Photo File – Long Range Rallye: ferrying a MS.880 across the Med

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

Anybody who has ever read anything on this website will know that I have quite a thing for rare, unusual and interesting general aviation aircraft; if anything, that’s kind of Achtung, Skyhawk!‘s whole deal 🤔 . And since I am also a lifelong “mediteranophile”, I have a particular soft spot for Italian, French and Spanish designs, mostly because their whole concept, style and technical solutions always seem to fly right into the face of the accepted Western norm.

So you can imagine that when offered the opportunity to fly an early, first-gen example of one of France’s best-selling piston singles, my interest was very much piqued. But when asked to also ferry it all the way from Spain to its new home in Croatia, my attention was definitely had! 😀

A little airplane’s big journey (yellows are Day 1; greens Day 2; blues Day 3)

Grandpa runs the marathon

But first, the customary Achtung, Skyhawk! preliminaries. The aircraft in question is a Morane-Saulnier MS.880B Rallye Club, manufactured in 1968 with the serial 1194 – which makes it part of one of the type’s earlier production batches, made just after the company morphed into the more well-known SOCATA in 1966 (though many documents would continue to use the original MS name for some time afterward). Unlike many of its kind, its life so far has been pretty hum-drum, having logged just under 5,800 hours with only four previous owners and two regs, the original OO-CLS and, from 2010 onwards, today’s D-EBKB. Really the only bit of excitement and genuine drama in its life was back in the early 80s, when it suffered a tail strike on landing that required the whole aft fuselage to be replaced.

Our mighty mouse being prepped for its final flight from its now former home. The previous owners had christened it “Virgen de Loreto”, Our Lady of Loreto, which I’m given to believe is the patron of aviation and air forces in Spanish-speaking countries. Given the ease with which we made the entire flight, one could argue she was pulling double overtime!

In its original guise and with its original paint + the old damaged fuselage in the back (photo from Airport Data)

Being a B model, it sports a 100 HP Continental O-200-A four-cylinder engine, the very same unit also found in the Cessna 150; combined with a Maximum Take-Off Mass (MTOM) of 770 kg | 1,700 lbs, on paper this gives it a very similar power-to-weight ratio and performance bracket to the 725 kg | 1,600 lbs late model 150. IRL however, the Rallye’s thicker wing profile and full-span slats do change the equation a bit, for while they make for measurably shorter take-off and landing runs, their extra drag means you do pay the price in the after take-off climb – particularly at the sort of high density altitudes common to continental Spain1. And while you can force the slats to close immediately after lift off in order to clean up the wing, to do so you have to accelerate to approximately 130 km/h | 70 kts (very near the 135 km/h | 73 kts best climb speed), which is not always possible without resorting to level flight, potentially throwing your obstacle clearance out of whack.

Haulage-wise, the standard fuel system (fitted to D-EBKB) is made up of two 52.5 liter | 13.9 USG tanks, which give a total usable fuel of 94 l | 24.8 USG – though there is also an optional long range setup with two 92 l | 24.3 USG tanks for a usable total of 170 | 44.9. With empty masses generally around the 500 kg | 1,100 lbs mark, with full tanks the basic model has a respectable 190 kg | 420 lbs left over for the payload, which today easily accommodates two modern adults with a bit of baggage2.

1 for the most part, the O-200 was considered perfectly adequate for the majority of operations, especially since it combined good fuel economy with reliability and ease of maintenance – all stuff that sounds perfect in marketing materials. However, to cater for the remaining minority that either required more poke or wanted an engine more suitable to their needs, Morane-Saulnier had also offered the:

  • MS.881, powered by the homegrown 105 HP Potez 4E engine (in variants 20, 20A and 20B)
  • MS.883, powered by the 115 HP Lycoming O-235-C2A
  • MS.884, powered by the 125 HP Franklin 4A.235.B3
  • MS.885 Super Rallye, using the 145 HP six-cylinder Continental O-300 (versions A, B, C or D), as seen in the early Cessna 172
  • MS.886, with the 150 HP Lycoming O-320-E, and the
  • MS.887, with the 125 HP Lycoming O-235-F2A

Despite all this variety, most of these were produced in pretty much “token quantity”, with only the 883 and 885 managing to cross 50 examples (77 and 212 respectively if Wikipedia is to be believed)

2 being of 1960s design, the MS.880 was scaled to meet the sizes and masses of the people of the day – hence it being officially classified as a three-seater. And indeed, if you were a 70 kg male with a 60 kg wife and 30 kg kid, you could still take a full 30 kg of baggage, easily enough for a few days away. In 2022 though, the owner and myself – both on opposite sides of the 1.9 meter mark and pushing 90+ kg with our headsets, tablets, cellphones and cameras – were struggling to pack a change of clothes and clean underwear…

In light of these performance issues, we thought it best to attempt a bit of weight saving before departure. Up front thus went the heavy seat cushions, the carpet (which all on its own weighs some three kilos!) and the vacuum tube NAV/COM 2 radio…

… while out back, we ejected the rear seat upholstery in its entirety, the towbar, cargo net and all but the most essential equipment and tools (and a few quarts of oil). By the time we were finished, we had managed to throw out more than 20 kilos, a solid 4% of D-EBKB’s empty mass and equivalent to a full hour’s worth of fuel

The plane in Spain climbs poorly on the plain

Now time for the flight itself. As often happens whenever I start writing, my original idea of making just a simple “cheap & cheerful” photo story had quickly been thrown out in favor of a far more detailed work that would eventually take me three days to write. Since this was the first time in my 20 full years of flying that I had done a ferry flight of this magnitude, I reasoned that a road map of my mental process during the planning stage might make for a much better read – especially since putting it down in writing would also provide me with a chance to sort out the experience and more thoroughly analyse both my initial preparation and my actual performance (and, of course, show off a couple of my best photos 😀 ).

