A flight to Portoroz (LJPZ) is nothing too much out of the ordinary. Still, it’s one of the best (quite possibly THE best) GA airport in Europe. And a little write-up and airport update shouldn’t do any harm.
The outbound flight (with my father and me on board) was on Friday the 10th of March, from Luebeck (EDHL) to Portoroz (LJPZ), in the SR22.
Weather: Typical post-frontal early spring weather. The rest of a big area of precipitation had just departed Germany southeastbound and there was a strong northerly flow, which would be great for our groundspeed, but raised some concerns over turbulence over and south of the Alps.
However, there was a lack of SIGMETs along our route of flight, so that was encouraging:
On the morning of departure, the sat image looked like this:
As you can see, some residual cloud and possibly a few light showers over the Alps, with a tendency for the best conditions in the west of Austria. The “direct” routing would have been via Salzburg and Klagenfurt roughly. However, due to the recent introduction of FRA in Austria and a very poor implementation, there is currently some trouble with “low altitude” IFR routings across Austria. For many routes, there are simply no solutions any longer. Since I soon got fed up trying to create an IFR route, and since I preferred the weather towards the Tyrol area anyway, I developed an alternative routing, going straight down to Innsbruck, to then cancel IFR and proceed VFR southeastbound to LJPZ. And that’s what we filed. As a preview, here’s the second half of the route that we ended up flying:
Here is the corresponding GRAMET.
This turned out to be fairly accurate, but just slightly optimistic in terms of cloud tops. Also, note the promising tailwind component.
So here we are, at 08:35 local time, at Luebeck airport (EDHL), taxying out to runway 25.
We took off on the RAMAR4H departure and were quickly on our way due south, first inbound to Hehlingen VOR (HLZ), then roughly via Nuernberg and Munich and then on towards Innsbruck.
Up to Munich, the chosen cruising altitude was FL110 (the highest one I fly at without some cannulas up my nose). True airspeed was 170 knots, at a fuel flow of 12.5GPH. The tailwind component was about 40 knots most of the time, so we were smoking down south at 210 knots. No real interesting pictures to show you, as we were flying above a low overcast (as per the GRAMET) and we had the sun against us. In the meantime, the ADL confirmed light precipitation over parts of the eastern Alps, starting just to the east of Innsbruck.
Here we are, reaching the Alps, between Munich and Innsbruck.
FL110 would have been fine all the way in INN NDB, where we intended to cancel IFR.
However, the clouds tops over the Alps turned out to be slightly higher than what we had hoped for, so we climbed up to FL140 and started taking some oxygen.
This was the view straight ahead, heading towards Innsbruck. The tailwind reached 50-60 knots at that point.
At INN, we cancelled IFR and proceded VFR towards the Brenner initially. As expected, the cloud cover reduced notably, but their tops were still right at our cruising altitude.
After reaching Italy, and as we turned southeastbound, we called Padova Information and actually climbed to FL165 (in class Golf) to stay well above the scattered cumulus clouds. In fact there was not only cloud, but also some typical leeside turbulence, but it smoothed out at FL 165.
Routing-wise, we were also a bit constrained, since there is Restricted Area LI-R49 in the northeast of Italy (active, since it was a Friday). A few minutes later however, we asked for and obtained a clearance to cross it, direct to Ronchi (RNC) VOR. Here is a more detailed view of the route we ended up flying over the northeast of Italy:
Due to the high workload and some turbulence, we couldn’t really appreciate the fantastic visibility we were presented with here. The strong northerly wind had washed away any humidity and pollution and made for 100km+ visiblility all over the northeast of Italy.
Here were are, still over the southeastern Domomites, with the Adriatic Sea already well in sight.
As we left the Alps in the vicinity of Gemona, and looking west, we had all the three major rivers of Italy’s northeast (Tagliamento, Piave, Brenta) well in sight. The photo almost doesn’t mamage to convey how incredible the visibility really was.
Destination in sight!
In the meantime, whilst crossing the Ronchi CTR, we descended all the way down to 1500 feet, inbound to VICKY. Here we are, leaving the Italian coastline, overhead the city of Ronchi.
This view never gets old… Piran.
As you can see from the waves, there was quite a bit of wind even on the ground… around 15 to 20 knots at Portoroz airport, but straight down runway 33, so it was an easy landing after all.
Wheels down at 11:20 local; after just 2 hours and 40 minutes of flight, all the way from northern Germany. Wow! First thing, we fuelled up. As always, a perfect and friendly refuelling service. The fuel price, pretty much as everywhere else currently, is on its way back up at LJPZ, but at 1.99€, it still is a decent deal. The staff then even helped me to push the airplane over to its parking position on the apron. The aircraft was tied down properly by the refuelling staff. I do think we were the first aircraft movement of the day…
We entered the terminal and took the obligatory shot of JET-A1 offered by the friendly lady behind the desk. The fuel was paid, which is a matter of two minutes at LJPZ. Another two minutes later, she had booked two rooms at Hotel Piran and we were on our way there in the airport shuttle. I simply can’t speak highly enough of this airport. It’s perfect. Never seen anything that compares, not even in the US. Everything works perfectly and everybody (ATC, refulling staff, desk staff, shuttle driver) is just friendly and accomodating. A striking difference to some people at some of the nearby Croatian airports.
