Primarily for general aviation discussion, but other aviation topics are also welcome.
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#1711995
We met Christian at the hotel the next morning, and started the day with breakfast in the Cafe Landtmann. This is something of a Viennese institution; it was founded in 1873 and has been the preferred coffeehouse of many renowned Austrians including Sigmund Freud. We ate next to a large, relaxed dog that was asleep on the floor, clearly enjoying the relaxed coffeehouse atmosphere.

Breakfast (and a big dog) at Cafe Landtmann
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Touring Vienna
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Breakfast complete, we continued our tour of the city, ably guided by Christian who had very kindly taken the morning off to spend with us. We visited St Stephen’s Cathedral, as well as exploring the side streets and other historic buildings around the town center. Elsa even managed to find a coconut to drink from. We finished up at the Opera House where we met up with my new copilot; my father would be joining me for a second section of flying, from Vienna down to Turkey. We enjoyed a light lunch as a foursome, before Christian said his goodbyes and set out for his long drive to a family event in eastern Austria.

The summer palace
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Having walked around most of the city center we elected to go and visit the Schönbrunn Palace. This is slightly outside of the city center, and was the main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers. The grounds are expansive and stunning, and can be visited for free; highlights are the large pavilion on a hilltop overlooking the palace, as well the incredible ornamental fountain. There is also a zoo in the palace grounds with pandas. We had only scratched the surface of exploring the gardens before it was time for our tour of the palace, covering 40 of the I-don’t-know-how-many rooms in the vast structure. Sadly, photography was not permitted inside. It was striking how frugally the last emperor had decorated his quarters; he apparently regarded himself as the first civil servant of the empire and worked long days at his desk to keep things running.

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Dog and cat wagon
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We had a lazy morning, with breakfast nearby, before parting ways and heading to our respective airports. The daughter of Michael, Christian’s flying partner, kindly drove us back out to Wiener-Neustadt and we loaded up the aircraft before taxiing down to the fuel pumps and waiting for about 10 minutes for the pilot of the C182 that had been abandoned there to come back and move it. According to the fuel attendant, it was a Cessna company airplane being flown by a dealer, and was only a few months old. We filled the mains and auxiliary tanks; with no fuel at our next stop, and very high prices in Romania, the plan was to tanker fuel all the way to Bulgaria at the earliest.

Ready to leave Vienna
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The route to Debrecen
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Departing Vienna
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Passing Bratislava
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We received our IFR clearance through the remote clearance delivery frequency on the ground, and departed straight out off of runway 09. The only route that would validate when I filed was rather circuitous, but thankfully air traffic control started giving us good short-cuts right from the beginning. We climbed out to the northeast, crossing into Slovakia and passing just south of Bratislava at 10,000ft before being cleared almost direct to destination. We flew just to the north of Budapest, and then started a steep descent into Debrecen, Hungary where we’d be spending one night.

Arriving at Debrecen
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The hotel in Debrecen
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The airport has just one runway, and a only single taxiway. However, it’s still mandatory to follow the “Follow-Me” car that the airport provides. Perhaps they’re concerned that one might take a wrong turn out the airport gate and up the road into town? We taxied past old cold-war era fighter shelters, and were parked on a large almost empty apron next to a Cirrus SR22. The handlers were quick and efficient, and gave us a short ride to the terminal where we picked up a taxi to the hotel. No Uber in Debrecen!

Out and about in Debrecen
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After a rest, we walked the 40 minutes into town, crossing the rail lines and passing through a large chemical facility. Dinner was at an excellent Italian restaurant which even offered Pina Coladas – heaven!
mick w, Dave W, Dman and 1 others liked this
#1712367
Storms were forecast over the Carpathian Mountains in central Romania and Alex, our host in Iasi, had recently sent me some photographs of a German Cessna 182 which had been destroyed by an encounter with a storm and violent hail. With this at the front of my mind, I decided we’d make a relatively early start and fly during the morning, hopefully beating any storms! A short taxi ride to the airport, and the very efficient handling agents had us back at the airport and ready for departure in no time. To the southwest were dark, ominous clouds, and as we started up light rain started to fall. We followed the “follow-me car” as we taxied past the old cold war era fighter bunkers, and not a moment too soon we took off and turned en-route to the northeast.

