The Ghost of Mykonos

 

CFI Tour 2000

 

This year, it would be a Club Fournier International flight in a direction where only few private pilots dare to go, Greece via the former Republic of Yugoslavia and Albania.

 

 

Thursday, 01 June:

For a number of reasons, the group would have to be small, only experienced and disciplined pilots. 9 teams, 8 from Germany and 1 from Switzerland (Jean Louis Brodard) meet in perfect weather at Eggenfelden, east of Munich. The engine of Jean Louis has been silent for the last three years, now it loses oil. But only a harmless seal has to be replaced. In the afternoon we depart towards Slovenia for Portoroz, south of Triest. Salzburg requests a fly by over the ATC tower before we start our climb through the Enntal until Niederoblarn and then south via the Solkpass with good visibility in 6500 feet.

Then we start a descend to Klagenfurt without knowing we have to pass a 5000 feet mountain ridge to reach Slovenia. The clouds on the southern rim allows a smooth passing and a descend into Portoroz.

We are welcomed with a Slivovitz. The ladies at the airport find us a hotel room, directly at the Adriatic in the old part of Pirna and organize the transfer by bus after we refuelled at a price of 1.80 DM, the bus ride including the handling at the airport was only 40 DM.

In one of the many restaurants at the sea side we enjoy our first fish dinner. All of us are very pleased we the first part of our trip; passing the Alps without any problems.

 


Friday, June 2:

 

Our flight plan along the Croatian Coast follows the published air routes, but it doesn’t give us any problems. However, after take-off Air Traffic Control gives us another route, outside the coastline along the chain of Isles. Luckily I carry the Jeppesen IFR chart and lead the group from NDB to NDB.

The sight of the many uninhabited Isles in the Blue Adriatic water is one in a million. We cross Zadar. Reaching Split I fear that we lose the formation because an Airliner wants to start in our direction. But, the formation is close together, so a holding turn proves to be unnecessary.

When reaching Split we fly along a steep coast, the mountains are a lot higher then expected. The infamous downwind isn’t present so the flight in 1000 or less feet is relaxed
After a 3.25 hour’s flight we reach
Dubrovnik after passing the old town with its famous castle; which was damaged by Serbian bombardments a few years ago.
During this flight along the coast it was clear that an emergency would end up in ditching the Glider in the water. The flight plan for the next morning is submitted directly inclusive the given permissions to cross
Belgrade and Tirana ATC regions. We find a place to stay not far from the airport in a tourist installation including a pool and a flourishing garden. The bus to the city of Dubrovnik takes an hour. The romantic Citadel is loaded with restaurants and salesmen in the streets. We take advantage of this and find a restaurant with offers us the Aperitif, 4 Litres of wine and a 10 percent discount of the bill.
And so we enjoy a wonderful evening in one of the street restaurants. In the mean time we received multiple calls from ATC Dubrovnik concerning the flight plan to Ioannina. Our landing there has been cleared beforehand but the Greeks try to get rid of us, sometimes for fuel, sometimes for operating times of the airport. Corfu, as the next entry airport into
Greece had denied us several times. Take-off and landing times are changed twice and finally allows us a late breakfast.

Saturday, June 3:


Luckily we arrive at the airport early enough because clearing all the admin stuff takes hours. The Croats want to cash in 50 DM per aircraft; which I deny, because normally rallies likes this are handled with 50 % discount. After long negotiations this is finally accepted. At engine start Peter with its D-KOHE reports ignition problems. With united powers we try to solve the problem and find the problem, an ignition coil fails. As is fortunate in group flying one of us has a spare coil available, the problem is fixed.

After a few flying minutes we cross the border to Monte-Negro, fly into Serbian controlled airspace. The military airport of Tivat takes control of us. Clearly all involved have been informed about the flight. Somewhat the feeling is strange, nobody expected us to be allowed to fly in this airspace. As known, the relationship between Monte Negro and Serbia is a little bit tense. We have to head towards Titograd (Podovice) and pass a steep mountain ridge in 4500 feet. After 30 minutes of we fly into Albania under control of NATO, we breathe again. The communication with Tirana Control is difficult. We pass Tirana and fly south according flight plan along the W33 over the highest mountains.

Our request to deviate from course is allowed; we can fly wherever we want. Shortly afterwards we receive a radio call with the word “Helicopters”. We believe it is traffic information about helicopters. But, Tirana keeps talking about Helicopters until we realise they want to know whether we are a Helicopter patrol. Our answer is: no Sorry, we are powered gliders and their answer is: Autogliders? We answer, yes, more or less.

The mountains and valleys south of Tirana are deserted, no villages, no houses. The ridges around 6 to 7000 feet are still covered with snow and the good Thermals give us good altitude.

After two hours flying we enter Greece, the country-side stays mountainous. Shortly before reaching Ioannina we regain radio contact. After 2.5 hours we glide towards the airport of Ioannina over the lake and touch down in Greece. No customs are available as Greece is very proud to be a member of the Schengen agreements, without any notice that we arrive from Croatia.

