Once again, regular as clockwork, the winter calm has come down on the Croatian GA scene. Even though the weather has been eerily cooperative of late – hardly any snow even – light aircraft ops have been few and far in between, most machines either having their long sleep in the hangar or flying up and down to the coast for the season. So, while I wait for things to start up again, here are a couple of highlights from my autumn/winter/pre-spring “getting paid to stare out the window” collection 🙂 .
Bonus content: while all of these airliner views are fine and dandy, I could not in good conscience post them without shoehorning a bit of GA in 😀 . So, to balance things out, here’s one shot (+ video) from the good old C172 and the paying to stare out the window collection!
Having noticed recently that my last post here was dated August 2017 (!) – and that my backlog of topics stalled for lack of information has been growing steadily larger – I decided it would be high time for me to dig through my collection of fresh photos and finally get a move on with my posting. Unfortunately though, not much had actually happened since August 2017, meaning that my GA inbox was pretty much empty. However, having spent quite a bit of time in the air lately, I did realize that I have a bunch of interesting aerial shots available – which could be turned into a perfect (and visually pleasant) distraction until something in my post queue actually started moving forward… 🙂
Bonus content: even though the GA season has (so far) been a complete and total bust – not an interesting lighty to be seen in six months – there nevertheless still are a few silver linings to this dark cloud. Having been all over the place during the winter, I had found myself with plenty of opportunity to snap some large turbine machinery, among which were several fine examples for my “boy did you take a wrong turn somewhere” file… 😀
Back during Achtung, Skyhawk!‘s early days in the years around 2010, I had every once in awhile tried to liven things up by posting short collections of in-flight photos taken from a variety of light aircraft above northern Croatia (and occasionally beyond). Dubbed, somewhat unimaginatively, “The View From Up Here”, the three-strong set (Parts 1, 2 & 3) had been quite well received by readers, prompting me to – belatedly – put together a new & improved batch to keeps things rolling 🙂 .
However, since the time of 1, 2 & 3, most of my flying had taken me onto bigger machinery, having landed a job in the right seat of the Dash 8 Q400 a little over a year ago. While the “straight & level” nature of airline operations might suggest that interesting, unusual and attractive shots – as possible in GA – would be few and far in between, the realities of life aboard a turboprop – operating at lower levels, day & night and often in the weather – had meant that I had pretty quickly managed to amass quite a nice heap of interesting material.
Sprinkled additionally with a handful of ground shots that had taken my fancy, I am thus glad to be able to present – for more-or-less the first time – “the view from the right”… 🙂
Having recently gotten into a position where I do a fair bit of air travel (to put it mildly!), I had suddenly (and somewhat unexpectedly) found myself being served with ever-increasing opportunities to snap – up close – various flying machinery operating out of Europe’s major airports. While these naturally tend to be of the airliner variety (and therefore not the default topic here), every once in awhile I do come across a true gem, something so fascinating, rare and unusual that it immediately warrants a feature at Achtung, Skyhawk! 🙂 .
Even though snaps of these machines are still few in number – with my definition of “fascinating” mostly to blame 😀 – I feel they are nevertheless numerous enough for me to cobble together a short, but hopefully interesting, post for my viewers’ pleasure. For a bit of added “weight”, I have also decided to add a couple of shots taken “en route”, showing that the journey to the destination airport can indeed be half the (photographic) fun!
Given that the local aviation scene is still throttled back pending stabilization of the weather (which is currently trying to make up its mind between winter snows and spring thaw), I though this would be the ideal time to revisit my old The View From Up Here photo series from 2011 🙂 . Having spend quite a bit of time aloft back then (ah, the joys of cheaper fuel!), I’d naturally accumulated a fair collection of photos along the way – photos that I had eventually cobbled together into a fairly popular two-part post (#1 & #2).
And while rising fuel prices in the intervening three years had taken their toll on my logbook, my camera and I have nevertheless still managed to catch some air with a semblance of regularity – this time substituting quantity with quality and doing away with the usual day VFR routine in favor of more exciting night and instrument practice. So, for the third installment of the series, here’s what my plane and I have been up to in the mean time… 🙂
And finally to top it all off, two fresh ones I’ve nicked from a recent post of mine 🙂 …
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…
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…
Having become slightly stir crazy with the pedestrian pace of general aviation in Croatia of late, a friend of mine and I decided it might be a good idea to go and unwind a bit in the wild blue above the country’s capital of Zagreb :). Growing bored of constantly overflying the city by day, we decided we might just as well enjoy the view during sunset – so timing it just right on a beautifully calm summer afternoon, we fired up our trusty C172 and headed out of the quiet field…
With fine spring weather finally on the horizon (damn, I can’t complain about anything now! :D), it was high time to get back behind the controls – or the camera, depending on the circumstances – and do some proper cross-country flying/photography :). While we did have a few spells of nice weather during the previous months, they had only really allowed for relatively short hops in directions that avoid the mountains of Central Croatia – which had, for us on the continent, effectively put 50% of the country out of reach :). Apart from locally notorious winter up- and down-draughts, the terrain of central Croatia rules out anything below 5,000 ft – at the lowest – as a reasonable cruise altitude, one that is well within the freezing zone for a good quarter of the year. Throw in thick cloud cover, pretty common during the winter, hanging at just about those altitudes – and aircraft that lack even a rudimentary de-icing system – and flying across this area becomes a pretty unhealthy prospect :D.
