as a kid to get my grand­mother to buy me a Dou­ble 99 when­ever the ice cream van turned up, I ex­plained to the con­troller that we’d flown nearly 2,000 miles all the way from the UK in a once-in-a-life­time trip for the sin­gle pur­pose of see­ing the beau­ti­ful is­lands of the Aegean from the air, and asked her sweetly if there was any­thing she could do? It wasn’t the sort of thing you’d do, say, with Farnboroug­h Radar but I was des­per­ate and any­way this was Greece where a di­rect ap­peal to the heart might just work. The con­troller laughed, said she’d do her best and told us to standby. Mo­ments later, she came back: “I have good news!” she ex­claimed. The mil­i­tary would clear us a pas­sage along our planned route. Sally and I high-fived in the cock­pit. The con­troller sounded almost as de­lighted as we were.

And so we slowly wound our way at 1,500 feet over some of the loveli­est is­lands in the world, over Ios, Naxos, Paros, Sifnos and Mi­los among others, all sparkling be­neath MICI’S wings in the sun­shine. The sky was blue and life felt good. With Athens In­for­ma­tion now keep­ing an eye on our flight, we were oc­ca­sion­ally asked to change a head­ing to make way for some pass­ing jet or he­li­copter, but we never saw any other traf­fic. Almost too soon, Kythira ap­peared over the hori­zon with its lit­tle air­port sit­ting on a plateau. We swung onto final ap­proach over a land­scape of olive groves and empty beaches, land­ing on an im­mac­u­lately main­tained run­way. As al­ways, there wasn’t a sin­gle other aero­plane on the apron. Our han­dlers greeted us like old friends, helped us tie down the air­craft (the lo­cal winds, we were told, could be se­ri­ously im­pres­sive) and whisked us

This is off-the-grid Greece, an is­land that be­longs to the world of Ger­ald Dur­rell

through the de­serted ter­mi­nal. Within thirty min­utes, we were driv­ing our rental car into town.

One of the best things about Kythira is that no­body I know, apart from my Greek den­tist, has ever heard of it. And even he was amazed we were go­ing there. This is off-the-grid Greece, an is­land that be­longs to the world of Ger­ald Dur­rell, where shop­keep­ers re­ally do use an­tique scales to mea­sure weights, where there are no re­sorts or big ho­tels, where lo­cals are gen­uinely fas­ci­nated when they hear you speak­ing English and ask, in won­der­ing voices, how you ever got here? Of course I ex­ag­ger­ate slightly: there are daily tur­bo­prop flights from Athens and there is a ferry, but the is­land still charms with its placid 1950s at­mos­phere, and sadly that’s in­creas­ingly rare these days. To fly there the way we did was truly a priv­i­lege.

Our base was Avle­monas, a hid­den cove on the is­land’s eastern coast where large, bal­conied rooms were to be had at only fifty Eu­ros a night, with the sea just ten steps away. As this was early Oc­to­ber, we had the place almost to our­selves, and the weather con­tin­ued to be per­fect. With our hired car we ex­plored the is­land’s many vil­lages and monas­ter­ies, most of them sleep­ing in the sun with barely a vis­i­tor to be seen. The food was sim­ple and scrump­tious. For those think­ing of mak­ing the same trip or go­ing by air from Athens, I can heartily rec­om­mend a restau­rant called Pier­ros in the old cap­i­tal of Li­vadi, a place straight out of Zorba the Greek, com­plete with a pa­tron who could have been a shoo-in for An­thony Quinn.

Kythira’s charms se­duced us into stay­ing longer than we in­tended, but a front mov­ing in from the north meant that we couldn’t hang around for­ever and it was soon time to move on. The op­tions, as al­ways in Greece, were head-scratch­ingly nar­row. There was no av­gas at Kythira air­port, and I’d al­ready used up a good third of a tank get­ting here from Crete. My best fuel op­tions were ei­ther to fly to Me­gara near Athens, one of the coun­try’s very few (and pos­si­bly only) ded­i­cated GA air­fields, or to fly 250 miles north to Ioan­nina, a city not far from the Al­ba­nian bor­der.

My pref­er­ence was to get to Me­gara, be­cause this would al­low us to fly the low-level VFR route

along the coast right past Athens, with po­ten­tially amaz­ing views of the Acrop­o­lis. But the wors­en­ing weather quickly put paid to that idea. With bro­ken cloud bases of 2,000 feet or lower fore­cast over the south­ern Greek main­land, I couldn’t risk the flight, not least be­cause part of the route takes you over Salamis, the big­gest naval base in the coun­try, and the last thing I wanted to do was get lost over that. Hav­ing dodged one mil­i­tary ex­er­cise, I didn’t want to tempt fate a sec­ond time. So it had to be Ioan­nina which, al­though almost im­pos­si­ble to pro­nounce, did at least have the ad­van­tage of being a port of en­try. In Greece, even when you’re go­ing to another EU or Schen­gen coun­try, you still have to exit through one of these. And, un­less you’re pre­pared to take out a sec­ond mort­gage and tran­sit through a big com­mer­cial air­port like, say, Corfu, there aren’t too many to choose from. Ioan­nina fit­ted the bill.