So, to set the ball rolling, here’s a quick summary of the background to the whole operation. Back in early 2022, a friend from Lučko had told me that his son – a PPL(A) holder w/ helicopter experience – had bought an 880B as a personal time-building machine, and since he lacked the experience to fly it over himself, asked whether I would be willing to do the ferry with him. The aircraft was located at Cassarubios del Monte (LEMT) just to the southwest of Madrid, and would need to be flown to either its ultimate destination of Hvar (LDSH), or the intermediate stop at Lučko (LDZL) – all in all, a respectable great circle distance of 1,750 km | 940 NM. The only “catch” was that we’d have to wait for April at the earliest for the paperwork to be completed and the airplane to undergo regular maintenance in preparation for the flight – which also gave me ample time to both request vacation time well in advance, and wait out the fickle spring weather, while still avoiding the hellish heat of full-on summer.

Having been given free reign to plan the whole thing as I saw fit, I set my airline OCD to 11 and then spent the better part of two weeks exploring various route options and fine tuning ideas until I was satisfied with the end result. While this may seem a bit over-the-top (especially since I was using flight planning software that did all the calculations for me), I was still wary of the fact that I had never done anything like before – and that while I do have a ton of trans-European experience, the vast majority of it is in an airline environment, with five figure power outputs, comprehensive avionics, double & triple redundancy, another experienced crew member and Dispatch and Operations departments to call on. If anything, my airline experience had only served as a reminder of just how complicated planning could become (being on the receiving end of it), and just what can go wrong so easily and in such creative ways.

So, while pulling a few legs on a mobile app did indeed take just a couple of minutes, deciding where to pull them took up considerably more time. The legwork that I needed to do in choosing routes and airport stops was predicated by:

1. aircraft performance: as suggested previously with the 100 HP and thick wing, the 880B relies significantly on the curvature of the Earth to climb at higher altitudes and temperatures. So while the type’s “nearly STOL” credentials were not limiting in terms of runway length, they were a very real factor in clearing close-in obstacles and terrain, of which there are many along most of the Mediterranean coast. Compounding the problem was that with the two of us, our essential baggage and full (or nearly full) tanks, we’d be constantly operating at MTOM, further degrading our all-round performance and leaving us very little leeway. Thus, choosing airports for stopovers became first and foremost a question of being able to actually get in and out without undue sweating and swearing, and always being able to have Plans B through Z in case something goes to pot. For this reason, I focused exclusively on paved airstrips, where I could be reasonably sure that the surface held few surprises, and that we’d encounter less rolling resistance, fewer slopes and less chance of ending up stuck due to unfavorable weather

2. fuel and fuel consumption: the first stumbling block with this one was getting an accurate fuel burn figure; D-EBKB has no flowmeter, and I have had enough first-hand experience to take figures in the Pilot Operating Handbook with a grain of salt – especially given the airplane’s advanced age. The only thing I had to go on really was the previous owner, who from his own experience gave a figure of 26 l/block hour | 6.9 GPH at 2,500 RPM, giving around 140 km/h | 76 kts indicated in the cruise (which is a pretty high burn for that speed in O-200 terms). With 94 liters of usable fuel, he considered the realistic endurance to be around 3 hours 20 minutes, roughly on par with that of the Cessna 150.

However, while useful, these figures could also be a pretty sharp double-edged sword. The majority of D-EBKB’s previous flying had been done in highland Spain, which implies high density altitudes, prolonged climbing, and frequent operation at higher power settings – all of which have considerable influence on fuel burn and are not representative of all the conditions we’d be flying through on our way to Croatia. Then there’s also the previous owner’s flying style: how did he climb? how did he lean? how much weight did he carry? what altitudes did he cruise at? what were the average sector lengths? how would my own flying differ? and so on.

Unfortunately, since I had only partial answers to the above (there was a language barrier involved), I had to work with what was available – and then overlay that with a thick layer of additional protection. In combination with my desire to have a flexible and adaptable plan, the somewhat pessimistic fuel burn figure, and the small size of the Rallye’s tanks, this cushion had measurably reduced our possible flight times, adding yet more complexity to the planning. As on any of my own personal flights, my fuel plan was thus generally conservative, and on top of the required 45 minute reserve implied:

  • fuel to reach a realistically distant and realistically usable alternate that satisfied the same criteria as our destination (and not just the first sufficiently long stretch of runway that could take a Rallye)
  • contingency fuel equal to 15% of our trip fuel, as protection against higher-than-standard fuel burn, sub-optimal leaning, and my poor math & ham-fisted flying
  • and 20-30 minutes of additional fuel to cover issues like possible deviations off track, altitude changes (since we would mostly be sticking to 1,000 ft above ground), weather avoidance, stronger winds, and the possibility of holding at busier regional airports

What remained thus became the trip fuel. The upshot is that we ended up with possible flight times of up to 1 hour 40 minutes, which at 140 km/h make for approximately 250 km | 135 NM in one go. The issue here is that in parts of Spain (northeast) and Italy (northwest) there are not many airports within the distance that can readily fulfill our criteria, which naturally had a lot of bearing on both the choice of routes and the maximum flight time that we were willing to go to in order to avoid undue in-flight complications.

To illustrate just what sort of rabbit hole this can turn into, a fuel check and brief analysis after each flight revealed that our actual block consumption at said 2,500 RPM ranged from as much as 29 l/h | 7.7 GPH on the high plains down to as little as 21 l/h | 5.5 GPH along the coast, illustrating that a) a “one size fits all” figure is bound to be crap by default, and b) that with growing experience of the aircraft, careful leaning and as smooth a throttle operation as was possible in the conditions, we had managed to stretch our endurance by up to 30 minutes. Indeed, this better-than-planned fuel flow came in handy after we started encountering stronger headwinds over Italy, since we could now punch the RPM up to 2,650 and still meet our originally planned endurance figure despite a 31 l/h | 8.2 GPH fuel flow

3. aircraft handling: to expand on the previous paragraph, I also had to take into account my unfamiliarity with the Rallye (save for the couple of hours I’d logged on the bigger 150 HP MS.892 several years ago). Given the type’s pussycat behavior and the robustness and tolerances inherent to its design, this was not so much an issue of safety as it was of efficiency; any planning thus had to take into account that I’d need some time and at least a couple of legs before I even started hitting the performance figures in the POH, let alone getting the most out of the aircraft

