Primarily for general aviation discussion, but other aviation topics are also welcome.
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#1699004
After a couple of days off from flying in the UK, it was time to get on the move again. The next flights would be much more gentle and relaxed than the Atlantic crossing, however! My new copilot, Elsa, joined me from the USA and together we set off on a 6 day flight around the UK, exploring some areas that I had never flown to before.

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We took off from Laddingford mid-morning, seen off by my Aunt who was in the area (not the one who’d flown from Sydney a couple of weeks earlier!) We took a short flight first to Goodwood, renowned as one of the nicest airports in the southeast for general aviation. They had a number of interesting historic aircraft parked up, which we admired as we sat in the newly opened airport restaurant enjoying a light lunch. From here we headed west to Dunkeswell, a small airport near Exeter that offered yet more snacks, and reasonably priced (for the UK) fuel!

Heading west out of Kent
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An interesting aircraft at Goodwood
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The final leg took us down the length of Devon and Cornwall, before coasting out over Lands End and making the short crossing to the Isles of Scilly. This archipelago of 55 small islands is the southernmost point of England, and is known for a more temperate climate than the rest of the UK; we even saw palm trees in places! The airport is perched on top of a hill, with extreme slopes on all the runways; we followed the “Skybus” air taxi service in to land, and were directed to park over on a slightly bumpy and very sloping grass field. A 25 minute walk took us to our hotel in Hugh Town, the Atlantic Inn. The islands were busy at this time of year, but we managed to get a reservation in a great fish restaurant overlooking the harbour, and plotted what to do the next day.

Crossing Devon and Cornwall
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St Michael's Mount
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Coasting out from Cornwall
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Hugh Town harbour
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The following morning we set out to explore the area around Hugh Town. Our first destination was the Garrison Walls, primarily constructed in the late 1500s by Sir Francis Godolphin as defence in the wake of the Spanish Armada. Sections of the walls are still present, as well as a number of cannons on display. We dropped in to the tourist information office, and they suggested a walk up the hill to the Buzza tower, and down into Old Town. Along the way we visited Old Town church. The tombstones here told a story of life in the Scilly Isles through the ages, including a number of shipwreck victims, paying witness to the maritime history of the area.

Climbing up to the Garrison
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The fortifications at the Garison
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Looking over Hugh Town
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The Buzza Tower
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Old Town Church
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Meeting local wildlife at Old Town Cafe
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A light lunch at the Old Town cafe was followed by a discovery that they didn’t accept cards, so we agreed with them that I’d walk back past on my way to the airport having acquired some cash; Elsa took on the lighter duty of riding the shuttle back to the airport with the luggage! Apart from getting mildly lost, my walk went well. We had taken care of the fees the previous day, so were able to head directly to the opposite side of the airport, and call for permission to start.

Heading back to Hugh Town
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Working in the boat at low tide
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There was some Skybus traffic coming and going, but we were ready for departure during a lull, and were able to taxi straight on to our runway and backtrack for departure. A footpath went directly past the runway end, just feet away, and a number of tourists stopped to take photos and videos as we took off. We took off and turned out to the right, getting great views of the other islands as we climbed out and set course back towards the mainland.

Ready to leave St Mary's Airport, Scillies
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Hugh Town
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The flight was very short, along the north coast of Cornwall to Newquay. As we approached the airport, still 5 minutes out, there was apparently one small airliner just taking off, and a single 2 seat Cessna on its way to land. This, apparently, was just too much for ATC to handle so they had us fly in a circle to delay, before allowing us to enter their airspace and land. Getting out of the aircraft was quick and easy, and before long we were at the rental location. Our car, a tiny Fiat 500, was perfect for Cornwall’s tiny lanes! That evening, after settling into our little B&B in the countryside, we headed into St Ives for, of all things, a curry. One just can’t get a good British-style curry outside of the UK!