A quiet airport in Debrecen
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Old fighter shelters in Debrecen
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Departure from Debrecen
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Debrecen city
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Our route across the mountains to Iasi
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ATC cleared us to climb straight to 11,000ft – in the end, we couldn’t quite manage the climb gradient they demanded so they relented and allowed us to turn on course across the mountains as we passed 10,000ft. There was no other traffic at our level and ATC gave me free reign to deviate left and right as required to avoid build-ups. Most of the towering cumulus clouds were off to the north, and we crossed the Carpathians a little south of our planned route. We only caught glimpses of the mountains below through a low cloud layer. Overhead, we could hear airliners on frequency asking for deviations and climbs to avoid the weather; including EK147, my usual Emirates flight home from Dubai after finishing a shift at work!

Heading for Iasi
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Romanian countryside
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Parked up in Iasi
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As we approached Iasi we were dropped from radar service and handed to Iasi tower. We passed through many small, circular restricted areas (none of them active) which our host Alex later told us were where anti-hail rockets were launched. Not something you want to run into in a C182! Once again we followed a car to parking, and after covering the aircraft headed through passport control. Luckily, we were just ahead of a 737 full of airline passengers! We took an Uber to the International Hotel where Alex had provided rooms for us on the 10th floor, overlooking the incredible Palace of Culture.

The Palace of Culture
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Inside the Palace of Culture
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An oil press!
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Alex was down at a Romanian sea-side resort, flying back that afternoon in his TB20 touring aircraft, so my father and I went out to visit the museums inside the Palace of Culture, and enjoy some drinks in the late afternoon sun. Alex came to meet us after he got back, and we had a long and delicious evening at a top Italian restaurant near the hotel before turning in. Alex turned out to be a remarkably interesting man, having travelled to over 100 countries and mastered all kinds of exciting pastimes such as skydiving. Conversation flowed freely over some excellent Romanian wine!

Relaxing in Iasi
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We had a lazy morning, with Alex collecting us at around 1130 for a tour around the city. He drove us all around Iasi pointing out major landmarks and telling us a little about the history of the city, and what it was like to grow up there. We parked up in the center, and visited a few of the churches; apparently Iasi has around 800! Alex told us how Romania used to be something of a gateway to Europe, regularly attacked by the Turks, with varying results through the years.

Exploring Iasi
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We didn't eat here, but Alex couldn't resist showing 2 Brits the local British pub!
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Early afternoon, we headed out to the Aero Club where Alex bases his TB20. The grass runway is just off the end of the main Iasi airport runway, and confusingly is also aligned the same direction. A few light aircraft are based there, as well as some Antonov AN2s that perform crop dusting work and other duties. We met a friend of Alex’s who flies 737s for a regional Romanian airline; he had suffered a crash in his microlight aircraft and was now busy rebuilding the wings and upgrading them from fabric cover to carbon fiber.

With Alex, by a Wilga
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In the aeroclub hangar
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This done, we returned to the hotel to rest a bit, carry out flight planning for the next day, and in my case shop for a new new clothes! I’d had to discard a few that turned out to be rather worn out, but the large modern mall next to the hotel came through for me.

The traditional restaurant
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Our giant meal; this was the second course of three!
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Alex collected us just before 7 and took us to dinner in a traditional Romanian restaurant. The first two courses were a wide selection of seemingly every traditional Romanian item on the menu, and he told us a bit about each one and the history behind them. They were delicious, although we ended up with enough food to feed a party of 10! The evening involved plenty more Romanian wine and spirits, ending late, and requiring Uber rides back to our respective homes with the car to be collected in the morning!
mick w, kanga, G-BLEW and 1 others liked this
#1713180
Alex wasn’t available in the morning, so after a light breakfast we took an Uber to the airport and spent a while asking around before we managed to find someone from the handling agent to guide us back to the aircraft. Fees were extremely reasonable for a 2 night stay, at less than 60 Euros total. The Bombardier private jet parked next to us taxied out at about the same time; clearly it was rush hour!

Iasi, on departure
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Our route to Bulgaria
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We were flying this leg VFR as Alex had suggested a detour to sight-see over the Danube delta. Several danger areas and restricted areas were active along our route, but ATC gave us clearances to pass through all of them, with a few restrictions on where we could fly. We headed south along the border with Moldova; underneath it was all tiny fields and tiny villages. As we approached Galati, and turned east to parallel the border with Ukraine, things started to become more developed and industrial. We received clearance through the airspace around Tulcea and headed out to admire the delta.

The Danube (I think)
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Above the delta
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Passing Constanta
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From here, it was a simple matter of following the coast down towards Varna. As we approached the border ATC wanted us out to see a little way, to enter Bulgarian airspace over one of their set entry points; the reason behind this wasn’t terribly clear. As it was we were forced to stay closer to shore than they wanted due to a pair of large emerging thunderstorms that we had to thread our way between. Nobody seemed to mind.