Now we have to get fuel. Refuelling from jerry cans without checked fuel is strictly forbidden. What to do? The airport official calms down after coffee and orders 200 Litres of Super via BP. This calms us down.

Furthermore she arranges hotel rooms in the city. Everything in good order.



Sunday, June 4.


The Chairman of the Ioannina flying club (which refuels from own cans when the officials aren’t looking) points out the standard VFR route with mandatory reporting points to Marathon, to the north east of
Athens.

We take off with a southerly heading and again cross mountainous terrain. And again, good thermals give good altitude. Without any problems we reach the Gulf of Corinth in the western part of Patras and continue on an easterly course along the north coast of the Peloponnesus at 1000 feet.

After passing the famous canal; which we cans see very well, we head 060 degrees and have to cross a 4000 feet mountain ridge. All of a sudden we encounter a zone with a lot of turbulent air and downdrafts. It is impossible to gain altitude so we, low-flyers, have to go at the upwind side of the mountain towards Athens along the coast.

40 kilometres further we can turn north and pass Athens in the north. After this unpleasant part of the flight we start our descend to Marathon with is north – south runway directly at the sea.

The parking area is overcrowded with approximately 80 single engine aircraft, of which many are unserviceable. Are 9 planes are parked amongst them. Now, it is time to admit, Greece is not an optimal flying country. The interesting Island airports are overloaded because of the many tourist flight in the weekends and categorically deny private planes from Friday through Monday. The parking areas are simply not big enough.
Avgas is only available in Corfu, Marathon and Mykonos at a price of 3,80 DM. The only advantage, as the first foreign rally, that we got exempted from handling fees, otherwise each landing would have cost 50 DM. Our flying programme in
Greece, where to land, was coordinated by many calls with the Civil Aviation Authority in Athens.

The hotel rooms for 17 people proved to be no problem and we enjoy the pool of Marathon beach hotel in the middle of a lake covered with flowers, very recommendable. Many fish restaurants await us at the sea side; decision making has never been so difficult. Before dinner is served the fish is weight before it is cooked.

After this hot day with temperatures above 30 degrees the cooled Retsina wine tastes as honey. Luckily no headache in the morning.


Monday, June 5:

 

After 4 days of intensive flying we take a day off, we have to wait anyhow to fly to Mykonos, the goal of our trip.

Additionally, the Meltemi, the infamous strong northerly winds is gusting with 30 knots over the Aegean Sea, a little bit too much for our flying. The last two days it was that strong, up to 100 kilometres that the ferries had to be seized. Now it was clear why the winds towards Marathon where that strong. My wife Heidi, who makes a CFI tour for the first time, was already under the impression her last hour had arrived.

In the morning some of us have to go to the airport for refuelling because there is no fuel in Marathon on Tuesday. The others head to the pool or the beach. At 12.00 we take a bus to the Acropolis, in the Centre of Athens. The clear sky gives us a nice view over Athens including the harbour of Piraeus and the Isles off-shore.

Tuesday, June 6:

 

Mykonos is only 140 kilometres away and reports 25 knots winds from the north, gusting up to 30 knots, luckily straight down the runway. All Islands have north-south runways because of the winds. We decide on the route along the chain of Islands from Andros and Tinos towards Mykonos; where we land after a 1 hour flight.

The busy airport is perfectly organized. The tourist agency has hotel information at the airport; pictures help in deciding where to go.

We decide on a hotel with a view on the city and the famous windmills and the hotel owner picks us up with a minibus. So we have plenty of time to stroll the alleys and streets of Mykonos. The Island is not so crowded at this time in the season; we have enough room to discover the town.

And again, like every evening before, we enjoy a meal together in a fish restaurant. As the summit of the day, we get together on a terrace to see the sun set over the windmills and enjoy our Retsina. Three cruise ships with Christmas tree lighting have entered the harbour in the mean time.

At a later stage the famous Mykonos ghost comes visiting us. Covered in white bed linen, white cloth over the head (and black underwear) Helmut Dietmann suddenly shows up and announces in a loud voice: I am the ghost of Mykonos.
 


Wednesday, June 7:

 

The northerly winds still gives 15 to 20 knots. After the take off towards Marathon the tower wants us to head south about 15 NM to enter an airway. We deny and head North West along the Island back to Marathon. At altitude the wind has shifted so it doesn’t give us a head wind component.

After refuelling we take off from 18. The next destination is Corfu, where we can land during the week. The wind is 15 to 20 knots from our right hand side. Our Swiss friend is number two during take-off and is caught by a gust of wind. The wind blows him out of his path, the gear collapses and the tail is torn off. End of the flight for him.

The team spirit of the CFI comes to work and we dismantle the RF 3 within one hour, the pick-up will be arranged later. As sheer luck, one of us has a spare seat so he can jump in another Glider (a DA-20).

The flight is again along the Peloponnesus until Patras and then along the western coast. We reach Corfu after 2.45 hours of flying. The airport has a lot of traffic and we are directed to runway 17 to enjoy the scenery view of the old city with two huge Castles.

