Rare Aircraft – Strikebreaker: Beech King Air B100

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

While it is a bit of a stretch to put the word “rare” next to “King Air” – the most ubiquitous light turboprop twin out there – there nevertheless is one member of the genus that first this description rather well: the nowadays mostly forgotten B100. One the one hand, it’s a 100 model (not one of the more common series to begin with!), and on the other the only King Air variant of any sort NOT to use PT6A engines by default… all credentials that make it a fine subject for a short Achtung, Skyhawk! historical review (not to mention me having snapped two examples in the space of just four months 😀 ).

Fortune favors the brave – or at least those willing to stand out in the wind and rain for a photo! The first B100 to ever cross my path, N3536 is seen waiting out a dreary night on one of Munich Airport’s (MUC/EDDM) northern GA aprons. Manufactured in 1978 with the serial BE-72, this machine has a life story worthy of an MD-80, starting out in life as N2830B, then becoming XA-OCI of Mexico, followed by YV-321CP of Venezuela, before eventually making it back to the States as N2425J and N20FL. Soon though it would head over for a spell to hot South Africa as ZS-MZS, followed by a stint in cold Canada as C-FAFE – and then finally back home for the second time as N3536. Well traveled it definitely is!

Queen of the Skies

In essence simply an evolutionary development of the original short-body model 90 (or more precisely the B90 variant), the 100 series came about in 1969, just five years after the type as a whole first went on sale. Its biggest selling point for the average Joe was a 1.27 meter fuselage stretch, allowing the new airplane to now accommodate up to seven passengers in addition to two crew, plus one more on a seat belt equipped toilet in the aft fuselage (sounds like a riot, but is actually a common solution on smaller executive aircraft even to this day 🙂 ). Outside marketing brochures however, the 100 had a lot more going for it than just extra space, including the wings, entire tail section and 680 HP PT6A-27 engines lifted off the B version of the model 99 commuter airliner – itself also a derivative of the same piston powered 65 Queen Air that had been the basis for the original King Air 90*.

* interestingly, the Queen Air had seemed to be a particularly suitable platform for the development of turboprop twins; not only did it give birth to the King Air and 99, but had also served as the jumping-off point for the Swearingen Merlin bizprop, later to be developed into the Metroliner family of commuter aircraft

It would be these very bits that would give rise to some of the 100’s more interesting traits. Despite being a 15 seat airliner larger than any King Air before or since, the model 99 had had quite a small wing, just 14 meters in span and 25 meters squared in area. When fitted to the basic 100 and its 4,810 kg of Maximum Take-Off Mass (MTOM), this resulted in a wing loading of 192 kg/m2, significantly higher than the 167 kg/m2 seen with the 27 m2 wing of the 4,550 kg B90. Indeed, by the time the 5,350 kg B100 had been introduced, this had swelled to 214 kg/m2, in excess of any King Air aside from the current heavyweight 350ER and its 260 kg/m2.

The upshot is that this makes the aircraft quite nimble and very efficient at high speed – but at the expense of pleasant low-speed handling, ceiling and climb performance¹. Bear in mind however that the difference between these figures is not so high as to make the 100 feel like a completely different aircraft; it just “likes to be flown” in a slightly different manner and gives its best when the crew plays to its specific strengths and bears in mind its specific weaknesses 🙂 .

Another interesting feature that had made it over from the 99 are the rear flight control surfaces, particularly the type’s powerful wide-span tailplane. The model 90 used (and still uses in fact) a fairly conventional setup consisting of a fixed horizontal stabilizer and a separate elevator attached to its trailing edge. The 99 however went for an all-moving tailplane, in which the entire surface acts as the elevator, and there is no separate section solely for pitch control. While this does add complexity and a fair bit of weight, this system provides for significantly more powerful and efficient pitch control, increasing maneuverability – and, critically for any King Air, broadening the aircraft’s range of safe CG positions (which are dependent on elevator authority). This particular feature had made the 100 an outstanding utility hauler, since it was highly tolerant of cargo distribution, easy to balance and with plenty of control left over for getting out of tight spots – a foreshadow of things to come with the improved model 200 🙂 .

Northern fights

But, despite having set the tough, no-nonsense-working-machine tone followed by all future King Air models, the 100 was never really a hit on the marketplace: only 89 would be made before production switched to the improved A100 in 1972. Easily distinguished by its four-bladed props and an extra cabin window on each side, the A100 differed underneath mostly by an increased MTOM of 5,215 kg and 360 liters of additional fuel capacity. Somewhat more successful than the base 100, the A100 would remain in production until 1979, with a total of 157 examples produced (making it the most… hmm… “common” of all the 100s).

That may have been that as far as the 100 series was concerned had Beechcraft’s hand not been forced into action by events further up north in Canada. In January 1974, workers at Montreal’s United Aircraft Works – the place that bolts PT6As together – went on a 20 month long strike, during which all deliveries of new engines to Beech were suspended. Compounding a growing apprehension of relying on a single engine provider (as they still do now…), this event forced Beech execs to look elsewhere for a replacement and attempt to salvage as many sales of its flagship product as they could. With few options available as it were, in 1975 the company turned to the only other large American engine maker – Garrett – sticking its flat-rated** 715 HP TPE331-6 into the A100 to create the B100.

** intended to assure the engine delivers the same take-off power output regardless of air density, flat rating involves electronically limiting the engine to a lower HP than it can actually produce by design. On a “non flat” engine, the stated power is available at full throttle only in International Standard Atmosphere Sea Level conditions (ISA SL) – or, in plain English, at 0 ft altitude and a temperature of 15° Centigrade. Up the temperature or increase the altitude and the power output will decrease due to a drop in air density. To put it in numbers, an engine that produces 100 HP in ISA SL conditions may only produce 75 HP at 30° C or at 3,000 ft. This, of course, is far from ideal and tends to complicate flight planing and performance calculation.

Flat rating gets around this issue (up to a point naturally) by using the excess thermodynamic capability of the engine to keep providing its rated power even in hot & high conditions. In the above analogy, the same engine would now be limited electronically to 75 HP even in ISA conditions… so when it gets hot and/or high, you still have its innate capacity to produce more power to meet that target. An additional benefit – especially on turboprops – is added torque, since the core of the engine is effectively “oversized” for the rated power it develops.

Despite not having the 200’s majestic T-tail, the 100 is still a presence on the apron. This particular machine – D-IDPL, manufactured in 1977 under the serial BE-29 – had had a simpler (albeit more German) life than N3536, having so far only flown as D-IZAC, D-IERI and N7729B.

While this was a successfully expeditious fix, it did not come without its problems. Despite its strengths – higher sea-level power and instant availability for installation – the reliability of the 331 had left something to be desired, falling short of what customers were used to getting from the PT6A by a noticeable margin. Additionally, its thermodynamic limit was only 840 HP, leaving just 125 HP to compensate for any drops in density. Indeed, flight testing had revealed that its could maintained its rated power only until about 6,000 ft (adding to existing climb performance issues of its short-span wing), while the ceiling on one engine was a low 11,000 ft. The maximum certified ceiling was still pegged at 31,000 ft like on the A100 – but the combination of aforementioned climb performance issues and cabin pressurization limits meant most spent their time in the lower 20,000 ft.

