GEAR UP

A LOT TO BE LEARNED IN AL­MOST A MONTH OF AVIATING “OVER THERE”

Flying - - CONTENTS - By Dick Karl

Gen­eral avi­a­tion fly­ing in Europe

Around here, we call it the “trip of a life­time,” though that hardly does it jus­tice. You might remember last month’s col­umn that left off at an im­prob­a­bly tasty restau­rant in Kanger­lus­suaq, Green­land, af­ter just the first day of a 23-day pri­vate jet tour of Europe. Air Jour­ney or­ga­nized the trip, and it fea­tured three air­planes: two Cessna CJ3+s and “our” Cessna M2. I say “our” be­cause my wife, Cathy, and I were guests of Pete and Shardel, the ac­tual own­ers of this glam­orous Garmin-be­decked M2.

Thierry Pouille and his wife, So­phie, run Air Jour­ney. They ac­com­pany or ar­range flights for peo­ple with ca­pa­ble air­planes and out­size — some might say out­landish — travel dreams. For in­stance, while we were ram­bling around some of Europe’s

most in­trigu­ing des­ti­na­tions, their daugh­ter was shep­herd­ing a roundthe-world tour. On one day, Air Jour­ney had 18 air­planes in the air. On our trip, Thierry was the briefer, con­fi­dant, fixer, slot ne­go­tia­tor, ho­tel room wran­gler and restau­rant chooser. I came to look for­ward to his brief­ings given the night be­fore a flight. The com­pany, us­ing Jeppe­sen FliteS­tar, SkyVec­tors and ForeF­light, pre­pared flight plans. Safety, as you will see, was given pri­or­ity.

There is a lot to say about this trip, but I will con­fine my de­scrip­tion to what I learned from fly­ing in a pri­vate jet across the At­lantic and around Europe. I’ll have to tell you about the Red Bull hangar in Salzburg, Aus­tria, and the Pi­la­tus fac­tory in Stans, Switzer­land, some other time.

We were up early on day two for the flight from Kanger­lus­suaq (BGSF) to Reyk­javik (BIRK), Ice­land, a mere 735 nm. Af­ter take­off, we climbed to 5,300 feet, so as to avoid the rocks, be­fore turn­ing left to­ward Ice­land. I re­ported our pas­sage of N66 W040 to Ice­land Ra­dio. About the only air­port along the way was a 3,934-foot gravel strip called BGKK — what­ever that is. I had no de­sire to find out.

At BIRK, our tran­si­tion al­ti­tude from 1,013 hec­topas­cals to lo­cal al­time­ter set­ting took place at 7,000 feet. We were cleared for the LOC Z 13 ap­proach, and I was re­lieved to see the air­port come into view as we passed through 1,000 feet msl. The wind was ad­ver­tised as 170 de­grees gust­ing up to 50 knots(!), but Pete put us on the cen­ter­line like a pro. The FBO sported some Ger­man Ci­ta­tions and a brand­new TBM 930 with its giddy new owner and ferry pi­lot get­ting ready to head west.

Our next des­ti­na­tion was to be Am­s­ter­dam, but a line of thun­der­storms north of the air­port dic­tated a change in plans. Ever been to Nor­way? Me ei­ther, but Sta­vanger, Nor­way, was se­lected for beau­ti­ful weather and scenery. Reyk­javik to Sta­vanger (ENZV) is 910 nau­ti­cal, and we flight planned three hours at Flight Level 410 over the Nor­we­gian Sea. To Pete’s and my en­dur­ing sat­is­fac­tion, we watched the faster CJ3+s fall be­hind us. At FL 410, we had a slight tail­wind; at FL 450 they had a headwind. We were given an un­usual view: The Faroe Is­lands, cus­tom­ar­ily cov­ered by cloud, were vis­i­ble, look­ing all craggy and wind-blown. We set our VHF chan­nel spac­ing to 8.33 kHz — this would con­found me for the rest of the trip. I am just not used to fre­quen­cies like 126.705. We beat the oth­ers in, parked and waited for the trucks to fuel us all.

