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Secrets of Greece?

Intentionally continuing on a separate post.

So even by taking all of the above in mind boscomantico I want to conclude that things are not that hard to make you give up provided you have time available. You just can't do island hopping Bahamas style (mind you we do not have Sharks here LOL!) with unmanned airports and self refueling.

By refueling in Kerkyra LGKR and/or Athens Megara LGMG or Samos LGSM or Sitia LGST in Crete you can hop all of the Greek islands easily if you visit them on their scheduled hours. Its just a matter of scheduling your trip. Especially the little ones discussed further up this thread are SO rewarding that you forget all the hassle. The fact that they are so calm and remote but still with your own plane you are 1 hr hop away from big towns (whereas with ship you need 5~10 hours) makes the whole story really worth it.

LGMG Megara, Greece

Personnel there are paid by the state and in a country with low GA activity, picking up in summer from the few daring ... pilots having them more hours staying open for a occasional GA visitor ... won't happen.

Well, it's not just short opening hours, it's crazy opening hours like 2h in the morning and then another 2h in the afternoon. When I was in Sitia LGST earlier this year, I asked the ATC guy whether he comes in for 2h and has another job. He told me that he's been on the tower for 10h and that he's on a 16h shift. So the airport is closed but the personnel is there. How crazy is that? The airport had a lot of staff and they were building a huge terminal for very little traffic. All I paid for this was 0,90 € landing fee. Iraklion charged me 1,67 € (+ handling but that went to a private company).

Of course you're right that GA is completely irrelevant to the business case of an airport, that holds true pretty much everywhere. GA airports are public infrastructure which the government chooses to support (for now). In other parts of Europe, GA was very strong in the 70s and it was back then when the infrastructure and procedures got established. Greece came later when GA was already next to irrelevant. Very few (any?) GA airports in Europe have opened in the last 20-30 years.

Regarding lack of AVGAS, I second what Peter said: you need endurance. I got fuel in Dubrovnik and flew to Sitia where I arrived with 2.5h of fuel. We should be glad that there is still AVGAS available in Greece, the business case is probably not that strong.

So the airport is closed but the personnel is there. How crazy is that?

Most certainly some of the many staff I mentioned above were not available (not replaced retirement etc.) and hence the airport could not operate. If then due to this they had cut the rest of the personnel THEIR unions would react. Go figure ...

The airport had a lot of staff and they were building a huge terminal for very little traffic.

Yes this is an "investment" for future capacity. Subsidies came in from EU some 10 years ago and they used them to cater for the future. Its part of a more general tourism infrastructure upgrade which is on going there for the last few years.

LGMG Megara, Greece

Petakas,

thank you very much for the background information. While it does of course explain the "why's" of certain circumstances, it does not, change their substance. A famous german politician (not Mrs. Merkel!) once said that "what comes out at the very end is what matters".

Please don't misunderstand me...being a kid of GA in Italy, I am very much used to somewhat bureaucratic PPR procedures, lack of Avgas in certain locations, etc. Thus, i am very used to "planning" my trips very well.

Unfortunately, the Avgas situation in Greece is even worse than in Italy. Plus, at least Italy does operate Schengen properly. And: there are hundreds of airstrips in Italy which are big fun and ultimately make for a very decent GA airport infrastructure.

One more thing that really "doesn't work" in Greece is descending (IFR) for landing. They will inevitably keep you much too high (for a piston aitcraft, at least). On the approach to Skiathos, they insisted on me maintaining 7000 feet until 15 miles from the field. I was begging for a descent, offering to cancel IFR, and the likes. But: the controllers don't even understand the problem! (As Peter pointed out, when there is something they don't understand, they will just say "standby" and not come back to you at all...). I know, it's not the controller's fault (he is probably just not educated about small GA and just respects his internal procedures). It's the fault of the airspace designers (and of the greek military, of course). But still, this is just one more of those things that make pilots shake their heads about flying in Greece..

Anyway, now I'll just enjoy my holiday...

Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

One more thing that really "doesn't work" in Greece is descending (IFR) for landing. They will inevitably keep you much too high (for a piston aitcraft, at least).

I can confirm that they will not plan the descent for you as they usually do in Northern Europe but I found Greek ATC to be quite good. I was IFR all the time and I did ask for my descents and was granted everything I wanted. On my flight to Sitia/Crete, there were TCU everywhere with a lot of turbulence so I asked for "request descent 5000ft with own navigation, to avoid weather". That is probably not a standard IFR request but it was granted and very much appreciated.

On the approach to Skiathos, they insisted on me maintaining 7000 feet until 15 miles from the field.

You should get an aircraft with a retractable gear, then you can do a Greek approach from 7000ft

I got fuel in Dubrovnik and flew to Sitia where I arrived with 2.5h of fuel. We should be glad that there is still AVGAS available in Greece, the business case is probably not that strong.

I think Sitia is "safe" because of a) ferry traffic to Africa (Rhodos is the other option) and b) it is probably a useful military backup.

Yes this is an "investment" for future capacity. Subsidies came in from EU some 10 years ago and they used them to cater for the future. Its part of a more general tourism infrastructure upgrade which is on going there for the last few years.

Do you think the massive Sitia terminal will ever be finished? It was a reinforced concrete skeleton when I was last there in 2010 and it looked old then. How long does the steel last in unprotected concrete, before the whole lot has to be demolished?

There isn't business in eastern Crete for that sort of traffic. There is a huge 99%-abandoned housing estate just down the road.

the Avgas situation in Greece is even worse than in Italy

That may be true in numerical terms (% of airports) but not necessarily in actual availability to a visitor who cannot speak the local language and just expects stuff to happen in accordance with aviation practice.

