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Flying in Greece: my experience

I know the topic “Greece” has been already exhaustively treated in few more threads (here and here), but I wanted to share my experience on a flight, myself and a friend of mine had from June 28th until July 11th, in Greece.

The initial planned route was:

LSPVLSZR (for custom) – LDDU (refuelling + 2 overnights) – LGKR (custom and refuelling) – LGKC (3 nights) – LGIR (refuelling) – LGPL (2 nights) – LGML (3 nights) – LGIK (2 nights) – LGSM (refuelling) – LDDU (refuelling) – LSZH

with a Mooney M20J (64 USG, 4:30 autonomy + reserve). All the flights to reach Greece and back from Greece were IFR. Inside Greece, all the flights were VFR.

Because of strong northern winds (30 kts, gust up to 40 kts) in the aegean area for few days between July 4th and July 7th, we had to cancel Milos (LGML). So we stayed 4 nights in LGPL (no big issue, it was truly a paradise!) and 3 in Ikaria (another beautiful island.. a bit more touristic – I’ve been told that the massive invasion of americans is due to a National Geographic documentary that was selling Ikaria, like the islands where people live longer than in other places.. apparently horde of people go there to catch the secret of this life style.. the result is that few villages, the most touristic, are completely full of noisy americans..).

Airport Operational hours: the only thing that requires a bit of preparation is to check the NOTAM for the operational hours of the airport. In any case, even cancelling Milos, we easily managed to recover the whole plan, by just skipping this destination and without further intermediate landings. In any case, flying in the aegean I found very practical to have LGIR always as my primary alternate (in case I would need fuel).

Fuel: we refuelled in LGKR, LGIR and LGSM. We have been always treated in a very professional way.. Ok, the price always ranged between 2.8 and 3.0 Euros, but this is in my opinion pretty normal for the mediterranean area (I’m myself italian – south italian – and in Naple – close to my hometown – although speaking italian, I remember to have paid 3.1 Euros per litre): never have experienced prices higher then 3.0 Euros in Greece. And I’ve never ever had the impression that the lack of greek language was a problem (everybody was speaking english anyhow).

Handling: I asked handling only in LDDU (Croatia), LGKR, LGIR and LGSM. The handling operator was GOLDAIR HANDLING in Greece, which I would recommend to everybody flying in those places. In LDDU, was the airport handling, which worked as good as GOLDAIR. I always requested for a technical stop handling (with AOPA air crew card) and I have paid in all the greek airports 24 EUR. In LDDU around 15 EUR. ! ALL people, in LGKR, LGIR and LGSM, have been extremely friendly and you know what?! From touchdown to be ready for taxi/departure in all greek airports it took less than 45 minutes. Reading at the previous posts, I was ready to wait for hours.. Especially in LGKR, I was filing the next leg to Kithira 2 hours later than landing time. Instead I had even to anticipate the flight by 1 hour. This is similar to the Swiss efficiency (try to ask for fuel in Zurich during rush hour and you will see if you don’t have to wait for 30-45 minutes!). Probably we were lucky.. but in this case, I must say that we were lucky 3 out of 3 airports.

Taxes: 3.4 EUR per day for the M20J. And once you pay the landing taxes, you can land in any other airport during the same day without paying anything else. In LGKC, LGPL we were not even asked for the parking. In LGIK, instead we paid slightly more than 1 EUR for the 3 overnight parkings.
There was also a funny story: first airport in Greece was LGKR. I was brought by the handling agent to the HCAA to pay the landing taxes. I had no euros with me, but used to the swiss landing taxes, I thought I was going to pay with the credit card. When arriving he told me that the taxes were 3.4 EUR. I did not understand and asked again how much was it. He replied 3.4 EUR. I looked at him and asked: “Can I pay pay with the CC?” with a smile.. no need to have a reply.. the answer was clearly no for that amount. So with the help of the handling agent we managed to get some EUR cash and I paid the taxes. I remember that he started collecting the change for the 20 EUR and looking at the coins change, I told him: “No, please just round-up to 5 EUR. Don’t give me all this change!” He looked at me very bad and said: “We do not accept tips in this office, and by the way this money goes entirely to Angela Merkel!”
At this point, It was clear that I could not joke on this topic any longer :) and I regularly paid – when asked – every single cent for the right amount without trying to round-up the price.

