Report of a trip to Turkey, April 2014
Help yourself with a glass of raki – I hope you’ll enjoy our little adventure…
Pilot: 400h EASA PPL/IR with FAA piggyback IR
Pax: my wife who is a PPL/IR(R) and our three children aged 7 to 11.
Plane: 2000 PA-46 350P, 2100h TT. 200kts TAS at FL220 with 22usg/h fuel flow. 140usg capacity, but in practice with our load, 100usg, which is roughly 4h30 of autonomy. Pressurized, FIKI, GTN750/650 with Chartview, TAS, Stormscope, Avydine EX600 with downlink weather and onboard weather radar. EDM730 engine analyser. I have about 100h on it since buying it in June last year, including 20h of dual instruction.
All routes and briefings were done with RocketRoute. PPRs to Switzerland and Croatia simply by emails a couple of days prior to departure, although a couple of hours is enough. Switzerland requests a form, which is not available on the Lausanne website anymore, but you can simply ask for it by email to [email protected] and email it to [email protected]. PPR, flight permits, gas and oil bought via Turkish handlers Gozen [email protected]. PPR and flight permit to Macedonia (although not used) by email to the handlers ([email protected]) and to the permit office ([email protected]). My Jepp sub doesn’t cover Turkey, which means I didn’t get the charts from them, but I had the Navdata, and Rocketroute provides the plates. Jepp asked EUR1k for a trip kit, but I suspect this is more because their quote system is crap and can’t take into account what you already have. I passed anyway. I use Skydemon extensively as well, but their coverage stops at the Greek border; I used AirNavPro beyond that to get a moving map on the iPad, although the nav was done with the GTN.
11/4/2014 Fairoaks EGTF to Lausanne LSGL (2h30, 450nm, Z plan)
Aim was to pick up my family who had been skiing. To limit the amount of luggage carried to Turkey, we used sendmybag.com to ship the ski stuff back to the UK. They picked it up directly from the hotel a couple of days after we left.
Route: BIG/N0185F150 IFR DCT DVR L10 RINTI/N0180F110 B3 CMB/N0190F190 B3 VATRI G40 ARSIL B13 SOMDA A6 DJL A1 SPR VFR, GC +7%
In practice doing this departure, you get an early join in controlled airspace, but then you have to stay on an easterly heading until you’re above the London arrivals, which with a Mirage takes a while (I get 600fpm at book settings). The flight was completely uneventful with many directs and I cancelled IFR early. There was a fairly extended CB sitting just over the ridge before Lake Geneva, which the big iron was frantically trying to avoid. I routed around it visually. Lausanne has an “info” frequency 118.825 on which you get the runway in use and wind info, you then switch to the airport frequency 123.2 and announce intentions and positions. The airport requires a bit of care: the runway is 800m long and is downward sloping towards the lake; it’s also not particularly easy to spot. In the Mirage, as long as you keep your speeds under control on the approach and touch down on the numbers, stopping is not an issue. I spent the flight pre-entering the flightplans for the next legs and didn’t take any pics of interest. Landing fees and fuel are fairly priced; the AVGAS pump has a very low fuel flow and it takes a while to refuel.
N41518 at Lausanne
12/4/2014 Lausanne to Corlu LTBU via Brac LDSB (3h planned, 2h45 actual flight time each).
Route: SPR/N0160F080 IFR G5 WIL DCT BERSU/N0195F190 N871 SUREP/N0200F210 UN871 DITON UL613 RIPUS UN850 GERSA Z50 RESIA UP131 ADOSA UL612 CHI UL614 LABIN L614 PUL N606 LOS/N180F120 W45 SPL SPL4N 520nm +14% GC
The procedure at Lausanne is to call Geneva Control from the ground (either via VHF 131.325 or mobile +41227471368) to get the clearance, then go back with the airport frequency until you leave the sector. The wind was calm so we used the downward sloping runway to take off; ground roll was less than 550m which is book for MTOW. I always make a note of the half way point of the runway and abort any take off I I haven’t reached 60kts before that (rotation speed is 70kts with two flaps down). After a right turn over the lake, we crossed over the runway and departed to the east to climb along the Alps before doing our crossing. Met was fine, with a 20kt tailwind, good viz above 10k feet, and cloud cover below us about 6/8. Despite the initial level of FL080 needed to get the route through Eurocontrol, I asked for FL210 which was granted, and as soon as we reached FL190 we got our right turn over the Alps.
