Short Photo Report – Fly M for Maribor: a VFR Trip North

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

In further proof that the weather here has completely lost its bearings, 12 January 2014 had dawned with clear skies, unlimited visibility and mild temperatures hovering at around 8 degrees Centigrade – a marked contrast to the low cloud, fog, two feet of snow and -10 we’re used to seeing at this time (as I had made abundantly clear on more than one occasion 😀 ). Naturally, such a fine day could not have been allowed to go to waste – especially since “proper” winter is likely preparing to pounce from around the corner – so a friend and I made arrangements for a short hop to neighboring Slovenia in our club’s wee Cessna 150.

Our target for the day was Maribor Airport (LJMB), a swell field serving the town of the same name and located near the northeastern tip of Slovenia, right between Croatia and Austria. One of the country’s three airports of entry, it sports a 2,500 m / 8,200 ft paved runway equipped with a host of instrument approaches, full night lighting, all relevant ground services – and virtually no large-caliber traffic 🙂 . Just 30-ish minutes of flight time from Zagreb, this had always made it an ideal training location and a practical alternative to busy Pleso – so much so that the majority of our local student pilots (especially those aiming for CPLs) have visited it at least once during their training 🙂 (I myself more than half a dozen times).

Our flight today was however a pure cross-country joyride, which gave me ample time to soak up the weather and enjoy the scenery – and naturally get busy with the camera 🙂 .

"Haha, I'm flying and you're not!". A visitor from Germany is preparing for takeoff down Maribor's RWY 14, while MD-82 S5-ACC slowly rots away in the background... a fixture of the airport for several years now, ACC had previously flown with Aurora Airlines, and was at the time said to be one of the better Mad Dogs in the area. Sadly, its current state leaves very little hope it could one day regain that reputation... (though - with any luck - it will be featured in a more extensive post later on)
“Haha, I’m flying and you’re not!”. A visitor from Germany is preparing for takeoff down RWY 14, while MD-82 S5-ACC slowly rots away in the background… a fixture of the airport for several years now, ACC had previously flown with Aurora Airlines, and was at the time said to be one of the better Mad Dogs in the area. Sadly, its current state leaves very little hope it could one day regain that reputation… (though – with any luck – it will be featured in a more extensive post later on)
The fine weather at Maribor had - like in Zagreb - immediately lured out most of the local training fleet, a fleet that had included everything from the old, Yugoslav-designed UTVA-75 to the modern, efficient Diesel Star. Filled to the brim, DOD has just started taxiing towards RWY 14 for a panorama flight above town, barely squeezing in among the other four aircraft in the circuit...
The fine weather at Maribor had – like in Zagreb – immediately lured out most of the local training fleet, a fleet that had included everything from the old, Yugoslav-designed UTVA-75 to the modern, efficient Diesel Star. Filled to the brim, DOD has just started taxiing towards RWY 14 for a panorama flight above town, barely squeezing in among the other four aircraft in the circuit…
The joys of sub-Alpine anticyclonic weather... our flight back home had also included a touch-and-go at Slovenj Gradec airfield, located in a valley on the opposite side of Maribor's Pohorje mountain range. You can probably guess how that plan had turned out... (to compound the issue, LJSG has no met station linked into the rest of the system - so when we'd asked the met office at Maribor for a brief, all they could do was slump their shoulders and extrapolate from existing data)
The joys of sub-Alpine anticyclonic weather… our flight back home had also included a touch-and-go at Slovenj Gradec airfield, located in a valley on the opposite side of Maribor’s Pohorje mountain range. You can probably guess how that plan had turned out… (to compound the issue, LJSG has no met station linked into the rest of the system – so when we’d asked the met office at Maribor for a brief, all they could do was slump their shoulders and extrapolate from existing data)
A large, unbroken stratus, beautiful sunshine on top, a light aircraft and a camera - what more could one want to be content?  (except a pair of gloves) Skirting the edge of an extensive sheet of stratus as the perfect cap to the whole flight.
A large, unbroken stratus, beautiful sunshine on top, a light aircraft and a camera – what more could one want to be content? (except a pair of gloves) Skirting the edge of an extensive sheet of stratus as the perfect cap to the whole flight.