4. weather: while the meteorological situation on a regional scale was important, so too were local conditions at and around our stopover airports, as well as at specific points en-route. For the first fifth of the trip, we’d be operating out of continental airports at 2,000+ ft above sea level, which – due to the absence of the sea’s stabilizing effect – experience considerable daily temperature variations. On the day before our departure, D-EBKB’s former home thus saw a temperature low of just 5° C at dawn… and a high of 35° C at 3 PM. This variation in density altitude and consequently aircraft performance would be keenly felt even with the 10,000 HP of the Q400, let alone the 100 of the Rallye. Thus, planning also hinged on using the morning chill as much as possible, and avoiding high terrain and obstacles during the high heat of noon (at least until we made it to the coast). Later on in the trip, the southern foothills of the Alps required their own approach – especially for their tendency to boil over with enthusiastic vertical cloud development – as did the fast-changing weather of the Genova Low. Finally, we’d have to cross the Velebit mountain range in Croatia, which has had a depressing number of aircraft carcasses litter its sides over the years – though here at least I could call on some of my own experiences of flying by over in aircraft with similar power-to-weight ratios

5. airport services: another issue that had to be balanced was the minimum level of airport service necessary, and avoiding complicated handling procedures common to larger airports (not to mention their traffic flows). While it may seem a stretch to claim that the Rallye needs some “minimum level of service”, being on a ferry flight and unfamiliar with most of the areas we’d be flying over, I had to take into account the possibility of change of plans due to weather, mechanical failures, in-flight re-planning, airspace closures and so on. So, the airports and airfields that I chose – destinations AND alternates – had to have:

  • a readily and commercially available supply of Avgas (since many smaller fields have fuel solely for their own purposes)
  • a flying club, airport operator or handling agent that could render logistical assistance
  • a maintenance shop with at least basic tools
  • acceptable accommodation nearby
  • and, for end-of-day legs, at least basic runway lighting

The availability of these services would have to be checked and confirmed by email and/or phone with each airport in turn, which alone had taken up almost two days. Further complicating things was that many regional airports in Spain and France (which are quite practical and very convenient) require prior permission or advance notice, which is doubly complicated when you aim to have a flexible plan that allows considerable space for improvisation should there be a delay or problem. The one thing at least that we didn’t have to worry about 95% of the time were customs and immigration, since all but the final leg were within the Schengen Area, and both of us have EU passports

6. rules, regs & local knowledge: passing as we were through unfamiliar territory, no detailed planning was practical until I had familiarized myself with the Aeronautical Information Publications (AIP) of Spain, France and Italy. While only a small fraction of that complicated mass of documents actually concerned us (general rules, VFR rules, VFR routes, airspace structure and such), they were still full of blind bends and loopholes that all had to be navigated in order to assure a stress-free trip.

Thankfully, I had much outside experience to call on here, starting with D-EBKB’s former owner (language barrier notwithstanding)… then Lukasz from Poland, who now actually lives in Spain, has had an 880B before and whose MS.892 I had flown and wrote about… and a friend from Lučko who flew his TB-20 and DA-42 pretty much all over Europe several times over. Such a huge mass of information was very welcome and gratefully received – but it still took some time to badger all of them with my stream of (occasionally stupid) questions and then process the results. Another good resource were various EU GA websites, as well as pilot reports within the flight planning app, which were often more revealing than all the docs in the AIP put together…

7. airspace configuration: another expansion of a previous point, and particularly applicable to southern France. Due to the large number of busy international airports and large military bases along the coast – Perpignan, Montpellier, Marseille, Nice, Cannes, Istres, Hyères – VFR transit routes over there are pretty restrictive both in lateral and vertical terms. To avoid causing a mess with commercial traffic on approach and departure, these routes limit light aircraft to between 500 and 1,000 ft above ground/water, which had to figure in available glide range and even the possibility of ditching and rescue

8. aircraft and system reliability: the big elephant in the room. “54 years old”, “first generation” and “trans-Mediterranean” may all sound full-on Achtung, Skyhawk! – but when you’re not typing that from a comfy chair and your ass is instead directly on the line, they take on a whole new kind of weight. Thankfully, much peace of mind was assured by the airplane’s excellent mechanical state (despite its tattered visual appearance), complete insight into its entire maintenance and damage history, a number of test flights prior to departure – and the new owner’s maintenance experience, which gave him a far more informed opinion than mine could ever hope to be. Props also go to him for indulging me in tearing apart the nose to check on the tautness of the throttle and mixture cables, something I’m quite touchy about given my past experiences on the 150…

In spite of these assurances, any planning had to take into account that the engine may go belly up at any moment – especially if it’s a bad one, as the patron saint of aviation, Murphy, is always teaching us. On overland flights, this included familiarizing myself with the terrain en-route (as much as I could online and without actually seeing it with my own eyes), and in flight keeping just a tiny bit closer to any formal airstrips where available – even if they’re intended for microlights only, since a short runway is better than no runway at all. Avoiding any extended overwater flight was as obvious as said water being wet (heh), even though it could not always be helped due to the aforementioned route restrictions. Lastly, the good thing is that both the O-200 and the original Rallye are so simple and robust that there’s really nothing on them delicate or fussy enough to break easily, which did go a long way to reducing stress levels in the cockpit.