Arrival at Varna
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Varna have strict, and pretty low level, VFR routes that have to be followed in and out of their airspace. The ground along this part of the Black Sea coast was high and we skimmed the terrain until we suddenly shot out over the top of a high ridge and saw Varna and the airport laid out before us. We were put straight on to a right pattern for runway 27. A follow-me car met us as we taxied in past a long row of regional airliners, and led us to a parking space just in front of the terminal; holidaymakers waiting to board their flights looked on with interest.

The handlers, Fraport, met us at the aircraft. This German company have taken over most of the Greek airports, and raised prices for light aircraft to obscene levels, so when I saw that they run Varna I was worried, but in the end my fears were unfounded. The handlers were friendly and efficient, and the prices were very reasonable for an overnight stop at a large airport. It was clear that not many small airplanes come by, as we noticed the fuelers and a couple of other airport staff taking surreptitious selfies with Planey! We fueled up on arrival (fuel prices, sadly, were not in any way reasonable) and then headed in to the city and the “Hotel Boutique Splendid”.

Part of my palatial room in Varna
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Varna has been populated for millennia, with the oldest evidence of settlements dating back 100,000 years. A Roman city covered 47 hectares here and our first stop, after an abortive attempt to visit the archaeological museum, was the ruins of the Roman baths. Not much remains, but from the sections that are still present, it’s clear they were an enormous and impressive structure. From here we walked down to explore the beach and the very quiet port, bumping into a wedding party taking photos by the quayside, by one of the beautiful sailing vessels moored alongside.

Fat cat
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The archaeological museum
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Varna sea-side
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Roman bath ruins
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Cathedral
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A walk through the park took us into the center of downtown, so before dinner we stopped in to see the cathedral. The second largest cathedral in Bulgaria, it was opened in 1886, and is visually stunning from both within and without. We finished the evening with an exceptionally good Italian meal at a restaurant near the hotel. Without a guide, we decided not to try and figure out traditional Bulgarian food!

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We left the hotel some time after 8am and took a taxi back to the airport. This time I had called the handling agents in advance to let them know we were coming, and we were met on arrival. The Fraport rep led us rapidly through the crew channels to the departure doors, and eventually a bus turned up to carry us the very short distance to the aircraft. Since we arrived the apron had emptied out and only a couple of lonely aircraft sat out on the ramp. We pre-flighted and started up, earning ourselves a small telling-off from ground control that we hadn’t called for start-up. Of course, information like “you need to call for start-up” is something contained within the AIP package of a country, and Bulgaria choose to hide theirs behind a registration wall. I applied 3 weeks ago for access, and never heard anything; so they have nobody to blame but themselves!

The colourful Varna airport
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Our flight took us along the coast past Burgas, and then we started to head inland to cross the Turkish border. We were handed over by Sofia Information at the border, to Ankara, but never got within range of them. Instead we called the tower at Corlu directly, shortly before entering their airspace, and were cleared in to their airspace at 1,500ft. We landed in between training flights; it turns out that Corlu has a large and busy flight school, with a gaggle of Diamond DA20s moving in and out all the time. Turkey is not a GA-friendly country, with extortionate handling fees. We had contracted with “Gozen Air Services”. They were helpful and responsive for obtaining the permits, but their performance in country turned out to be very poor and I would suggest anybody visiting Turkey tries a different handling agent such as Celebi. In Corlu, Gozen had no presence so had subcontracted to a local agent (Celebi) who turned out to be excellent when they finally met us; nobody at Gozen had told them we were coming!

Approaching Corlu
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Interesting traffic at Corlu
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Customs met us at the airplane together with the handling agents once they showed up. The customs lady wasn’t interested in any of our baggage, but only wanted to take a photo of the instrument panel! We were transported to the terminal in a large bus more suited to unloading an airliner and the friendly and efficient handling lady led us through immigration and filing of flight plan for the onward leg. Soon we were back at the aircraft, waiting on our flight-planned departure time to head to Selcuk-Efes. We lined up ahead of a flight school DA20 and lifted off, with tower keeping us on runway heading for 3 miles to clear the training traffic in the circuit before a right turn on course and south across Turkey.

Coasting out into the Sea of Marmara
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After crossing the Sea of Marmara and hitting mainland Turkey we climbed to 5,500ft to stay clear of the hilly terrain. The afternoon thermals were starting to make things a little bumpy so I took it off auto-pilot and hand flew, to save wear and tear on the servos. I’d be relying on the autopilot more on the long legs to come later in the trip! We were impressed by the huge amount of industry and manufacturing we could see as we flew along, it’s no surprise that so many of the goods seen in the Middle East and elsewhere are labelled “Made in Turkey”. The approach controller at Izmir seemed concerned that we were flying direct destination, rather than following the rather circuitous VFR routes shown on the charts, but she accepted the fact that this exact clearance had been given to us on departure. Communications between controllers are often not very joined-up for VFR flights.

