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To Morocco and the Canaries

So I did a nice flying trip with some flying friends to Morocco and the Canaries. Courtesy of Selma for doing the pictures, but as a result she almost doesn’t show up!

Mallorca LESB
Melilla GEML
Marrakech GMMX
Lanzarote GCRR
Mogador GMMI
Jerez LEJR
Almeria LEAM
… and back to home base LESB

Wherever we could we planned on flying VFR, but from what we heard and read life would be a lot easier to go IFR in Morocco. Strict rules on VFR routing for instance. Some more on that later.

First leg was technically still in Spain, to one of the little Spanish enclaves on the North African coast called Melilla. Basically a town with a big wall around it for obvious reasons and a reasonably sized airfield. Yep, Spain has a big issue with the Brits occupying “the rock”, but have less of an issue occupying two patches of land elsewhere

Son Bonet early morning departure

The monster of Loch Less has finally surfaced it seems, attacking Ibiza

Nice VFR day

Approaching Africa

Where it was marginal VFR

Welcome to Spa..frica!

Just 2.5 hours from Mallorca.
Landing fee of 10 euros, rather strict paperwork check (licenses, aircraft docs) but friendly people.

Zulu departure to Marrakech and our first flavor of Moroccan ATC. Actually quite a nice flavor! Throughout our trip we enjoyed professional, accommodating and very well English-speaking controllers. More than half were female. So nice to see that at least in ATC there is not a trace of male domination

Hazy Moroccan sky. Snow-capped Atlas mountains

Inbound destination

Arrival at Marrakech was relatively busy. It is a very popular tourist destination. Ryanair, Air France, Lufthansa plus quite a few upscale private jets. Fueled up (85 € cents a litre, not bad at all). Mandatory handling not required so with 3 Dutchmen on board it was an easy decision to save us probably around 350 €. Sure enough the very polite Follow-Me man took us to the terminal. He absolutely refused to take a tip. He took us to the Ops office where they registered all aircraft data. This took a while because they handwrite things (in French, it helps that you speak it a bit, although they get by in English) and the book’s page was full. This meant starting a fresh page, get a ruler out and hand draw 15 columns, all with a specific width ;) Landing fee 45 €

With my lowly DA42 I was clearly at the bottom of the food chain. Apart from all these upscale planes there were two Gulfstream V’s sitting there.

Not knowing how things would work on departure, here’s where we made a mistake not to ask for some documents. More on that later.

We had decided that the trip would not just be about flying and we would stay in Marrakech for 2 nights. Not a bad decision. Interesting city! But is gets tiresome to haggle about money all day. Maybe we just should have paid whatever, but all three of us just don’t like to get ripped off.. Case in point: Taximan from the airport wanted 350 dirham (35 €). I told him 200 would already be quite well paid. We finally settled on 250. So I asked the girl at reception what the normal rate is. “Anything over 100 is a rip-off, sir” ☺. Hmm, that observation saved us quite a bit for the rest of the rides..

Just a few tourist pics

Selma was clearly the bravest of the crew

Not knowing how much hassle it would be to depart (internationally) we arrived at the airport some 1,5 hrs before EOBT. Without a handler we did not know what to expect. Good decision.. The big hurdle was the police. They wanted to see the passports of course but also a written “manifest”, both for arrival and for departure with all aircraft and flight details as well as all POB data. Hmm, I use RocketRoute, so no print out, and no POB data on there either, so that took a while. In the end we got through to the supervising officer who allowed us to send the FPL form to him by mail and he would then print it..

Flight to Lanzarote was uneventful, quite a bit of water. Two engines are nice.
Relatively busy field too, a popular holiday destination. Lots of Brits! Landing fee 30 €, no hassle, friendly and helpful staff.

Approach and landing

So with this burocratic Moroccan experience in mind we planned our way back. The OPS people at Lanzarote told us about flying to Morocco and warned us for VFR. They said that somehow VFR is less trusted by the Moroccans. Like literally flying below the radar and maybe even land somewhere remote and load up naughty goods? One thing you should never do and that is to go VFR in a helicopter. They told us a story about a pilot being held there for three full days. I don’t think there are many EuroGA-ers who would be doing that, but nonetheless you are now warned.