So, in rapidly cloud­ing skies, we rolled up at Kythira air­port keen to get crack­ing. I had ear­lier filed a VFR flight plan that would take us north along the west­ern coast of the Pelo­pon­nese, keep­ing well away from the high moun­tains in the in­te­rior. That front was rac­ing in faster than had been fore­cast and I wanted to be well away be­fore things started to get chal­leng­ing. But, as we all know, things never quite work out like that.

Why is it that when you most need to get a move on some­thing al­ways gets in your way? In our case it was the air­port se­cu­rity of­fi­cer who, on a whim, had sud­denly de­cided to leave the air­port and go home for his lunch mo­ments be­fore we’d ar­rived. Since his home hap­pened to be six miles away and he wasn’t an­swer­ing his phone, all we could do was sit around while some­body drove all the way out to his house to drag him back so that he could check our bags were free of bombs. I pointed out to the very em­bar­rassed air­port op­er­a­tor that the only air­craft sit­ting on the apron was our own and we were hardly likely to blow it up, but in this case he wouldn’t budge. He did how­ever of­fer me a case of his home-grown wine in­stead. I was tempted to drink it there and then. In­stead, I checked and re-checked the weather. It wasn’t look­ing too great− still VMC but veer­ing to­wards mar­ginal. A cou­ple of years ago that would have meant a def­i­nite scrub and back to the ho­tel, but now I had a joker in the pack, and that was my in­stru­ment rat­ing. So out came the in­stru­ment ap­proach charts for Ioan­nina.

Over an air­port cof­fee I got down to study­ing them in de­tail. The last thing I wanted was to be caught out, es­pe­cially since the MSA around Ioan­nina was 10,700 feet and you def­i­nitely don’t want to blun­der about in the skies with that amount of cu­mu­lus gran­i­tas around. Look­ing at the winds, I reck­oned the chances were high we’d get the RNAV for Run­way 32, a fiendishly com­pli­cated ap­proach with mul­ti­ple step­downs thread­ing be­tween sharp peaks, end­ing up with a Stuka­like de­scent par­al­lel­ing a lake to­wards the air­port. Over and again, as I’d been taught, I flew the pro­ce­dure in my head− and, just in case, the op­po­site ap­proach. Then the air­port se­cu­rity guy turned up, full of apolo­gies. I thought he was about to of­fer me a case of his home­grown wine too, but in­stead he checked our bags. No bombs or weapons. We dashed out to MICI and, as driz­zle be­gan spit­ting from a low­er­ing sky, fi­nally got go­ing.

Within twenty min­utes, the clouds were brush­ing the tops of our wings at 2,000 feet over a grey sea. I called Athens In­for­ma­tion and ex­plained I wanted to switch to IFR. I was told to stand by. Just about the point when I was con­sid­er­ing mak­ing a U-turn and head­ing

I had a joker in the pack, and that was my in­stru­ment rat­ing

back to Kythira, Athens came back. They had a ques­tion. Was I in­stru­ment-rated? This was not some­thing I’d ever been asked on the ra­dio be­fore, but I sup­posed it was be­cause an in­stru­ment-rated pri­vate pi­lot fly­ing around in a sin­gle-en­gine Cessna was a pretty rare event in Greece−hardly sur­pris­ing given that any sort of pri­vate light air­craft fly­ing about in Greece was a pretty rare event as far as I could see. Yes, I told Athens, I was suit­ably rated. The con­troller cleared us to FL100 just as the rain be­gan pour­ing on the wind­screen, mask­ing any view ahead. Up we went into the soup. It was in the nick of time.

Pop­ping out of the clouds into bril­liant sun­shine at FL85 we tracked north into im­prov­ing weather, but the ap­proach into Ioan­nina still had my pulse rac­ing. We got the pro­ce­dure

I was ex­pect­ing and I was glad I’d done my home­work. Weav­ing in and out of cloud in the de­scent, I was acutely aware of the prox­im­ity of those peaks. As we turned onto the final ap­proach track the sun oblig­ingly re-ap­peared, giv­ing us a tremen­dous panorama of the lake nestling in the val­ley with the old walled city lap­ping its west­ern edge. We landed on a huge run­way and parked on yet another de­serted apron be­fore en­ter­ing yet another de­serted ter­mi­nal. I say de­serted, but there were at least six, all very friendly han­dlers stand­ing there to greet us. It took almost an hour to com­plete the re­quired pa­per­work.