I learned about slots and airspace. Am­s­ter­dam was still a mess the next day, and no slots were avail­able, so Rot­ter­dam and a bus ride were cho­sen. Though there are far fewer flights over Europe than there are over the United States, slots and airspace are con­sid­er­ably more pre­cious. Thierry showed me data from 2010 com­par­ing Euro­pean airspace to the United States. Even then, the United States had 70 per­cent more con­trolled flight hours, 38 per­cent less staff and one en route air nav­i­ga­tion ser­vice provider (the FAA), com­pared to 38 in Europe. Our flight plan routes were of­ten cu­ri­ously non­lin­ear as we fish­tailed our way along, man­ag­ing to over­fly as many coun­tries, and their bill­able airspace, as pos­si­ble.

Our next flight, from Rot­ter­dam to Nice, France, was filed for 0900 hours, but we were told upon ar­rival at the air­port that our slot times were start­ing at 1100. Thierry was on the phone with the tower, urg­ing them to move things along, but to no avail. Our route was any­thing but a straight line. We tra­versed the Nether­lands, Bel­gium, Ger­many, Switzer­land and France. On flightaware.com, our path re­sem­bled a drunk work­ing his way home. We did get a nice view of the Alps though.

Then there are the FBOs. The ar­rival into Nice was an­other strange event. We were given a long route out over the Mediter­ranean Sea, a

THE FEES IN­CLUDED 400 EU­ROS TO TOW US INTO A PARK­ING SPOT ABOUT 100 FEET FROM WHERE WE SHUT DOWN. THE PRICE TO TOW US BACK OUT WAS AN­OTHER 400 EU­ROS.

VOR ap­proach to a point and then a vis­ual. Once on the ground, we tax­ied to park­ing ramp Kilo and shut down. A van took our pas­sen­gers to the FBO (where skin cream could be pur­chased for 3,500 eu­ros) while we waited in the heat for fuel.

A sur­prise on depar­ture: The han­dling fees in­cluded 400 eu­ros to hook up a tow bar and push us into a park­ing spot about 100 feet from where we shut down. The price to tow us back out was an­other 400 eu­ros. All told, the han­dling fees, not count­ing the fuel, were 1,800 eu­ros. A sign in the park­ing area stated that unau­tho­rized en­gine or APU start would re­sult in a fine: 20,000 eu­ros. De­spite these in­dig­ni­ties, the ramp was packed with big pri­vate air­planes, all sun­ning them­selves while their own­ers ca­vorted in Cannes.

I’ve had a few ex­pe­ri­ences in the States with re­mote park­ing. Usu­ally this in­con­ve­nience oc­curs around pop­u­lar events like the Masters Tour­na­ment or the Su­per Bowl. In Europe, it can be any­where. In Salzburg, Sta­vanger, and Tallinn, Es­to­nia, our air­planes were parked non­walk­a­ble dis­tances from cus­toms and fuel providers. We were de­pen­dent on vans and fu­el­ers to come to us. Note to self: Don’t leave any­thing in the air­plane that you might want later on. Are you sure the bat­tery is dis­con­nected and the brakes are off?

Most of the ap­proaches were ILS or vis­ual. We had very good weather, for the most part. At some air­ports, large moun­tains are sit­u­ated close to the field, and in some places take­offs and land­ings were in op­po­site direc­tions to avoid the peaks, if winds per­mit­ted.

Con­trollers were al­most al­ways easy to un­der­stand af­ter a few min­utes of ac­cli­ma­tion. For some rea­son, I found the Ital­ian con­trollers to be the eas­i­est to hear clearly — maybe be­cause I grew up in New York.

Our des­ti­na­tions also in­cluded Ljubl­jana, Slove­nia; Saint-Louis, France; Tallinn (cheap­est fuel at $2.96 per gal­lon); Stock­holm; and Ed­in­burgh, Scot­land (by hap­pen­stance, we had drinks there with

se­nior edi­tor Rob Mark and his wife, Nancy — what were the chances?) be­fore head­ing back across the At­lantic via Ice­land, Green­land and Canada.

Some 21 legs and 40 hours af­ter set­ting out, we were home. There’s lots to see and ad­mire in Europe; the cul­ture and beauty are mem­o­rable. But I found my­self deeply grate­ful to be back at my home FBO in Tampa, Florida, where they all know my fam­ily and me. I can walk out to the air­plane and get in and go any­where in these United States and talk to one ATC sys­tem and not (yet, any­way) get a bill for the priv­i­lege of flight across this great land.

A sign greet­ing avi­a­tors on park­ing ramp Kilo in Nice, France.

Dick with his gen­er­ous hosts, Shardel and Pete, some­where over the At­lantic Ocean in the Cessna Ci­ta­tion M2.

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