We then flew abeam above Venice, but the height and the clouds didn’t give us a good view.
Italy is where the coverage of the downlink radar stops, which is a shame since it’s a great strategic tool – you can request small changes of heading to avoid build ups without having to get close and do some big avoidance turns. We still had TAF/METARS, cloud cover, and the onboard radar; none of that was showing much that could trouble us. Halfway across the Adriatic, we were handed over to Pula who cleared us for the ILS at Brac. We were still 150nm from destination and there is no ILS at Brac, but hey, never hurts to do some advance thinking! By then the cloud cover which had become complete cleared, and we got some fantastic views of the Croatian islands while slowly descending.
Landing was visual, refuelling immediate, landing fees and gas cheap, and everyone was very nice. After we paid the small fees, the lady realised we were not going landside and insisted on repaying us eur50.
There was a temporary hangar which had collapsed under the weight of snow, apparently.
Route to Corlu LTBU: SIPAL/N0195F200 L607 DBK R45 TAZ W47 POD L604 RETRA Y400 DISOR G18 FSK N128 PEREN G12 EKI 560nm +8% GC
After an efficient 45 minutes stop we took off, again taking up the view, and crossed Bosnia (briefly), Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, and Greece. In the Mirage on a long trip like that you climb for efficiency and speed, and the views are not as spectacular as what you get at 5000 feet, but it’s very comfortable and smooth. And when you have a bit of a tail wind, it’s even better… In Greece, as soon as we crossed the border at DISOR, we received a direct to the Turkish border at Goldo. We were in VMC and as we approached, we saw some build ups which also showed on the radar. We were still high, but I could see it was VMC below and asked the Turkish controller to descend, which he refused (fair enough given MEA); I asked to cancel IFR and continue VFR, which he also refused given my permit was for an IFR flight… He then started talking to as many Turkish Airlines planes as he could to try to get rid of me ? We used the radar and sight when we could to go through the stuff, and didn’t get much turbulence.
Istanbul Control transferred us to Corlu for a VOR approach to runway 23. I could see it was VMC below 3000ft, but that the approach at 4000ft above the runway would take us right through what looked like a CB on the 23 threshold; I aborted the approach and circled to the south. The Corlu controller then offered a tailwind approach to 05 which we did – big long runway and 10kts tailwind, perfectly doable. It had been a bit bumpy though and my youngest was sick – it was a good thing we had the runway in front of us!
We landed, were greeted by the local handling agent who was super friendly and helpful, and refuelled immediately.
It took a bit of time to find the customs official, but apart from that it was fairly efficient. There was no one from Gozen, and this is basically what happened during the entire trip, with the exception of what was supposed to be our last stop, in Ankara, where they would collect their fees. For simplicity I had arranged everything via Gozen: Permits, handling, fuel, oil; this was indeed simple, but I probably paid 20cts more per litre because of this, and I had to buy a full case of oil which I couldn’t carry with me. If you have a bit more time, it’s probably a lot cheaper to arrange permits with Gozen, but contact the local handlers for the rest (in this case Cegibe for Corlu, Havas for Kapadokya, and Gozen in Ankara). Corlu is further away from Istanbul compared to Atartuk, but is close to EUR700 cheaper if you have three passengers as I have, including the transfer by VIP minibus. It was suggested to me by Mr Meneske from Ankara, via contacts on this forum.
Regarding fees in Turkey: at LTBU including 1.5h minibus return we paid eur1k; at LTAZ eur600, at Ankara we were supposed to pay eur375 but ended up paying double as described below. Fuel was usd3.55+18% tax except at Ankara were we didn’t pay tax. Those prices including the arrangement of the permits charged by Gozen, which were eur500 at LTBU and LTAZ and eur250 at LTAC, so this is potentially where one can get some savings by finding another agent.