Our route through Bulgaria and Turkey
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The tower controller at Selcuk had us fly holding patterns north of the airfield for a while before letting us into the zone to land on runway 27. As we pulled in we could see Gavin and his parents waving, along with a small local welcoming committee of interested airport staff and students; there is another, much smaller, flying school here. The stop at Selcuk was planned in order to swap copilots for the final time on this leg. My dad would be flying back to the UK, in time for a Rod Stewart concert. The adventurous Gavin would be joining me for the flights as far as Thailand. He had found my website a year or so ago and then kept in touch. His parents have a place in Selcuk, making it a good stop, and the small local airport would be ideal for us to do some routine maintenance.

Arrival at Selcuk
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We immediately got stuck into an oil change, switching up to the heavyweight Aeroshell W120 for the hot areas to come. Things went quickly with assistance from the boss, engineers, and interns of the maintenance facility on the field who came over to see what we were up to, and got stuck in. They told me they didn’t see many aircraft other than the C172s and the light twin that are based there. The heat was brutal so as soon as we could we ran up the engine for a leak check, got the cowlings back on, and headed to freshen up at the Curtis residence.

Beer me!
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Dinner that evening was in Selcuk, at a local restaurant. The owner is a good friend of the Curtis’s and somehow runs an entire restaurant, with fantastic food, from a kitchen smaller than what I’ve seen in most 1-bedroom apartments! “I only have a small kitchen”, he told us, “so I had to get a small wife”. Somehow, though, he works miracles and we had a great meal before wandering through the town a bit and back to an early night. While I had a lie-in to look forward to, my dad would be up at 7 to get his flight.
Lockhaven, mick w, Dave W and 4 others liked this
#1713657
Dad left the next morning, and Gavin, his Dad and I spent the day with a couple of tourist visits; Ephesus, and the Turkish train museum; and then relaxed in the afternoon, flight planning for the following day. It would be a long one, and take me to the third continent of the trip, Africa!

The library at Ephesus
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At the train museum; examples of all the steam locomotives that had been in service through Turkey.
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We were ready for departure at opening time at Selcuk-Efes airport, 8am. The first flight was just an hour, to the airport of Dalaman which offered both customs/immigration and AVGAS.

Ready to go at Selcuk
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Rainbow village in Turkey
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We were instructed to hold for a while over a holiday resort, to wait for landing traffic. Helicopters were fighting a fire, coming and going across the runway centerline every minute or so.
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"Gozen Air Service", our mandatory Turkish handlers, were pretty good at communication but not great at billing. They presented me with an invoice for more than double the written quote. After some back and forth, we agreed I'd pay slightly less than the original quote (which was still over $1,200 for visiting 3 airports, and arranging our permit - Turkey hates GA). Gozen did, however, organise fuel with no delay. The cost was $2.60 a liter (as opposed to $4 a liter in Hurgada), so we took 500 liters (132 gallons).

Fueling at Dalaman
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We started up, waited for clearance, and then were told there was a problem with our route and shut down again. We had no way of getting back to the terminal and the flight plan office weren't answering the phone but eventually a call to Gozen sorted it out. Finally we were away, climbing nice and slowly with all the fuel on board. This leg of the flight would be 690 nautical miles.

Departure from Dalaman
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Goodbye Turkey; coasting out to cross the Med.

Our route across Turkey, and down to Hurghada, Egypt, Africa!
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Crossing the Med
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The water crossing was only a couple of hours, and soon the shore of Africa was in sight!
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Coasting in over Egypt
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The Nile Delta was incredibly lush and heavily cultivated. Towns and small cities were everywhere.
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Soon, we were passing over Cairo, and the famous pyramids of Giza
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Cairo faded behind us into the desert haze, and we were off along the Red Sea, down towards Hurghada
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As we drew near to Hurghada, pretty resorts started appearing
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For previous flights, GASE (our flight support company and good friends) had told us, fueling here was always from barrels. However, the Egyptian Air Force were keen to show off their new AVGAS bowser. It delivered fuel at about 10 gallons a second, and the nozzle was too big for my filler holes. My funnel didn't work as the flow rate was about 100 times too fast for it and was only "full on" or off. After a failed attempt at using a cut-up water-cooler bottle as a funnel, we found an empty AVGAS drum, filled it from the truck, and then used my hand pump to refuel the aircraft!
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Finally, fueling complete!
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Finally, relaxing in the hotel bar with a very bad Pina Colada. It was the "Captain's Bar" and our waiter had three gold stripes on his shoulder.
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Distance so far: 8,761nm.
Hours so far: 78
nallen, Miscellaneous, Dave W and 3 others liked this
#1713831
Miscellaneous wrote:@Katamarino the thought occurred to me that with the flying and travelling you do, including for work, the wow factor can't be the same as it would for us £100 burger runners. :lol:

