While I often rant here about Croatia’s summer weather – an eclectic mix of searing heat and violent thunderstorms – these past few months have seen thermometers run off their scales, with several airports reporting temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Centigrade… no small feat, since readings are taken two meters above grass and in shade. Out on the tarmac, 55+ was nothing out of the ordinary, making life out in the open particularly unpleasant.
Thankfully though, the heat and humidity had not deterred the brave men and women of general aviation from their passion, with the region’s airports chocked full of everything from cheap-and-cheerful ultralights to high-flying, million+ Euro turbine singles. So having already come to terms that my summer would consist of flying from one oven to another, I’d decided to make the best of it and see what’s on offer on the country’s GA aprons… 🙂
A short & sweet additional feature to accompany the photo above: a “dash cam” video of the approach to and landing on Pisarovina’s RWY 04… a fair bit of thermal turbulence that day, but what can you do (also, the camera shake on landing is exaggerated – the runway is relatively smooth, but the camera was mounted on a suction mount on the windscreen, which is flexible and tends to wobble about with every bump).
Well, not really Africa geographically – but that was my first association when I stumbled upon a Diamond DA-62 and CERVA CE.43 Guépard (cheetah) on the Dubrovnik Airport (DBV/LDDU) GA apron 😀 (it may be corny, but it works for me!). After a photographic dry spell, this unlikely pair has been a godsend for me – and since both types have a bit of a (hi)story behind them, they were the perfect match for a quick & dirty Acthtung, Skyhawk! feature… 🙂
Diamond DA-62, ES-KEN
Guaranteed to catch more than one eye at any airport, the regal DA-62 is Diamond’s current flagship propeller product, a seven-seat grand tourer clothed fully in carbon fiber and pulled along by twin 180 HP Austro Engines AE330* four-cylinder Diesels. While the overall power available sounds underwhelming given the speedy look of the 62, the engines deliver quite a bit more than the raw numbers suggest, with a 190 knot high speed cruise doable on just 17 USG of Jet A per hour combined – a figure more common to a single engine of a similarly sized classic twin 🙂 .
This turn of performance – and the depth of engineering hiding under the carbon – means that the polished Diamond is perfectly capable of standing with the best of the classic luxury piston twins, including even the default standard, the Beech 58 Baron. Compared to the current production-standard G58**, the DA-62 carries the same load (710 vs 705 kg) and cruises all out just a teeny bit slower (191 vs 202 knots) – but does so with 240 HP less and at roughly HALF the fuel flow (19 vs ~ 33 USG/hour). Not a bad showing from a small company operating out of an equally small town in Austria!
ES-KEN itself – the 43rd DA-62 made – had on this day stopped for rest at Dubrovnik (DBV/LDDU), before continuing south to its new home at Tivat (TIV/LYTV) in neighboring Montenegro 🙂 .
* of interest, the AE300 series represents Diamond’s own modification of the 2.0 liter turbocharged Diesel out of the Mercedes A and B Class compact cars – the same engine that was the basis of the now-defunct Thielert Centurion 2.0 (the earlier Centurion 1.7 was based on the smaller, 1.7 liter version of the same unit).
** of course, this brief comparison does not take into account operational factors not related to outright flight performance, such as price, maintenance requirements and availability, fuel costs – and specific aircraft ability, such as the Baron’s ability to operate from rough strips thanks to its robust, Bonanza-derived landing gear.
CERVA CE.43 Guépard, F-BXCO
At one time called “France’s Bonanza killer”, the somewhat ungainly Guépard can trace its roots back to the nowadays-forgotten WA.4, a late 60s four-seat steel-fabric-and-plywood training and touring aircraft designed by Wassmer, the country’s most famous glider manufacturer. One of the first French light aircraft designed around the more marketable usability and practicality principles used in the US, the WA.4 had benefited greatly from Wassmer’s glider experience, with pleasant, predictable handling and very good all-round performance provided by its 250 HP Lycoming IO-540 engine. Spurred by the type’s success on the French market, the Wassmer works had soon decided that an all-metal version could be an even better sell, teaming up with engineering company Siren SA to make this idea come true. Since French manufacturers have always had a thing for mergers and complicated names, the first thing to come out of this partnership was the CERVA joing venture, short for Consortium Europeén de Réalisation et de Ventes d’Avions – or the European Consortium for the Development and Sale of Aircraft.
