A quick trip report on our flight to the Greek Islands via Croatia
Kirsty and I decided to take advantage of 3 weeks leave to take a Cirrus sr22 on a tour of Croatia and the Greek Islands. We were both indebted to the forum and to its members for some really useful tips and advice, and to get us started in the right direction. In that same spirit, I hope that I can successfully post a trip report of our flying and some of the highlights of the trip. Please then forgive a little bit of a halting start as I post to this thread and hopefully upload some of the photos in the correct order and with a sensible filesize. This first post then is a small trial. The next posts will cover the individual flights and might take a few hours to get finalised and uploaded.
We set off from our home base Guernsey (EGJB) on the 19th May, for Portoroz, returning on 8th May 2016 from Carcassonne following the EuroGA fly in.
Some key figures from the trip:
Block hours – 27:55
Air miles flown – 6188 nm
Airports visited – 13
Average fuel consumption – 20 nm/USgal
To lend some detail to the story, I have been a commercial pilot for most of my career, and only returned to the UK about a year ago after 21 years in the Far East. General aviation is therefore new to me and indeed, this trip opened my eyes to some of the significant challenges that exist in this field. When I returned a year ago, I took a share in a Cirrus sr22, and have flown it mostly for an hour or two from its homebase in Guernsey. It was my wife, Kirsty, who came up with the idea of using a 3 week leave block to take the aircraft further afield.
During the last year of general aviation, I went to the USA for about 3 weeks to obtain a standalone FAA PPL and Instrument Rating (as the Cirrus is “N” reg). I have had to learn workflows as I went along, but was amazed at some of the help now out there. I always use both Skydemon and Autorouter, regardless of whether I’m flying IFR or VFR. I also often use EuroFPL for flight plan filing.
I fly both VFR and IFR with no strong preference for either. As becomes apparent later in the trip report (Iraklion to Kerkira), we could not have come home if I insisted on IFR. I like flying both, and simply fly what is most appropriate for me at the time. On to the planning….
As we had decided early on to make an Alps crossing, we sourced a portable oxygen setup from Mountain High – thank you EuroGA for all the useful information on that! We sourced a 512L Kevlar bottle with a two-place O2D2 regulator and cannula system. One fill lasted us the entire trip, and indeed, the bottle is still 1/3rd full. Cost? USD 1780.
Another essential prerequisite was to join AOPA. I renewed my membership of US AOPA, but any branch of AOPA will suffice. Why? In Greece, handling is virtually mandatory for a visiting pilot. Unlike some places I could mention (UK), the Handlers in Greece actually add value to your trip, both in the planning stage, getting slots and permission from ATC, and in facilitating your arrival and departure from the airport. there are three main players in the Handling business – Goldair, Swissport, and Skyserv. With AOPA membership, Goldair and Swissport will charge about EUR25 per transit (with Goldair slightly cheaper and with no weekend supplements), and Skyserv EUR40.
On to the flying…
Guernsey to Portoroz 19th Apr 2016
778nm, 4:35, Max G/S 200 knots, average 169 knots, max FL150.
We had planned to fly over the Alps, from Zurich southbound, but as the departure date came closer, it became apparent that the weather would make that almost impossible. We therefore forced Autorouter to take us to the South of France and around the Alps. On the morning of departure, after days of planning, the weather was quite obviously unfit both over the Swiss Alps and over the South of France. We spent 30 minutes with Autouter re-planning to the North of Switzerland, crossing into Italy from Austria.
Pictures to follow…
6188NM in 27:55h results in an impressive average speed
The Cirrus is a 2004 normally aspirated piston, and had spent most of its life at lower levels. This was the first time it was going to venture above FL120. Our Guernsey puffin came along to make sure that all was in order…
ATC quickly had us on vectors and we were sent up the coast of France and well north of Paris (about 50 nm north of planned track). As soon as we were past Paris, vectors and shortcuts were given through to Austria. The fuel lost in our early detour was never made up, but neither were we worried about running short. The weather was glorious for the whole flight, and as the flight progressed we continued to climb as the flatlands gave way to foothills, and the foothills in turn gave way to the mountains.
Eventually up at FL150, but the terrain was never far away…
The aircraft photographer even had time to be arty;
And then we were into Italy, cancelling IFR and self positioning for some views of the old town of Piran…
A downwind join of the airport….
Onto finals after turning in belly-up to high ground, and in a very stiff closing wind…
Onto the pan of Portoroz
A super friendly welcome and a golf buggy lift the whole 50 yards to the terminal. 5 minutes with Immigration, then into Airport reception to be informed there was no AVGAS, just Jet A1, and would I like some Jet A1? My heart sank until the Jet A1 came out. What an amazing reception from this amazing, efficient, and friendly airport.
The airport gave us a lift to Piran for EUR25, and we settled in to the city square with cold beer and ice creams just one hour after landing.
And some leisurely strolls enjoying the pretty old town of Piran. We used booking.com to book our accommodation whilst in the square with our beers and ice cream. It was just off the square and cost a very reasonable EUR50 for the night for a self contained apartment.