Controller Attitude: No need to say that all the IFR flights were OK and without problems. I can only mention that during the leg LGSM-LDDU (on the way back) we had very strong north winds, with a GS speed of approximately 100 kts at FL130 over the north aegean (normally GS is around 140 for that level). I was really afraid that I had to divert either to Skopje or Tirana for refuelling so I asked for shortcuts or lower levels (I was hoping in lower winds) and I was negated both, due to a intense military activity in that area. In any case, as soon as we reached the land and the FYROM border, both Thessaloniki and Skopje were extremely kind and allowed me to try lower levels (the minimum radar vectoring altitude in that area was anyway 11K feet) and got the shortcut previously requested over the sea.
Regarding the VFR flights: We only got one problem. Apparently, when we left LDDU there were no notams affecting Andravida MTMA, or at least my smart route notam was not showing anything relevant for VFR. So I was filing for a VFR crossing the ionic islands. When in LGKR and during refuelling and taxes, I was called by another HCAA agent that told me that he just received a NOTAM that all VFR flights crossing Andravida had to get PPR at least 2 hours before departure, and because of this he was not authorising our departure unless we had the OK right there in front of him from Andravida. I called the controller in Andravida and he was very kind and friendly. He said that it is not about PPR, it is just that because of the IFR traffic over Zakynthos and Kefalonia they would prefer not to have VFR traffic there. No problem, I negotiated another route to reach Kithira (almost identical, although shorter than the IFR route). The nice thing is that, in any VFR flight I always got the level I was asking. All of them were done between FL75 and FL85. Try to do this in Italy.. impossible.. if it would be possible, italian controller would like to have VFR traffic with negative FL ..

So, to summarise.. it was a great flight. I would be ready to return to Greece even today. It is an experience that I would recommend to everybody.
The limited availability of fuel was never a major nor a safety issue. It requires only a bit of planning and in any case the availability in Iraklion, Samos and Megara, makes a perfect triangulation wherever you are in the agean sea (in case you need AVGAS). Checking the operational hours you may in principle visit all the islands without big headaches. You’ll be welcome like in no other places. I still remember when landed in Kithira.. it was first time in my life that the tower said: “HB-*, welcome to Kithira, Alexandros Aristotelous Onassis Airport.” and this again repeated in Ikaria (where we landed with 20/25 knots head winds).. The AFIS guy told us when were in short final, “HB-*, thank you for reporting final. Wind 330/25, Rwy 33 land at your own discretion. Have a good landing Sir..” and again .. “welcome to..”
No need to say that this makes you feel welcome when you arrive.

I confirm what other people said in other threads: flying in Greece, without knowing Greek, works perfectly OK. And the impressive thing is that, even outside of the aviation environment, you find many people – even old ones – that try to communicate in english with you. This is just amazing and so much different from what you find in other european countries (including mittel-european ones).

Another big surprise was LDDU. This was my first time in Dubrovnik. Very efficient in refuelling. And you were from the plane to the taxi in less than 15 minutes. Similar story to reach the plane from the terminal. I really loved that, because you are in a relatively big airport but still with handling times similar to small grass airfields.

Finally – before the pictures and video of the flights – few suggestions if somebody desires to visit either Kithira or Astypalaia.
In Kithira we found this place: http://www.portodelfino.gr pretty nice.
In Astypalaia, instead, I would definitely recommend this one: http://www.castellanovillage.gr/en/ – it is a family owned hotel and everything is chosen with care according the aegean tradition, great view, great atmosphere. Moreover, the family’s father (Mr. Costas) was mechanical engineer for the Greek Airforce: you can spend amazing hours talking about planes/engines. Not to mention that the place is on the short final for 33 and you can do planespotter from the pool.. unfortunately there is only 1 scheduled flight per day :) . Very friendly and kind people. Leaving Astipalaia was really sad..

Pictures and Videos of the trip.

