Wednesday 22 May 2013 18:50 UTC
Where have you been? What have you seen?
When I was asked by Halton Aeroplane Club if I wanted to go to Italy to collect the Club’s brand new Tecnam there really could only be one answer couldn’t there So a couple of weeks later I found myself taking off from Capua in GHACS.
We (Steve and I) arrived at Capua and were treated to a tour of the factory before we were due to get airborne for a fam flight each with a Tecnam instructor.
The factory is an impressive place with Tecnams at various stages of completion everywhere. We met the Head Honcho, the gentleman they call the Professor. He is 90 years old and was overseeing everything. Apparently he still insists on test flying all the new aircraft, a most impressive individual. Steve was first to go on a fam flight and taxied out and then promptly shutdown….there was a fuel leak! Once the fuel pump was switched on fuel was poring out of the bottom of the cowl from a sticking float needle, end of flying for the day.
CAPUA (LIAU) to LUCCA (LIQL) 290 Nm
The following day we were running a couple of hours late due to a very minor tech glitch that needed sorting so we decided that Steve would do a quick fam trip with Marco the Tecnam Chief test pilot and then we would depart with me picking it up as I went along with guidance from Steve. So at 1230 we were airborne with me as P1 to Lucca.
Northbound from Capua
The airspace looked particularly complex with lots of CAS, danger areas and high ground just to the east. Luckily the weather was perfect and the transit through CAS was easily accomplished via the VFR access routes displayed on the charts, although Italian ATC were obsessed with wanting estimates for virtually each and every VRP we were routing via.
We had decided that if the weather played ball we would leave our planned inland route and head west over to the Isola del Giglio to look at the wreck of the Concordia. As we coasted out to the island we could see the wreck clearly shimmering in the sun 16nm away. We stayed at 3500 complying with the 3000 feet avoid and whilst it was a sight to behold, we couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness for those who had lost their lives aboard her and it seemed inappropriate to linger so we just did a quick 360 and headed north to intercept the mainland.
The sad sight of the Costa Concordia
We had chosen to go to Lucca on the advice of our very own African Eagle. Having read Dave Phillips trip report of a previous Tecnam collection flight, we were keen to avoid the mandatory handling he encountered at Pisa so I PM’d Riccardo and he advised Lucca and promised a pretty girl to be on duty for us on arrival…Sadly she was ill on the day but thanks for the thought Riccardo and all the helpful advice.
Lucca was a brilliant choice; fuelled, flight planned and ready to go within 40 mins of arrival but sadly we had to wait 30 minutes for the Military to complete a para drop exercise ….so we sat in the sunshine and had another ice cream.
LUCCA to CANNES (LFMD) 190Nm
With our enforced late start and slight delay at Lucca, we were a little concerned with the daylight at Cannes as we would be arriving at about 1815 and twilight was around 1830. It was a bright sunny day so we decided we should be fine. Steve flew this leg and again it was fairly uneventful with ATC accommodating our requests through CAS. To save a bit of time we routed from the Sestri Levate VRP south of Genoa to Savona, a 40nm sea crossing and then just followed the coast along past Monoco (I cant believe they have their own restricted area to alt 3000) and Nice.
500 feet approaching the Cannes SA VRP
As we passed Nice airport, we were instructed to descent to 500 over the sea to deconflict with their inbounds and then duly released to Cannes. As we landed as Cannes the sun was just slipping behind the hills, a beautiful end to a fabulous days flying.
CANNES to TROYES 340Nm
We had planned for just one night in Cannes but the following day the Mistral was blowing. With a 50 knot headwind coupled with some less than ideal cloud levels forecast and hills and mountains to contend with, we decided our time would be better spent keeping ourselves entertained in Cannes.
Friday arrived and it was my leg to Troyes. Whilst preflighting the aircraft, I thought I had better go to the loo as I had drunk a fair bit of water that morning…. and then promptly forgot…but boy did I remember about 2.5 hours later.
Dep Cannes RW17
After climbing out of Cannes we had some snow showers to dodge round about 70nm to the NW but the air was smooth and once past the poor weather it was beautiful.
Views of Cannes to Troyes
However once we cleared the mountains and we were down in the valley in between the Alps and the Massif Centrale we picked up a significant headwind of about 30 knots. It was bumpy as hell down low so we climbed to FL70 where although it was smooth the headwind remained constant….. we arrived at Troyes after 3.9 hours! I must apologise to anyone who was in the restaurant as we shutdown, as soon as the ignition was off, the canopy was open and I was behind the refuelling hut within 5 secs removing the mornings intake of water…that was a very close call.
GHACS at Troyes
Troyes is a great little airfield, nothing appeared to be going on, we just self announced in French, taxied to the self-payment refuelling and then paid our landing fee. We asked for the guys to inform customs we would be departing in an hour, had some lunch (very nice restaurant) filed our plan by Skydemon and an hour later we were off again.
TROYES TO WAP. 300Nm
The last leg was Steve’s, the weather was fine on departure but as we progressed north the viz and cloud base began to lower. It was then that we heard another G reg asking for the Le Touquet weather….200m OVC at 300 feet. We were still in reasonable VMC and with good weather behind us we continued on. Once in the Le Touquet area we had to descend to stay VMC (the Tecnam is day VFR only aside from any issues of using an IMCR in France) but we were able to continue at 1000 agl without too many issues. From then on it was a straightforward channel crossing albeit at 1000 feet. Once we coasted in at Hastings it was a case of maintaining VMC at 1000 – 1300 feet until things improved in the Dunsfold area and we were on the ground a short time later at WAP.
Overall the trip was excellent. On initial inspection the airspace in parts of Italy and the south of France can look daunting. However in practice, I found that picking the right route, being aware of what we were likely to get from ATC and planning accordingly made it all go far more smoothly than I could have hoped for. Planning was done with SkyDemon on Ipad and that was a tremendous help. I haven’t gone into costs of landing fees or the price of Avgas on here but landing fees were simply not an issue they were all very reasonable. Cannes was the most commercial of the airfields we landed at and two nights parking and landing fee was in the region of €40. Everyone we spoke to either on the radio or at an airfield were most accommodating and the ATC units, some of which were very busy were just fantastic.
Mission accomplished, Steve left Moli right.
The Tecnam was superb throughout. On departure it was very much at MTOW, but was airborne in a few hundred yards, climbed at 700fpm and was comfortable for 4 hours. I am sure it’s going to be a big hit at HAC.
Well done, Mike. Nice a/c. (And Viv was wondering why I didn't run into you at the Olympic brief).
Cheering up a bit with grumpy spells later
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