Sadly, we had only planned one night in Portoroz. We loved it and will most certainly be going back. However, this time around we had an itinerary to keep, and we needed to push on South. Next stop – Split.
Portoroz is one of the top 5 airports for GA in Europe. Absolutely top notch. Please be assured you will be back several times. Be it just for fuel or customs. It’s perfect for everything.
Also no Mogas unfortunately, so no place among the top 5 – at least not for everyone
Very nice pictures, pg. Thank you!
Portoroz to Split 20th Apr 2016
190nm, 1:15, Max G/S 174knots, average 149 knots, max altitude 2,700 ft.
Before looking at some more pictures, it is perhaps worth noting some of the administration required with getting permission to land in the larger airports – notably Split, but also Kerkira (Corfu), Santorini and Iraklion. I composed a draft letter with our crew details (passports, dates of birth, nationalities etc), and aircraft details (registration, MTOW, non-commercial) and with a header of “we plan to visit your airport within the next month and seek appropriate permissions for that visit. Please find our details below”. I subscribed to a 30 day (free) trial with efax.co.uk and sent this letter to all the airports I planned to visit. This little exercise took some time, but most of that time was spent finding the appropriate fax numbers either from Skydemon or the AIP. I also sent the letter via e-mail where possible.
Some airports (Kerkira and Split) responded with a “you have permission” fax / e-mail, but the rest were a little more informal in response. A lot of the time spent requesting permissions was, frankly, wasted time. This comes with caveats – this was a quiet time to visit! If I could plan the trip again, I would do it thus:
Draft a standard “we plan to visit” letter and save to Dropbox.
Call airports like Portoroz the day before flight, but more out of courtesy than anything else.
Compulsory PPR airports like Split / Kerkira – e-mail the draft letter about a week before and in the header of the e-mail, state the intended dates.
All Greek airports, just e-mail the chosen Handling agent a few days before with the standard letter and an intended date of visit.
I spent about 20 hours organising permissions prior to departure – there was absolutely no need. I should have spent about 2 hours before departure and then about 20 minutes a day reviewing correspondence for the next few days flying.
That said, when we came to leave Split, the Handling agent told me that we were lucky and that in a few weeks the General Aviation pan would be completely full of Bizjets and we would be fighting for scraps.
Flight planning Portoroz to Split over coffee in the square
In the morning over breakfast, I used Skydemon to plot an “Adria” VFR route to Split (a 5 minute doddle with Skdemon). The skies were blue and were going to remain that way for the rest of the week, so I submitted the flightplan through Skydemon at the cafe. We had decided to skip Losinj, as we had left Guernsey later than planned and wanted to make up time.
From arrival at the airport (the Airport picked us up for EUR20), I went out to refuel the aircraft (with AVGAS not Jet A1), returning to pay the bills and clear Immigration – all in 30 minutes. Engine started and VFR clearance “you are clear to depart as desired”, and we were airborne in less than an hour after arriving at the airport.
Remaining at low altitudes, and with occasional highish terrain, some of the villages appeared rather close.
Stunning coastline, beautiful water, and blue skies the whole way. ATC just let us get on with it. I couldn’t have made more than 10 radio calls until we got to Split.
Eventually joining Split from the North. ATC were unbelievably relaxed. “You are clear to join, the wind is 230/4 knots, use whichever runway you want. Clear to land”.
And on to final… note the empty GA / Bizjet apron half way down on the right side of the runway.
The Airport handling staff came to meet us and take us to the airport terminal. We were quickly through Immigration and then had to walk the 100 yards to the bus stop. We were going to take a break here for 3 nights and move on to the old town of Hvar.
Before moving on to that section of the trip…. is this too much detail for the forum? Less detail / more? More flying photos? Is this about right?
Just right for me.
Excellent level of information.
Split to Hvar 20th-23rd April 2016
Following form our arrival to Split, the plan was to transfer to old town Hvar for a 3 night break. The shuttle bus from the airport to the port is EUR4 per head (taxis about EUR30), with buses running to meet the arrivals into Split. We waited for about 40 minutes before the bus left for the port. From the bus terminal, a 5 minute stroll to the Hvar pier, and we purchased tickets for the sailing leaving about 20 minutes later.
We used AirBnB to book a place for 3 nights and our hostess met us at the Hvar pierside to show us the way. The view from the bathroom is important to us…
Then it was time to drink in the atmosphere. Puffin disgraced himself.
Hvar is absolutely delightful, but I would imagine that whilst it was new and amazing for us, that its all been done before by most of the guys on this forum. Thus just a few photos of our 3 days…
We also took time to hike around the coastline to secluded beaches with crystal clear (though somewhat cold) water.
We loved this charming town. Our 3 days was over too quickly and we retraced our steps back to the airport on the 23rd April. Autorouter had filed our plan, but it was going to be a later departure in order to accommodate the later opening hours of our next destination, Chios.