St Ives
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Newquay airport
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Evening in St Ives
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kanga, Lockhaven, Steve J and 2 others liked this
#1699456
The previous evening, the very friendly B&B owner had given us a long rundown of all the things we should do and see while in Cornwall; far too much to do in the one day we had, but perfect for selecting some highlights from! We drove south to start with through Cornwall’s tiny narrow lanes, hitting the coast much sooner than I had expected. I was used to driving the vast distances of the US, and in Cornwall it seemed like everything was just around the corner from everything else. Perfect for seeing plenty of sights in a short time!

Penzance
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Maintenance in dry dock
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The coast road took us through Penzance (at my all-male primary school I had had the honour of playing one of the leading ladies in the school’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance”), and on through the tiny hamlet of Mousehole. The roads were some of the narrowest I’d ever seen, and I was grateful for the diminutive Fiat 500, but still praying not to meet anything coming the other way! Astonishingly, we did meet a couple of 50-seater coaches; I have no idea how on earth they managed to get through.

We stopped at various points along the drive to stretch our legs and admire the view, before coming upon our first planned stop, the village of Porthcurno. This location is famous for being the end point for the vast majority of telegraph cables that used to connect Great Britain to the world. The first of these was landed in 1870, and connected Britain to India, cutting the time needed for sending messages from weeks to minutes. There is an excellent Telegraph museum now at the site, which today still lands several fiber optic cables, although is not as critical a hub as it used to be when, for a while, it was the largest cable landing in the world. As well as the museum building itself, many of the exhibits are located in underground tunnels that were installed to protect the critical communications equipment during World War 2.

Overlooking the cove at Porthcurno
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In the telegraph museum
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Enjoying a big sausage.
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After spending a couple of hours touring the museum we had lunch in the local cafe, and set off again to drive to Land’s End. Our B&B host had warned us that Land’s End was Cornwall’s “Disney”, and so it was; the place was incredibly commercialized and tacky. We spent a short time admiring the view, and the famous Land’s End sign (also commercialised, with a fee to take your picture with it), before moving rapidly on. If you go to Cornwall, I really wouldn’t bother visiting – there is a much better point to go to, just a few miles north along the coast!

The famous Land's End signpost
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Looking over Cape Cornwall
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Looking south from Cape Cornwall
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This much better point is Cape Cornwall. This location is managed by English Heritage. Until 200 years ago, Cape Cornwall was thought to be the most westerly point of the mainland, before the first Ordnance Survey revealed that it was in fact Land’s End. The point is topped by the Heinz Monument, the 1864 former chimney of the Cape Cornwall Mine which was retained for maritime navigation, and purchased by Heinz in 1987 to be donated to Britain as a historical monument.

Old tin mill
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The track towards the coast
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North Cornwall coast
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From Cape Cornwall we took a leisurely drive back towards the B&B, stopping for a while at an old tin mill, as well as to wait for a number of cows to clear out of the road. In the evening we headed down to Marazion, the town on the mainland side of the St Michael’s Mount, and had dinner at the Godolphin hotel overlooking the mount. A visit to that will have to wait for another time…!

St Michael's Mount
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The next morning we started at a leisurely hour, and took our little Fiat back along the A30 to Newquay airport. The first flight of the day took us east along the Cornish coast; rather than set out straight across the water, we had elected to stay over the land until reaching Barnstaple, then cross the Bristol Channel at a narrower point. This would have the added benefit of keeping us clear of the danger areas on the south Wales coast. As we neared the Welsh coast, ATC informed us that the main danger area was no longer active so we cut the corner and headed straight for the airport of Haverfordwest.

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Departure, just north of Newquay
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Crossing the Bristol Channel
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Coasting in to south Wales
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Haverfordwest was a quiet airfield, and we followed the only other traffic we saw during the visit in to land. We refueled on arrival at the self-serve fuel pump, something that is very common in the USA but much less so elsewhere. We took on far more than the required minimum to have the landing fees waived, and then ate in the on-field restaurant. A Flyer Forum member, Tomahawker, was on his way to meet us so we passed the time by walking around the airfield to the “Wickedly Welsh Chocolate Factory” which was every bit as good as we had hoped. Tomahawker drove us back around the airplane and we sat drinking and chatting for a while before it was time to be on our way.