Ioan­nina was a rev­e­la­tion. An an­cient Ot­toman city, it en­joys a truly sen­sa­tional set­ting. De­spite hav­ing only one night there we made the most of it, tak­ing a boat across the lake to an is­land stud­ded with mag­nif­i­cent monas­ter­ies and wan­der­ing the maze of streets and the old mosque in the walled town.

In the warm out­doors we had din­ner in a restau­rant serv­ing the best sou­vlaki I have ever eaten, washed down with a carafe of the lo­cal wine. The city buzzed with life but not once did we hear an English voice. Up here in the wild moun­tains of north­ern­most Greece it was hard to re­mem­ber that tourist-sat­u­rated Corfu was just forty miles away.

Back at the air­port the fol­low­ing morn­ing we ar­ranged to have the tanks filled with fuel (at a whop­ping three Eu­ros a litre), paid an equally whop­ping land­ing fee (all those friendly han­dlers don’t come cheap), showed our pass­port twice to two sep­a­rate se­cu­rity of­fi­cers who clearly had noth­ing else to do all day, be­fore being driven by two fur­ther han­dlers less than twenty me­tres to our aero­plane. We loved Ioan­nina, but frankly the air­port is an ex­pen­sive ob­sta­cle course. By now Sally and I were look­ing for­ward to find­ing our­selves in a more user-friendly GA regime. We would cer­tainly get that at our next des­ti­na­tion, Linz in Aus­tria.

I’d cho­sen Linz largely be­cause it sits north of the east­ern­most Alps where the ter­rain is less prob­lem­atic. Hav­ing crossed the Alps in the op­po­site di­rec­tion fur­ther west, I didn’t fancy my chances go­ing back that way well into Oc­to­ber with less co­op­er­a­tive weather. The flight from Ioan­nina would be my long­est ever, over 650 nau­ti­cal miles, pretty much the same dis­tance as Lon­don to Madrid. Not bad for a Cessna 182, if tough on the blad­der.

So, hav­ing de­nied our­selves any cof­fee or even wa­ter at break­fast, we took off, spi­ralling up over the lake and the mosque and the moun­tains be­fore head­ing ini­tially to Corfu, then turn­ing MICI’S nose north­wards. The weather was ex­cel­lent as, once again, we crossed Al­ba­nia with its bar­ren hills and strange land­scape of strip fields, a left­over from the days of col­lec­tive farm­ing when the coun­try was a Com­mu­nist po­lice state. Ti­rana, its cap­i­tal, passed 9,000 feet be­low us, but even

from this al­ti­tude we could see huge piles of Soviet-style tower blocks en­cir­cling the city, ugly mon­u­ments to an ugly regime. On we went, past Croa­tia and Slove­nia, over the Alps where we picked up a scrap­ing of ice, and fi­nally into Aus­tria. Five hours af­ter leav­ing Ioan­nina we were back on the ground at Linz, with only one thing on our minds. Af­ter a quick photo, we sprinted into the ter­mi­nal, both ab­so­lutely des­per­ate to find the loo.

With time press­ing on, we could only stay a night. By now we’d been away for more than two weeks, and we had to get home. Sadly, this sort of trip doesn’t pay for it­self and we had jobs to get back to. Linz it­self did not dis­ap­point, de­spite its dark his­tory as the city where Hitler spent his youth. It proved to be a less touristy ver­sion of Salzburg, with its clat­ter­ing old trams, cosy cafés and Ro­coco churches flank­ing the Danube. One day we’ll go back. But with a short-lived high pres­sure zone en­velop­ing north­ern Europe, I wanted to take ad­van­tage of the good weather while it lasted and head on to Eng­land.

The cu­ri­ous thing about fly­ing all the way to Greece and back is that a coun­try like Aus­tria sud­denly feels almost as close to home as, say, Le Tou­quet once did. I re­alise how odd (and per­haps even a lit­tle smug) that must sound but it hon­estly does feel like that. Once we’d crossed the for­mi­da­ble barrier of the Alps, the dis­tances left seemed un­daunt­ing. Given the pre­vi­ous day’s mileage, we could eas­ily have flown all the way from Linz to Den­ham in one go. MICI was cer­tainly good for it. With the en­gine leaned well be­yond peak, she could vir­tu­ally go on all day. But in the end we de­cided to give our­selves a bit of a break and head first a cou­ple of hun­dred miles north-west for a brief stop at Rothen­burg in Ger­many, a small town in Bavaria with a su­per lit­tle air­port manned by a kindly AFISO and his Al­sa­tian dog. So off we went.