Hotel Piran is “the place to stay” at Piran.
View from my room’s balcony. Piran was in the lee of the northerly winds, therefore, combined with the 18-19 degrees C, it was VERY nice. Note the good view of the Alps!
Te previously times I have landed at LJPZ (10 times now, maybe?) I have always spent my time in Piran, never at Portoroz. So, this time, we said we’d check out Portoroz a bit and have lunch there.
The Portoroz marina:
One of the expensive hotels in Portoroz.
Still, Piran will always be the more beautiful and inspiring place, so the afternoon was spent there again.
Sunsets at Piran aren’t half bad either.
Dinner was at our favourite restaurant (Ivo’s), with their famous fresh fish prepared in the oven. Unforgettable!
The only gripe I had was that we only had two days of time, so had to fly straight back the next day. So, on Saturday, after breakfast and some more strolling and a second breakfast in Piran, it was time to had back to the airport. Again, no faff with taxies or so. Just call the airport and they will send the shuttle bus over. And you can bet they will be on time.
The weather was simply no factor at all any more.
Fortunately, the wind had slowed down a lot over the previous 24 hours, and was also coming more from the east than from the north, so it didn’t end up affecting us all too badly.
The routing was still a problem though. No way to fly IFR across Austria as we would have wanted. So, given the weather condtitions, we decided to fly VFR all the way to Salzburg and then pick up an IFR clearance. Here’s the flightplan:
And here is a preview of the route we ended up flying. Almost a straight line all the way!
Back at the airport, we paid our fees (26 Euros landing, 10 Euros parking, 2x 22 Euros for the shuttle), which, again, took no longer than two minutes.
The apron had filled up a little in the meantime, and there was some traffic, for example a Seneca doing touch and go’s.
After our departure inbound to VICKY, a photo of Portoroz:
Coasting back in in Italy, near Ronchi, whilst climbing to FL95 initially, heading due north.
For the next bit, we flew more or less exactly along the Italian-Slovenian border as we reached the Alps.
Bovec (LJBO) airfield.
Reaching the Austrian border, we climbed to FL105, which, under VFR, doesn’t require a clearance on this routing.
These are among the highest peaks in Austria (Grossglockner, Grossvenediger).
And here we are, just south of Salzburg, where we picked up our IFR clearance as planned. The assigned altitude, initially, was 10000 feet (transition level: 110 in the Salzburg TMA). Later, in Germany, we changed to FL100.
Somewhere over Bavaria.
Northeast of Nuernberg, we figured that the weather in the north of Germany had developed much better than forecast (essentially all CAVOK), and also that there were really no airspaces in our way straight to Luebeck. So, only about half an hour after picking up the IFR clearance, we cancelled it again and continued VFR. We also descended to FL55, as this was the best altitude for the given winds. We punched in a DCT to EDHL on the GNS430, which showed a distance of about 240 miles.
For the rest of the flight, there was no more headwind. Unfortunately, there also wasn’t anything interesting to see or photograph… big parts of the east of Germany are just plain boring from the air.
Our next “highlight” was our crossing of the river Elbe, 30 minutes from our destination.
Ratzeburg, near the reporting point Sierra for EDHL.
We landed after a straight-in for runway 07 in Luebeck. Flight time was 3 hours and 20 minutes after all. I had expected worse before departure.
Portoroz: still number one for light GA in Europe!
Thanks for a nice report, and the amazing photos. Wow, the alps visible from Piran! It looks like a very enjoyable trip.
Hotel Piran is “the place to stay”
Peter probably won’t recall but I once rode by motorcycle from the morning ferry arrival at Dubrovnilk to meet him at Portotroz Airport or someplace nearby that evening, only to find he’d called off the flight due to UK weather. Then undaunted I rode to Hotel Piran minus a reservation and they were fully booked… A helpful guy behind the hotel desk led me to the bar/restaurant across the street where they had a room upstairs that cost me something like Euro 25. Later I sat in one of these restaurants along the seashore thinking that my dinner that night was ‘free’, given the low cost of the room. So I ate and drank well well
PS Nice Zlin 526
We just missed you! We landed there about 13.00 Z. on the 11th. Same as you, stayed at the Hotel piran for a couple of nights and a meal at EVO’s. Agree with you, the service at the airport is second to none And Piran…..what a wonderful place to stay.
Great report – thanks for posting it. Great pics too, especially the mountains.
LJPZ is a super airport. We had the fly-in there in Sep 2015 but not many turned up due to bad wx over the Alps.
Great report, thanks.
Great report! We also went there end of February. There is also a new car sharing offering right at the airport:
It can be booked here: https://www.app2drive.com
We took the car and drove over those hills to the north to the city of Izola.
If we go there again any further recommandations for retaurants in the area? With the car also some more remote places can be reached. Most restaurants seem to be fine but our passenger would like something a little more fancy with good food, a nice view etc. In relation to the cost of the overall cost of the trip I think it will not make a difference after all ;-)
Great writeup, thanks!
Really enjoyed that write-up, thanks for sharing
LOVE the report, like the Aperol Spritz as well – one of my many favourite drinks :-) Thanks for sharing, and Portoroz is on the list. EBOS this weekend seems like it is now definitely OFF because of the weather so still looking at alternatives…