(Aerial) Photo Report – Flight of the Phoenix

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

While it is somewhat less exciting than the movie of the same name (even though it involves a similar amount of mechanical ingenuity 😀 ), one event at Lučko back in May certainly gave rise to a bit of optimism, pride – and, not least of all, a fair bit of relief. The occasion in question was the return to flight of our much-loved Cessna A185F 9A-BKS, signalling its eagerly-awaited return to service after five long years on the ground. Covered in part by another post on here, BKS had suffered a prop strike back in 2008 which had seen it confined to the hangar until its prop and engine could be repaired – a process that, through various financial setbacks, took almost four and half years to complete…

Diving for the runway back in happier times

Diving for the runway after a skydive flight back in happier times

However, while the aircraft was airworthy and fully certified as June dawned, one important issue still remained before BKS could be given a clean bill of health and returned to active duty as a skydive platform – the engine break-in period. Like all new and overhauled engines, BKS’ IO-520 needed a 25 hour run-in period during which the piston rings would gradually wear themselves out and begin to lubricate the cylinders properly, boosting the engine’s efficiency and power and generally returning it to “its old self”. This however requires treating the engine with the utmost care, flying it gently and at relatively low power settings, all the while ensuring it is being properly cooled to compensate for the poor oil distribution – not all that easy to do if you’re flogging it at maximum continuous power for half an hour as you haul half a ton’s worth of skydivers to altitude at low speed :).

To avoid making a hash of it, AK Zagreb – the owners of the aircraft – had decided to send it out on a number of extended cross-country flights, which would also have the added benefit of providing long periods of steady cruising and allow the crew to check fuel flows, oil pressures and various temperatures against the operating manual :). Naturally enough, I’d quickly found my way onto several of these flights – and while I was relegated to being the ballast in the tail, I did at least have the time (and cabin space!) to enjoy the scenery outside…

A

A scene as if it came from the flight levels as we maneuver around some potentially hazardous weather on our way to the Adriatic coast. Moving slowly inland from Kvarner Bay, this storm front was making itself felt even at our 7,000 ft cruise altitude, with the air becoming ever rougher as we closed in

E

Eventually though, the front had forced us to descent to 3,000 ft and skim around its edge, swapping the soothing cloudscape with some fantastic mountains and shadows

W

With 300-ish horsepower up front, we managed to outrun the worst of the weather, skimming the edge of the system low among the peaks of the Velebit mountain range. Our 140 knots indicated – the end of the green arc despite flying on only 65% power – meant were were through in mere minutes

Enjoying the crisp and calm weather above Lošinj Island while looking back on the front that had caused us trouble . A beautiful study of convective clouds, the centerpiece of the scene is the impressive altocumulus castellanus, nicknamed the "turret cloud" due to its pronounced vertical development. Alongside another stunning altocumulus type - the altocumulus lenticularis - turret clouds are a sure indication of severe turbulence and icing, making them a handy aid in deciding when to take avoiding action.

Enjoying the crisp and calm weather above Lošinj Island as we look back on the front that had caused us so much trouble. A beautiful study of convective clouds, the centerpiece of the scene is the impressive altocumulus castellanus, nicknamed the “turret cloud” due to its pronounced vertical development. Alongside another stunning altocumulus type – the altocumulus lenticularis – turret clouds are a sure indication of severe turbulence and icing, making them a handy aid in deciding when to take avoiding action.

Enjoying the crisp and calm weather above Lošinj Island while looking back on the front that had caused us trouble . A beautiful study of convective clouds, the centerpiece of the scene is the impressive altocumulus castellanus, nicknamed the "turret cloud" due to its pronounced vertical development. Alongside another stunning altocumulus type - the altocumulus lenticularis - turret clouds are a sure indication of severe turbulence and icing, making them a handy aid in deciding when to take avoiding action.

Challenge accepted! Too good an opportunity to pass up, in a few moments we would be zooming between the peaks at something like 150 knots. How very nice of Mother Nature to place them right on our planned route!

An overflight of what my colleague flying had eloquently termed the "Krbavian Sea" . Neither a man-made nor permanent geographic feature, this temporary lake was created by the abundant rains that had hit the Krbavsko polje area over the past few weeks.

An overflight of what my colleague flying had eloquently termed the “Krbavian Sea”. Neither a man-made nor permanent geographic feature, this temporary lake was created by the abundant rains that had hit the Krbavsko polje (Krbava Field) area over the past few weeks. One of the country’s biggest mountain valleys, Krbavsko polje is also known for its excellent gliding weather, with most Croatian gliding records set not more than five miles to our right

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