The same approach also applied to the potential for on-board equipment failure, particularly the instruments and/or radios. To that end, we took along multiple mobile devices all fitted with the same flight planning software, as well as apps that use the unit’s GPS and internal gyros to simulate the Basic T should we lose any of the few primary instruments we had. Rounding all of them up was a powerful hand-held 8.33 MHz radio, as well as a set of torches, spare fuses and USB chargers to keep all of that tech fed

9. costs: ironically, a factor that made the whole operation into the non issue it turned out to be, and was a significant factor in my decision to take this flight on. As well as being given complete control over the flying side of the whole thing, I was also given pretty much a free hand financially, since the brief was “get yourselves home safely” and “price cutting doesn’t mean a damn thing if you’re dead”. However, while the financial considerations did thus drop to the bottom of the list of priorities, it would still be foolish and irresponsible of me to behave like a drunken millionaire, especially with current gas prices and inflation. Thus if I had a choice of two airports that offered the same level of handling and had the same (or very nearly the same) risks and benefits, I would tend to go for the cheaper option, particularly since I could usually arrange in advance to have available (and be charged for) just the services we actually needed. While this may sound highly specific, it was actually a common occurrence along the coast of France, with so many high quality GA airports on offer in a small area that you were spoiled for choice like a kid in a candy store…

ADDENDUM – 10. physiological factors: a frequently overlooked, but very pertinent, set of issues that should feature in any proper long-range planning – and which I had ironically overlooked (heh) when initially publishing this work. Yes, one of said issues was indeed coming to terms with the depressingly limited endurance of my bladder… but overall, they go so much further than that. Being a short-haul turboprop driver, I’ve had many an opportunity to experience first-hand just how much:

  • cockpit temperatures
  • vibration
  • noise
  • sitting position & seat quality
  • restricting elbow/leg/head room
  • unergonomic controls
  • exposure to sunlight
  • headphones + accessories

and the like have an influence on one’s performance during flight. The problem are not so much their individual or combined magnitudes – but the insidious effects of prolonged exposure to them that slowly, almost imperceptibly, erode your concentration, reaction time and judgement, while at the same time contributing to an increase in tiredness, irritability, forgetfulness, risk taking and the overall chances of royally screwing things up.

Like the Q400, the Rallye ticks pretty much all of the boxes mentioned. And while nearly 5,000 hours’ worth of exposure to them had definitely steeled me for the trip, these were still issues to be very wary of, and which had to factor prominently in both the maximum flight time and maximum number of legs we’d be willing to do each day (particularly since D-EBKB’s new owner had not gone through the same Regional Turboprop Meat Grinder, and would be expected to take the strain significantly worse than I). Since we were not pressed for time at any point during the trip, and had beautiful weather forecast for the entire week, I decided to adopt a similar approach to some airline scheduling departments, and start out strong and hard-hitting – but then progressively reduce the load and increase rest times as accumulated fatigue started to set in. As an upshot, Day 1 would thus see us do five legs for a total block time of seven hours – while Day 3 would whittle that down to just two legs and three block hours. Combined with an early arrival on Day 2 (6 PM) and late departure (11 AM), the latter had had significant beneficiary influence on our level of alertness and vigilance, especially important since we were a) due to cross the aforementioned Velebit mountain range on a windy day… and b) were within spitting distance of home and had to be on extra lookout for any “get-there-itis”

The Madrid-Zagreb Rallye

With the (not inconsiderable!) list of requirements finally reconciled, the end route ended up looking almost like a drunkard had planned it after a heavy binge session. The complete itinerary thus included:

DAY 1: Cassarubios del Monte (LEMT) •• Ocaña (LEOC) •• Requena (LERE) •• Reus (LERS) •• Girona - Costa Brava (LEGE) •• Béziers - Cap d'Agde (LFMU)

DAY 2: Béziers •• Le Castellet (LFMQ) •• Albenga - Riviera (LIMG) •• Cremona - Migliaro (LILR) •• Padova - Gino Allegri (LIPU)

DAY 3: Padova •• Portorož - Sečovlje (LJPZ) •• Lučko (LDZL)

And for how it actually turned out, here to tell the story are the best bits: the photos! 😀

Wind turbines, rolling hills and endless sun-burnt fields… the wonderful Spanish high plains in a nutshell. Their gentle nature, moderate elevations and ample space to land in case of engine trouble were the primary reasons for taking the longer southeastern route toward Valencia and then up the coast, rather than cutting directly northeast via Zaragoza and crossing Aragon’s Sistema Ibérico mountain chain

The “Looking Cool In Front Of Mountains” Starter Pack, first at Requena’s 2,340 ft and then Albenga’s 149 ft. While I do love both poses, they were actually borne out of necessity rather than aesthetics. D-EBKB has the type’s original (and temperamental) fuel system, in which both tanks are permanently interconnected; the fuel level between them thus takes some time to equalize, and if you fill both to full in quick succession on any form of sideways slope, fuel with soon start to vent through the underwing relief valves. So once refueling was done, we had to quickly reorient the airplane into a position where the wings could be as level as possible until the fuel settled – often with good visual results

High sun, scorched hills and a view full of navigation devices… perfectly sums up Day 1 in Spain! Though we were worried the exposure to direct sunlight through the transparent canopy would have a negative effect on the tablet (particularly in terms of heat), all devices remained cool and trouble-free throughout the trip, no doubt due to a helping breeze from the overhead ventilation grille

An off-beat airplane, a quirky panel, a calming sunset – and below us the beautiful Gulf of Lion (which we did not actually cross, but turned out to merely for the photo opportunity). The slats and this cockpit setup are probably my two favorite things about the early 880s; they just give them so much character and style. The visibility is epic… the whole cabin is airy and comfy… the instruments are a fascinating Anglo-French-US mix… the aux fuel pump switch and generator light look like Sean Connery’s Bond is about to pop up and use them… and most the levers have no sense whatsoever, since you push the throttle and mix to go – but pull the electrical master and cabin heat/vent knobs for them to do their thing

A suitcase in front of a personal airplane on a foggy dawn at a chic GA airport on the French Riviera… I feel like cut-price version of the Côte d’Azur jet set

Skirting the edge of the morning sea fog off the coast of Marseille. Like summer fog in Zagreb (and unlike the week-long blanket in winter), this one was extremely localized and cleared up within 30 minutes; indeed, visibility on the left was such that we almost saw Paris…

Being stuck at 500 ft all the way from Saint-Tropez to the Italian border meant we could at least enjoy the sights significantly closer up than usual… in this case the Cap du Dramont just off the picturesque town of Saint-Raphaël. Riviera cruising the proper way!