Corlu is were the Turkish Airlines pilots train, and they have maybe 30 C152/C172 for that purpose. Some don’t come out too well from that treatment…
We took a 1h30 car ride into the city, where we stayed with my cousin for three days in the Levent quarter. Istanbul is a fantastic destination, with good public transport (tube, tram, boat, taxis) and once you go to an area you can do a lot of the things by foot (especially around Sultanhamet where you find Topkapi, the Blue Mosque, Haia Sophia, the Basilica Cisterns and the Bazaars and were you can walk back from Asia to Europe on a small bridge). The food is great, people are very friendly to kids, and we met some interesting people. Of course 3 days was not enough, but you can still get a lot done. I was surprised by the bazaar. My experience of these places in North Africa isn’t great: vendors are aggressive and the merchandise uninteresting; here it was the exact opposite.
Crossing from Asia to Europe by foot
Blue Mosque Gardens
16/04/2014 Corlu to Kapadokya LTAZ (2h, 355nm)
Route: IST/N0185F140 L605 BAG L605 BADOX +3% GC
This was the flight I was most excited about, as it would take us just west of Istanbul into Asia, south of Ankara and into Kapadokia. Because the flight wasn’t too long, and we wanted to see more, I filed for FL140; I didn’t want to go lower because on the map the terrain looked fairly inhospitable, there aren’t many airports, and I wanted to preserve glide possibilities. In nil wind the PA46 will glide 2.4nm/1k feet. Controllers along the route were very friendly and efficient.
Crossing into Asia
We didn’t get too good a view of Istanbul, but a splendid one of the red hills towards Ankara; in the end the terrain didn’t look too unfriendly, and there wasn’t too many times where I couldn’t see what looked like suitable forced landings sites.
Approaching Ankara, the high rise buildings surrounded by emptiness looked like Palaeolithic monuments, a bit like what you imagine of Stonehenge until you overfly it and can’t even find it, as it’s so small.
Flight conditions were great, and we were offered a visual approach to Nevshehir Kapadokia, which we took and which my wife flew (very well). As we descended, I saw three or four small dots approaching very fast and avoiding the windshield at the last second. The AIP entry for the airport has a rather long and very detailed entry on bird hazard, giving the weights and flying heights of various species, and ending with the immortal words:
“In short; nearby K?z?l?rmak River area and agricultural areas surrounding are the attractive area for birds.”
They are indeed.
As a precaution I had turned on the flashing taxi lights. I’m not sure it helped, and despite the descriptions in the AIP, I didn’t identify the species. After landing and taxi, we refuelled immediately, following the commandments of the Gospel according to PeterH. Very nice welcome, no sign of Gozen. Local handlers: Havas as mentioned above. They put some of those nasty customs stickers on my doors, but apart from that were very helpful. There was a Citation with a French reg next to us, would have been nice to say hello but we didn’t see anyone.
There is no AVGAS at LTAZ.
Some big hardware behind us when we returned
We stayed at the Museum Hotel, in troglodyte rooms carved into the soft rock. The temperatures are still quite low at this season but the rooms were heated comfortably. The hotel is great, with a fantastic restaurant and commanding views.
We had several excursions planned; we woke up at 6am to do a balloon ride which was cancelled due to wind, then visited some “witch hat” houses carved from the rock, the open air museum at Goreme with its incredible early Christian churches, and walked in the Pink Valley (my personal favourite). The next day 4.45 am wake up for the ballon ride (which worked), followed by a horse riding excursion. Afternooon, rest and massage at the hotel. The following day was planned to be a long day, and it turned out to be even more than we bargained for.
20,000 people would stay up to a month in this underground city, evading raids by nomads
My wife doesn’t want me to get one of these, for some reason
19/4/2014 Plan: Kapadokia to Ankara LTAC (40min, 120nm) Ankara to Skopje LWSK , Macedonia (2h50min, 540nm) Skopje to Mali Losing LDLU , Croatia (2h, 380nm).
We were hoping to stay on a tight schedule on this day, as Mali Losinj closes at 1600l at this time of the year. We wanted to route via the west because the following day we hoped to lunch with my brother in Troyes, France. Because of the low still standing above Kosovo, we would have to face headwinds of 25kts all the way. The difference in flight time between this and routing via Romania would have been close to 1h, and the latter would have provided better conditions; however an overnight stop in Croatia was very attractive. So we set off from the hotel at 6.45am, and by 8.15am we took off to Ankara. ATC slotted us smoothly between jets, asking us at some point to slow down for separation (yeah!) and we parked close to the GA terminal. Procedures at Ankara require that you put your transponder in Mode A after landing, and squawk 2000 before shutting down, which I did – my xpder goes on ground mode automatically after landing. There was a gotcha to this: when I took off later on, the xpder switched from Ground to Mode A, and ATC had to query why I wasn’t on Mode C.