There were some good news though; the B100 was 15 knots faster than the A100 at 10,000 ft (265 vs 250 knots at maximum cruise) – and up to 27 at 20,000 ft (262 vs 235) – and was known to be less of a drinker than the PT6A in all flight regimes.

Still, despite these issues, the B100 would remain in production until 1983, by which time 137 would be produced – making it the second most common variant, even if it was the most “flawed” of the lot. Indeed, the B100 would actually survive the end of the strike at UAW mostly unscathed, and would continue to be made alongside the A100 for almost three years (until the latter’s end of production in 1979). Its demise would only come through the 1982 introduction of the “ultimate King Air” – the superlative B version of the already superlative 200 – which had made continued production of a slightly smaller, slightly less versatile non-PWC model commercially untenable…

Thus, despite having come about as a stop-gap variant of what could almost be considered to be a stop-gap model – being a bridge between the highly successful 90 and 200 series – the B100 would enjoy a surprisingly long and productive life, with approximately 106 still being listed as still active in 2017. This longevity was partly down to Garrett and its successor companies (Allied Signal and Honeywell) who had kept beavering away at the engine and improving its reliability – and partly down to the spirit of fiddling and inspired improvisation that’s always been characteristic of American GA. Seeing that all what the B100 needed was a bit more poke and a touch of aerodynamic refinement, US after-market specialists wasted little time in offering various performance improvement packs for the aircraft, the most comprehensive of which involves the installation of TPE331-10 series engines, flat rated to the same 715 HP – but with a thermodynamic capacity of 1,000 HP. Combined with modern McCauley Blackmac five-blade propellers and drag-reducing winglets, this upgrade raises the B100’s single engine ceiling up to 15,000 ft, and allows it to easily pop into the mid-20s for cruise without taking an eternity to get there – all of which still makes it a worthy (and cheap!) alternative to the more expensive early and mid-production 200s 🙂 .

Hiding in plain sight: B100 recognition

The 100 family can easily be picked out in the crowd by virtue of its 200 series size and general 90 series tail configuration – while its large horizontal stabilizer will be an instant giveaway of the 99’s heritage. Recognition features of the B100 itself are chunky side-mounted exhausts (due to the straight flow nature of the TPE331²), as well as propellers that are not feathered on shut down. A detail that will escape the eye are slightly raised engine nacelles, a necessity to cancel out various aerodynamic moments caused by the extra power and different airflow patterns of the TPE331.

However, despite the example set by my luck, finding one in Europe is a bit of an undertaking, with most surviving examples residing across the Pond in the US and Canada. Their final tally stands at just 388 produced, including the five A100-based U-21F transport models based completed for the US Air Force in 1971 (all grouped under the U-21 Ute designation applied to the 90 and 100 series).

Appendix:

¹ an additional long-winded explanation at no extra cost: wing loading is a measure of the amount of lift a meter square (or foot square) of the wing has to generate in order to support the airplane’s mass. The amount of lift that the wing CAN generate is operationally dependent on only one parameter: speed (and the use of high lift devices such as flaps and slats – but since these cannot be used in all regimes of flight, we can discount them for the purpose of this discussion). On a wing with a high loading, each unit of its area has to support more mass, thus it has to produce more lift – and the only way it can do that is to travel faster. This means that the aircraft’s minimum flight speeds will be higher, which is of particular importance during take-off, landing and low-speed maneuvering. Another side effect is reduced climb performance: since optimal climb speeds are also higher, more engine power has to be expended to maintain them, leaving less available to counteract the effects of gravity. This directly also limits the ceiling, since the drop in air density and consequent loss of power in the climb mean the aircraft will now run out of excess “puff” at a lower altitude.

Something similar also happens at the other end of the altitude band: down low. The higher minimum speeds also mean that any maneuvers require more energy and more engine power, especially at high bank angles where the short span wing has to work extra hard (i.e. fly extra quickly) to generate enough lift to keep the aircraft in the air. Stalling speeds are also higher, while the small span – and the consequent lack of large area to generate lift – mean that the stalling angle of attack will be lower.

However, the reduced span – which causes this whole loading issue in the first place – does have its advantages. Being short, the wing will produce less dampening when the aircraft is disturbed in the roll, since the restoring moment any rolling movement generates at the wing tip – the force that wants to return the aircraft to its previous stable state – is acting on a short moment arm and will have less effect overall. This in turn makes the aircraft more maneuverable, since a lower force is needed to overcome the aircraft’s natural stability (though this also makes it tiresome to control in turbulence). Another plus point is reduced total drag at high speeds, allowing greater velocities to be reached for the same power – or the same velocity for lower power and a lower fuel consumption.

² the root cause of all of the B100’s visual specifics is the internal layout of the TPE331, which – unlike the PT6A – is straight flow. In this setup, the air for combustion is inducted at the front of the nacelle, compressed in the “normal direction” and shot mostly in a straight line rearward into the combustion chamber. Once done in there, it passes across the turbines and is exhausted out the back like on your run-of-the-mill jet engine.

The PT6A however employs what’s called a reverse flow layout, in which the engine is essentially mounted back-to-front in the nacelle. Here the air is first ducted underneath the engine core and then reversed into the compressor (which is located at the rear), delivered to the combustion chamber in the direction of airplane travel, passed over the turbines at the front of the nacelle – and then ejected out through ducts located just aft of the propeller.

Which configuration (and engine) is better is pretty much the PC v Mac, Android vs iOS equivalent of the GA world, an endless see-saw battle of efficiency statistics, maintenance costs and power/fuel consumption curves… the resolution of which is far, far beyond the scope of this piece 🙂 .

Sources:

Photo File – The Heat Is On

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

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… 🙂

Whenever I’m in a rut for not having snapped a light aircraft in awhile, I can always count on Dubrovnik Airport (DBV/LDDU) to come to the rescue! Even though both GA aprons had on this day been overflowing with various private and business aircraft, G-UAVA was the one that had instantly caught my eye – if anything for being one of the very few Twin Comanches still flying in Europe. Born in the early 60s, the PA-30 was an extensive twin-engine conversion of the earlier PA-24 Comanche, a “heavy cruiser” that had been the top of Piper’s single-engine offering all the way until the late 70s and the appearance of the PA-46 Malibu. Even though it is far from the most elegant twin out there, the Twin Comanche nevertheless has several aces up its sleeve – the biggest of which is a design penned by the legendary Ed Swearingen, a freelance engineer known for his passionate love of speed and low fuel consumption. Most famous as the father of the Merlin bizprop and Metro feederliner, Swearingen had used all of his talent in designing the PA-30, creating a 300 km/h aircraft powered by engines of only 160 HP that together drank just 17 USG per hour. While they do not sound like something to write home about, these numbers are identical to what the SINGLE engine Cessna 210N could manage on its 310 HP – and all the more amazing given the extra drag and weight penalties of the second engine. G-UAVA itself had been manufactured in 1967, and can additionally boast so called “turbonormalized” engines, a special variant of the classic turbocharged setup running at lower manifold pressures and cylinder temperatures – thus increasing engine life and durability with very little loss in performance. Another interesting detail is the slope of the apron and runway; my camera’s internal balance had said that this shot is perfectly level! Built on an undulating plain that is the only suitable piece of flat land for dozens of miles around, the airport is well known for its “uneven nature”, which can cause problems if you’re not prepared for it.

