By me All photos me too, copyrighted
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.
By me All photos me too, copyrighted
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).