I had spent quite some email time with Gozen ensuring we would get refuelled immediately and that our bill would be ready; and also that this would be a technical stop, meaning half fees. Since this was the only airport in our trip were we would actually deal with Gozen, and that we’d had a good experience with all their subcontractors at the other airports, I was quite hopeful.
Was I wrong! The truck showed up 1h later, the customs officials forced us to reclear customs, meaning we entered the GA terminal, following which the Gozen lady not only charged us the full price but added the EUR500 charge for the use of the terminal. Unfortunately, negotiating while you’re short on time is very difficult, but as she was fairly confused, she still ended up with a total that was only marginally higher than what had been planned. After the truck arrived we refuelled. They also gave me the 12 quarts of oil I had ordered; I put two in the engine, three in the front luggage area, but couldn’t take the rest, so gave it to Oben Ogultarhan who had walked over from his hangar and offered assistance when we arrived. He runs Baymap Aviation, the Piper dealer and center in Turkey; he has a Matrix (unpressurized Mirage). There is also a Jetprop based there.
We took off 1h later than planned, despite arriving 15min early; basically all our margin was gone, based on a 1h turnaround at Skopje.
Departure was uneventful; when we had landed there were five large jets queuing for departure, but it was now quiet so we simply backtracked on one of the runways and took off. We quickly got some directs, overflying Istanbul at FL220. With stronger than expected headwinds (35 to 45kts from FL150 upwards) we were not catching on our schedule.
As we were approaching the border after nearly two hours of flight, we hit heavy clear air turbulence (my wife at the back hit the ceiling with her head) and my youngest started to get sick again. I could hear airliners complaining and asking for immediate descent, and did the same. (Note: light turbulence was actually fairly well forecast by Ogimet, down to FL180, where I descended, but this was stronger). We were now ok turbulence wise, but I was worried about my son, and the much higher than forecast headwinds. I decided to land. The issue though is that I had two choices: going into Greece, where there’s not AVGAS in nearby airports, or returning to Corlu. I elected to do the latter, we retraced and landed 15 min after. With some water and fresh air, my son soon felt better. We refuelled and the same helpful gentleman from Cebige welcomed us. However this is were Gozen proved they can be efficient: somehow they found out we had landed in Turkey again, and extracted eur350 from us to organise the permit. I paid the fuel directly and noted it was 20c cheaper than what Gozen had charged me. I knew they were charging something, but that’s way too much – better to deal with the local people.
We had to find another destination, as Mali Losinj would clearly be closed. It was either overnight in Skopje, or reach the south of Croatia – Dubrovnic. The later sounded more attractive, so I planned for that with Rocketroute. I noticed my Ankara-Skopje flight was still alive so asked the Tower to close it, they said it had already been done. We took off after doing our checks, and stopped our climb at FL180 to stay below turbulence. We soon entered IMC, but it was calm, and apart from some distant strikes on the stormscope which I stayed well clear off, all was well. I got a direct from one side of Greece to the other again. I could see on the downlink weather that the cloud tops were lower as we went west, and the METAR at Dubrovnik was good (4k feet broken, light wind, 8k vizz). The cloud ceilings at the airports along our route, also observed on the downlink weather, were VFR in Greece and marginal VFR beyond. Having weather on board is fantastic on long flights. The engine was running fine, although EGT2 was a bit volatile, and I noticed I needed to enrich the mixture a tiny bit as we went along.
As Greece handed us over to Skopje, they gave us some direct points and a descent – it became clear they thought we were inbound to them. The original flight had not been cancelled… Given we were way beyond our ETA for that one, it’s not clear why it didn’t generate SAR efforts! I explained the confusion with the flightplans, they were super helpful and relaxed and arranged for Dubrovnik. As we approached Albania, they transferred us to Tirana control, but I couldn’t raise them, so went back and forth a bit. Finally Tirana came clear on the radio and explained they had had a temporary radio issue. By that time we were crossing abeam south of the Maja Jezerce, the highest point in the Albanian Alps at 9k feet, terrain below us was at 7k feet and looked rugged when we could see it. Given the strong winds, we were getting waves, with IAS going up to 160 and down to 135 (145kts being the norm for this altitude).