After Dubrovnik had served up its best offer, Split (SPU/LDSP) had also decided to deliver! Cessna’s first post-war twin, the 310 had remained in continuous production for 26 years, and spawned such a number of versions that they ate up half the alphabet. The Q model pictured here was the type’s last snub-nosed variant, with the subsequent 310R – the last series to go into production – receiving an elongated and aesthetically far more pleasing job that had included a lot of additional storage capacity. A fine example of a classic 70s Cessna paint scheme – proudly advertising the fact that the engines sport a fuel injection system and not the common man’s carburetor – D-IBMM had been manufactured in 1973, and can still be seen happily flying all over middle and southeastern Europe.

A cute little canary coming in to make an already fun day of flying and photography at Split Airport (SPU/LDSP) all the better. A pretty rare bird, the Do-328JET is – as it says on the tin – a turbofan variant of the 33-seat Do-328 turboprop, a sleek and sexy design that can still today be seen flying with smaller regional operators in and around the Alps. Even though it had always been a well designed, robust and quality product, the Do-328JET had one fatal flaw: it was the brainchild of two small companies (Fairchild and Dornier) that went head-to-head with the likes of the much more established ERJ-135 and CRJ-100/200 in a market that does not easily forgive design missteps. Dornier’s wobbly financials had further deepened the hole being dug under the design, the result of which are only 83 examples of the type ever made. Today however, it is enjoying a small Renaissance as a business jet – as well as a speedy and capable utility aircraft for both civilian (such as ADAC) and military operators (including the USAF).

The second oldest airworthy Skyhawk in Croatia – manufactured in 1966 – observing proceedings at Split (SPU/LDSP) from its elevated position halfway up the airport’s famous hill. Located just a 100 or so meters from RWY 23, the hill tops out at just 10 meters above the airport elevation, and in addition to a GA hangar and fuel farm features an olive garden – as well as a small church that predates the airport by a couple hundred years… not a bad feature to have INSIDE the airport fence! BDM itself is similarly native, having flown in country ever since the early 70s and the first of the Yugoslav government’s aeronautical shopping sprees (intended to equip flying clubs and schools with modern Western machinery). As an H model – Reims-built no less – it still sports the Skyhawk’s original six-cylinder O-300 engine developing 145 HP, quite a more charismatic (if inefficient) package than the modern fuel-injected four-pop IO-360.

Enjoying a bit of sun and fresh sea air on Croatia’s highest – and most challenging – airport. Perched on a high plateau surrounded by hills near the top of the eponymous island, Brač Airport (BWK/LDSB) sports a cocktail of characteristics that requires you to be very much awake on landing, including a 1750 ft elevation, a 1.4% runway gradient (1.7% in places even), notorious rotors and turbulence on all approaches, summer temperatures well above 30 degrees Centigrade – and a tight 1600 by 30 meter runway that often gives bother to business turboprops and jets, let alone the occasional airliner. On this day however, the stars of the show were the lighties, here a typical “summer holiday mix” of aircraft from Hungary, Romania, Germany and Slovenia. Type-wise, there was a lot to choose from as well, with just this lineup boasting one of the more powerful Morane variants, the Mudry CAP-232 aerobatic single-seater… as well as six-cylinder Mooney and a mint Skyhawk that – despite being 35 years old – looks like it had just rolled of the production line.

Taking a quick stroll through Varaždin’s (LDVA) small corrosion corner. Already disused and mostly abandoned prior to having been flipped over in a storm in 2012, CDZ is one of Croatia’s oldest Skyhawks, manufactured way back in 1967. Unfortunately, despite quite a bit of history in its logbooks, this is as far as it will ever get, since repairing it would actually cost more than buying an airworthy late 70s/early 80s example. Indeed, the extensive buckling down the tail (evident on both sides) is a telltale sign of major structural failure in the underlying load-bearing frame, requiring the whole back end of the airplane to be replaced at the very least. Though it had, damage-wise, fared much better, the country’s sole PA-28-235 hiding in the background – and registered, rather ominously, 9A-DIE – is pretty much in the same boat. Completed in 1965, it too had not seen much air these past few years, and looks to be another candidate for a “Coke bottle conversion”…

Just when I thought I’d used up all of my luck for finding rare piston singles, I stumble upon this magnificent Sierra at little old Lučko. Fairly atypical by the standards of the company, the Sport/Musketeer/Sierra family was Beech’s attempt at replicating the success of Piper’s legendary PA-28 Cherokee series. Standing at the top of the lineup, the 24 Sierra was essentially a 200 HP Musketeer with retractable gear that had hoped to take on the extremely popular PA-28R Arrow. Sadly though, none of these models had managed to make a significant impact on the market, partly because they were made to Beech standards – and therefore more expensive – and partly because this segment of the market had never really been the company’s forte. But more on the 24 in a separate post!

Though we had already met before several years ago, it is nevertheless always nice to see this old trooper once again. One of the very few early 206s still flying in Europe, HA-CPA celebrates its 50th birthday this year, a fact that had not – in true utility Cessna tradition – prevented it from working hard well into old age. Many moons ago actually a resident of Croatia, CPA had on this day popped into Lučko for a state skydive championship, for which it was the sole official dropship. An interesting detail is the pronounced chin under the nose, a leftover from the early Cessna 210 on which the 206 is based that had housed the 210’s nose wheel when retracted (a bit more info available here).

In common with many Cessna models of the 60s, CPA’s flight deck is, by modern standards, a jumbled mess – but it nevertheless does have a certain odd charm. Interesting details are the flap position indicator (partially obscured by the right yoke) with color-coded fields representing maximum flap extension speed – and a Soviet EGT gauge below the CDI, apparently salvaged and reused from a light transport twin (possibly even the An-14).

Taking a short breather on Croatia’s sole truly private airstrip. Nestled in rolling terrain 20-odd kilometers south of Zagreb, Pisarovina Airfield counts among the more scenic places to land at in the area, ringed by dense woodland and the Vukomerić Hills to the north, vast arable fields and fisheries to the south – and airliners on approach to Zagreb Airport (ZAG/LDZA) above. Indeed, the airfield is within spitting distance from both ZAG’s control zone and the Pisarovina NDB – the focal point for all approaches to RWY 05 – making getting in and out quite a fun and refreshing experience. Though several aircraft – and even a flight school – are based here, on this day we were the only plane in town, which made us feel a bit… conspicuous…

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).


Short Photo File – Out of Africa

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

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… 🙂

The past and future of light aircraft design in Europe… but even though the DA-62 is a vastly superior machine on all levels, one cannot but be drawn to the charisma of the lumpen – but incredibly rare – Guépard…

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 🙂 .

While at first glance it seems to be just a stretch of the ubiquitous DA-42 Twin Star, Diamond’s construction technique – basing each type around a custom carbon fiber shell instead of a traditional frame used on metal aircraft – means that the 62 is a whole different animal under the skin.

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

There are two types of airborne visitors to the Croatian coast – those who fly cattle class, and those who go classic piston single class. Another of those beautiful gems that make aviation photography so rewarding, F-BXCO had instantly caught my eye even tucked in among the high-speed carbon fiber pornography lining the GA apron.