The Fueling Twin-Pak, Le Castellet at top & Cremona below. One of my more subtle planning failures was underestimating the time needed to refuel; no, not the actual process itself, but sorting out the bills afterwards. Same thing for landing fees; while not complicated in any way, it does take up more time than I’d expected, particularly since we were first-time visitors at all airfields en-route, and had to fill in extra paperwork as a result. Thus the 30 minutes that I’d planned for each stop at smaller airfields quickly turned into 45-60 (and more), except at Girona where we were all done in just 25

Cruising by Venice Beach… no, not the one in LA, but the one near actual Venice. The abundance of sandy beaches – some miles long – that offered ample place to land in case of engine problems meant that following the coastline at the top of the Adriatic was a complete no-brainer, particularly since it added just 10 minutes to our flight time over a direct hop across the sea

Day 3 of 3, Leg 10 of 11, clear skies all the way, and familiar territory ahead… with as calming scenery as this, you can finally start to appreciate the magnitude of the whole trip, especially given our airplane’s sedate cruising pace and leisurely attitude to climbing

And finally (almost) home, parked at Lučko next to one of my daily drivers (sporting a brand new lick of paint now), just one minute after our planned arrival time. As mentioned previously, D-EBKB’s ultimate home will be Hvar Airfield on the island of the same name, but it will initially spend some time here at Lučko (where I had quite a bit of STOL fun with it in the meantime)

And finally, a little timelapse vid of one of the most scenic approaches of the trip (in pretty strong competition): the visual for RWY 09 at Albenga (sorry for the poor quality, the canopy is quite old + this was the only place I could put the camera without it rebooting due to vibration):

Totting up + lessons learned

So, when all was said and done, the end stats looked like this:

  • total block time: 17 hours 10 minutes
  • total time en-route: 75 hours 20 minutes | three calendar days
  • number of legs: 11
  • total distance covered: ~2,200 km | ~1,190 NM
  • average cruise ground speed: ~135 km/h | ~73 kts
  • recorded ground speed extremes: 165 km/h | 89 kts •• 75 km/h | 40 kts
  • elevation extremes: Ocaña (LEOC) 2,405 ft •• Portorož (LJPZ) 7 ft
  • total fuel used: ~460 l | ~122 USG (with RPM settings from 2,500 to 2,650 RPM)

However, much more important than any of these were the lessons I’d learned along the way. Since this was, as oft mentioned, the first time I’ve ever done a flight like this, it was inevitable that I’d make some missteps in the process, which – provided I lived to tell the tale – would allow me to both learn about myself and my (lack of) skills, as well as make for an interesting analysis of where I did good or bad.

The good is pretty obvious: we made it safely to where we needed to be. But, more than that, we had no significant operational issues along the way; we arrived at Lučko exactly to plan; we had no mechanical problems whatsoever (except a transponder that would overheat after six hours of operation); made no airspace infringements or AIP violations; and were more-or-less in our expected budget range. The entire trip was so smooth in fact that the biggest problems on our plate were cockpit temperatures, uncomfortable seats – and the nagging issue of our climb performance always fermenting somewhere in the subconscious. Indeed, we had commented more than once that we’d managed to cross half the Mediterranean with less fuss, delays and frustration than it sometimes takes to rent a Cessna 172 on a busy day and make a 30 minute panoramic flight (and that’s not an overstatement!).

Not only that, but the scale of what we’d done (in light of the performance limitations of the aircraft) has led to much professional maturing on my part, both by validation of the quality of my planning, and the realization of the amount of effort and foresight necessary to do it all by yourself… not to mention the sobering number of ways it could have all gone very wrong.

And now, for the more interesting part: the bad. While the amount of planning I’d invested was indeed the key to our carefree success, it would be foolish – and quite dangerous – to just pat myself on the back and leave it at that. As I mull over the whole thing a week later, I can identify several issues that would require more effort than I put into them, and that I’d definitely do differently if given the chance again:

  • trust your charts – but keep your options securely open: since even a cursory glance at the 880B’s performance tables had foretold the difficulties of operating at high masses and high temperatures, I took extra care to familiarize myself with both the terrain en-route, and around each stopover airport. Despite having studied numerous airport charts and satellite images, I was surprised more than once to realize just how… hmm… “colorful” the actual terrain really was, and just how misleading 2D (and even basic 3D) depictions could be. Area diagrams, VFR charts and Google Earth also did not accurately depict many obstacles further out along the departure path (such as trees, houses or power lines), which made for a few very lively take-offs up in the mountains, and considerable improvisation and re-planning right on the spot. So, while all of these tools are indispensable and definitely the basis of all planning, they are not the by-all-and-end-all – and should be looked at with a more critical eye and a full suite of backup plans and options
  • what goes up must come down: the vast open plains of Spain, clear skies and the rapid increase in temperature during the day are a sure guarantee of strong thermal activity, which can be a useful tool in aircraft with marginal performance; indeed, back in the times of skydive ops, it was not unusual to hitch a ride in them when climbing up to 10,000+ feet, since at those altitudes even a stripped out Cessna 182 could eek out just a paltry 200 feet per minute in the climb. However, since I was unfamiliar with the area’s thermal potential (and lacked the gliding experience to be able to judge it with what I would consider to be a sufficient level of precision), I decided to disregard them as an active factor and treat them as a hidden benefit. Unfortunately, despite some motorglider experience, I had failed to take into account that updrafts tend to be accompanied by downdrafts, which should then be classified as a “hidden danger”. This too made for some interesting initial climbing in Spain; and while I pretty quickly added their potential to the mix, it was still a fail on my part not to have considered them a problem right from the outset
  • optimistic ground stop planning: something I’d already touched upon in one of the photos above. While my plan included a lot of space for improvisation and soaking up delays, I was still working under the (misguided) assumption that ground handling would be a relatively smooth affair as it is in the airlines. And even though we had hit our 30 minute target a number of times, there were still several airports where we went significantly over the one hour mark. This was not so much of a problem on the scale of the entire ferry; rather, the issue was in reaching our overnight stop, where we had already booked parking space in advance to keep costs down. Case in point was the last leg of Day 1 (Girona-Béziers), where we made it in with just 15 minutes to spare on the ground service operator’s clock. And while all that would have happened had we scrubbed that leg and stayed the night in Girona was a hefty parking fee, more realistic planning could have avoided by a bigger margin a significant increase in costs without any compromise in safety or the overall timing of the flight
  • there’s no I in team: a point that particularly smarts given my airline background and its heavy emphasis on Crew Resource Management. The issue that bugs me here is not interpersonal or character-based; quite the opposite in fact, the trip was pretty much like a “boys’ night out”, but with airplanes. The problem lay in my own inconsistency and lack of delegation. When we started the trip, I insisted we do approach briefings, something ported over from the big cockpit and intended to keep both of us in the loop in a critical phase of flight. In this briefing, I would go over the most pertinent issues facing us at our destination – terrain, aircraft performance, runway characteristics, maneuvering areas, expected threats, … – with the purpose of giving the owner a clear idea of what my game plan was, getting his input, and helping him help me by assisting with traffic observation, frequency monitoring, navigation setup and so on. And that worked well… until we stopped doing them halfway into the trip. At first, the reason was simply us becoming more in sync as time went on, and starting to discuss such matters already en-route (albeit in a less structured manner); but later, it also became an issue of tiredness and a drop in novelty as we approached familiar territory (NE Italy, where I had flown a lot). The good thing at least is that the 880B’s asthmatic performance meant we never skipped a thorough performance and obstacle analysis before each flight, and were quite fastidious in agreeing to a suitable strategy for the after take-off climb. The other issue was the distribution of tasks between us. While I certainly did not do everything on my own like I’m a one-man-band – and the owner did sterling work on the ground, particularly handling and airport services – with hindsight I do note that I did do most of the in-flight stuff myself, despite having relied on the owner’s excellent ear for chatter on the radio. My core motivation at the time had been to both avoid breaking up my own single-engine mental flow as I grew more tired, and to avoid piling too much of a load on the owner, for whom this trip was a good deal more mentally exhausting than for me. However, I later realized this was counterproductive on a number of levels, since I had another person on board ready and willing to help (also point I went on about before we set off), and we were really never in the sort of conditions where his lack of flying experience would be a hindrance. If anything, a trip of this scale was pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain experience you simply could not get in normal in-country flying, which would have been quite the useful educational tool had I used it properly
  • trusting mythology: this point has more to do with pre-departure aircraft familiarization than with actual planning, but is still a very important one to make. Having never flown an 880 before, I naturally did a few intro flights with the previous owner, who had had the aircraft for 10+ years, crossed a significant chunk of Western Europe with it, and was well versed in the particularities of operating both out of Cassarubios and Spain in general. And while his input after 35 years of flying was indeed very welcome and useful, I did feel that there were some elements of his handling of the 880 that fell into the category “do it like this, since we’ve always done it like that” – i.e. myths and half-truths passed down from generation to generation without analyzing in depth WHY it is done like that. Case in point were high weight take-offs from short runways, which flew into the face of many time-tested STOL practices – and were later, through experimentation on my part, proven to be at least partially false. My own fault here was taking the previous owner’s experience for granted – given he’s been flying for almost as long as I exist – without insisting I nevertheless try it my own way in controlled conditions and see if my ideas made more sense
Back to the world of grownups
And finally, a well-needed dose of realism and perspective. While everything said so far sounds fine and dandy - and the trip was indeed a "working adventure" that every pilot should try at least one - it turned out that way solely for one overarching reason: the financial and operational latitude that I had been given. Without a set price target (just a general expected bracket and no obligation to stick to it in the interests of safety), I could plan as conservatively as I felt necessary, and put professional best practices at the forefront. 

Had I been on a low grade commercial contract like some professional ferry pilots are, things could have been far less rosy, and chances are that my operational freedom would have been severely restricted. In such a case, it would have been entirely possible that I'd be forced by circumstance into cutting corners and pushing beyond my comfort zone, which would have both made planning far more difficult - and made the whole ferry itself a good deal more stressful, with a bigger potential for making a right old mess of it


  • EASA – MS.880 family Type Certificate Data Sheet (PDF)


  • 1 JUN 2022: added “Physiological Factors” to planning stage

Incident – LDZL Storm Damage 04 OCT 2020

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

On the night of 03 October at around 21:00-22:00 local time, Lučko Airfield (LDZL) suffered a hit by a powerful squall line that caused considerable material damage – but, fortunately, no human (or animal) casualties. According to information available at the time of writing (subject to update), the airfield was struck by sudden gale-force winds and hail, with wind speeds in excess of 65 knots (as recorded by the anemometer just before it failed).

As of 16:00 local on 04 October, the damage to aircraft includes:

  • Reims FR172F Rocket | 9A-DMJ: flipped over, heavy damage
  • Cessna 150M | 9A-DEY: flipped over, heavy damage
  • Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub | 9A-DBS: struck by hangar door, heavy damage
  • Scheibe SF-25B Falke | 9A-DGZ: struck by hangar door, heavy damage
  • Pilatus B4-PC11AF | 9A-GPA: struck by debris, superficial damage
  • Storm Century 04 | YL-ARV: struck by hail, light damage
  • Mil Mi-8MTV-1/Mi-171Sh (4-5 machines): struck by hail, rotor damage

In the same period, the damage to infrastructure is:

  • main hangar: doors blown in, partial roof collapse
  • police hangar annex: light roof damage
  • Delta Air canvas hangar: severe damage
  • fuel pump: protective housing damaged

Unsurprisingly, the airfield has been closed for a week, as per the following NOTAM:


UPDATE: as of the evening of 05 October, the above NOTAM is no longer in force; the airfield is now open once again

More information and photos as the situation develops!

