OK, here’s part two (the return part) of the write-up of my recent flight from Lübeck (Northern Germany) to Marseile (Southern France) and back. Part one is here.
First of all, just a few impressions of Marseille. Marseille is obviously a huge city. However, the Old Port and the parts surrounding it are quite nice and deserve a visit. Maybe, I would say that Marseille is not quite as nice as a few other southern French Cities (Nice, Montpellier, Avignon and Nimes), but still, we enjoyed it quite much.
Big excuse in advance, though: since I had problems with recharging my Nikon, all photos here have been taken with my vintage iphone 4. Sorry for that…
Architecture along a the Old Port.
Overview of the Old Port, in the morning:
Boats in the Old Port and the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, which sits on a hill in the south of the city.
Modern architecture, in the very new museum district (just north of the Old Port).
The Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Maheure.
The fantastic view from the aforementioned Basilique de Notre-Dame. In the centre of the image, the Old Port. In the background, the Ferry Port, which has very frequent connections to North Africa.
A small “city-beach”, just south of the Old Port.
Now to the flying…
We had planned our return for Monday, the 24th. We were able to really enjoy our two-day stay at Marseille, because right from the start it was clear that the weather would stay downright perfect for Monday, for all our route.
However, I didn’t want to fly the same exact route we had flown two days before. If you remember, this…
…was the routing we had taken on the way down, which was more or less a straight line from departure to destination. So I sat down the night before and started to work on an interesting VFR routing right through the Western Alps (even though that would be a slight detour, but you know, these occasions don’t come up every day…). As a result, we would cut the return flight into two halves, and make a stop just north of the Alps, at Hohenems airport (LOIH) in Austria. Here’s the broad FPL routing that came out of my planning:
As you can see, this entailed a double alpine crossing; first from France into the plains of northwestern Piedmont in Italy, and then again from there to the Lake Constance Area, crossing Switzerland in the process. Those of you who are familiar with the Alps will know that passes flown over would first be the Col de Montgenèvre and then the Gotthardpass and Oberalppass. Certainly a much more challenging flight than the alternative IFR-high altitude cruise, but hey…, flying is about mastering challenges after all!
Here is the same routing, but with the terrain map removed, so you can discern the various crossed countries more easily. Actually, we would fly over 5 countries on this rather short two-hour flight, since we would also fly over Liechtenstein
The flightplan was then filed using Rocketroute, indicating in field 18 – as always – the EETs for the international FIR crossings. Once again: really painless.
Well, the morning of our departure, the satellite image confirmed the fantastic weather. It showed that basically all of central Europe was almost totally cloud-free, including the entire alpine region. What’s not to like?
Obviously, there is always the chance of some fog or other low stratus cloud, even if the sat image doesn’t seem to show it. That’s where the Swiss GAFOR chart came in very handy. Here it is, for the morning in question:
As you can see, all passes in the south and east of Switzerland were totally “Oscar”.
What about airspaces? Remember, this flight (as opposed to the first one) would be on a weekday. This required some pre-flight attention obviously, but it didn’t really put any obstacles to the flight. Here, I will go into more detail about airspaces as we go along.
Here’s the southern (civil) ramp of Aix-Les Milles airport (as it is officially called), at about 9.30 local time in the morning.
We usually apply a self-made, light-weight cover on the aircraft when we park outside overnight.
We called up for start-up and taxi and were pleased to hear that the women in the tower had our flightplan in front of her.
Talking about airspace, this is what the VFR chart for the French bit looked like:
Our initial routing was from LFMA (bottom left) approximately to the DGN VOR (upper right). As you can see, we would (apart from a few other niceties, such as Romeo 101 and ZIT-10) mainly have to consider Romeo 71 and then (once abeam Chateau-Arnoux, LFMX), Romeo 196. Therefore, before even taking off, we enquired with Aix Tower as to the status of Romeo 71. She called Orange Approach and after a minute, she came back to us to say “Romeo 71 is currently not active, but it will be in about five minutes, since there are two Mirages about to arrive”. Fortunately, on our track, the area had a lower limit of FL75, so we would be able to stay below at say FL65 (considerations I had made the day before). For further coordination, I still asked Aix Tower to hand us over to Orange Approach after departure.
Orange Approach later confirmed that the area was active and once I confirmed that I would maintain FL65 until reaching it’s boundary, they were happy and handed me over to Marseille FIS.
Here’s an MFD shot, just about to leave the horizontal limits of Romeo 71.
We enquired with Marseille as to the status of Romeo 196 and they confirmed that it was not active, so at that point, the hard bit was done and the more fun part could begin.
Here we are abeam Chateaux-Arnoux. The airfield is that greenish area to the lower left of the town.
We then climbed to FL95, which we would maintain almost throughout the entire flight. Our next waypoint on our track through the French Alps was Barcelonette (LFMR) aerodrome, a nice one that I intend to visit in the warmer season. Here it is:
In the meantime, many more snow-capped mountains…
The next airport On our route was Mont-Dauphin St. Crépin airfield (LFNC). Here it is (a little hard to see):
Here’s another look at the VFR chart:
LFNC is in the lower left corner. The further track was up to Briançon, then across the Col de Montgenèvre into Italy, proceeding further via Cesana Torinese and Oulx to Susa.