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! 😀

And the classics just keep on piling up! Having already snapped a brand new DA-62 – and the incredibly rare CE.43 – the day before, I was smitten to find a mint Mooney M-20F at a rainy Split (SPU/LDSP). The last of the type’s snub-nosed models, the F was the final development of the original M-20A before the design was cleaned up by famed aerodynamics specialist Roy LoPresti in the mid-70s, resulting in the highly-successful M-20J. Even though it’s not as rare as its looks suggest, finding one is definitely a treat – especially since D-EJHE is celebrating its 50th birthday later this year!

Some people love oldtimers of the road… while others love oldtimers of the air. Manufactured way back in 1958, this very rare Bergfalke – “mountain falcon” in German – perfectly encapsulates just why I love tooling through hangars at small local airfields. A thoroughly upgraded version of the mid-30s Akaflieg Mü13 glider, the Bergfalke had upon its introduction in 1951 quickly laid the foundations for what would become Schiebe Flugzeugbau – and served as the basis for the company’s most popular aircraft, the SF-25 Falke Touring Motor Glider (TMG). Another interesting factoid is that the type had been manufactured mostly at Riem, the main international airport for Munich until the opening of the current MUC on 17 May 1992… E7-1112 itself (latterly known as D-8241) is nowadays on service with the AK Livno flying club at Livno Airfield (LQLV), where it had arrived just recently as a – donation. Despite its advanced age, it is still a frequent flyer, and – according to the club – can hold its own even against more modern metal gliders.

Photo File – Story Time Part 2

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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.

So, while the owners of Porsche-powered Mooneys and skydive Caravans prepare for their vacation flights to Croatia’s coastal airports (where I’ll be waiting 😀 ), here’s a bit more of what’s been going on further inland…

The emperor’s new clothes… first look at a new & improved 9A-DMG following an extensive interior and avionics refit – the latter of which lags little in sophistication behind today’s class cockpit 172SP (and quite a few bigger and more expensive machines as well). From left to right there’s the Aspen Avionics Evolution 1000 PFD (w/ Synthetic Vision System (SVS)), the JPI EDM 900 Engine Data Monitor (a fantastic piece of kit), Garmin GTN 750 touchscreen NAV 1/COM 1/GPS + Garmin GNC 255 NAV 2/COM 2… and bringing up the right the Garmin GTX 345 Mode S transponder. Not a bad look for an 1979-vintage “old man”!

A bit of twin-engine action as this German canary navigates Lučko’s uneven apron on its way toward RWY 28. Even though the Seneca is one of history’s most popular piston twins, this early version – introduced in 1974 – is nowadays nevertheless a bit of a rarity. Created in response to the numerous criticisms levied at the original Seneca I – which was, with its normally-aspirated 200 HP engines, considered severely “asthmatic” – the Seneca II was fitted with turbochargers that, despite not adding to the power, had immediately and dramatically improved performance (especially in an engine-out scenario at altitude). However, despite this, the type’s ultimate lack of power had remained a thorn in users’ eyes, leading Piper to add 20 HP per engine and new three-bladed props in 1981, creating the most popular PA-34 of them all, the Seneca III. D-GLOC itself had been manufactured in 1978, and had received its eye-catching paint scheme from its previous owner, Italian watchmaker Locman (which also explains the reg). On this day, it had popped into town to pick up a passenger bound for Split (LDSP).

Speak of the devil – the original Seneca I! As noted previously, unlike the most popular models – the III and V – Number One had left quite a sour taste in the mouths of many owners, primarily due to its lack of power and marginal performance at altitude and with an engine out provided by its normally-aspirated 200 HP Lycoming IO-360s. This deficit was such that in some quarters the Seneca is still labelled as “the best single engine airplane in the world”, despite the vastly improved performance (and potential) of the turbocharged 220 HP III, IV and V. While the fuselage and wing are visually mostly identical across all five Seneca marks, the One can be picked out in a crowd by its boxy, square nacelles (replaced by more streamlined units on the Seneca II) and air intake on the side of the cowl. This particular example – snapped at Lesce-Bled Airfield (LJBL) in the northwestern corner of Slovenia – was manufactured in 1974, the One’s final production year…

As soon as it got a bit of wind in its wings, the Falke had started flapping trying to get airborne… and why wouldn’t it: pleasant temperatures, a light wind perfect for soaring, and not a cloud in the sky! While far from the best design around, the type’s durability, simplicity and good all-round performance have consistently made it one of Europe’s most popular Touring Motor Gliders (TMGs) – a fact also helped by its capacity to accept almost any light engine available, from the two-cylinder two-stroke 26 HP Hirth F10A of the original SF-25A, to the turbocharged 115 HP Rotax 914F of the late-model SF-25C.

… and a dog to pack all of Lučko’s active gliders into its compact WW2-era hangar. A scene well known to many pilots as instructors and students clean up at the end of a busy flying day.

Young Eagle and Flying Teddy Bear await their turn to be tucked into the hangar after another full day of soaring and towing. Though still far from Lučko’s “golden years” of the early 2000s, this weekend saw five gliders pretty much constantly in the air – a very welcome slight after the airfield’s nearly decade-long financial crisis-induced slump in operations.

Only the second 340 I’ve ever seen in the metal, D-INGI easily dominates the room during a spot of maintenance. One of Cessna’s “more serious” piston twins, the 340 boasts a pressurized cabin, pneumatic de-icing system and a 30,000 ft ceiling – all of which (especially when used together) require a significant supply of compressed air. To cater for these services, each of the type’s Continental TSIO-520s sports a whopping large turbocharger – seen just aft of the engine block – whose output is used to feed the engine itself, provide a 10,000 ft cabin altitude at the type’s typical 20,000 ft cruise, and inflate the wing and tail boots enough to break off any reasonable amount of ice. Like the similarly-equipped Beech 60 Duke and Piper PA-31P Pressurized Navajo, all of this however makes the 340 somewhat expensive to operate, making it slowly lose favor to the far simpler modern single-engine turboprop. Another interesting detail are the vortex generators, located just aft of the wing boots; most often seen on utility and short-field aircraft, their function is simply to create a swirling, turbulent layer of air along the upper surface of the wing. While this sounds counter-intuitive at first (and indeed does create a fair bit of additional drag), a high-energy turbulent boundary layer sticks to the wing for more of its width, increasing the lift generated at any one speed. This is most useful for operations at higher angles of attack (such as during approach and landing), since it both lowers the aircraft’s minimum speeds – and increases the effectiveness of the flaps and ailerons, providing for better control at low speed and more benign behavior in and near the stall.

Fortune favors the brave – or at least those willing to stand out in the wind and rain for a photo! And a nice subject to do so for it is – likely the rarest of all the King Airs, the elusive B100. One the one hand, it’s a 100 series, a nowadays uncommon stretch of the base 90 – and on the other it’s the B model, the only series-production King Air not to use Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-series engines, but the rival 715 HP AI Research/Garrett TPE331-6. The latter engine’s “straight flow” layout – in which the exhaust ducts are the the back of the engine – is pretty much the only visual clue that sets it apart from the PT6A versions, whose “reverse flow” setup means the exhausts are located up at the front. Unfortunately, due to the now-reduced commonality with the rest of the family (and a general lack of demand for a TPE-powered version), only 137 B100s would be made, with the 1979 vintage N3536 – snapped here at Munich Airport (MUC/EDDM) – being a crisp mid-production example.