The coun­try­side be­low was gen­tly rolling and au­tum­nal, some­thing of a shock af­ter the harsher tones of the south. We kept low, en­joy­ing the views and the free­dom not to have to give ETAS ev­ery few min­utes, or to ne­go­ti­ate a path through com­plex mil­i­tary ex­er­cises, or to cope with the chal­lenges of 10,000 foot peaks. It was de­light­ful sim­ply to am­ble along over un­chal­leng­ing ter­rain in sunny skies with the win­dow open and lit­tle or noth­ing to say on the ra­dio. Pure heaven, in fact.

Rothen­burg is a town so per­fectly fairy-tale that at any mo­ment you half ex­pect to see the Seven Dwarves saun­ter­ing down the street with a witch or two in pur­suit. Ev­ery build­ing seems to be half-tim­bered and quaintly crooked, which is why it comes as a shock to learn that forty per cent of the place was

ac­tu­ally bombed to pieces in WWII. Still, it’s an as­ton­ish­ing restora­tion, and a lovely des­ti­na­tion which I’d strongly rec­om­mend to tour­ing read­ers in search of some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent. Plus it has one of the best Christ­mas mar­kets on the con­ti­nent.

With heavy hearts, we lined up on the run­way for the last leg

Af­ter binge­ing on dumplings and sauer­kraut, we stopped briefly for fuel and cus­toms at nearby Sch­wäbish Hall−it­self a charm­ing town with one of the most ef­fi­cient air­ports I have ever vis­ited. Then fi­nally, and with heavy hearts, we lined up on the run­way for the last leg home. This time I’d de­cided to let the con­trollers do most of the work and filed IFR up in the air­ways. Wear­ing our can­nu­las, we cruised serenely above the clouds in bril­liant sun­shine at FL120 across Ger­many and Bel­gium, snack­ing on lunch while try­ing to re­mem­ber to breathe through our noses.

Be­fore we even reached the Bel­gian coast the un­flap­pable pro­fes­sion­als at Lon­don Con­trol took good care of us, hand­ing us from sec­tor to sec­tor in the de­scent to­wards Lon­don. The ra­dio got very busy with air­lin­ers fly­ing above and some­times be­low us, still a strange sight to me from the cock­pit of a Cessna 182. As al­ways, I found my­self amazed that those con­trollers were will­ing to make room for slow­coaches like us, skil­fully thread­ing us through one of the busiest aerial cross­roads on the planet.

Lon­don con­ve­niently dropped us out of its con­trolled airs­pace only a few miles from Den­ham where we joined an empty cir­cuit to land. In si­lence we tax­ied to our park­ing spot, both wrapped up in our own thoughts. We had just trav­elled a to­tal of almost 4,000nm to the other side of

Europe and back in a tiny sin­gleengine pis­ton air­craft. We stepped stiffly out of the cock­pit into the cool of an English Oc­to­ber evening, qui­etly re­moved our bags and more than two weeks worth of bits and pieces from the cock­pit, and put MICI to bed. I gave her strut a lit­tle pat of thanks. She had car­ried us a long way. More than that, she had given us both the ad­ven­ture of our lives. As we walked away, I had only one thought in my mind: where would our next ad­ven­ture be? Al­ready I couldn’t wait!

Sally do­ing her re-pack­ing thing at Ioan­nina. Next stop Linz

BE­LOW: Clash of the NO­TAM. This is Turkey's re­sponse to the Greeks

BE­LOW LEFT: Kythira air­port plate and... BE­LOW RIGHT: ... turn­ing final for the real thing

ABOVE: fly­ing low over the is­lands

ABOVE: Kythira is­land, with its 'un­spoiled 1950s at­mos­phere'

BE­LOW: at the air­port be­fore our de­par­ture to the north with de­te­ri­o­rat­ing weather

LEFT: weather clos­ing in as we head north to Ioan­nina – time to go IFR!

ABOVE: the old walled city of Ioan­nina, at the west­ern edge of a lake nestling in a val­ley

BE­LOW: Ioan­nina's mosque – a relic from Ot­toman days

BE­LOW: stun­ning moun­tain scenery in Al­ba­nia as we head north

ABOVE: Ioan­nina air­port, where friendly han­dlers ‘don’t come cheap’

Beau­ti­ful Linz; a qui­eter ver­sion of Salzburg and a place that, af­ter Greece, felt close to home.

View of last overnight stop Rothen­burg, a small town in Bavaria

Sally and me at Linz af­ter our 650nm flight. Mo­ments af­ter the pic­ture was taken we raced to the ‘fa­cil­i­ties’

Sky­de­mon keep­ing a warch­ful eye on our path

BE­LOW RIGHT: ready for another ad­ven­ture? Stephen and Sally can’t wait

BE­LOW LEFT: Moun­tain High's ex­cel­lent O2D2 pulse-de­mand unit in ac­tion at FL90.

ABOVE: the joys of IFR. Cruis­ing home over Bel­gium at FL120, above the clouds.

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