In Greece, if an airport has avgas then you can buy some.

In Italy, I have stood in front of an avgas pump at Oristano (a local pilot told me they have avgas) and asked 3 different people if they will sell me some. One of them was afraid of answering within earshot of anybody, another said I have to be a member of "AOPA", and the last one (the airport manager) gave me the kind of smile I would get in Brighton and walked away. I got a similar thing at Treviso. Obviously if you speak Italian then certain other things are possible...

That is probably not a standard IFR request but it was granted and very much appreciated.

I think they are used to avoidance stuff because they get loads of CBs.

I wish Greece had more avgas but I am not convinced it would generate much more immediate traffic. The pilots who have decent range can fly to/around Greece easily enough, and the rest rarely fly outside their own country. Greece is quite a long way down the road from where "stuff happens" in Europe.

But I might be wrong; southern Germans could reach Greece easily enough nonstop in anything half decent. I can reach Corfu from Shoreham, legally etc, but the poor alternates (none with avgas) would make it a silly experiment.

Greece is a beautiful country to fly around - the best destination in Europe

Better opening hours would be great. Currently, there are a number of airports where you cannot do a day trip, say to meet somebody for a lunch. You have to stay overnight.

I also think many of the airports can do what Sitia does and keep the stuff in drums. The logistics are really simple. The drums have an indefinite shelf life, AFAIK, if unopened.

7000 feet until 15 miles from the field.

OK so long as you are not intercepting a localiser at 7nm

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

boscomantico first of all don't worry I don't misunderstand you.

One more thing that really "doesn't work" in Greece is descending (IFR) for landing. They will inevitably keep you much too high (for a piston aitcraft, at least). On the approach to Skiathos, they insisted on me maintaining 7000 feet until 15 miles from the field. I was begging for a descent, offering to cancel IFR, and the likes. But: the controllers don't even understand the problem!

I certainly hope you did not judge Greek ATC from this IFR descent ! On your way in via B1 airway TSL to SKP VORs you are in a VERY busy sector which you may not realize. I give you below one of the two or both scenarios you faced (the B without you realizing it)

Scenario A.
All of Skiathos airliner Departures get the SKP SID from runway 02 but most of the times they get a visual clearance with FLxxx by xxx point. Skiathos is no Radar service only procedural hence they keep you up there until positively separated with other IFR. Do you think they would ever keep the airliner below you until you crossed each other ? No way ! To get you below the airliner separation minima Center Control would have to descend you to a level which is below airway MEA and their Radar floor. So once you have a preceding departure, even if you may not hear it on freq. yet the ATC are planning for its departure. You are too small to get priority over them ! and equal (legal) size to treat you the same. If you were to cancel to VFR you'd be surprised of the requirement. They'd ask you for 1500~2000ft by some 10 miles from the airport and if unable to make the plunge just put you on a holding VFR descent until you make it. So in your shoes I prefer to stay 7000 and enjoy the ride by making the full IFR approach without pressing for descent ! Also on a separate note I know the Skiathos ATCOs on shift this period (transfered from LGMT due to staff shortage) and believe me they are very GA active. By exception to the rule they have PPL by own initiative and fly (LGMT) aeroclub's C172. They know what we face and specifically the current staff there would not hang you up in the flight levels without good reason. Don't be surprised if they spot this thread and jump in !

Scenario B.
While you are on VHF with civil ATC, just few miles north of Skiathos there is often high speed low level east-west crossing military jets traffic. They are aircraft on scramble or scheduled exercises flying to/from Aghialos LGBL air base west of Skiathos on their way to / back from east Aegean. They are on UHF with MIL radars who talk to Skiathos ATC via landline and you never realize. ATC - if you are not VFR on low level - will not mention the reason they are not descending you.

Getting hung up at FL70 or 80 some 10-15 miles from airport has happened to me too many times when IFR and there is other climbing departing traffic from my destination. Its one of the drawbacks of IFR that is purely up to chances whether it will occur or not. Basic reason is the non radar environment and need for procedural separation vertically since laterally is very hard for opposite facing IFR traffic crossing each others' levels on climb/descent phase.

LGMG Megara, Greece

boscomantico,

I can assure you that the ATCO on duty that day had no intention of delaying your descent to Skiathos. Of course you could not be cleared in IFR to descend below FL70, which is the minimum altitude of B1 airway.

Actually when runway 20 is in use that's actually a small problem - the other day an airliner had to go around because runway 20 was in use and they came too high on final, as they did not manage to lose all that altitude in 15-20 track miles (of course if runway 02 is in use the arrival is a piece of cake in terms of altitude to be lost, at least for the airliners).

Anyway, in Skiathos, after your request to cancel IFR and continue VFR, the ATCO has to make at least three phone calls, among others: one to the military airport just west of Skiathos, another to the respective airport east of Skiathos and another to the "central" military radar watching all the fighter planes that might fly north of Skiathos TMA flying westwards/eastwards, which takes time. This is for everybody's safety, but might take time.

Enjoy your vacation :)

LGMT (Mytilene, Lesvos, Greece), Greece

Thanks a lot once again. Great feedback.

Just for your information: Normally, in my aircraft, I would start a descent from FL70 at around 45 trackmiles to go! This (400-500 FPM) is fuel efficient, minimizes flying time, is good for the engine and pleasant for the passengers. Runway in use does not make much of a difference in this case as they were operating visual approaches and in an SEP, there is no real difference in trackmiles whether you go straight in or fly a tight pattern for the other runway.

Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

Am I right in assuming that Greece does not have full RADAR coverage? Which other European countries do not have complete RADAR coverage?

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