Photo File – Story Time

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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!

Fog, low cloud, rain – all daily realities of autumn in Zagreb. But when everything disperses, clears and dries up, what remains is beautiful sunshine, crisp air and a full palette of fall colors… perfect conditions for a bit of photography at your local airfield! A relative newcomer to the Croatian register, 9A-KVY – formerly OE-KYV of Austria – is normally based at Pisarovina Airfield south of town, Croatia’s only truly private airstrip.

A bit of color on a dreary, rainy day at Sarajevo (SJJ/LQSA). Even though it is not really interesting per se compared with other aircraft of its class, the little Hawker perfectly epitomizes the complicated family tree common to many British aircraft. Starting out in life as the de Havilland DH.125 Jet Dragon of the early 60s, it would enter production as the Hawker Siddeley HS.125, after this mighty conglomerate – itself formed by the merger of Hawker and half a dozen other companies – took de Havilland under its wing. This turn of affairs would last until 1977, when HS would be nationalized and melted into an even larger entity, British Aerospace – in the course of which the HS.125 would be renamed into the BAe-125. To keep people on their toes, BAe would in 1993 sell off their bizjet division to Raytheon, which had already back in 1980 bought Beechcraft. To make managing these two companies easier, Raytheon had formed a separate company called Hawker Beechcraft, where the BAe-125 would become known as the Hawker Family. Of course, this is not the end of the story; HB would go bankrupt in 2012, leading to the formation of the Beechcraft Corporation out of its ashes. This would in turn be bought in 2014 by Textron – who already had Cessna in its portfolio. Thankfully, the heirs of the Jet Dragon (including the Hawker 800) had gone out of production in 2013, signalling the end of the Mexican soap opera that was its production life!

A bit of winter wonderland at Sarajevo as JIP and its “shadow” await their evening freight run to Ljubljana (LJU/LJLJ). One of several Metroliners operated by Spanish carrier Flightline, JIP is a mid-production example, being an improved version of the original Metro – itself a commuter stretch of the short-body SA-26 Merlin bizprop (which in turn is a radical modification of the Beech Queen Air piston twin).

A tight fit as Croatia’s only G-2 takes shelter from the rain incoming to Čakovec Airfield (LDVC). In many ways the defining product of ex-Yugoslavia’s aeronautical industry, the Galeb (“seagull”) intermediate trainer is nowadays a popular warbird, with almost a dozen – out of the 248 produced – flying in civilian hands. Even though its looks and absolute performance leave something to be desired, the G-2 boasts very pleasant, predictable and enjoyable handling, and is still well regarded locally for its robust and durable airframe and nearly-bulletproof systems (if maintained properly). Of interest, the type also features removable tiptanks – stowed along the hangar wall on the left – almost always carried in normal operations, but occasionally removed to save on hangar space during long-term storage.

A lack of symmetry that immediately attracts the eye… another indigenous Yugoslav design, the Soko 522 was one of the country’s first post-war mass-produced military types, intended primarily for the advanced training/light attack roles. Quite an ugly machine from most angles – one only a mother could love – the 522 would cling on in service until the late 70s, when it would be replaced (along with a slew of other 50s designs) by the UTVA U-75, which would go on to become Yugoslavia’s second most produced design. This particular example – coded 60206 – had been re-purposed as a gate guard following its withdrawal from use, located from the outset at Čakovec Airfield. One of the bases of the nascent Croatian Air Force during the 90s civil war, it would in the summer of 1991 be subjected to several air strikes by Yugoslav MiG-21s, with 60206 ending up on the receiving end. Recently taken down off its pylon for partial restoration, it will soon get a rebuilt wing from another 522, hopefully an overture into a complete rework… interestingly, the damage had also revealed an unusual feature of the 522, its folding wings. A simple affair reminiscent of early carrier aircraft, the folding mechanism is located just outboard of the main gear – but had likely been little used in actual service.

An all too common sight at Lučko in winter: a bare apron, an empty circuit – and a gorgeous fiery sunset behind the Žumberak Hills as yet another storm system approaches from the north, blown in by a bitterly cold and piercing wind…

A suitably sombre shot as the sun sets once again on poor old BDR. One of the oldest light aircraft in Croatia (manufactured back in 1967), BDR has quite a local history, having been attached throughout its life to the AK Zagreb flying club – one of Croatia’s oldest and (once) most respected aviation institutions. Having seen off generations and generations of young pilots – many of which had become the backbone of Yugoslavia’s national carrier JAT – BDR had since become collateral damage of the club’s financial woes and general infighting of the early 2000s, flying for the last time in 2003. Moved about from time to time (mostly when it gets in the way), it had been left neglected ever since, having been washed and TLC’d only once in 2009 by your’s truly. Most of the time it has been left to die by weather, useful now only as a prop in an apocalyptic movie…

The newest resident of Lučko catching some air under its wing on this pretty windy and gloomy day. If I’m not mistaken the first Rolladen-Schneider glider in Croatia, D-0138 was manufactured in 1980, and still looks crisp despite the 37 years of flying behind it. When sporting a 15-meter wingspan (as is the case here), the LS3 has a lot of similarities to the home-grown 15-meter Vuk-T (featured previously): both are tough, robust and long-lived machines whose designers had sacrificed some of the performance seen in competing models for more pleasant handling and more predictable characteristics. Another interesting tidbit is that the LS3 is considered to be the first glider to introduce wingtip extensions (to 18 meters), which had allowed it to be used in several competition classes without much (factory) effort – an approach used today by almost all European manufacturers.

One of two AIS Airlines machines on service in Croatia soaking up the last light of day shortly after its arrival from Osijek (OSI/LDOS). Developed at the beginning of the 80s from the very similar Handley-Page HP.137 (itself designed in the 60s), the Jetstream is one of the UK’s bestselling airliners, and can even today be found in service all over Europe and the Americas. Despite its deficiencies (a high interior noise level and a lack of sophistication in the nose), the Jetstream had proven itself in service with its flight performance, durability – and the fact that it had been designed to demanding airline specs right from the outset (which could not be said of its main rivals, the Swearingen Metro and Beech 1900, both developed from smaller corporate twins). Even though it has been withdrawn from intensive line operations, it can still be found in the fleets of smaller operators – while in the States it had latterly found a new lease of life as a large bizprop. An interesting detail on almost all Jetstreams – apart from the fact that most have no autopilot – is the so called “baggage pod”, a removable streamlined compartment under the fuselage that can accommodate approximately 200 kg of bags. Even though early Jetstreams (like the HP.137) had a dedicated space for luggage in the aft fuselage, on later models it had been taken up by the toilet, requiring a bit of improvisation with a solution most often seen on Cessna singles. Another feature – seen on almost all multi-engine turboprops – is the additional plating behind the cockpit, intended to protect the fuselage from ice being thrown off the propellers.