Meeting Tomahawker at Haverfordwest
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The flight to Caernarfon was simple; all we had to do was keep the coast on the left and we’d arrive. The weather was great up until we reached the Llyn peninsula, where we had to punch through a cloud bank before descending into Caernarfon, landing on runway 25 with short final taking us mere feet over the local caravan park. A quick taxi ride took us to the car rental agency and…another Fiat 500! Once again it turned out to be ideal for the tight and winding roads of Snowdonia, and we spent an hour driving through the national park to our next bed and breakfast.

Aberystwyth
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Snowdonia
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Crossing onto the Llyn peninsula
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kanga, mick w, Lockhaven and 1 others liked this
#1700123
Our first appointment of our day in Snowdonia was at “King Arthur’s Labyrinth”. This underground attraction is based in an old mine, the Braichgoch slate mine, and features a boat ride in to the mine followed by a walk around some of the mine, visiting animatronic displays that tell various stories about King Arthur. It was remarkably tacky, and told us nothing at all about the old mine itself, which is what I had really been interested in, so we left rather disappointed!

Harlech Castle
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From here, we drove back north, along the coast this time towards Harlech Castle. On the way, we stopped in a town along the way to try a lunch of Welsh Rarebit (basically, melted cheese on bread!) Completed in the year 1289, Harlech castle was originally constructed by Edward I in order to help control Wales; it changed hands between the English and Welsh several times throughout its history, eventually being abandoned and partially dismantled in the mid 1600s. Happily, it survived the following centuries fairly well and is now open to the public to visit. We spent an enjoyable hour or so exploring from the top of the six-story tower, all the way down to the water gate, 127 steps below the castle!

Sightseeing in Snowdonia
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Historic steam railway
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It was only about 4pm, so we decided to take a drive through Snowdonia, based on a suggested route we found online. We headed north through Porthmadog, and soon came upon the Sygun copper mine, just outside of Beddgelert. This Victorian mine had closed down in 1903, and then been re-opened as a self-guided tourist attraction. Of huge vertical extent, the lower levels of the mine are all flooded, with a selection of the middle floors now being open for the public to walk and climb through.

The Sygun copper mine
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From here we continued through the hills to Llanberis, passing through Pen-Y-Pass. This is one of the most popular starting points for walking to the top of Snowdon, with three of the main routes up the mountain starting from here. Having flown around two of the UK’s highest peaks, it was nice to see the third, albeit from ground level! From here we continued southeast to Betws-y-coed, and then on to Blaenau Ffestiniog for dinner, and back to the B&B.

Hydropower near Snowdon
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The spoil from a slate mine
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The garden railway
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We woke early on the Saturday, with a busy day ahead of us. After checking out the wonderful garden model railway around the back of the B&B, we returned our Fiat 500 to Europcar at Caernarfon, took a taxi to the airport, and took off on the westerly runway, with a right turnout to follow the Welsh coastline towards our first stop of the day. This would be Leeds Bradford airport; close to the home of one of my closest friends from university, Ian, and his young family.

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Caernarfon airport
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Looking out towards Anglesey
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Protect the bridge!
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As we approached Leeds, I saw a number of familiar landmarks; my father and I had flown right past here a few days earlier! We flew a left base to runway 32, and pulled in to the Multiflight FBO just behind a slightly tatty old PA28 which seemed to be on a cross-country training flight. We were escorted land-side by a very friendly lady from Multiflight, who gave us a discount on the mandatory handling fee, as it was our first time in. Formalities completed, we wandered down to the cafe to meet up with Ian and Pippa, and spent a long time catching up. It had been a decade since we’d last seen each other!

Henley
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From Leeds Bradford, we flew south, almost shadowing the route my father and I had taken a week before. The weather was still beautiful and, being a Saturday, there were a fair few other small airplanes buzzing around, as well as a couple of very active gliding sites to watch out for. We were going to the west of London this time, instead of the east. Luton ATC were very helpful and gave us clearance through their zone, crossing the runway just after an EasyJet 737 had departed. They handed us off to Heathrow who were far less helpful; they pushed us down low and sent us almost all the way around to the west of their zone, although we did at least get close-up views of the Henley rowing facility and Ascot horse racing course.