Essentially just slapping a fully-metal skin onto the WA.4, the new consortium had quickly created the WA.43 – soon to be renamed CE.43 – France’s first proper, modern and “international-standard” touring machine. But while it looked, sounded and flew like an American aircraft – not to mention boasting a bum-numbing 7 hour endurance – it would nevertheless always be the product of a small company in rural France, a fact that had immediately put it at a market disadvantage compared to equivalent aircraft from the much more industrious Big Three (Beech, Cessna and Piper). This disproportionate footing – which had already killed a number of European designs – would be fatal for the Guépard as well, with only 44 manufactured between the type’s introduction in 1971 and Wassmer’s bankruptcy in 1977… and most of these on request of the French Air Force. In a last ditch attempt to save the ship from sinking, CERVA would in 1976 attempt to market two higher performance versions, the CE.44 Couguar with the 285 HP Continental Tiara 6*** engine – and the CE.45 Léopard with a turbocharged Lycoming TIO-540. However, only a handful of each version were built before the type as a whole ceased production...
F-BXCO itself was manufactured in 1975 as the 30th Guépard off the line – and, according to available info, had always flown in civilian hands.
*** one of the very few US post-war piston engines to actually have a “proper name”, the Tiara was Continental’s 1970s shot at making a next generation powerplant that would appeal to manufacturers (and owners) of the type of high-performance piston singles that were becoming rapidly popular at the time. While it still retained the traditional boxer layout and most of its mechanical workings (including bog-standard fuel injection and optional turbocharging), the Tiara was from the outset conceived with a small cubic capacity (405 cu in for the six-cylinder version used on the Guépard) and high rotation speed (up to 4500 RPM) in order to get the maximum power and efficiency out of the least amount of engine. The central element to making this work was a special reduction gearbox called “Hydra-Torque”, which both lowered propeller RPM to half the engine RPM (0.5:1 reduction ratio) and dampened the various vibrations and stresses commonly experienced on traditional geared engines (more detailed info available here). This – as well as tweaks to the engine’s various components and accessories – made the Tiara quite a bit lighter and smoother than a comparable engine, traits that Continental had hoped would appeal well to buyers wanting a quiet, comfortable and dignified Mercedes of the skies.
However, while this was all fine and dandy in theory, the engine did have a number of noticeable drawbacks. In some airplane installations it was quite loud – and in ALL installations it tended to drink like its much bigger siblings. Coupled with different (and more expensive) maintenance requirements on account of the Hydra-Torque system, this made the Tiara scarcely worth the bother over a traditional large engine – and is viewed in some quarters as an unnecessary attempt to “reinvent the wheel”. Despite this, it did manage to find its way into a number of aircraft types – and would, interestingly, achieve some popularity in France, having also been installed into the Robin HR.100 (creating the 285 HP HR.100-285 and 320 HP HR.100-320).
Bonus content – Mr. Mooney & Mr. Scheibe
Since I’ve been going on a lot about rare aircraft in general of late, I thought I might as well continue the trend here and slot in two more oldies I’d come across over the course of this month. Not really on the same level as the CE.43 in terms of outright rarity – few machines are – they’re nevertheless a sight for sore eyes, and well within Achtung, Skyhawk! tolerances! 😀
Having set the ball for long-winded photo commentaries rolling with my previous photo file, I am delighted to be able to continue the trend with what has proven to be an equally fruitful follow-on. True to my hopes and expectations for this year’s summer season, the material for Part 2 had flooded in rather quickly, thanks most of all to triple sightings of some pretty rare twins all in the space of two weeks.
While the imminent arrival of fine(r) flying weather has been met with much enthusiasm here at Achtung, Skyhawk!, it will nevertheless take awhile for operations to return to levels sufficient to provide a continuous stream of quality material. In the mean time, I have once again been able to put together a small feature from photos taken over the autumn and winter, enough to (hopefully) set the stage for the fresh stuff coming in with the spring 🙂 .
Since most of the machines I’d picked for this piece have a bit of history behind them in one way or another, their stories have had a tendency to become long-winded – even more so than usual 😀 – resulting in a post that had quickly outgrown its intended role as filler… hopefully to the satisfaction of my readers!
While the met office tended to respond with much doom and gloom every time the summer of 2016 came up, out in the (air)field we had mostly been treated to beautiful flying weather all throughout the season, with gorgeous conditions from dawn all the way until the last dusk. This had particularly been true for the week preceding this article, with a large high pressure area over Europe responsible for skies clear as far as the eye could see (even from the flight levels).
