Airport Report – Korenica glider airfield

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted as well

Now here’s something new from me – an airfield report! 🙂 And even better, a brand-new airfield report! Heard from a friend a few days ago that a new airfield was supposed to open Sunday (25th) out there in the hills of mid-Croatia. Desperately in need of some refreshing subjects to photograph – and not having much else to do – I sat in the car and went to see what’s what :).

1. Korenica – Bijelo polje (also known as “Zvonimir Rain”):

A bit about the airfield first: situated about 130 km south of Zagreb as the crow flies – or about 2 hours and 160 km by road – Bijelo polje was built on the site of a previous glider field, which had been closed some time ago (for reasons I’ve not been able to find out). The area itself has traditionally been very popular with glider pilots since the local terrain gives rise to some fantastic gliding conditions (primarily ridge lift), with almost all Croatian gliding records having been set here – including endurance and altitude records.

The airfield itself is located in the middle of Bijelo polje (directly translated as “White field”), which, at 2000 ft AMSL, is pretty much the lowest point of the surrounding terrain (as you’ll be able to see from the photos). The single grass runway stretches in a 02-20 direction – right into the prevailing bora wind – and is 500 meters long and a guesstimated 20 meters wide, more than enough for a Super Cub towplane :). Despite the high elevation and short runway – and hills on either end – beneficiary factors include relatively low temperatures and favorable winds, so it’s not as tight as it seems.

A Google Earth view of Bijelo polje. The location of the runway is "pinned down", though nothing will be visible in this dated shot :)

A Google Earth view of Bijelo polje. The location of the runway is "pinned down", though none of it will be visible in this dated shot 🙂

A wider view. Note the field's proximity to Bosina and Herzegovina - it's literally on the other side of the hill :)

A wider view. Note the field's proximity to Bosina and Herzegovina - it's literally on the other side of the hill 🙂

Since the field is small and still new, it had not yet received its ICAO Location Indicator nor a dedicated radio frequency, with all communications being done on the standard 123.500 MHz.

2. The opening:

Ideally, the way to make an entrance at an airfield opening ceremony is to dive in and screech to a halt in a Cessna :). However, the worsening autumn weather in this part of Croatia meant low ceilings, obscured mountain tops, high winds and moderate to strong turbulence – not really fun in a light Cessna, so the only option remaining was the car. It had proved to be a good choice when, halfway to the field and climbing through 1,100 meters, I entered cloud – on the road! – and stayed in it up till just 10-something km before Bijelo polje…

Once back in VMC past the town of Korenica, my next problem was to somehow get to the airfield itself. Though easily visible from the main regional road – seen snaking near the top of the GE image above – driving up to it proved to be not as straightforward, and eventually degenerated into an offroad session along random cobbled paths crossing the field :).

My only complaint about the whole field was the offroad driving needed to reach it :)

My only complaint about the whole field was the offroad driving needed to reach it :). Even my GPS was stumped...

Nailing the right path on my second try – with the help of some people also headed in my direction – I’ve finally arrived at the airfield, with my car’s lifespan considerably shortened :).

Now, the original plan had called for some glider ops to break the field in, but the aforementioned weather meant that a tiny, but significant component of that plan – the towplane – had failed to arrive. 9A-DBU, previously seen here and flying from Lučko, didn’t even bother taking off, while backup aircraft from neighboring Livno in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Rijeka in the northern Adriatic couldn’t break through the clouds and had to return. Of the three gliders present, this left only one capable of doing anything about it, a motorized L-13SE Vivat which ended up being the centerpiece of this report :).

With some beautiful scenery in the back, 9A-DSI is seen waiting for the wind to subdue a bit. The other two gliders, a standard L-13 and a Pirat, didn't even bother getting off their trailers :)

With some beautiful scenery in the back, 9A-DSI is seen waiting for the strong, 20 knot wind to subdue. The other two gliders, a standard L-13 and a Pirat, didn't even bother getting off their trailers 🙂

An oblique view down RWY 02 shows the hole this airfield is in - literally :). However, the surrounding hills and mountains give some excellent ridge lift

An oblique view down RWY 02 shows the hole this airfield is in - literally. However, the surrounding hills and mountains give some excellent ridge lift, with 4 hour flights not being all that uncommon

Looking straight down the full 500 meters of the runway. The first 150 meters were made soft, presumably to ease the stress of landing

Looking straight down the full 500 meters of the runway. The first 150 meters were made soft, presumably to ease airframe stress during landing. The nearness of the terrain here means that if you decide to fly in with something sporting an engine, it had better be STOL 🙂

Another oblique view of the RWY 02 threshold, look west-southwest. The hills and mountains all around are part of the Dinaridi chain, which is in itself a lower and gentler extension of the Alps

Another oblique view of the RWY 02 threshold, look west-southwest. The hills and mountains all around are part of the Dinaridi chain, which is in itself a lower and gentler extension of the Alps

Up close with 9A-DSI, my first L-13SE Vivat :). A powered and side-by-side version of the popular L-13 Blanik, the Vivat was (aftermarket) designed to circumnavigate the need for a towplane - something very useful that day...

Up close with 9A-DSI, my first L-13SE Vivat. A side-by-side modification of the popular L-13 Blanik, the Vivat was also equipped with a Mikron M III AE inverted four-cyl engine to circumnavigate the need for a towplane - something very useful on this day...

Ready to fly :). The location is quite scenic, you'd have thought this was taken somewhere in North America

Ready to fly! The beautiful scenery is quite a change from the boring dullness and flatness of Lučko

A rare motorglider, a pine forest in the back, hills and low cloud - what more could you ask for an interesting photo? :)

A rare motorglider, a pine forest in the back, hills and low cloud - what more could you ask for an interesting photo? To me this looks more like it was taken in North America than in Mediterranean Croatia

A view toward the north-west, with some gentler terrain in the distance

A view toward the northwest, with gentler terrain in the distance

The Vivat aside, the infrastructure of the field is basically nil – but with the onset of winter and almost certain snow, in addition to the undemanding nature of gliders, one doesn’t need really need a lot of equipment hanging around, exposed to the elements. Even this unambitious opening was a one-time affair, since right after it the airfield had shut its doors till the spring gliding season. Maybe when the weather clears, I’ll be able to post a proper, airborne report on the it… 🙂

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