Suddenly, the engine started rattling, EGT2 shot up, and CHT2 started to drop too on the JPI EDM. Even on the native instruments CHT2 showed very low temps, so it wasn’t tow bad probes. The rattling disappeared, but IAS was down to 130kts. It seemed reasonably clear I was on 5 cylinders. We were in IMC, but there were no CBs showing on Stormscope or Radar, and no ice. We were 30min from Dubrovnik, 15min from Podgorica, and most likely within gliding distance of an airbase west of our position and of the low ground around it. With my family on board, the choice was actually fairly easy to make, and I told Tirana I wanted to divert to Podgorica, descending slowly; he came back very quickly with permission. After about 10min, and as I reduced power to maintain IAS below Vno at 168kts, CHT2 came back. I decided to continue to Podgorica anyway; I was soon transferred to them. We were approaching from the southeast. Still IMC, they cleared me for the RETRA1A arrival for runway 36, which takes you on a descent in an arc 3 miles west of the airport, before crossing the POD VOR southbound, and going outbound for the ILS, which they cleared me on sequentially. I tried twice to ask for a direct arrival on the ILS, but they refused. This seems to be linked to airspace issues with Albania. The engine was working and was strong enough to provide for level flight, so I stopped arguing, and maintained 2k feet above the descent profile as a safety margin. Cloud ceiling was announced at 1400ft, ILS minima 250ft, vis 8k. I activated the arrival on the GTN and on the ipad, briefed it, and looked at the approach chart for obstacles; the approach path is pretty clear, but there are heights to the left, right and in front of the approach. The arrival was flown fine by the AP on GPSS mode, I had dialled in the POD radial for the outbound, switched to NAV and VLOC to track it while I loaded the approach on the GTN, which superimposed my position on the chart and loaded the ILS freq on standby; then at 7.0 on the VOR (NOT the ILS) switched to heading mode, and turned right to intercept. In retrospect I should have gone manual at that point: I had kept some height, I was a touch fast and the STEC55 simply doesn’t cope well with anything faster than 120kts. So after I selected approach mode, the LOC started to come in, and by the time the AP had started its turn we were well through it. I switched the AP off to recapture and started descending to 1200ft. No runway, but ground in sight – one of these occasions were “FEW” means a cloud between you and the lights… ATC queried if I had the RW in sight and if I was established, to both I answered no, and was going to go around when I suddenly saw it. I landed without further incident, the firetrucks returned to their hangar, and some cheerful guys greeted us. I did a full power mag check before shutting down, but it showed nothing untoward, apart from the missing EGT2. CHT2 was fine and in line with the others.
This was Easter Saturday. The handling agent, after sorting us out for a hotel, told me I should come back the next day to meet Dragan Ivansevic, who would help me. At this point, I had no idea who Dragan was, but I was about to find out a lot more, to my great delight. I also posted on Euroga and got offered a couple of pointers by members; and I reached out to MMOPA, the PA46 pilot association, which is a fantastic resource – there also I got some ideas of what to look for – a clogged injector, or an exhaust valve stuck open.
When you hear Montenegro, you probably think of the picturesque old town in “Casino Royal” – well, the rest of the country may be like that, but Podgorica is blighted by derelict buildings from the Tito era. On the other hand food is good (especially fish), people are incredibly nice, and taxis are the cheapest I’ve seen since I was in China 15 years ago.