Here is a snippet of the Italian chart:
What we did was basically fly a straight line from Susa (west of Turin,, see very left of the chart) direct to Domodossola (see Masera airfield, top of the chart). This was to avoid the dreaded Milano TMA, or better stated, to remain within those VFR sectors that would allow us to maintain FL95. It worked out like a charm, but it is a bit tight (both on terrain clearance and on "TMA clearance”). We had to make minor adjustments to our heading a couple of times, but in the end, it was more or less a straight line. What helped was that the Italian Romeo 83 was not active (as confirmed by Milano FIS). Otherwise, a couple more heading adjustments to the north would have been required.
Now, the other major attraction of this route was that on the part through the northwest corner of Italy, we would have awesome views to our left, towards the Grand Combin, the Matterhorn and the Monte Rosa.
Here’s the Matterhorn, with the “Small Matterhorn” right beside:
And here is the Monte Rosa. As beautiful as the Matterhorn is, the Monte Rosa is actually more impressive, due to its sheer horizontal size. What a big rock it is!
Flying past the “entrance” of the Val d’Aosta, near Ivrea.
Another view of the Matterhorn.
On the very left, the Grand Combin (due north of Aosta).
And another one of the Monte Rosa. This was made once we had already passed it towards the northeast, near Domodossola.
Again, from the Domodossola area, I managed to get a (poor) shot of the Finsteraarhorn in the Bernese Alps, which, at first glance, looks much like the Matterhorn. I think the Aletschhorn can also be seen, here.
After that, it was due north into Switzerland, near the Nufenenpass. I reported to Milano FIS that I was switching over to Zuerich Delta. I thought to myself “well, they probably won’t hear me yet (still in Italian airspace and at only 9500 feet in between tall mountains), but let’s try anyway”…. Gosh, was I impressed when the reply came back immediately, in super-crisp audio! The Swiss know how to do that (set-up good radio coverage in the mountains). Compare that with the Italian FIS!). And: I was even more impressed when, a minute later, Zuerich said “N4ZY, radar identified, you have traffic in your 10 o’clock, range three miles, military”. Needless to say, the traffic was right where it was supposed to be! Hats off!
Oh, and one more very neat thing about flying in Switzerland is that Skyguide publishes a daily chart called the DABS, which is a graphical representation of active danger and restricted areas. This makes this part of the preflight a very quick thing. Here is the DABS for the morning in question:
In the bottom of the picture, Airolo, the town at the southern end of the Gotthard-Pass. The pass can be seen towards the top.
Massive avalanche barriers, to the east of the Gotthard.
After that, it was over the Oberalppass into the Vorderrheintal. The contrast between the southern Alps (with lots of snow) and the northern Alps (with very little snow) was staggering. A very unique winter indeed. Chur is in the background.
We took the Kunkelspass…
…and minutes later, passed Bad Ragaz. That’s the Alps made.
Base leg for runway 05 at Hohenems.
After landing, I had to take a moment and think to myself “wow, what a flight!”
After getting some juice at Hohenems.
Time to plan the flight back to Lübeck. The GAFOR image for Germany was incredible:
For a minute, considered flying back. VFR. After all, one call fly VFR at FL95 in Germany, without needing any clearance. And: on the given route, there was hardly any controlled airspace whatsoever to affect the flight, so we could have flow it (almost) totally as a straight line. (Airspaces removed here for clarity).
But in the end, we decided to just fly IFR at FL110 and take advantage of the slightly better fuel economy up there (even though this meant a slightly longer routing). Enough VFR for the day…
Here are just a few shots from the flight home.
Lake Constance (can see the Vorderrhein flowing in the lake).
A last look at the Alps.
Leutkirch airfield (EDNL).
Nördlingen and the Nördlinger Ries.
Elbe River, during the descent into Lübeck. The town in the lower lefr Hitzacker, which was totally flooded in May of last year.
Back in the hangar (with a turntable! )
Just a small addition for those planning to fly VFR in the Turin area shortly: yesterday, some changes to the Turin CTR have come into effect that affect flights particularly in the Valle di Susa area. Refer to the latest AIRAC AMDT.
thx for so much work and infos, verry much fun to read and see! Keep flying and posting :-)
When I fly over the Alps I haven’t got a clue what any of the pointed bits are called…
Thank you for the detailed trip report, Philippe. I have no experience flying VFR over the alps, but when the weather is good it must be fantastic!
Nice report and photos! There are several photos of places I know well but hadn’t seen from the air, for instance the route from Barcelonette to Briancon, the Aosta Valley, Airolo (where Nufnenen and Gottardo meet), then the view of Chur from the direction of the Oberalp and on to Vaduz. You must’ve flown right over Andermatt – that’s a place that ‘needs’ an airport. Its sure fun to see the aerial views.
Re the hangar turntable, as I looked at the photo it occurred to me that a stripe to center the turntable on the door would be useful, so I looked closer and there it was!