Happily though, the arrival of clear skies and warm weather had pushed the 0° isotherm back up into the flight levels, allowing us to once again set our sights on one of the most beautiful parts of the country – the coast… 🙂
While it does little for raw cross-country performance, rumbling along at a 100 or so knots in your stock Skyhawk does have a raft of plus points – especially if you are a photographer :D. Flying mostly in good weather conditions, on an aircraft that is the definition of predictable, and at speeds about the same as those on the highway you are following, the sedate Skyhawk (or the C150) often allows you to wander around a bit, look outside and enjoy the scenery… and, if you already count your photo equipment as part of the plane’s empty weight, snap a few nice shots as well! 🙂
With this in mind – and with nothing new happening on the local aviation scene – I went back to my photo database in search of some interesting airborne shots, shots that show what the view is actually like up here :). And this is what I came up with…
Having been warming the chair with my ATPL studies for a good part of the month – not the most fulfilling of activities I must say, especially since it’s 35 Centigrade outside… and probably more inside – I was naturally through the roof when my name finally came up on the multi-engine training roster :). Eager to fly (and photograph :D) any day of the week, I was doubly excited this time, since I’d finally get to try my hand at the university’s sole Piper Seminole – in a nutshell my first Piper, first low-wing and first twin 🙂 (greetings from fixed-gear Cessna land!).
The aircraft in question is 9A-DZG, a trusty 1978 normally-aspirated Seminole that has pretty much passed through the hands of almost every multi-engine qualified pilot in Croatia in the last few years. Powered by two 180 HP Lycoming O-360s, it may not be the most exciting or high performing aircraft in the world – but after half a dozen Skyhawks, it is pretty much the top of the line :D.
Training-wise, first up was the Multi Engine Class rating, done under VFR (thankfully we’ve been having some excellent VMC lately). This pretty much revolves around the most important skills multi-engine aircraft require – the ability to fly on only one of those engines. As well as zone work – to familiarize ourselves with the aircraft and its handling characteristics – the course includes a broad range of “one engine inoperative” (OEI) situations, such as in cruise, during landing, during takeoff, after takeoff and on go-around. Lacking any navigation elements (such as IFR flying), we could have done the course at Lučko or Pleso – but given that they do have a lot of traffic nowadays, and OEI ops tending to disrupt the normal traffic flow, we decided to head somewhere else, most often the coast :).
To compensate for the increased transit time, time we could spend on honing our OEI skills, we usually flew in pairs of two students, where one would fly outbound and do his/her training, after which we’d land and swap places. The other student would then do a similar set of exercises and fly the return leg, while the backseater would observe and learn… and in my case, snap a photo or two :D.
With my Single Engine Instrument Rating proceeding better than planned – a clear violation of Murphy’s Law and an immediate cause for alarm 😀 – I was growing increasingly excited about my upcoming first ever cross-country IFR flight. Having been confined to Lučko and its surroundings for several months now, I was itching – desperate even – to go somewhere further away, with bonus points if it involved flight to or near the coast :).
Much to my delight, I was scheduled a few days ago for a three-hour training session, for which my instructor decided to head to Pula airport (LDPL) in Istria for some instrument approach practice. The westernmost large airport in Croatia, LDPL is abundant in radionavigation aids (with no less than 5 NDBs, a VOR/DME and ILS) and is relatively traffic-free during the week, despite Pula itself being a popular tourist destination – a perfect setup for my anticipated cha-cha-cha around its airspace :D.
The plan was for me to fly the Lučko-Pula sector, shoot a couple of approaches, land and then plonk myself in the back seat while another student – who’d be tagging along outbound – flew the stretch back to Lučko, leaving me free to relax and enjoy the scenery. By an additional last minute stroke of luck, a schedule change saw us upgraded to the university’s sole Cessna 172R, a Gulfstream V compared to the usual 172Ns I fly :D.
Two and a half hours later, after two ILS, two VOR/DME and an NDB locator approach – not to mention a 140 knot tailwind-assisted dash across half of Croatia – I’d swapped the yoke for the camera, and sat back ready to make up every bit of photography I had missed on the way out :D.
By Boran Pivčić Photos by myself and Šime Lisica (where stated)
After the smogarsbord of aircraft and their various bits I’ve posted here, I thought it’d be a nice change to post some scenery instead, swapping details of 40+ year old aircraft for some soothing airborne shots. For the first subject I’ve decided on the city of Zagreb – not on any sentimental grounds, but because I fly over it often and have the time – or copilots – to snap a few shots here and there :).
Most of the photos shown have been taken from 1,500-2,000 feet AMSL, which is about 1,000-1,500 feet AGL – (usually) the minimum altitude at which we can fly above town – following the standard panorama flight route which takes about 25 minutes from startup to shutdown. Zagreb isn’t all that big a place – 750,000 inhabitants – so everything is over pretty quickly (to the great fortune of some of my passengers 🙂 ). But on a summer’s afternoon, when the air is calm, the traffic light and the sun just dipping below the horizon, it’s majestic…