Ascot
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Our destination was Redhill Aerodrome, tucked into the northern edge of the Gatwick zone. We were planning to meet a whole group of pilots from the Flyer Forum, who were gathering here for the afternoon. We touched down on the westerly grass runway and taxied over to the restaurant, where most of the group had already gathered. One had even flown in his Mooney from Switzerland; although not exclusively to see us! Another had just arrived on a commercial flight from Gatwick and had come straight over.

Forum meet-up at Redhill
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We spent the afternoon swapping stories, chatting about the upcoming Atlantic crossing of two of the other forum members, and having the chance to view some of the historic aircraft tucked in the hangar behind the restaurant. As evening drew in, we made the short flight over to Laddingford where we were met by my mother, and also Charles; the founder of African Promise. We’d really hoped to have the chance to meet up with him while in he UK, and he had made the trip down from London to make it happen! We worked out that it was about 17 years since we had last seen each other.

Redhill
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Headed to Kent
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An event on at the hop farm
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With Charles, founder of African Promise
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Lockhaven, Dave W, kanga liked this
#1700913
The time for returning to work was drawing painfully near. Before parking up the airplane for a month, it was important to take care of some routine maintenance. I organised, through the very helpful Liz of the Flyer Forum, to take the aircraft the 8 miles over to Headcorn and meet “Big Jon”, who had very kindly volunteered to give up a few hours of his holiday weekend to help me out. I had all the tools and materials I needed to change the oil and filter, as well as service the spark plugs, with the exception of a sand-blaster for cleaning the plugs. Not very practical to carry one of those with me!

Maintenance at Headcorn
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Thanks Jon!
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The flight from Laddingford was, of course, over very quickly. Headcorn is a beautiful grass airfield, that’s very welcoming to the public; on a sunny holiday like today, the grass parking area was full of families picnicking and watching airplanes come and go. The radio operator had been forewarned of my arrival and gave me directions straight to the maintenance hangar; I parked on the grass outside and Jon met me as I shut down the engine. We jumped straight in and soon had the cowls off, the oil drained, and the spark plugs pulled. Everything looked great, so we took care of the work, ran up the engine to double check everything, and then got the cowls back in place.

A beautiful day at Headcorn
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I said goodbye to Jon, and before departing I filled up with AVGAS ready for my flights out of the UK in a few days. The radio operator, who also took care of payments, waived the landing fee and told me he thought I had the dubious honour of uplifting more fuel than any other civil aircraft had at Headcorn, large historical ones excluded. 294 litres this time! I really missed US fuel prices; the one consolation is that the UK allows a pilot to claim back fuel duty on any fuel uplifted in the UK and then exported. With my tank sizes, that adds up.

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My flight out of Amsterdam was at 10pm on Thursday, so on Wednesday morning I set out from Laddingford. While I’d be finishing my day in Rotterdam, I first had an appointment with a gentleman called Joachim in Kassel. I had liked the Avidyne IFD440 GPS that I put into the aircraft enough that I’d decided to upgrade to the larger Avidyne IFD540, and Joachim was looking to buy the old one.

Goodbye, Mum!
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Coasting out north of Dover
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France/Belgium come into view!
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The Belgian coastline
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A positive feature of flying in the UK is that one can depart from the country from anywhere; it doesn’t have to be an airport with customs and immigration, as in most other countries. I therefore took off out of Laddingford and headed east, opening my IFR flight plan through London Information. I had spent some time the day before figuring out an acceptable route using Autorouter, and managed to find one that didn’t take me too far out away from the direct routing. As I coasted out near Dover at 10,000 feet, I could already clearly see the coasts of France, and then Belgium, ahead of me. Conditions were smooth, so I enabled the autopilot and relaxed as I cruised across the length of Belgium, passing overhead Brussels as I went. A left turn took me over Koln, and up towards Kassel. ATC assigned me the ILS approach for runway 22, with the full procedure taking me on a loop around the north of the airport and back in to land.