The allure of Pacific adventure – and another sad reminder of the fickle airline fortunes on the Balkans. Today already part of the landscape of Skopje Airport (SKP/LWSK), Z3-AAM had been the only aircraft of MAT Airways, formed in 2009 by Kon Tiki Travel – one of neighboring Serbia’s biggest tour operators. Intended to both bring foreign tourists into Macedonia and create something of a national airline serving key cities abroad (a field where many had failed previously), the company had never managed to reach profitability in its two years of existence, in some parts due to local politicking, in others due to a lack of experience – but mostly because a simple lack of demand abroad, financially capable travelers among the small 2.1 million population at home, and constant competition from foreign airlines. Exacerbated by the imminent need to change the number 2 engine due to its dwindling service life – and pressure from foreign banks and investment funds that had financed the aircraft – the company had declared bankruptcy in 2011, bringing to an end another chapter in post-Yugoslav air transport history. Z3-AAM itself – manufactured in 1991 for the equally extinct Sabena – had thus ended up parked in front of Skopje’s disused old terminal. Previously known as Z3-AAH (also with MAT), this machine doesn’t have the rich history of other 737 Classics, having mostly been handed down from one investment fund to another following its departure from Belgian service. However, as a type, the 500 series was always something of an oddball in the 737 line, a shrunk 737-400 intended to appeal to operators of the equally-sized 737-200. Small and light – but sporting the same wing, engines and fuel capacity of the much larger 400 – the 500 was always a stellar performer in both climb and range, characteristics that had eventually led to its demise. Like today’s A318, the 500 was always too heavy for its passenger capacity (its structure being optimized for a larger aircraft), making it more expensive to operate. This had come to a head when fuel prices picked up by the mid 2000s, forcing many operators to ditch them en masse. Interestingly, their large numbers and low prices on the used market had attracted a lot of interest from the CIS, where operators scooped them up in handfuls to replace their aging and similarly-sized Tupolev Tu-134s. Indeed, if you want to see a 500 without waiting too long, Russia is the place to go!

Photo File – One Engine For Short Haul

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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… 🙂

One of only three aircraft on the Pula Airport (PUY/LDPL) apron greets a calm – and slightly foggy – morning. If you had a feeling that this is a bit too elegant to be a Cessna, you’d be entirely right… for despite the name, this is actually a Lancair LC-42-550RG Columbia, a speedy carbon fiber design that Cessna bought some years ago and started selling under its own brand. Like all Lancairs, the LC-42 is notable for its sleek aerodynamics, as well as an enviable power-to-weight ratio, with 310 HP hauling only 1500 kg of all-up mass. Coupled with a modern propeller, this ratio gives the Corvalis cruise speeds in the 340 km/h range – which puts this little “toy” in the same league with some turboprops…

A very welcome visitor to Lučko warming up prior to its afternoon hop to Vrsar Airfield (LDPV). Even though DYG looks at first like a stock late-model 172, details such as the three-bladed constant-speed prop, large exhaust and an air intake on the right side of the cowl reveal that it actually sports Thielert diesel muscle under the hood. A thorough rework of the 2 liter CDI unit out of the Mercedes A Class, the Centurion 2.0 can boast a maximum output of between 135 and 155 HP, and a consumption of only 20 liters per hour – significantly less than the 35+ of the standard avgas model. An additional benefit are the digital engine controls (FADEC), which replace the traditional levers fverniers for power, propeller RPM and mixture with only one jet-style lever…

Proof that even airline pilots are not immune to the call of light aircraft! Briefly swapping gas turbines for cylinders, the crew of OM-M902 prepares for a one hour joyride on and around Lučko. Still pretty rare in Europe, the Jabiru family ranks among the most successful Australian light aircraft programs in recent years, and already pretty much has a cult following in its home state. An interesting detail is that the majority of Jabiru models use the company’s own engine – in this case a 2.2 liter petrol four-cylinder engine developing 80 HP for takeoff.

A mint Reims-built C172P of the Motorfluggruppe Zürich potters calmly along taxiway Alpha at Zürich Airport (ZRH/LSZH) following an afternoon arrival into RWY 28. Despite the airport handling hundreds heavier aircraft every day – ranging from regional turboprops to intercontinental widebodies – it still manages to seamlessly integrate its resident GA population into the traffic flow. In what is almost a case study of Swiss efficiency, the airport manages this through IFR-style regulation of VFR traffic, including strict departure routes and procedures (intended to keep light traffic separated from the big boys and on known tracks) – and even VFR slots, specific periods during the day when commercial traffic is slow enough to permit unhampered operations on both sides.

The newest resident of Lučko just starting to roll towards RWY 28 for another skydive flight. The permanent replacement for C210 9A-DZP – which had been written off in a landing incident – G-MILN is also one of the most well-kept classic Cessnas in Croatia, and had accumulated only around 1300 flight hours since its completion in 1977 – and with only one owner at that. Equipped with a pretty modern avionics setup – including a Garmin GTN 650 touchscreen GPS – this machine will in future also receive a specialized skydive door and other ancillary equipment for such ops.

Easily concealing the fact that it already has more than three decades of service behind it, GOD prepares to wait out an incoming storm in the field’s main hangar. One of former Yugoslavia’s most popular gliders, the Vuk-T was conceived in the late 70s as an intermediate training type – most closely fitting the Standard Class – sporting an all-fiberglass body and a 15 meter supercritical airfoil wing. To make it suitable for its intended role, it had sacrificed ultimate performance for ease of handling and structural integrity – and even today has a reputation for toughness, durability, crashworthiness and simplicity of maintenance (some examples even pushing 6000 flight hours). Despite this, it still boasts a 1/38 glide ratio, and is cleared for maneuvers such as loops, wingovers and spins. Interestingly, the type was also one of the first Yugoslav aircraft designed using CAD tools – and the country’s first glider to be comprehensively tested in a wind tunnel. Another tidbit is its name: translated as “wolf-T”, it comes from a peculiar subdued howl it makes in high speed flight.

Photo File – Porsches to Caravans

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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… 🙂

More than any other airport in Croatia, during the summer Dubrovnik (DBV/LDDU) is a real Mecca for general aviation! Conspicuous primarily due to its unusual vertical stabilizer, D-EAFE is notable for another quirk: its Porsche PFM 3200 engine. Conceived in the mid-80s as the company’s attempt to fully break into the aviation market, the PFM 3200 is in essence a thoroughly modified 3.2 liter boxer out of the 911, which – once FADEC was applied – produced 215 HP normally and 240 with a turbocharger. Though it had proved popular with European customers, the engine had nevertheless failed to grab a piece of the Lycoming and Continental pie, leading to the termination of production in 1991. Interestingly, the PM-20K is actually a “bastard”; the only Mooney meant to use Porsche power from the outset was the M-20L, with the PM being an aftermarket retrofit. As of 2016, only two are known to still be flyable…

Though it is not as exotic as a Porsche-powered Mooney, another recent Dubrovnik visitor had nevertheless managed to catch my attention – if anything for its non-standard configuration. Owned by the Union skydive club based at Wels Airfield (LOLW) near Linz, Austria, N105VE had started out in life as a stock Cargomaster freighter, before being modified for skydive duties with the addition of a “skydive kit” (which includes internal and external handrails, footboards and a signalling system in the cabin). Interestingly, it had been retrofitted with six windows from the passenger model, giving it a secondary people carrying capability – the guise in which it had popped into town for a few days.

A full frontal view clearly shows just why had the diminutive Katana made such an impact on the two-seat trainer market. A Rotax in the nose for good economy, a composite structure for better efficiency – and a wing as if nicked off a glider for gentle and predictable handling… one of a total of five operational DA-20s in Croatia inadvertently posing for a cracking photo as it prepares to depart Lučko for its home base of Varaždin (LDVA).

