Where have you been? What have you seen?
By NickS
For no real reason, I had never taken some long-term friends flying before and the conversation turned to “Where can you fly to?” I last went to Bruges years ago and we settled on that as a destination.

After skirting Farnborough it was then pretty much a straight line via Sevenoaks and Deal. Farnborough Radar were helpful but, once out of their area, trying to contact London Information was a nightmare, it was so busy. Just before the FIR boundary, I managed to say goodbye to London Info, listen to the ATIS, called Ostend Approach and was cleared straight in so don’t be put off by the restricted areas either. It wasn’t very busy so was passed to the Tower and was positioned for a straight in for 08. I did find the size of the runway difficult to judge but only landed the once, missed the first exit (expecting instructions) and was told to expedite at the next available. Ground then took over and the yellow “follow me “ bus guided us to the parking on Apron 3.

The marshaller speaks excellent English and took us to the security place where we were scanned and bags x-rayed. Back on the bus for the next stop, passport control. It took two guys to make the computer work and they were very friendly and chatty. In all, it took nearly 40 minutes from shut-down to exiting the terminal.

Our return would have been easier had I asked the right questions on arrival. Go through security and passport control first - then you will be escorted to the Navigation Office on the ground floor of the tower. You will then get a ride back to where you are parked.

Departure is simple. ATIS - Ground - Tower - Approach so have the frequencies ready. Flight home uneventful and Blackbushe deserted when we arrived at 8.30pm.

A few points:

Firstly, it is easy but it certainly isn’t cheap. The charges are pretty clear except they don’t mention the 21% VAT that you need to add. For what most of us are likely to turn up in, it is 10€ to land and a further 10€ to take off but I am not sure what they expect us to do! You also each pay a 13+€ passenger charge (not the pilot), 15+€ parking if you are more than 6 hours on the ground and another small charge for reasons unknown. The total was 77.10€ for a PA28 - a new record high for me but I had e-mailed and knew what to expect.

There is a bus stop right outside the terminal where you can catch the No6 bus to Ostend Station, costing 3€ each, one way. Buses run very frequently.

The train to Bruges takes 15 minutes and costs less than 6€ return. It is 10/15 minutes walk into the historic centre. Bruges is a great city and next time we shall stop for the night to be able to take advantage of the sights, food and beer.

Fuel is available but we didn’t uplift any so cannot comment.

All the staff were very friendly and helpful, even when I entered the tower from landside and misheard “man” for “van”...