Last Edited by Teo at 14 Jul 16:55
Teo
LSZE, LSZR, LSZH, Switzerland

Caro Teo,
I’m living and flying from my base Kos Intl since 25 years now.I read with patience your article and felt pleased that years of negotiations,consultations,posting of bad attitudes have started producing a better product.
Not long ago,the administration and the products concerning G.A. was embryonic and derived of old military or old Olympic Airways pensioners.Now it seems that new generation bureaucrats are no longer dedicated to suppress what is left after the “crisis”.I insist that our crisis was not a bank crisis but a “soviet-populist-clientele” crisis feeding the monster of the benefit seekers from the blood of the dimminishing private sector.
Of what I read,you are right, except a mistake you did about LGIK as refueling station,you propably mean LGIR. Another little mistake is about your waiting time for refuelling at LGKR. You were just lucky.It depends on the day and time.I have been waiting >2 hours under the sun sometimes.
Allora saluti da Coo e alla prossima.Anche io vengo di origine Siciliana da tempi che Dodecanesso era occupata da Roma e mio nonno fu trasferito qui come tecnico.

LGGG

Ciao Med! Thanks for your message and for reporting those issues. I fixed those typos.

Also: I’m pretty sure that you can wait 2 hours in Kerkira. But I wanted just to witness that it can also be much shorter (45 min in my case, which included: paying taxes, getting euro cash from the terminal, refuelling and calling Andravida/discussing with the HCAA personnel for the re-routing).

KOS must be beautiful too.. definitely next time :)

About the occupation period, I discovered a funny story about Kythira: during WWI Kythira had a short independent period (following Venizelos movement) in which they declared war to Germany and her allies (!!!). Few months later Kythira went back under the Greek authority, WWI ended and apparently they (Greece on behalf of Kythirians) forgot to withdraw the war declaration. Germans did not forget about it during the WWII. After Italians invaded the island of Kythira, Germans decided to transform it into their local/strategical base. It was the first to be freed by the allies. But this is another story.. :)

A presto MedF e grazie per le correzioni ! (io sono calabrese)
Teo

Teo
LSZE, LSZR, LSZH, Switzerland

Ciao Teo,

your post proves that the degree of satisfaction one gets from flying to any foreign country does not depend on which country it is, but on the pilot’s preparation regarding national particularities. You seem to have been well prepared for Greece (i.e.: checking NOTAMs well in advance, being AOPA member, knowing where to get fuel, etc.).
Well done!

Io invece sono tedesco al 100%, ma mi sento a casa pure nel Veneto!

Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

Nice to read this account

My own experience of Greece and its people has always been 100%, and we are going back there late September, to do more islands in the Aegean.

A lot of people say Greece is hard but for someone who doesn’t speak the local language it’s easier than say Spain or (especially) Italy because English is well spoken and everybody is so friendly. You can phone up any airport and find out e.g. the fuel or whatever situation, easily.

I am glad you visited Kithira – Greece’s most beautiful island.

Last Edited by Peter at 14 Jul 22:06
Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Teo thank you for such a nice report and the excellent multimedia.

You did what a SMART GA pilot shall do in Greece. Avoid the “trendy” places (which almost for sure will have difficult PPRs) and explore the hidden gems lying around easily accessible by GA. You got the true taste of Greece ;-)
The trendy places (e.g. Santorini LGSR, Mykonos LGMK, Skiathos LGSK and others) are still accessible but you will not enjoy laid back style there especially with the airport procedures if you come in July or August. These places are for June or September and for a bit higher budget than Milos LGML, Astypalaia LGPL, Kithira LGKC or Ikaria LGIK.
Just to give you an idea for LGMK in early June I applied for 15 days parking 1-16 August. I got approval for 5 days in beginning and 2 days at end of the requested period.
As you can guess I will go by ferry and spot the (extremely busy – especially private jets) traffic from distance !

Yes I remember that NOTAM for Andravida MTMA.
They handle A LOT of seasonal charter traffic going in and out of Zakynthos LGZA and Kefallinia LGKF plus the MIL traffic of two busy Air Force bases (Araxos LGRX & Andravida LGAD).
Some times it gets really tight in that relatively small piece of south Ionian sea.
As you said they do not block VFR but really want to know about it so that they coordinate.
Its a big MTMA (Controlled Airspace) through which you fly easily VFR as long as they know when and where you’re going.