Photo updates:

The perfect metaphor for the day: clear skies abd beautiful flying weather viewed through the mangled tail of a Cessna 150…

Temporary repairs to the main hangar doors, until the original two sections (on the floor) can be reinstalled

In jail. All airworthy aircraft had quickly been relocated to other parts of the airfield, with only DGZ, DBS and grounded Starduster Too 9A-DID remaining inside


  • 04 OCT 12:00 local – initial info
  • 04 OCT 16:00 local – aircraft and infrastructure damage revised
  • 04 OCT 16:30 local – new photos added
  • 05 OCT 21:00 local – airfield status updated

Photo File – Flying In The Time Of Corona: Foreign GA Snapshots

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

While going through my photo database in search of material for my previous Flying In The Time Of Corona photo file, I discovered that there’s plenty of stuff in there for a follow-up post as well – but this time focusing solely on foreign visitors to Croatia’s many coastal airports (+ Lučko of course). Like our own birds, these too could not be scared off that easily, arriving into the country in quantity and quality rarely seen even in years past. And since it would be rude of me to keep them all for myself, another summer time Photo File is obviously in order! (to build on the two bonus Cessna 172RGs already featured in their own post)

Before they can learn how to fly, young gliders must first learn how to taxi. To make that big step easier, their owners often fit them with training wheels and take them for short strolls around the apron. With time, they will progress to longer walks all the way to the runway – and eventually, when they feel more comfortable at the airport, they will finally be able to spread their wings and start flying all on their own…

A 210 on a hill… in the middle of an airport… next to a fire trainer… by a fuel farm… in the shade of an olive grove… well, that’s this week taken care of! What may eventually become the new static exhibit at Split Airport (SPU/LDSP), OK-TKN had arrived into town unexpectedly following an in-flight engine failure, and is now caught up in the financial and logistical nightmare of getting it going again…

Another skydive PC-6 – and another drive to see it right after the night shift. What makes this 2006 example a little bit more special is that it sports the 680 HP PT6A-34 engine instead of the stock 550 HP 27 series – and is seen carrying the type’s somewhat uncommon external fuel tanks. Carrying another 200 liters each, they give the PC-6 an impressive seven hour endurance – itself quite a neat trick on workdays when F-HBSF is used as an aerial imaging platform (for skydive ops they’re empty, but to simplify handling they’re usually left on the wing, since their performance penalty is quite small all things considered)

One of only 30 or so ever made (and the second one to end up in front of my camera), this beautiful Ruschmeyer R90 is one of those fantastic “what could have been” machines that make GA so special. Designed by Horst Ruschmeyer of Hannover in Germany, the R90 was an attempt to bring together all the cutting edge tech of the late 80s and combine it into a high-performance four-seat touring aircraft made squarely to European – rather than American – measure. Built entirely out of fiberglass (which was tested to destruction) and sporting a speedy laminar flow wing, it could touch 300 km/h in the cruise on just 230 HP – making it faster than pretty much every other aircraft of its power class. Its real party piece, however, was its noise signature: at full chat, it could do just 66 dB – roughly equivalent to the noise level of a typical office, and some 8 dB below the strictest level required by law. To do this, it was fitted with specially-designed exhaust stacks and a bespoke short-span four-blade composite prop – while the engine itself, a Lycoming IO-540, was actually derated down to 230 HP from its default 260 to cut down on all the yelling. Beautifully finished and with handling characteristics that were described as “a real treat”, the 230RG was supposed to launch an entire family of aircraft, including everything from a 190 HP fixed-gear “budget” model to a 470 HP Rolls-Royce 250 powered speed machine. Unfortunately, the design took until 1990 to sufficiently mature, by which time the market had slumped so hard that even Cessna had to throw in the towel. The results were depressingly predictable: after just five years of production and a single variant, the Ruschmeyer works filed for bankruptcy – and, despite attempts by other companies to revive the design, that was that for the sleek little R90…

So similar, yet so different: two “budget speedsters” that show just what can be done with some clever engineering and a bit of compromise. An aircraft that had set new standards for efficiency in its class, the Mooney M-20J (on top) was rebranded as the “201” when it became the first four-seat touring aircraft to reach 201 miles per hour (175 kts; 320 km/h) on just 200 HP. Though it had paid the price in payload and interior space – and required an extensive aerodynamic cleanup by the legendary Roy LoPresti – the J had set the stage for today’s M-20V, which needs only 280 HP and a turbocharger to cruise at 242 kts (450 km/h)… two thirds of the Q400’s maximum speed // But the more interesting machine is the Duruble RD.03 Edelweiss, an aircraft that needs only 180 HP and a fixed-pitch prop to do 147 kts (270 km/h) while sipping just 8.7 gallons an hour – roughly what a Cessna 172 would drink, using exactly the same engine and prop, to do 110 kts (204 km/h). What’s even more fascinating is that the RD.03 is actually a homebuilt, and was designed in the 70s by Roland Duruble, a marine engineer by trade. Other interesting bits include hydraulically operated landing gear and flaps, the latter extending automatically to the desired setting in response to airspeed – stuff unheard of even on turboprop twins. Another neat trick is that the horizontal stabilizer has a slight dihedral – it is mounted at an upward angle – so that it remains clear of the turbulence coming off the flaps (an effect that is quite pronounced on the Q400 at Flaps 35, and results in noticeable airframe vibration). This particular machine had been completed in 2003, and aside from the uprated 180 HP engine (the type standard is 160), it also sports a Lancair-style air intake that gives an additional performance and efficiency boost. In fact, the build is so sweet that it had featured in several GA magazines – often with the tagline “France’s homebuilt Mooney”

I may be small – but at least I’m weird. An aircraft whose elegance immediately belies its Italian origins, the Partenavia P.68 boasts quite an unusual cocktail of characteristics for a “serious six-seat touring aircraft”: a high cantilever wing, a pair of “small” IO-360 engines and – most interesting of all – fixed landing gear. But, while this may raise eyebrows, there’s quite a lot of method to its madness: from the outset, the P.68 was designed to be an efficient, affordable and user-friendly alternative to conventional twins of the 1970s, using sleek lines and clever aerodynamics to cruise at 300 km/h on just 2x 200 HP – and calculating that the drag penalty of the gear is a lesser evil than the weight, cost and complexity of retractable units (an approach later also taken by Cirrus). And it worked: in continuous production since 1971, more than 430 have been sold so far – including 20 of its glass-nosed patrol & observation models, the P.68 Observer & Observer 2 –  making it one of Italy’s most successful GA designs. And if it reminds you somewhat of Tecnam’s new P.2012 Traveler, rest assured that the resemblance is NOT coincidental: the P.68 was in fact penned by the brothers Luigi and Giovanni Pascale, who would in 1986 go on to found the same “Costruzioni Aeronautiche Tecnam”…