Brussels
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Koln
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Approaching Kassel
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Kassel has a very pleasant looking airport cafe attached to the GA terminal; but sadly it seems to have closed down. I sat somewhat hungry for a while and waited for Joachim and his friend to arrive in their Cirrus SR22, which they did right on schedule. Joachim’s friend was also the avionics tech who’d be installing the new GPS, and they gave the unit a quick once-over before declaring themselves happy and concluding the deal. I had filed an IFR flight plan once again, for the trip back towards the Netherlands, but due to ATC lack of staffing there was a 30 minute delay before I’d be allowed to depart. Not an issue I have ever encountered elsewhere!

With Christian before departure
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Refueling at Kassel
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Crossing northwest Germany
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After being assigned the easily remembered transponder code of “1111” I flew one of the standard departures out of Kassel, back over the same VOR that had started the arrival procedure, and was soon given a direct clearance to the Dutch border. The waypoint given had not been on my original flight plan so I had no route after this next VOR. As I drew close I asked German ATC where they might like me to fly next; they weren’t sure, so handed me over to the Dutch. They thought about it for a moment and then cleared me direct nearly all the way to Rotterdam.

Approaching Rotterdam
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The Romeo arrival to Rotterdam
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The new Central Station in Rotterdam
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As I drew closer and started the descent, I cancelled IFR and joined the very familiar Romeo VFR arrival in to Rotterdam. Having been based here for nearly 5 years, this was very familiar territory! I landed after a Transavia 737, touching down halfway along the huge runway to ensure I was well clear of the wake turbulence from the larger aircraft. I had contacted the FBO, Jet Aviation at Rotterdam, a while back to enquire about keeping the aircraft in a hangar there for the month The reply made it clear that they did not want to be bothered with any light GA aircraft; about €1,500 for the month, which would rent you a fairly nice apartment in the city. I had therefore contacted the aviation department of my employer, who keep their aircraft at Rotterdam, and they had very generously agreed to keep my little C182 in the hangar with their Falcon jets to support the flight.

Crossing mid-field to join downwind at Rotterdam
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Parked up in good company
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When I arrived, a small breakdown in communication meant that the guys in the hangar didn’t know I was coming, and wondered who this crazy man was who thought he was going to park his Cessna in their spotless hangar. Happily this was very quickly sorted out and “Planey McPlaneface” was tucked in next to the 3 week old Falcon 7X that had recently arrived. Th jet and hangar were so beautifully kept that I made a point of quickly polishing up my own aircraft to get rid of all the bugs, so that it wouldn’t look too out of place! Before being collected by my friend Justin, I had a chance for a quick tour of the aircraft. My suggestion of an airplane swap was politely declined. I said goodbye to Planey, locked him up, and it was off to work for a month, before the second section of the flight would begin…
kanga, ArchaicRider, Dave W and 3 others liked this
#1700924
Ross, it was great to meet you and chat about your experiences.

Just one minor correction - your photo titled “Henley” is not Henley, it is in fact “Dorney Lake” (4 miles east of my base of White Waltham).

Dorney Lake is owned by Eton College Rowing Club (they’ve got a ton of money) - and was used for the 2012 Olympic rowing contests.

For those that don’t know, Henley is located 330/05 from White Waltham. The famous Henley Regatta course is marked out on the River Thames (which has a current, unlike Dorney which is a man made lake).
Katamarino liked this
#1704132
After 28 days in the Iraqi sun, it was time to get back to the Netherlands and Planey McPlaneface. An upgrade to an Emirates First Class Suite on the flight back from Dubai made an auspicious start, and I landed in the Netherlands well rested on the Friday morning. My first stop was to check on Planey, parked up in Rotterdam; the main reason for this visit was that I had failed to plan ahead, and had left my overnight bag in him. As I’d be staying a couple of nights with my friends Justin and Shalale, I’d be needing this! Copilot Elsa had flown in to join me for the first week, and we met up at Rotterdam station before heading back to J&S’s for a lazy afternoon, followed by dinner at a Michelin star restaurant just a short walk from their hours. Apparently, they’d discovered it by chance just a few days before!

