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! 🙂
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… 🙂
… but sweat, dehydration, sunburn and flight hours 😀 . Okay, Churchill may not have had the spring/summer flying season at Lučko in mind when he uttered his famous phrase back in 1940, but in this custom form it does go a long way to describing events at the field these past few weeks 🙂 . With out traditional summer anticyclone parked very firmly over the entire region, we’ve been graced with fantastic flying weather for days on end, allowing out entire fleet to go out and stretch its wings. And while the temperatures did let the side down – with 40 Centigrade on the apron not even being newsworthy – we’ve nevertheless persevered, allowing me to bring you another photo series of life in Croatian GA (and beyond)… 🙂
While it is somewhat less exciting than the movie of the same name (even though it involves a similar amount of mechanical ingenuity 😀 ), one event at Lučko back in May certainly gave rise to a bit of optimism, pride – and, not least of all, a fair bit of relief. The occasion in question was the return to flight of our much-loved Cessna A185F 9A-BKS, signalling its eagerly-awaited return to service after five long years on the ground. Covered in part by another post on here, BKS had suffered a prop strike back in 2008 which had seen it confined to the hangar until its prop and engine could be repaired – a process that, through various financial setbacks, took almost four and half years to complete…
However, while the aircraft was airworthy and fully certified as June dawned, one important issue still remained before BKS could be given a clean bill of health and returned to active duty as a skydive platform – the engine break-in period. Like all new and overhauled engines, BKS’ IO-520 needed a 25 hour run-in period during which the piston rings would gradually wear themselves out and begin to lubricate the cylinders properly, boosting the engine’s efficiency and power and generally returning it to “its old self”. This however requires treating the engine with the utmost care, flying it gently and at relatively low power settings, all the while ensuring it is being properly cooled to compensate for the poor oil distribution – not all that easy to do if you’re flogging it at maximum continuous power for half an hour as you haul half a ton’s worth of skydivers to altitude at low speed :).
To avoid making a hash of it, AK Zagreb – the owners of the aircraft – had decided to send it out on a number of extended cross-country flights, which would also have the added benefit of providing long periods of steady cruising and allow the crew to check fuel flows, oil pressures and various temperatures against the operating manual :). Naturally enough, I’d quickly found my way onto several of these flights – and while I was relegated to being the ballast in the tail, I did at least have the time (and cabin space!) to enjoy the scenery outside…
A couple of years ago when I first started this blog, I made mention of a skydive-configured Cessna 185 Carryall that had been involved in a landing accident awhile back, and had remained confined to the corner of the hangar ever since. The topic of one of my early Plane’s Anatomy posts, this specific, slightly understated ( 😀 ) aircraft had recently been thrust into the local spotlight again, this time when it finally coughed back to life after its long rest.
Overall not a particularly interesting or exciting aircraft by any objective measure – just a regular 185 – 9A-BKS is nevertheless one of the most endeared and endearing aircraft at Lučko; a charismatic fuel-to-noise converter that had at one point or the other served as a jump platform for virtually every skydiver in the area. Quite a loud aircraft, sporting a two-blade transsonic prop, BKS had cut a distinctive high pitched noise that could be heard all the way to the suburbs of Zagreb – some 10 km away – and pretty much represented the main symbol of the airfield.
The noise stopped however at the beginning of 2008, when BKS’ pilot braked a bit too hard on landing, sending the prop tips into the ground. While the aircraft itself had suffered no damage, the propeller was ruined and the engine overstressed by the sudden stop, both necessitating a thorough – and thoroughly expensive – overhaul. These costs, coupled with the operator’s poor financial state (which continues to this day) had dragged repairs through more than four years, until BKS finally fired up on 10 June this year 🙂 .
Naturally, I was ready to immortalize the event with my camera – even though it had meant a whole day of waiting at the airfield on an empty stomach 😀 – and even decided to shoot a spot of video to capture the moment.
But, “first start” was much overshadowed by the death of one of our most beloved skydivers, who tragically died on a jump at a county fair while we were preparing to light BKS. In view of that, both the following photo and video are dedicated to our dear Jasna 😦 .