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Next VFR trip in the making... Switzerland, Italy, France

Based on some lucky planning coincidents, I’m planning this year’s first longer VFR flying trip for end of March, beginning of April. Again, Cessna 172.

The route will take me to Egelsbach first for a wedding near Frankfurt, then to Bern for a week of work at a client’s site. I’m then hoping to be able to cross the Alps VFR from either Zurich or Bern, following either the Gotthard or the Simplon pass. Both have been described as demanding by bosco on his fliegen-in-italien website… I wonder how demanding they are? This can only happen in really good conditions in any case. Plan B is to avoid the mountains via Geneva, Grenoble, and Nice. What’s good is that I’m not on a schedule for this part of the trip. I can easily sit and wait for 3-4 days if need be.

If the Alps crossing works, I may take some friends who now live in Zurich but grew up near Lago di Varese to visit home. Calcinate Del Pesce would be perfect – it’s very close to their house. Vergiate and Varese may be alternatives. Will I need to teach my friends (who are fluent in Italian) some aviation words or will I survive with English on the radio, I wonder? I’m probably well-advised to use their help to make the necessary phone calls to secure landing, parking, AVGAS…

Then I’ll continue further south towards Liguria – the actual destination of the trip, to meet up with climbing buddies and explore some of the rocks near Finale Ligure/Final Borgo, which is a beautiful place by itself. Landing here should be at Villanova D’Albenga.

Over the Easter holidays (again, that’s a buffer of 3-4 days in case weather becomes a factor), I will then fly back home via the South of France with a stop-over somewhere. Currently, I’m considering Lyon, but I’m quite open to suggestions. Even more generally, I’m very open to suggestions, ideas, warnings (Alps at that time of the year? problem?) etc. until I come up with more specific questions later on, which I’m sure I will…

Last Edited by Patrick at 02 Feb 23:44
Essen-Mülheim (EDLE), Düsseldorf (EDDL), Paderborn (EDLP), Mönchengladbach (EDLN), Germany

Will I need to teach my friends (who are fluent in Italian) some aviation words or will I survive with English on the radio, I wonder?

I’ve never had any problems with Italian ATC and English – for me it has been always clear and precise. When flying in North Italy for twin training last summer we used to negotiate a lot with ATC aboute approaches, changing routes etc. using common English not only limited to aviation phrases – everything was smooth and without any misunderstanding. So my advice is to stick to English – otherwise you risk to be lost in translation because ATC will tell something to your friends in Italian and they can misinterpret it to you due to lack of knowledge and understanding.

I’m probably well-advised to use their help to make the necessary phone calls to secure landing, parking, AVGAS…

This will be helpful.

LDZA LDVA, Croatia

I haven’t flown the Gotthard but I wouldn’t describe the Simplon as overly demanding. Navigation and choosing the proper valley is greatly simplified if you have SkyDemon, which by the way now also has the GAFOR routes and status depicted. Concur with what Emir says re Italian ATC.

I would choose Bern over Zürich – the latter is mucho expensive (and needs slots if I am not mistaken).

On the way back you can stop either in Lyon – Bron is a very convenient GA airport with decent fees, or in Avignon.

Let us know once here, I am sure we can organise an impromptu EuroGA coffee meet… or a formation Alpine fly-over (now that is an idea…)

The Gotthard is quite ok to fly if the weather is fine. For a first alpine crossing, I would want CAVOK conditions over the alps, that is no clouds below about 18000 ft MSL and very good visibility. Then, following the Gotthard route from the Vierwaldstättersee towards Andermatt and then over the pass is quite straightforward.

You would also want to be sure there are no turbulences for the first time in the alps as well as that the airplane can actually do it. Calculate the density altitude of the pass minimum crossing altitude before you leave, if it is anywhere close to th planse´s service ceiling, chances are you won´t make it. A Cessna 172 at MTOW can not always climb to that level. In spring this should not be a problem but it is in summer.

If you come to ZRH, let me know. Bern is better if you have work there anyway, but ZRH is feasible, but expensive.

LSZH, Switzerland

Bern is better if you have work there anyway, but ZRH is feasible, but expensive.

The choice for ZRH would be an emotional one because the friend I’d be taking over the Alps and I both fly in and out of ZRH quite a lot on airlines and it would be fun to experience the airport from a first-person perspective.

For a first alpine crossing, I would want CAVOK conditions over the alps, that is no clouds below about 18000 ft MSL and very good visibility.

It’s not the first alpine crossing. I’ve done two crossings (well, round trip) last year, although in Austria (Eastern part) with less intimidating terrain tops. In that case, we had “CAVOK” above, but we were VFR over the top at 10.500 ft. max.

Is CAVOK as you describe it realistic at the beginning of April or wishful thinking?

Let us know once here, I am sure we can organise an impromptu EuroGA coffee meet… or a formation Alpine fly-over (now that is an idea…

That sounds good!

In fact, I’m already here. I’m in Bern every other week these days, but usually coming in on AB or 4U flights. Monday morning I spent 5 hours in the cabin of a fully packed AirBerlin A321 waiting initially for EDDH to re-open after it snowed, then for a new slot from Eurocontrol I suppose (not that I know much about the system) and then for LSZH to re-open, then for de-icing. Fun.

Essen-Mülheim (EDLE), Düsseldorf (EDDL), Paderborn (EDLP), Mönchengladbach (EDLN), Germany

Is CAVOK as you describe it realistic at the beginning of April or wishful thinking?

It’s possible at any time

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Patrick,

well, I am based at ZRH, so if you plan to come, let me know. I’d be very happy to meet you, GA inbound or not.

CAVOK in April, yea it is possible. Chances are about one in five I’d reckon.

LSZH, Switzerland

Hello Urs,

well, I’m headed to ZRH in about 15 minutes from Bern, but today on a tight schedule. In any case – absolutely lets meet up some time, why not! Wouldn’t mind a first-hand look at your Mooney.

One in five for CAVOK, so if I allow myself 5 days, I get a 100% chance! Ah d*, something wrong with that logic..

Essen-Mülheim (EDLE), Düsseldorf (EDDL), Paderborn (EDLP), Mönchengladbach (EDLN), Germany

Plan B is to avoid the mountains via Geneva, Grenoble, and Nice.

Nice is a bit complicated and you need to fly quite low over the sea – perhaps less than optimal? Besides, it is quite out of the way. Depending on weather you could perhaps, after Grenoble, find a pass you can scale – I heard recommendations for the Col du Mont Cénis, among fliers of low-performance planes. But of course itt all depends on the weather.

EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

but I wouldn’t describe the Simplon as overly demanding

Inbound from the Rhone valley it is generally easy to identify, although you still have a bit of a switchback going into Italy.

The problem tends to be the inversion and smog you encounter in the Po valley – which can stick around for days on end. VFR slant visibility becomes very poor, nearly cloudy fishbowl as you descend from 9-10,000’ feet to stay out of CAS – with plenty of sizable mountains between Domodossola and L. Maggiore. This also makes picking the valley for the Simplon pass for your return journey potentially hazardous. The valley just before, and the one just after, are dead ends and you would need to climb above 13,000’ to clear the ridges.

Leaving Italy, the valley for Simplon seems to be a dead end with a conical, symmetrical mountain at the end of it, below the higher peaks – you fly towards this and then the pass switches back to the west.

My advice on Simplon get used to it in CAVOK.

Enstone (EGTN), Oxford (EGTK)
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