The hotel de Bretagne is not far from the airport and offers good rooms at decent prices. It is not so far from the hotel to the beach promenade and again enjoy fish food again.

 

 

Thursday, June 8:

 

In the morning we take a nice stroll through the scenery town of Corfu. In the afternoon we file a flight plan to Lavello, a small airport west of Bari. The Schengen agreements should allow this. We have to cross 110 kilometres of water and the visibility is perfect. After 25 kilometres we pass a small uninhabited island and soon we can see the Italian coast.

After crossing point Tigra the Greek ATC hands us over to Brindisi. When reaching the coast everybody is relieved after the long flight over water.

Then we are surprised, the direct flight to Lavello is denied and we have to land in Bari. We discuss with ATC but no joy.

In Bari we are attacked by two persons in uniform, neither custom nor police, only two airport officials who want to know the Take off Weight to calculate the Landing Fees.

We protest because we were forced to land here and we strongly request customs control and exemption of landing fees. I am visiting the airport director to clear the situation. I am thought that a direct flight to Lavello would have been authorised if I had informed the officials before we took off. Okay, same as in France.

We agree that we are taxed as one aircraft only with a fee of  60 DM and take off to Lavello, where the CFI now arrives for the third time. We are known here and were enjoy a warm welcome. At least we bring a little excitement to this little airport in Calabria. The ladies cook us a very good meal.

Friday, June 9:


The destination for today is
Elba. The flight initially heads west, we pass Naples trough a huge Military Restricted Area and then along the highway towards Rome in between valleys. We pass Monte Casino.

To the north of Rome the military ATC takes control, we head to the west coast and fly to Punta Alba to cross the 25 kilometres of water to Elba. Because of southerly winds we have to approach for runway 17 in Marino di Campo. The final approach is very tempting; a 1200 feet ridge has to be crossed on finals. We have to descent in a short distance with speed brakes fully extended until threshold. The Avoided with bungalows directly at a giant pool is next to the airport. After a well deserved break at the pool and a walk trough Marina di Campo we meet at the airport restaurant.

 

Saturday, June 10:

 

We have breakfast at the terrace of the restaurant and admire the approaches of the tourist planes arriving. The Dash-8 and Dornier-228, like us yesterday, have to do a steep descending turn and still have a wing low when touching down. Nice to be a passenger we think.

The 3000 feet high mountains around us are covered by clouds and the cloud base drops by the hour. After 10 days of flying without clouds the weather situation rapidly changes. Around 13.00 8 Powered Gliders (including 3 Germans) emerge from the mountain pass. In the afternoon all of us want to go to Nervesa, 30 kilometres north of Venice after paying a landing fee of 60 DM.

The latest TAF and METAR give us CAVOK for the whole route. After passing Sienna we have to cross the Apennine Mountains in 7000 feet. The sky over the mountains look dark and soon we have to divert to clear rain showers. After 1 hour flying we reach the flat land close to Bologna and despite the higher clouds the visibility is good, even in the normally foggy Po area.

Nervesa, a very nice private airport in a valley has a large selection of old aircraft including a Fokker Tri-plane. In the evening we join a Hangar party with dancing and music. Great fun!

 

Sunday, June 11:

A trough in the Gulf of Genoa brings Rain and Thunder over the Alps. Today, we are grounded. The NATO airport at Aviano offers an Air show. We arrange for a minibus for the day. Things to remember are the Thunderbirds of the USAF with F-16 and the Su-27 Flanker which, with full afterburners lit in 30 metres height shake the earth!!

In the evening our Italian host takes us to Ozerno to a classy restaurant. The desert is a huge cake with the CFI logo in the middle.

 

Monday, June 12:

 

Salzburg weather office reports good VFR conditions for the Brenner until the Inn Valley. Afterwards we have to calculate some more difficult weather because a lot of clouds in southern Germany.

The weather situation should be improving during the day but then storms will form in the Alps. The flight plan to Innsbruck is filed and the flight over the Brenner is perfect. Fausto, at home in Bolzano leads the gang with the D-KARL via the direct route over the Dolomites. In less then 10 minutes we reach 6000 feet. From Salzburg onwards the Inn valley looks good so we extend the flight plan directly to Muhldorf. At the end of the Inn valley near Kufstein visibility decreases to 3 to 4 kilometres and the cloud base drops to 1000 feet. For the first time it is not so good but still enough for a safe flight. After 2 hours we land in Muhldorf without any problems.

After a last meal together we split up to our home bases, Speyer, Siegerland, Bad Pyrmont, Celle, Koblenz, Dahlemer Binz and Southern Black Forest.

The sky has cleared, the fog is gone and the last flight home is under clear blue sky.

 
Fact

A once in a lifetime experience with more then 30 flying hours through 6 countries, including unusual sceneries like Monte-Negro and Albania.

How good is the comradery and willingness to help in the CFI, once proven again in this trip. We will enjoy this journey for a long time in our memories.