Mandatory giant-clog photo
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On the Saturday we took something of a whirlwind tour of Holland. In the morning, a walk around Den Haag to see the parliament and other historic buildings. It was the Dutch Veterans Day, with a military parade through the city and fly-bys from air-force helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. We wandered through the city, ending up at the Peace Palace which houses the International Court of Justice, before taking the bus back to Central Station. Next stop was Haarlem; we were just a little too late to visit the windmill so instead we sat with drinks in a cafe and watched the boats on the canal run back and forth; it was one of the hottest weekends of the year.

The Dutch Parliament, in Den Haag
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The Peace Palace
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Windmill in Haarlem
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The final stop of the day was Amsterdam, for a canal boat tour of the city followed by dinner. Returning home, Justin and I spent a futile hour attempting to channel the air conditioning from his car through 12m of flexible pipe and into the upstairs of the house. It could charitably be described as an abject failure.

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Sunday morning, Justin drove us to Jet FBO at Rotterdam and we loaded up Planey. Jason had sent over the cockpit cover from the US, and I’d also stocked up with a couple of crates of oil and some other tools and supplies. We departed Rotterdam IFR, being vectored around ongoing parachuting near the city, and climbed up to 9,000ft. Temperatures on the ground had been mid-30s, so the cooler air at height was a welcome, albeit temporary, respite. Our route took us southeast through the Netherlands, across eastern Belgium and Luxembourg, and then along the France-Germany border to the airport of Mulhouse-Habsheim.

Departure from Rotterdam
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Looking towards Europoort
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Crazy Benelux airspace
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Luxembourg
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Hills in north-east France
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Approaching Ben, at Mulhouse-Habsheim!
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This airport is best well known for the unfortunate 1988 crash of the Airbus A320 during what was both the first passenger flight of the aircraft, and the first public demonstration of a fly-by-wire aircraft. Such was the importance of the aircraft to Airbus, and by extension the government, that credible rumours persist of a cover-up in the accident investigation to lay the blame on pilot error, rather than deficiencies in the aircraft. Here we met Ben, a pilot from the UK who’s now based here together with his very nice Mooney; he is an instructor and was kind enough to make himself available to do my 2-yearly check flight to keep my European Pilot Licence valid. Today was the day it expired, so I was just in time!

Elsa waited in the nearby McDonalds, given the fact that it had air conditioning, while Ben and I took a flight out to the mountains west of the airport. We ran through maneuvers such as slow flight, stalls, emergency descents, and even a practice ILS approach into Basel airport. The hour went by very quickly, and before long we were fueling up back at the aero-club, and heading to McDonalds for a debrief and to enjoy some of that air conditioning ourselves!

Departing Mulhouse-Habsheim
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We said goodbye to Ben, and took off from Mulhouse-Habsheim. Basel Info opened our flight plan for us, VFR this time but still required as we were crossing an international border, and we climbed out to the east over the picturesque mountains of the Black Forest. We cruised at 5,500 ft this time, high enough to be in more bearable temperatures, but there was no reason to spend time climbing much higher as the leg was less than 100 miles in length. As we crossed the mountains we passed para-gliders, circling in the thermals and updrafts, some as high up as our level.

Industry north of Basel
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The Black Forest
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Freiberg
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Our destination was the main Stuttgart airport. They cleared us straight to a downwind leg for runway 25, but had us fly in circles for a while as jet traffic came and went. As soon as a gap appeared in the arrivals we were cleared to fly direct to the threshold, with a short approach; we headed directly for the runway at 90 degrees, timing our turn so that we touched down almost as soon as we finished rolling out, and were off the runway at the high speed taxiway just seconds later. The FBO, Kurz aviation, was right ahead of us and they helped us tie down before giving us a bus ride the short distance to the GA terminal.

Downwind at Stuttgart
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The temperature in Stuttgart was stifling. That evening we simply relaxed and walked to a local Italian restaurant. The expected German efficiency was not in evidence, as it took more than 2 hours to a plate of melon and a pizza. Perhaps that was the restaurant’s Italian heritage shining through!