Methinks we need to mow the lawn! While it does look like we urgently need a course in gardening at Lučko, this is actually part of a clever method of raising additional funds for the field’s maintenance. Left to freely grow in select areas (with the runways, taxiways, overrun and underrun areas regularly trimmed), the grass is split into grids which are then auctioned off to farmers and farming companies. When the bidding is completed, the winners use their own equipment to cut the grass – thus saving the airfield the costs of doing it itself, while at the same time bringing in some extra cash.

The replacement for the replacement of our sorely missed CarryAll 9A-BKS, “spotty” is seen warming up for its sole flight of the day. One of only two purpose-modified skydive C182s in Croatia, the 1967 PET is also among the oldest lighties of any sort in the country – which does not really stop it from clocking serious time during the summer season.

While the high wing, underslung turboprops, large tires and a rear loading ramp are nowadays a common configuration for light and medium tactical transports, this profile was still a novelty with the Transall entered service in the mid-60s. One of the most stubbornly long-lived transport aircraft ever made, the C-160 is also among the earliest instances of post-WW2 European cooperation, having come about as a joint project between France and Germany. With uninterrupted service spanning five decades, the Transall is still actively flying in France, Germany and Turkey – and had already in 2001 clocked up one million flying hours. Of interest, the Transall name is an amalgamation of “Transporter Allianz” – while the 160 is its wing area in square meters. 50+75 itself – pictured here at Split Airport (SPU/LDSP) – is one of the last first-generation examples (mfd in 1971), and had visited as part of a multinational exercise.

Photo File – Spring Is Coming…

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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… 🙂

One happy little bear roaring away during a late-afternoon engine test. Even though Lučko had still been closed at this point (its grass runways soaked), AK Zagreb had decided to use the time well and send DBS through a post-overhaul shakedown…

Clean and tidy following deep servicing, GPA waits for its turn to be parked in the hangar after its first flight of the year. Even though it carries the Pilatus name and sports the designation PC-11, this type had actually originated in Germany in the mid-60s as a product of a small group of up-and-coming engineers. Initially called the B4 after Gert Basten – the owner of the factory that had manufactured the prototypes – the design had not entered series production until the mid-70s, when it was acquired by Pilatus. Praised for its simplicity, robustness and quality of manufacture, the AF version can boast respectable aerobatic capabilities, a role in which it is still used worldwide. GPA itself had been manufactured in 1977, and is today one of seven examples listed on the 9A register.

Hands down one of the most unusual aircraft that can be seen in Croatia, OE-9129 is seen firing up for an entire afternoon of glider towing. Essentially a motor glider itself, the HB-21 was conceived in Austria during the 60s, and is in this form powered by a 100 HP VW engine mounted behind the cabin – and driving a unique pusher prop arrangement integrated into the aircraft’s backbone.

When the sun sets and the temperature drops, normal pilots go home… but then, with the rising fog, come those who wander around with big cameras. Having a bit of fun with Piper PA-28RT-201 Arrow IV 9A-DCB and Cessna 172N 9A-DMG, on a December day – albeit not unlike many found in spring.

Instantly recognizable among Čakovec Airfield’s (LDVC) fleet of gliders, YU-CPE is seen providing a suitable metaphor for Yugoslav aviation as it waits out an uncertain fate by collecting bird droppings in the corner of the hangar. An aircraft much of 60s and 70s Yugoslavia had learned to fly on, the indigenous Aero 3 had over the years garnered a reputation as an unforgiving and sometimes difficult to handle trainer, which had over the years claimed a number of lives. Despite this, the design – made almost entirely of wood and powered by a 190 HP Lycoming O-435 – is viewed with today increasing nostalgia, resulting to several attempts at preservation and restoration. Sadly, given the lack of spares (only 100-ish having been built) and the financial requirements of such work, only one machine had been returned to airworthy state, with the rest left in limbo… (including its brother, Lučko’s own YU-CPC/9A-XPC)

Even though it was pretty much the only aircraft on the apron at Split Airport (SPU/LDSP), N828PA nevertheless proves that quality is still better than quantity! Still a rare type in Europe, the Eclipse 500 was the forerunner of the Very Light Jet (VLJ) category, “pocket” bizjets that were both simple and cheap enough for owners to fly themselves – while still providing better performance than traditional business turboprops. N828PA itself was completed in 2008, and is one of the last examples manufactured before the company filed for bankruptcy. It would eventually be restarted in 2009 under new ownership, rolling out an improved model – the Eclipse 550 – in 2013.

And finally, something that doesn’t really fit all that well into the GA category – but is nevertheless worthy of note! Soaking up the noon sun, 6M-BH of the Austrian Air Force had popped into Zagreb (ZAG/LDZA) to take on fuel before continuing northwards to Varaždin (LDVA), where it would provide transport for an Austrian presidential delegation attending a regional summit. An interesting detail here is its designation; even though the name “Black Hawk” is almost universally associated with “UH-60”, export models are often labelled as S-70, which is the manufacturer’s official designation for this type.

Photo File – Lighto

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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… 🙂

A small, odd airplane + parked on grass with muddy tires + a background of rolling hills and autumn colors = love at first sight. The irreplaceable magic of light aviation in one photo as “Alpendohle” warms up its engine for departure from Novo Mesto. A design that tends to raise some eyebrows, the BO-208 is actually a German-built version of the Swedish MFI-9, created at the end of the 50s as a light touring aircraft with utility potential. Even though it is pretty obscure today, the MFI-9 was also the basis for the larger and more powerful SAAB MFI-15 Supporter, which is still used for training duties by several Scandinavian air forces…

Even though it already boasts aircraft from the USA, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, France and former Yugoslavia, Lučko had recently also become home to a little bird (emu?) from Australia. One of the most well known products of Australia’s present-day aviation industry, the Jabiru line of two- and four-seaters is still a rarity in Europe, and are sometimes hard to find even at specialized GA shows. Even though it carries a Slovak registration, OM-M902 – manufactured in 2008 and powered by Jabiru’s own 2200 cc engine developing 80 HP – is actually a former resident of Vinkovac Airfield (LDOV) in the extreme east of Croatia.

An airfield by the coast, clear blue skies, pleasant summer temperatures – and three Cessnas soaking up the afternoon sun… a scene that just begs one to go flying! Even though it still wears its original German colors, D-EBXS (mfd. 1977) is nowadays a permanent resident of Medulin Airfield (LDPM) in Istria, and is frequently seen flying panorama flights up and down the peninsula.

Something that any proper airfield should be: a cafe and restaurant, good company, a full hangar and and interesting little aircraft parked outside (a Robin DR-400-180 Remorqueur, D-EOSR in this case).

C210 Squadron. The only two operational Centurions in Croatia together on the Lučko apron. However, even though they are only two letters apart, the 210L and P210N are actually significantly different machines: DZP is a simple, basic model whose equipment levels do not differ much from other single-engine Cessnas – while N50DD is a top-of-the-line version, equipped with a turbocharger, de-icing systems… and a pressurized fuselage.

One of the newest gliders on the Croatian register waiting for its turn to be put to bed in the field’s main hangar. Restored and assembled by hand, GKB wears this simple – but eye-catching – scheme, which is in fact a copy of a similar paint job seen on another Schleicher in the Netherlands.