Keep up the good work! :thumright:


The pyramids are very nearly as "wow" the second time around; and the next flight, across Saudi, was spectacular!!
Miscellaneous, kanga liked this
#1713834
We spent a day relaxing in the resort at Hurghada, and I prepared the flight plans for the next day. With the help of GASE it was pretty straightforward, they had also organised all the permits required.

Chilling on the beach in Hurghada
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Evening in Hurghada
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Our taxi collected us from the hotel at 4am. I was very happy that we'd elected to fuel on arrival, given the chaos 2 days before! Getting through the airport with the help of the excellent handler from EgyptAir was straightforward and pretty quick, although security took quite a harsh line with me when I tried to take a few bottles of water through. Once it was explained that I was the Captain they were all smiles, and all liquids were passed without trouble. Gavin put his gold bars on and was just waved through!

On our bus to the aircraft
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It would be along flight today; more than 960 nautical miles, the vast majority of them over Saudi Arabia.
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In the cooler, but by no means cool (still about 30 degrees) air of the early morning we headed out over Hurghada, and across the Red Sea.
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The sea crossing wasn't long, and within an hour we coasted in over Saudi. I had always assumed Saudi would be a vast, flat sea of sand, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Yes, there was plenty of sand; but also mountains, rock formations of all types, agriculture, and cities. We spent the entire time with our faces glued to the windows, hour after hour.
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Half way across, suddenly, a familiar sight from the American west!
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The city of Dammam
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Bahrain approach didn't seem to understand the slow speed of a Cessna 182 and sent us off on a 100+ mile arrival procedure, eventually agreeing with our protestations that this would take all day, and vectoring us onto a downwind.
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Approach to Bahrain
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For some reason, tower absolutely refused to let us taxi to our handling agents hangars, despite 2 requests before landing, and 2 after. We had to shut down on the opposite side of the airfield, wait for our handlers to argue the case with the controller, and then 30 minutes later taxi across to where we were supposed to be in the first place.
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We had plenty of space once we did get to the hangar.
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That evening we explored Bahrain a little, before finishing up with one of the best curries I've ever had, at the Crowne Plaza.
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Distance so far: 9,725nm
Hours so far: 86

Lots more pictures and full write-up: https://katamarino.co.uk/index.php/2019 ... 15-and-16/
mick w, Miscellaneous, Dave W and 1 others liked this
By Lefty
#1713884
Ross, can you post info on your costs for landing and handling in Egypt?

Last year we were trying to fly to Amman in Jordan (from the UK). We got as far as Cyprus when our clearance to cross Israel was suddenly revoked. We spoke to GASE and others, but the landing and handling fees we were quoted were just eye watering so we parked the a/c in Cyprus and took a scheduled flight to / from Amman.

Part of the problem was that the limited range of one of our a/c would have required 3 refuelling stops in Egypt.
I assume that with your extra tanks you only needed 1 stop in Egypt ?
#1713953
Yes, we made only one stop, at Hurghada. Airport fees and handling came to $336, and fuel was $4 per liter. Cheap by the standards of the Middle East and Asia; in India, fees for one stop were over $1,000!
#1713989
Handling/airport were similar for us in 2017 (~480USD inc two hotel rooms for the night) and Avgas was the same outrageous rate! A bit late now, but Achim (of Autorouter fame) has some local knowledge/contacts and tips for Hurghada
Routing Bahrain-Hurghada-Corfu, the Saudi overflight/nav charges were significant too
Ross: Beware of "TGH" in Thailand - their ideas for fees will revise your perspective for value (and they will grab you by the short and curlies if they get involved in your permits) Recommend Mikey at MJets, and MichaelP of this parish can probably give you further tips
By Lefty
#1714041
Katamarino wrote:Yes, we made only one stop, at Hurghada. Airport fees and handling came to $336, and fuel was $4 per liter. Cheap by the standards of the Middle East and Asia; in India, fees for one stop were over $1,000!


Those airport fees were about 1/4 of what we were quoted (hence we we didn't go that route). Did you get quotes by email before you left ?
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