Evening in Stuttgart
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Lockhaven, kanga, Pilot Pete and 4 others liked this
#1704601
We had a day to spend in Stuttgart, and started off with a walk in to town and breakfast at a cafe along the way. We wandered north through the old town, enjoying the mix of old and new architecture. The city itself has a population of just over 600,000, and the central district is very compact. Given that it was a Monday, many of the buildings and other attractions were closed, and we ended up on a mostly-empty open-top bus for a sightseeing tour of the city.

Tasty treats available for breakfast
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Exploring Stuttgart
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The New Palace
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Quality advice on the open-top-bus.
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The tour was remarkably good, explaining much of the city’s history and covering all the major landmarks including the world’s largest pig museum (we gave that one a miss). Stuttgart is home to both Mercedes and Porsche, and the rich automotive heritage is reflected in the number of museums and other attractions dedicated to the motor car. We alighted on top of one of the hills overlooking the city and enjoyed a walk through the vineyards before the next bus came along; as well as cars, the city has a strong pedigree in wine!

Vineyards overlooking the city
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The view from Killesberg Tower
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The final stop of the tour before making it back to the town center was the Killesberg park, including the 40m high steel Killesberg tower. This was erected atop one of the high points in the park, and has spiral staircases ascending the outside, taking you to beautiful views over the city. The stiff breeze was a welcome respite from the high temperatures, still in the mid 30s although better than the day before. It was still hot enough that once we got back to the city center, I spent a while shopping for shorts and a couple of new shirts. Much better!

Church in central Stuttgart
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That evening, we met up with Christian, the COO of E-Aviation who had read about my trip in a Facebook Cessna 182 group and invited us to visit. We had dinner in a tremendous local sushi restaurant with him, his wife and their young daughter (who was extremely well behaved!) E-Aviation is a Stuttgart-based jet charter and management company, and Christian and his father also own a modern Cessna 182 which they mostly use for business travel around Germany. They were excellent company and we had a great evening together before heading back to our accommodation. The next day would have an early start for the flight to Prague!

With Christian at the 182
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Christian collected us a little before 8am to drive out to the airport. He was keen to come and see the aircraft, and to show us a couple of his; and we were equally interested! To get back to the aircraft we had to pass through full security, which was a bit of a nonsense for general aviation. Because our bags had liquids in (shower gel and the like), we weren’t allowed to carry them to the airplane; an FBO employee had to carry them instead, and then leave them there for us to load by ourselves!

One of Christian's jets
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Christian met us again to have a look around the aircraft, and then gave us a tour of their Cessna Citation Latitude jet. A little more luxurious than ours!

Our route to Prague
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We had to wait about 30 minutes until our IFR slot time came around. As we sat watching the airplanes land, we saw a Delta 767 come in. I was surprised to see that it had come all the way to Stuttgart from Atlanta! All the other traffic was local from Germany, or other nearby European countries. Finally our slot time arrived; only for ATC to tell us to depart VFR instead, and pick up our IFR clearance in the air! We headed out to the north; as soon as we were clear of Stuttgart’s surface airspace we were cleared direct almost all the way to the German border and climbed up in to the smooth, cool air at 10,000ft.

Stuttgart on departure
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Crossing Germany towards the Czech Republic
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Entering the Czech Republic
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Kbely Airport, from left base to Letnany
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The flight was uneventful, with another shortcut given to us before we left Germany that took us almost all the way to Prague. Prague radar started dropping down lower as we approached the city, and directed us around to the south before cancelling our IFR and leaving us to call up the next controller for arrival. This was the tower controller at Kbely, the larger military airport just south of our destination of Letnany. Letnany is a small grass airfield with a flying club and plenty of flight training; we parked up next to the another visiting aircraft before installing the cabin cover and taking an Uber in to the city.

AN2 at Letnany
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But...why...?
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That evening we took a walk to Old Town Square and the Charles Bridge, two of the classic tourist attractions in central Prague. I had only ever visited before during winter; and in July, things were significantly busier! There were crowds of tourists everywhere (to which, of course, we were contributing) – thankfully by around 10pm the crowds had thinned and we were able to enjoy a quick and tasty Vietnamese meal before heading back to the hotel. Service levels here left Stuttgart trailing well behind!

