Short Photo Report – Some Mid-Winter Flying

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

Even though, by most accounts, early February should have seen continental Croatia declared missing under a thick blanket of snow, this year’s odd weather patterns – already having thrown most long term forecasts into the rubbish bin – have decided to treat us to some unusually fine and warm weather instead :). After a month of dull, low overcast and sub-zero temperatures, this week’s clear sunny skies, just a whiff of cirrus clouds and temperatures hovering at around 15 Centigrade were a godsend – and having been deprived of flying for almost two months, I was eager to use this calm spell well and finally log my first few hours as a certified CPL pilot :).

But, there was a twist: in what had met with near universal shaking of the head, the operator of Lučko had failed to renew the airfield’s operational certificate at the end of 2010., leading the Civil Aviation Authority to quickly suspend most operations from the field. And while sport and private flights are still allowed on an “at your own risk” basis – despite the fact that not a single blade of grass is different than in 2010 😀 – commercial and training operations have been banned outright for an indefinite period of time. While it may seem that all is not yet lost, these operations account for the bread and butter of most aircraft operators at Lučko, forcing virtually the entire “fleet” to relocate to Zagreb Intl. (LDZA, locally known as Pleso) until everything is sorted out…

Airfield? This is more of a "ghostfield" if you ask me... only seven aircraft were at the field when I had last visited, two of which - being non-airworthy - were unable to do anything about it. Subsequently, two of the remaining four had flown over to Pleso, leaving Lučko empty and desolate...

However, flying out of an international airport does have its advantages – especially if you own a camera and do not hesitate to use it :D. The more vibrant and dynamic traffic picture at Pleso was bound to produce some interesting aircraft movements, while the 3+ kilometer paved runway meant you could operate at will and not have to worry about morning dew soaking up the notoriously mud-prone Lučko…

Now all we need to do is tie their tails together with some rope, put two canisters of avgas in front of each one and watch what happens next :D. With most of our Lučko fleet relocated to LDZA, the general aviation apron was becoming awfully cramped. So to make the best use of the limited space available, our parking solutions took a turn for the creative :D.
On final for RWY 05 after a pleasing afternoon aerial photography flight :). While not particularly impressive as an international gateway, Pleso has everything you really need for a smooth operations, including a CAT IIIb ILS and full runway and approach lighting (visible here are the last segment of the so called "Calvert approach lighting system"). The runway, 3252 by 45 meters, can accommodate anything up to and including the 747 and 777. The general aviation apron, easily recognizable by its darker pavement, is to the right of the photo
Milliseconds from touchdown right on the piano keys! Even though we have 3000+ meters of runway available, when landing on 05 we usually practice putting the aircraft down as soon as practically possible so we can hit the brakes and vacate the runway via taxiway Bravo, located 350 meters from the threshold. This not only moves us out of the way of much faster commercial traffic, but also allows us to taxi directly onto the general aviation apron without having to go past the entire main apron - again freeing up space for the big birds :).
The apron itself did not disappoint either :D. All lumps, bumps and antennae, this purposeful looking RC-12K Guardrail is actually a SIGINT - or "signals intelligence" - aircraft, whose mission is to prowl the skies listening for new and unknown frequencies of hostile search and fire control radars and/or intercepting communication transmissions over a wide range of frequencies (hence the antennae). Quite secretive otherwise, this example belongs to the US Army, and is based on the not-at-all warlike Beech King Air A200 executive turboprop (or more precisely its military utility version, the C-12 Huron) - and was in town most probably to participate in a NATO exercise over the mountains of central Croatia. Interestingly enough, only nine K models were ever made, and this specific example is the first of the lot 🙂
Looking beautiful at the small grass strip of Zvekovac (LDZE), some 15 minutes of flying time away from Zagreb. Calm and quiet, it was a perfect destination for a short flying getaway to catch some air outside the CTR :). The flock of sheep standing several meters behind me though were not amused by our rather noisy arrival :D.

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