Thursday 23 May 2013 12:57 UTC
Where have you been? What have you seen?
As I was visiting Tuscany on a family holiday I took the liberty of PM’ing African Eagle to see if he knew of any local flying clubs near where I was staying, Volterra, for a local flight with an Instructor. I always find it interesting to see the area I’m visiting from the air and to sample a new type and meet local pilots.
Quick as a flash, AE had contacted the nearest club for me and primed them that I would be in-touch. THANK YOU Riccardo, it makes it so much easier when a local has paved the way, it helps when your Italiano is as p!$$poor as mine.
AE passed on names and mobile numbers so I called Alessio who ran the local club. He was expecting my call and explained he would be on holiday but would tell Fabrizio that I would be pitching up for a flight. All I had to do was call Fabrizio the night before I wanted to fly.
I wanted to fly on Monday so called Fabrizio on Sunday evening. He spoke no English. My Italian can just about order a Pizza con prosciutto and a mezzo of Chianti but that’s about it. With the help of some friends at either end of the mobile we arrange the flight; 6pm the next day when the heat had died down.
The airfield was easy to find, just off the main road Pisa (http://www.aeroclubpisa.it/home.htm)
I asked for Fabrizio and was pointed towards a hanger. Approximately 30 aircraft are based at Valderra, which is a good, flat grass strip in what must be the only flat part of Tuscany. After meeting Fabrizio we had the obligatory espresso to break the ice and I had a look around the aircraft. I hadn’t actually thought about the type that I would be flying. It turned out to be a Motorglider, the Pipestrel Virus [url]www.pipistrel.si/planes/57[/url] - a plastic fantastic with a Rotax engine, very different from the C152 I was used too.
For fuel we drove to the local petrol station for some unleaded, then Fabrizio check A’d and refuelled.
Taxi and take-off where simple, undramatic and quick. The lack of engine noise was quite apparent with the Rotax.
Huge ailerons made input requirements slight, although quite large rudder inputs where required. It was fascinating flying over the undulating Tuscan landscape, wheeling over their medieval hill-top towns and climbing and descending with the lay of the land.
On our return to the airfield F spotted a buzzard circling in a thermal. This was the only part of the trip where my lack of language skills probably reduced the quality of the experience. The Pipestrel is a motor glider so F, reduced speed, feathered the propeller and shut the magnetos. We were flying a glider. Something I have never done before. I knew that F was trying to explain to me what I should do the capture the thermal, but alas neither of us could communicate properly. I executed some ham-fisted and inelegant turns. I’m guessing that rudder skills are for more important in the gliding game.
Back to the airfield and once again I was out of my depth as speed brakes were used for the final approach. A short landing run and turn off to the left ended my flight and few hours with Fabrizio. Despite our lack of communication skills I still felt that we had more of a common language between us than many non-flyers do as we elegantly rose above those Italian hills.
PS: Sincere thanks to AE. None of the above would have happened if he had not suggested and contacted Pisa Flying Club. Riccardo I hope to return the favour one day. You are welcome in mia casa.
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