History – Ye Olde ZAG: 80s LDZA Airport Charts

By me

Even though the world of modern social media may leave a lot to be desired, it nevertheless does occasionally have its bright and interesting moments :). While the definition of the latter could produce enough material for a whole book (not to mention the odd philosophical brawl), for me they mostly concern the occasional serious aeronautical discussions, all of which rarely fail to intrigue even the most basic aviation enthusiast. Having brought together in one place everyone from aspiring young aviators to experienced airline captains, these threads are always a gold mine of fantastic information and material – and had even served as an inspiration for my most detailed article to date, the extensive review of Croatia Airlines’ light aircraft, published a month or so ago 🙂 .

Rather unsurprisingly given the results, it would only be a matter of time before some new post or photo on Facebook would pique my interest once again. In the event, I did not have to wait long; already at the beginning of March, a member had put up a series of fantastic (and fantastically rare) photos taken from the Zagreb Airport (LDZA/ZAG) tower back in the 80s, covering everything from JAT’s DC-10s to the odd PanAm 737-200. Naturally enough, I was through the roof, and had immediately started digging through my own aviation collection for any other interesting bits from the period. However, having been born only in 1985, I could not produce any of my own material – so I had instead decided to dig up my dad’s old Jeppesen manuals, dust-covered reminders of his days as a dispatcher with Pan Adria in the early 80s 🙂 .

With five full binders now at my disposal – covering most of Europe, North Africa and the western edges of the USSR – I was at a quandary of where to begin… the East German corridors towards Berlin, Munich’s old Riem Airport, Athens’ half-buried Hellenikon, or the 80s versions of Schipol, Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle… however, in the end I’d decided to stick close to home and take a 30 year trip back in time to the second airport I call home… 🙂

Chronologically out of order, the most interesting chart of them all is the Airport Chart, showing what ZAG had looked like at the end of 1982. While at first glance it doesn’t appear to have changed much in the intervening 33 years, there are a few notable differences: there’s no GA apron (which would be added in the early 2000s as an extension of the main apron to the south), the parking positions for large aircraft are at the apron’s southern end (nowadays they’re at the northern, which had also been widened to be flush with the remainder) and the main parallel taxiway is designated M (changed to F sometime in the 90s).

A glimpse into times where reliable area navigation was still years in the future and waypoints were few and far in between, the STAR Chart makes for fascinating viewing. Far, far more complex in modern times (featuring several times as many arrival routes), the chart also shows another anachronism: the KOS NDB in the lower right corner, dismantled and shut down at the beginning of the 90s during the civil war.

The first of the SID charts illustrates a fascinating mix of old fashion NDB navigation and “newfangled” waypoints. VALLU (in the top procedure) still exists, while PAPA (in the lower procedure) would later become MACEL. The latter was actually located a few miles inside Slovenia (even though it was a border point), which would in the early 2000s lead to its replacement by point PODET located right on the border.

Another departure (and another chart that is far more cluttered in 2015). Among the many other notable differences, the point INNA from the upper procedure no longer exists, while the locator PI from the lower procedure is now a “full-blown” NDB called PIS and operating on 424 kHz.

The waypoints of the third SID page are, however, mostly correct today: KOPRY and NASSY are still used, with only BEREK having been withdrawn.

The final SID page is pretty much completely invalidated today due to the aforementioned removal of KOS NDB. As a consequence, airways B9 and UB9 (on the rightmost departure track) have been abolished, with their replacements – L187 and UL187 – using a nearby point called TEBLI.

The approaches themselves had, however, undergone the most change. What was just a “lowly” CAT I ILS in 1982 is nowadays a CAT IIIb system with DME (installed in the early 2000s), operating on the same frequency but with a final approach course of 044 degrees to cater for 33 years of magnetic variation change. With the aforementioned exception of PI, all of the radionav frequencies had stayed the same – though we’d recently gained another DME (LUK, 109.85), collocated with the outer marker. The communications frequencies have undergone a change as well, with Approach now using 120.700 as the primary and 118.500 as backup.

On the opposite approach, things have stayed more or less the same, with the major exception being an ILS frequency change to 109.10 (plus the final approach course change due to magnetic variation).

The ninth and final chart in the set (quite a bit less than the modern 15!). Even though PI has been upgraded, the locator approach still exists – with two having also been added for the RWY 23 end.

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