I don’t know why you did not get the NOTAM.
A nice source for Greece NOTAMs (applicable also to various other countries) is this nice graphical tool
http://metutil.appspot.com/static/maps/NotamMap_LGGG_2DAY_WR.htm?nosplash=y

Regarding no DCTs over central Aegean, yes it can happen if we have intense MIL activity and it does happen often either due to scheduled exercises (always NOTAMed under LGGG FIR code) or situations arising on the spot (more on these here ).

Indeed you were lucky in Kerkira LGKR regarding fuel. Its all a matter of peak traffic hour or not.
Other times I have turned around in 45’ as well and other times it was almost impossible.
On my last flight to Straubing EDMS from LGKR I wanted to refuel at late afternoon on Friday arrival for my morning departure for EDMS.
I would have to wait more than 1~1.5 hour by looking at the charters which had just arrived and were being refueled by one single person the same for AVGAS.
We left for town for a dinner and came back at 00:30 just to refuel in their next shift. I lost an hour’s sleep – valuable for next day – but the 7 am departure went on schedule.

Indeed AVGAS is not available in many airports but at the ones it is its just a simple matter of proper planning.

Same for (small) airport operation hours. Proper homework (NOTAMs) gets you around easily.

PS: For your second link on the old discussion regarding Milos I had to remove the page 3 part of the URL to see it.

Last Edited by petakas at 15 Jul 07:32
LGMG Megara, Greece

I am glad you visited Kithira – Greece’s most beautiful island.

Try Astypalaia.. actually.. I should probably not suggest that.. I’m jealous of others visiting that place.. (something like.. get your hands off MY butterfly island! )
It is different in many respects to the other islands.. the tallest tree is 40 cm (excluding 10 big oaks that grow in the western part).. yellow and orange colours, which reminded me a lot my hometown.. strong winds.. and crystal clear waters (ok.. this is easy to find in Greece ). It is the place to go if you like fish. Also Ikaria.. there you can do much more than just sea/sun.. hiking in the mountains (1000 meter high!) is as beautiful as lay in one of the many beautiful beaches..

Last Edited by Teo at 15 Jul 07:59
Teo
LSZE, LSZR, LSZH, Switzerland
Well done!

Io invece sono tedesco al 100%, ma mi sento a casa pure nel Veneto!

Thanks
of course you feel at home in Veneto too! We are all european.. aren’t we?!

Teo
LSZE, LSZR, LSZH, Switzerland

Thanks Petakas.

I don’t know why you did not get the NOTAM.

No idea either.. I tried even later and the operator (a swiss operator) that provides what is called SMART ROUTE NOTAM was not yet showing that one even later in the day..
In any case, I did not consider this a problem. It took 5 minutes to sort it out, and as I said ALL people were extremely friendly and cooperative.

or situations arising on the spot (more on these here ).

That was the funny part of reading Greece NOTAMS Was my first time that I was reading NOTAMs that were cancelling the validity of other NOTAMs belonging to another country (Turkey).. Regarding the DCT: when we were in the air over the Aegean, you could hear Makedonia control, coordinating all the military flights (easy since their call sign was NavigatorX, and there were at least 5 X that day..): so sure enough it was not an excuse.. and without strong north winds this was not going to worry me at all.. But again, as soon as we arrived under Thessaloniki approach, they released all the restrictions and gave me everything I asked.

PS: For your second link on the old discussion regarding Milos I had to remove the page 3 part of the URL to see it.

strange.. I can open the link.. I’m afraid anyway that I cannot edit that post anymore unfortunately (I can’t see the EDIT button on it any longer).

Teo
LSZE, LSZR, LSZH, Switzerland

Regarding the DCT: when we were in the air over the Aegean, you could hear Makedonia control, coordinating all the military flights (easy since their call sign was NavigatorX, and there were at least 5 X that day..): so sure enough it was not an excuse..

Nope, “Navigator” on VHF comm’s was certainly not one of them.
The ones I referred to you will never listen, they are on UHF with MIL Radar.
CIV ATC see them on radar but have no coordination with them.
You understand when there is activity by CIV ATC being a bit more nervous and not approving any reroutes requested !

LGMG Megara, Greece
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