The next morning, leaving my wife and children to relax at the hotel, I went to the airport and after some confusion, met Dragan, pilot extraordinaire and one of those larger than life characters you meet in aviation. We went to his hangar, where sat his two Citations (one for air taxi, the other for air ambulance), his Duke, his Bonanza and his Pitts Special. We talked about the issue I had, and we put the plane in the hangar, took off the cowling, and started by doing a “very poor man’s compression test” which showed a slight weakness in a cylinder, but nothing major. Next we checked the EGT probes, and the plugs, and that again showed nothing. I’m not a mechanic, and they didn’t know much about the PA46 engine, so we decided it was best to stop there and call in some experts. This was Easter Sunday however, and the best the people at GAS Aviation in Belgrade could do was send someone Tuesday morning. In the meantime, I had been in contact with RGV in Gloucester who do my maintenance, and they suggested that if it was a clogged injector, low power and full rich could be safe. So we decided on the following plan for the Monday: I would ferry the plane to Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport (what a great name – beats Robin Hood, doesn’t it) while Dragan kindly offered to fly my family in his Citation. All this was on Easter, remember, and Dragan and his guys were incredibly helpful spending time helping me while the whole country was on holiday (lots of painted eggs offered to the kids everywhere). On top of having on site maintenance, Belgrade is directly accessible from London via (very cheap) flights.
Right next to their hangar
Turboprop observation plane
21/4/2014 Podgorica LYPG to Belgrade LYBE
Route: NIK P129 TORTO N732 VAL 168NM +8%
That trip would take me 50min with a fully functioning engine, and 30min for Dragan. I would climb to the trip’s MSA + 4k over Podgorica doing circuits. I did some full power run ups and checks, as well as a leaned mag check, took off and climbed. I set off over the NIK point continuing my climb to FL140, all was fine, although I started to pick up some ice at FL120 at -7C (as predicted by the Euroga Autorouter Gramet, by the way); I had no trouble keeping the ice penetration speed of 135kts+, had opened the alternate air as soon as I entered IMC, had the windshield heat on, prop de-ice, and cycled the boots a couple of time; I had some ice on the elevator leading edge which came off relatively easily. Podgorica gave me the Belgrade frequency in advance, should I loose contact with them. 25 minutes into the flight, about 15nm before TORTO, as I was handled over to Belgrade, the EGT2 started to rise – I immediately reduced power from 30” to 25” MAP and increased fuel flow back to 22usg, and it came back in line. Some more indication of a clogged injector. I was ok in level flight but wasn’t maintaining 135kts anymore, and still in light icing conditions, so I asked for a very gradual descent down to the 10k feet MSA, which soon became 8k and 6k as I made my way across the mountain range into Serbia. Ice stopped around 11k and the increased IAS of the descent helped too. As I reached the flat plains I became visual.
Writing this, I realise this is starting to sound like one of the crazy scripts on “Dangerous Flights”, so it’s perhaps important to underline this: at every point I had an out should the engine pack completely. My height was sufficient to glide down to the plains on one side or the other, and forced landing sites outside of the mountains were plenty. Did I take a risk by doing the flight, yes; but with the checks and the outs, it was, to me, an acceptable risk against the benefits of being in Belgrade.
I had told ATC about my engine concerns, and they slotted me nicely for a visual approach between a Wizzair and a Lufthansa flight, warning the latter they may have to be delayed – to which the captain answered simply “thanks for letting us know”, which I thought was fair play. The landing was ok (if I may say so) with an immediate exit by C to the GA terminal. The flight took 1h10 min, because of the circling climb and the lower power at the end. Dragan had arranged for the people at Prince Aviation to house my plane in their hangar until GAS could come have a look, which they started doing on Wednesday.
After thanking Dragan and his team profusely for their assistance, we took off for Luton via Wizzair. That’s not as nice as flying yourself, but on this occasion I found it quite relaxing… As we boarded the flight, we could see our plane parked on the next apron, and the kids waved goodbye to it.
All things going well, I’ll go back to Belgrade next weekend to pick the plane up.
To conclude this trip, I finally landed back in Fairoaks today, two months after the day we had planned to return. After the Belgrade team cleaned my nozzles, I went there to pick up the plane, only to have a similar episode over Austria; I left the plane with the well regarded PA46 team in Straubing, who found some more clogging, as well as an issue with the MAP controller; I went to pick up the plane again, and again had the same problem, overhead Nuremberg, only more severe- which meant I had to do another deviation, this one in severe VMC though so not as stressful.
In the end, the Straubing team took the fuel system apart and found some small amount of sand; fine enough that there was nothing showing in the fuel filter or when draining fuel, but likely to have caused the issue anyway. I picked up the plane this morning and flew the 3h30 flight back without any incident.
I’m glad this is over obviously, and I think I’ll stick to more traditional destinations for a while!
22 June 2014 by Denopa