We could have done a direct-to Spain but considered 4 hours a bit long. So we pondered where to make a stop. In any event we printed a manifest that we think would suffice and –just to make sure- had it rubber-stamped all over.

Casablanca would be mid-way, but looked like a huge airport, where handling would probably come in handy, but they quoted us 320 € (on the phone they instantly halved it and called it a “technical stop” though. He must have recognized a Dutch accent). Anyhow we spotted a smaller field more south called Mogador. 2,5 km runway, VOR appch, no handling needed either and –armed with a real manifest- decided to go for it.

Departure Lanzarote

Crossing the African coast just before landing

Quite hazy but an otherwise uneventful leg and landing. When opening the canopy we heard a dog bark. Ahh, this is my kind of field!

Sure enough, we experienced the whole procession of beautiful uniforms coming to the aircraft, respectively from customs, police, and the airfield. They made us all fill out exactly the same information and all checked our passports. And of course the forms for the fuel. However, very kind people, just doing their job. We briefly met 2 French pilots who were on their way to Dakar, Senegal in a C172. Braver than we are…
15 euro landing fee, and off to Spain.

Nice ride, high along the coast of Morocco to SW Spain, Jerez.

As it was Easter, we had the good fortune to enjoy the processions. Very impressive. The whole city either participates or watches.

Final day, back home. We decided to tour the entire south coast of Spain, and to make an intermediate stop at Almeria.

Marginal VFR departure from Jerez.

Typical Andalusian town, all white homes

So towards the strait of Gibraltar the Spanish controller asked us to contact the Brits! That was new to me: Flying over the Mediterranean and hearing the customary “pass your message”. I did not give him the full riddle (including the age of your father in law and your sexual preferences) as they are used to in the UK, but he seemed OK with that. So the Spanish have some influence on Gibraltar after all..

The rock

Because the weather became clearer and clearer we had a nice ride along the coast. Much of which is overpopulated of course, but some areas still reasonably virgin.

We crossed both Malaga and Alicante overhead. They are fine with that, although they don’t really appreciate it in full summer for obvious reasons. Here’s Malaga

Almost home

So under the pretext that I’m getting old I got myself this nice little remote-controlled tug.
I actually sometimes sit in the plane and drive into the hangar. Pretty pathetic, I know..
It gets worse.. I then even log the time..

So my friends took it easy while I was scraping off African bugs and dusting off Saharan sand. Life sucks..
But nonetheless 16,5 hours of fun airborne time!

Private field, Mallorca, Spain

Great trip! One thing – VFR in Morocco is painless. I’ve been all over the place VFR and the only thing they want you to do is fly the VFR routes. Other than that, no worries.

aart great report! and photos!

Oxford (EGTK)

Nice report, Aart! I thought the same thing about ATC in Morocco and discrimination last year, when we dealt with female controllers there.

Hungriger Wolf (EDHF), Germany

Very nice trip, aart, and thanks for posting it.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Great report, Aart. The beauty of a Jet A1 twin is the ability to do these kinds of trips.

Do you have the long range tanks? Because I think a Da42 flew at 40% power direct from St John in Canada, to Porto in Portugal many years ago, just on standard tanks. Like 1800nm’s or something. If you pull them back enough, and don’t mind sitting for a long time, they could probably do the trip you just made without stops!

Yes, I have the long range tanks and they indeed give you a lot of flexibility. There are very few DA42’s without them, and even less without TKS..

Private field, Mallorca, Spain

Thanks for posting, really enjoyed reading it!

LFHN - Bellegarde - Vouvray France

Great trip and report!

aart wrote:

So with this burocratic Moroccan experience in mind we planned our way back.

That’s minor – I could say few words about bureaucracy in Greece. Filling in Gendec at each airport I landed. Plus over 500€ in fees for landing to 3 airports.

LDZA LDVA, Croatia

Brilliant! Thanks for the write up! Really enjoyed it.

EIKH Kilrush
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