And finally, one of those gems that can only be found by careful hangar trawling. Even though, from a numerical perspective, the L-13 Blanik is to gliders what the Cessna 172 is to piston singles, its younger brother – the L-23 Super Blanik seen here – is a somewhat different story. Designed on the basis of operational experiences with the L-13, the L-23 had received a completely new T-tail with swept fin, a slightly larger cabin with a two-piece canopy – and had lost its flaps as a weight-saving measure. Despite noticeably increased performance in all areas, the L-23 had not achieved the popularity of the original – but had nevertheless noted significant success in the USA, where it was also used in the Civil Air Patrol.

Photo File – Traveler’s Tales

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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 a tool for doing business, a 737-200 bizjet may not really be the best of choices; but as a statement of style, very, very few machines come close! An absolutely stunning 1981 classic, VP-CAQ had – interestingly – never seen a day of passenger operations, having been delivered with an executive interior straight from the factory. Often seen flying all over Europe (despite the EU’s stringent noise regulations), at the time this photo was taken CAQ had already been parked at Dubrovnik Airport (LDDU) for several days, likely waiting on a client…

A photo that perfectly encapsulates a popular Croatian saying: “to have more luck than brains”! It’s not often one gets a spontaneous chance to photograph a VIP military transport on the apron of a major European aerodrome – without someone trying to chase you away! Enjoying the early morning sun on one of Vienna Airport’s (LOWW) remote aprons while waiting for Mr. John Kerry (who was in town to attend some nuclear talks).

An interesting visitor from the north easily standing out among the Citation and Falcon crowd at Zadar’s Zemunik Airport (LDZD). Operated by Germany’s Central Command for Maritime Emergencies, 57+05 is normally based by the North Sea and is used (as can be inferred from the titles on the fuselage) for detection and monitoring of sea pollution. Interestingly, this machine is not a classic Dornier-built example, but the NG model, produced in India by Hindustan Aeronautics and assembled in Germany by RUAG (the owner of the Do-228 type certificate).

Nature showing off what it can do as we maneuver around a growing towering cumulus near Zurich (LSZH), Switzerland. Easily visible are little pouch formations hanging beneath the cloud called “mammatus clouds”, which are an early indication that this cloud could eventually produce a heavy storm.

Enjoying the charming (and unbeatable) atmosphere of the cockpit at night as we cruise southwards across the Alps, roughly halfway between Munich (EDDM) in Germany and Klagenfurt (LOWK) in Austria…

Saluting the setting sun on another beautiful, calm and crisp summer evening. Traversing southbound above the Northern Adriatic Sea – just off the Istrian Peninsula and Pula Airport (LDPL) – we were treated to this fantastic view by a large high pressure area that had been parked over the region for several days…

Photo Report – Life at Lučko, June 2015

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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! 🙂

A little airplane that is not often seen at Lučko preparing for a short afternoon flight above Zagreb. Normally based at Varaždin Airfield (LDVA) in the north of the country, DVW is among the best “classic” 172s here on the continent, and has already seen off its fair share of student pilots…

Sporting a new set of clothes, PET gives no indication whatsoever that it is almost half a century old. Still active in skydive circles, it had recently been thoroughly overhauled, and will soon get a purpose-built carbon-fiber skydive door on the right side.

Several of the many bits of local aviation history hiding in plain sight all over the airfield: a replica of the first aircraft designed, built and flown in Croatia, alongside a type that had given wings to entire generations of local pilots – and both inside a hangar that had previously been home to Bf.109s and Fiat G.50s when it was located at Borongaj Airport in the 40s…

The “disintegrating squadron” catching some sun on its temporary parking position in front of the tower. Manufactured in 1967 and 1978 respectively, BDR and DDA had not been off the ground in ages, with the former last noted in the skies in 2003, and the latter sometime in 2006 or 2007…

Always a welcome sight and sound, BKS is seen warming up for a skydive op in the nearby village of Kurilovec. Having to endure continuous operation at both high-power/low-speed and low-power/high-speed regimes, getting the engine’s internal temperatures into the green before flight is of vital importance – not only to preserve its stated service life, but also to prevent seizures and internal damage due to sudden temperature changes.

The newest resident of the airfield snapped after participation in a local precision landing championship. The only DG-300 in Croatia, 1985-vintage D-2871 is also one of the best-equipped gliders in the area, sporting two competition digital VSIs, a GPS unit – and even a FLARM system (a miniature ACAS designed specifically for use in gliders). Interestingly, despite being a German design, the DG-300 line was manufactured in Slovenia by the Elan works, famous locally for their extensive range of high-quality sporting equipment (particularly skis and sailboats).

Photo Report – Going Up: Cessna U206G 9A-ADV

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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… 😀

Looking splendid (and quite eye-catching) in its new colors as it cools down following the last flight of the day. A significant capacity increase for the Croatian skydive scene, the 206 is quite a step up from the more usual 182s and occasional 185…

Central to ADV’s successful use as a skydive platform, the mods installed in Portugal include a sliding cargo door for easier egress, as well as several handles and steps to facilitate group jumps or tandems.

The interior is – by necessity – pretty spartan, since skydive ops are not really kind to fancy upholstery! Note also the two black panels (one set against the copilot’s station and one folded down behind the pilot’s seat) which permit skydivers to leisurely lean back during long climbs without fear of interfering with any of the aircraft’s controls.

Like virtually all other skydive 206s, ADV accommodates six skydivers in addition to the pilot. Their sitting locations determine the sequence for jumping, which is further indicated by the note on the aft bulkhead.

In addition to a full IFR suite w/ autopilot, the nicely equipped panel also includes several useful features for skydive ops, including a moving-map GPS (great for putting the jumpers right on target), EGT and CHT gauges (to avoid overheating the engine during prolonged high-power climbs in hot weather) – as well as a stormscope for avoiding summer CBs common in the region. An interesting detail are the two windshield crossbeams, a leftover from ADV’s seaplane days (also my apologies for the glare, the sun was low and I couldn’t bear to nag with re-orientating the aircraft).

Another remnant from ADV’s seafaring days are the vortex generators, located along the upper leading edge of the wing and just in front of the rudder on the vertical stabilizer. By creating a turbulent flow of air just along the surface, they cause the flow to stick to said surface for longer than it normally would, enhancing its aerodynamic properties (at the expense of increased drag). On a seaplane they counter the various pitch and roll moments created by the floats (located well below the CG); on a landplane, they translate into reduced take-off and landing rolls, a lower stall speed and better stall response – and generally improved handling at high Angles of Attack (during low speed and/or high weight conditions).

Also frequently seen on seaplanes, wing fences prevent the horizontal spill of air across the span of the wing, making the airfoil far more efficient. Interestingly, ADV’s seem modified, since on all 206 floatplanes that I’ve seen they extend forward across the wing for at least half its chord…

Repainted into the operator’s “house colors” in December 2014, ADV certainly stands out on the apron. The more eagle-eyed readers will also have noticed that the aircraft now sports the U206’s standard cargo doors; with the skydive version not being the most thief-proof option, the standard set is installed for each over-night stay out in the open.

Always a brutish looking thing, ADV’s high-contrast scheme makes it look even more purposeful and powerful.

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!

Other sources:

  • Seabee.info – Norwegian seaplane database (LN-AEZ service history)