Bears in Old Town Square
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Exploring Old Town
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Sunset over Prague Castle
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Night time in Old Town Square
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It was a long time since I’d visited Prague, so it was good fun to re-explore the familiar tourist attractions around the Old Town, and also check out some new locations. After a relaxed brunch on an outside terrace at the Cafe Louvre we crossed the Vltava river and slowly ascended the many steps to the Prague Castle complex, built on a hill overlooking the city. It was packed with tour groups, all following guides who displayed various emblems on top of umbrellas or long sticks so that their followers could pick them out of the crowd.

Charles Bridge
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The cathedral
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Palace guards
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View of the palace and cathedral
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Queues to go inside the buildings were enormous, so we contented ourselves with wandering around outside and admiring the architecture, before stopping for drinks at the cafe in the palace gardens. From here we walked to the Petrin Tower, inspired by the Eiffel Tower. The people of Prague will tell you it’s taller than the Eiffel Tower, but this is only true if you include the hill which it’s built on top of. We didn’t have time to ascend it, because we had a 2pm appointment to join the “Real Prague” tour, visiting some of the city’s less tourist-heavy areas on electric bikes.

Communist era block on the bike tour
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The tour started off through part of old town, and we were very happy for the electric motor assistance as we climbed the steep hills and cobbled streets. From here we headed to the Great Strahov Stadium, atop a hill west of the city. Built under the First Republic, between the wars in the 1920s, the stadium was designed to host displays of mass synchronized gymnastics and claims a capacity of 250,000 spectators. Leaving the stadium, which has seen better days, we descended steep park trails back towards the river and the Dancing House, before heading out along the river bank to see one of the original, officially sanctioned “graffiti walls” that came to popularity after the fall of communism.

On the bike tour
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The dancing house
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After the tour, we met up with Venno; another new flying friend, met through the Cessna 182 pilot Facebook page. An American, he had been in Prague for over a decade working in the aerospace industry and had been very helpful with tips for planning my flight to the city. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours chatting over drinks, before releasing him to head back to his family, and making our own way back down into Old Town for dinner.

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Ready to go at Letnany
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The next morning we went out for a brunch of ramen and ice cream (not together) before taking an Uber out to Letnany airport. We had paid the very reasonable fees the day we arrived, so all that was left to do was to load up the aircraft and head out to the southeast. Straight after take-off we were handed over to Kbely tower who cleared us through their airspace at 2,500ft, and once we got a little further out we started a gradual climb up to 8,500ft to get on top of the turbulence.

Our route to Vienna
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Leaving Prague
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Approaching the Austrian border
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We were flying VFR, and simply set course direct to our next stop of Wiener-Neustadt East airport, close to Vienna in Austria. The plan was to meet up with Christian, one of the intrepid Bonanza pilots that Mike and I had run into in Kulusuk, Greenland. He lived in Vienna, and was a member of the Diamond Flying Club close by; he’d very kindly arranged for us to park with them for a couple of days, and would show us the sights. We flew a slight dogleg to the west, so that we could remain clear of the Vienna class C airspace and not have to descend into bumpier air.

Downwind at Wiener Neustadt
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Wiener Neustadt East airport is situated in slightly complex airspace, with a military base directly to the west, Vienna airspace above and to the north, and a couple of other restricted areas besides. We managed to follow the proper VFR arrival procedure with only gentle reminders from the tower, and touched down on runway 09 to be met by Christian and another member of his flying club who directed us to our parking space by the club hangars, and helped us secure the aircraft.

With Christian on arrival
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Christian drove us into Vienna, about a 30 minute ride. The hotel we’d chosen was wine themed, and we enjoyed some complimentary glasses of welcome wine before heading out for a couple of hours walking tour of Vienna with Christian as our guide. It was great to be shown the city by a local, and we worked up quite an appetite for dinner at a local restaurant which he had selected. We ate outside on a quiet street enjoying the cooling air and local specialties of asparagus and, interestingly, octopus!

Evening in Vienna
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Exploring Vienna
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Beethoven lived here (and apparently many other places)
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Evening in Vienna
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Time for dinner
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