Photo Report – A Visit To The Neighbors: Spotting at Ljubljana, Slovenia

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

Though I’m not really in the “business” of photographing airliners – at least not those that are common and plain enough – a few days ago I had happily accepted an invitation from two of my spotting colleagues to visit Brnik airport (LJLJ) in neighboring Slovenia for some international spotting :). And while the traffic picture at Slovenia’s main airport, serving the capital Ljubljana, isn’t in essence all that different from that of Zagreb – an endless stream of CRJs punctuated by some GA and an odd Airbus – the airport’s crisp, clear and unpolluted highland air, stunning mountain backdrops and very accessible spotting positions (not to mention very friendly local spotters) were ideal conditions for some photographic practice and experimentation :). Plus, given that the subjects at an international airport tend to move quite a lot faster than the GA lighties I usually photograph, it was all good panning and tracking practice :D. In the event, we even managed to nail two quite rare birds along the way…

A beautiful - and freshly repainted! - KMV Tu-154M just starting its gear retraction sequence after a noisy RWY 13 departure, bound for Moscow. Ever since Aeroflot pulled the 154 from commercial service, they've become an increasingly rare sight, European spotters now having to make do with occasional charters such as this one...
Climbing out with the 154's typical shallow profile, intended to quickly accelerate the aircraft to its 550 km/h (296 kt) optimal climb speed. Little known outside the lands of the former USSR, KMV actually stands for "Kavkazskie Mineralnye Vody" - or "Caucasian Mineral Waters". The name makes more sense when you know that the airline is based in the Russian town of Mineralnye Vody, located on the Caucaus, in an area known for its abundant mineral springs 🙂

"What's In A Name" continues with this somewhat less exciting Czech ATR-42-500 flying in from Prague. Nowadays never expanded, "CSA" actually stands for "Československé Státní Aerolinie", or "Czechoslovak State Airlines", formed in 1923 in then-Czechoslovakia as one of the world's oldest airlines. By the time Czechoslovakia dissolved in the early 90s, the CSA brand (and especially the acronym) had become well known and established, prompting the company's new owner - the government of the Czech Republic - to keep it, thus forming "CSA Czech Airlines"
This shot made my day - and was worth the searing heat and scalding sun of a summer noon spent standing outside :D. Intense concentration in the cockpit of "Kadiköy", a Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-752, as it crosses the numbers on RWY 31 for a smooth and gentle landing
Sparkling white - maybe it's a vampire aircraft? (bad pop culture joke) - and clean, even an A319 can be made interesting given the right conditions :). Lining up on RWY 31, this example is operated by Slovenian national carrier Adria Airways, another company with a long history stretching back to 1961...
One more Embraer for me :). Contrasting brilliantly with the dark woods - further enhanced by the crisp mountain air - this ERJ-145 is operated on behalf of Air France by a small French company called Regional Airlines, and with its sister ships can often be seen at Zagreb airport as well...
Type-wise a common enough CRJ-200, VT-SAS was nevertheless the most interesting visitor of the day, hailing all the way from - India! 😀 Operated by JetLite, an Indian domestic carrier, SAS had flown in from Budapest on unknown business, though speculation includes servicing or a C check by Adria Airways' maintenance department... also, the white sphere behind the aircraft is the airport's Doppler weather radar 🙂
I'd say that "Boka" could do with a wash... named after Boka Kotorska, a bay on the Adriatic Sea shared by Montengero and Croatia, this Montenegro Airlines Fokker 100 from Podgorica was one of the last interesting arrivals of the day. Formerly sharing the YU registration prefix with Serbia (back when the two countries were part of the "Serbia and Montenegro" union), Montenegrin aircraft have been allocated their unique identifier - 4O - joining the alphabet soup of other ex-Yugoslav country prefixes (9A, S5, E7, Z3, ...)
Yay, lighties! 😀 An almost perfect profile view of a Jet-A powered Diamond Star as it aims for the touchdown markings on RWY 31
A welcome break from the steady string of CRJs arriving during the early afternoon rush hour. Rising sharply upwards less than a dozen kilometers away, the Kamnik mountains - the foothills of the Julian Alps - provide an excellent backdrop, especially during the winter
And finally, a small twist on the ubiquitous Diamond Katana. Unlike most Katanas flown in Europe, S5-DTF is a C1 model, powered by a 125 HP Teledyne Continental IO-240 engine spinning a two-blade fixed-pitch prop instead of the standard Rotax. The first C1 I've seen, they seem to be widespread in the USA...