Unsurprisingly, this turn of events had lured out many light aircraft all throughout the region, with plains, seas and hills alive with the sounds of pistons. By sheer good luck, this fine spell had seen me travel all over the place, allowing my camera to see what our little piston singles – and gliders – were up to… 🙂
Despite only a month having passed since my last collection of GA photos from around Croatia, I am pleased to announce that I’ve already accumulated enough material for another one :D. The return of both the summer tourist and flying seasons – plus frequent hops to the country’s coastal airports – had pretty quickly resulted in several interesting and unusual finds, allowing for yet another burst of photos to keep Achtung, Skyhawk! lively until the completion of an extensive in-progress historical piece… 🙂
As is usual for this time of year, the ever-improving weather conditions (with the inevitable hiccup or two) have slowly started waking the local GA scene from its winter stupor. While operations are still very much in the 7 AM pre-coffee stage, life is nevertheless returning to airfields across the land, with planes, gliders and helicopters being dusted off for the coming spring. Naturally enough, I had once again decided to snoop around and check on proceedings, hoping to capitalize on the calm before the storm… 🙂
Even though autumn is in full swing here in SE Europe – with “formal” winter only a month away – the weather had apparently not been informed of this development, with constantly clear & sunny skies, light winds and 20 degrees Centigrade at noon being pretty much the norm. Not wanting to let this beautiful opportunity go to waste – and having been away from GA for most of the summer – I’d decided to use my free time productively and drive around looking for lighties to photograph 😀 . While most of the stuff in my immediate vicinity had already been featured here (ad nauseam in some cases), a research drive for an upcoming article had seen me visit Novo Mesto Airfield (LJNM) in neighboring Slovenia, bringing some fresh material to table. Combined with a few snaps left over from the summer, this should be enough to bring my readers a fresh dose of light aviation on the Balkans… 🙂
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!
As was the case (nearly) every year so far, the arrival of our continental summer has once again become the trigger for a sudden and rapid reawakening of the light aircraft scene at Lučko :). Even though the flying season itself had already started several months ago, the long hours of daylight, ample public holidays and fine flying conditions of June have given it a much-needed kick, with all operations – private, training and skydive – quickly shifting into high gear (while it all lasts). And while the gear in question is a notch lower than in previous years – with Croatia still knee-deep in the financial crisis – there was nevertheless still quite a bit to see and snap! 🙂
Given that a number of my topics of late – Dash 8 flight simulators, 80s airport charts and the like – have strayed quite a bit into “commercial airspace”, I felt it would be about time to dip back into the little world of Croatian general aviation :). Even though the flying season has been slow to start this year – with aerial activities still sporadic at best – I’ve nevertheless quickly managed to find the perfect ticket for the job: a short, but pleasant afternoon shoot with one of the newest lighties on the country’s register, Cessna U206G 9A-ADV…
While a 206 in itself is (rarity-wise) nothing to write home about, this particular machine represents by far and away the most complete and best-equipped piston skydive platform in the country, which all on its own warrants some additional scrutiny :). Owned by local operator Adventure Driven Vacations (which pretty much does what its says on the tin), ADV is also a prime example of the last of the “old generation” Stationairs, having rolled off the production line in 1983 – just a short while before all piston single production at Cessna would go into a decade-long remission. Bestowed with serial U206-06796, it had actually been a seaplane in its original form, and would be known as N9986Z until 1988. Sold on to Norway in August that year, it would quickly become LN-AEZ and would – still on floats – continue to fly with a slew of local operators right up until its acquisition by ADV in March of 2013.
Before its move south, AEZ would first be converted into a conventional land-plane model, and then dispatched to Portugal (under its own power) to be re-fitted and equipped into a dedicated jump plane. Once the works were completed in July 2014, it would make its way (again with no “outside assistance”) across half the Mediterranean to Croatia, where it would then become only the fourth 206 currently on the register 🙂 (interestingly, this little group also contains a “new gen” 2006 U206H… as well as a fantastic 1966 P206B Super Skylane, the progenitor of the modern Stationair).
Even though it had been in-country and operational for close to nine months now, its normal base at Zemunik Airport (LDZD) – serving the coastal town of Zadar – had meant that it was generally out of range of my camera. However, the current dearth of skydive machines here at Zagreb had forced it inland, proving once more that if the photographer can’t go to the plane, the plane will come to the photographer… 😀
I would also like to extend my sincere thanks to my flying colleague Mario Car – one of ADV’s pilots – who had given me a heads up and spent some time answering my nerdy Achtung, Skyhawk! questions!
Seabee.info – Norwegian seaplane database (LN-AEZ service history)
Possibly to compensate for its blatant refusal to play ball for most of the summer, the weather here in continental Croatia has been on its best behavior since my previous post, providing us (mostly) with the same clear blue skies, calm air and pleasant temperatures that we’d expected to see in months past :). Fearing that it may all go terribly wrong at any time and without much warning, out fleet at Lučko has been out and about from sunset to sunrise, getting in as much work as possible without bending any rules. Naturally, the same weather had lured me and my camera out as well, allowing me to present another snapshot of Life at Lučko… 🙂