Another speedy Italian Job – but with an unusual address (in Latvia no less). One of the many LSA designs to come out of Italy during the late 80s homebuilt boom, the Century 04 is a fixed-gear derivative of the earlier Century RG, featuring a 100 HP Rotax 912 w/ a constant speed prop – both of which are good for a solid 200 km/h in the cruise while sipping just 10-15 liters per hour. With space for a proper 2+2 config – but sporting only two seats to give more baggage space – YL-ARV will likely become a Lučko native soon…

Photo File – Flying In The Time Of Corona: Croatian GA Snapshots

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

Due to reasons beyond my control (to put it mildly), I had quite a bit of free time on my hands this summer, which I decided to spend – like in the good ol’ days – by enjoying the scenery at various airports and airfields throughout the land. While one would have assumed that the lockdown (pretty mild in Croatia, but still keenly felt) would have had a negative impact on GA ops, the truth of the matter was that the number of aircraft buzzing about had actually increased – which meant that there were always plentiful photo opportunities wherever you went. A perfect setting then to get the camera out and see what I’d been missing over the winter… 😀

If you’re sad for the demise of Cold War underground air bases and bomb-proof aircraft hangars, don’t despair – Dubrovnik Airport (DBV/LDDU) has something for you! Not so much a Hardened Aircraft Shelter as a “Hardened Vehicle Garage”, the brand new semi-subterranean storage depot along the airport’s northwestern perimeter may seem like an unlikely place for aircraft photography… but as you can see, it pulls it off nicely!

Concentration at 120% as a young colleague readies his ship for a late afternoon training flight. Somewhat fortunately, this student-weary veteran of the Croatian Aviation Training Center – to whose weariness I myself had actively contributed a decade ago – will soon give way to…

… this. It’s startup may not have been as smoky as I would have liked (thankfully for the engine!), but it was nevertheless worth frying like sushi on the superheated apron to catch my first ever Duchess. Conceived on the same train of thought as the Seminole, the 76 was always a typical Beech design: built up to a standard rather than down to a price. Unfortunately, that made it quite expensive to buy and maintain, meaning that only 437 would ever be produced… barely half the Seminole’s ~930 (and counting). Ironically, being a replacement for 9A-DZG means that Walter Beech may still have a tiny last chuckle!

Number 2 for departure after three incoming arrivals, holding short on a parallel runway being used as a taxiway since it is too close for proper simultaneous operations… this is not Lučko – it’s Gatwick on grass!

Of course he’s happy – he’s going flying… and on an aircraft he built himself from the wheels up, and from parts of half a dozen factory Super Cubs!

The 70s are back – as an airplane. While this “50 Shades Of Brown” interior may not be all that hot by today’s style standards, it is nevertheless so throwback cool that it warrants a “10/10 would sit” rating! (it also helps that the entire cockpit is crisp, clean, neat – and fully original, with the same trim it had back in 1986 when it rolled off the production line) (and yes, despite the D- reg, this machine is a fully-fledged local)

Even on its own territory, the Reims Rocket is a shy and reclusive species, easily frightened by noise and sudden movement. Because its colorful plumage makes it easy prey for photographers, it has evolved the ability to escape and hide quickly and without warning; always approach it silently and patiently, using local terrain and foliage for cover whenever possible…

And finally, one little Cherokee I’m VERY happy to see again! Covered previously in two some of my earliest posts here (part #1 and #2), DJZ is the sole “pre-Warrior” PA-28 in the country, and had years & years ago been based at Dubrovnik (DBV/LDDU). Unfortunately, a while back it had fallen on some hard times and was left to rot in the corner of the apron. Thankfully, about a year ago it had been brought to Medulin Airfield (LDPM) in Istria, where it is now undergoing a complete restoration – and will be happily flying already in early 2021!

Photo File – Moraning Around: Flying The Rallye 150

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

It had always been said that the gut feeling is a powerful tool and that it would be wise to (at least occasionally) listen to what it has to say. Returning home from town one day, I decided to do just that, and on a whim stopped off at my base airfield of Lučko (LDZL) to see what’s up – since, hey, it was on my way anyway. Rolling onto the parking lot, I noticed a Morane-Saulnier Rallye standing in front of the hangar, the same machine I had seen at Zagreb (ZAG/LDZA) a few days earlier. Sporting a Polish reg, it had immediately caught my attention – so, naturally, I headed over to see what’s what.

It would transpire that its owner had moved to Zagreb for work, and would be basing his airplane here at Lučko. Immediately intrigued (even more than before), I struck up a conversation, which would culminate some two hours later with an invitation to eventually go flying 😀 . Having always had a thing for the Rallye family, I needed little persuasion – so a day later we met up again for a one-hour introductory flight around the vicinity 🙂 .

In keeping with character, I had my camera ready and my brain open to impressions, keen on getting some proper Achtung, Skyhawk! material – possibly even enough to repeat my previous UTVA U-75 piece. However, in the end I decided to take the opportunity to simply cruise around at leisure and enjoy the view, so apart from a couple of basic maneuvers to get a feel for the aircraft – and several touch-and-goes to judge its landing characteristics and low-speed behavior – we spent most of our time zipping around straight & level, with just an occasional spot of moderate maneuvering. Nevertheless, I felt it fitting to try and hazard a few parallels with both the U-75 and the C172 I normally fly, if anything to attempt to illustrate some of the charm and charisma of one of France’s most successful and timeless designs…

Author’s note: despite these parallels, this is NOT a proper, professional review – as was also the case with the U-75 – since I have neither the skills, experience nor qualifications to make any sort of objective conclusion or comparison. Rather, this is just a condensed (if structured) personal experience of a life-long GA fan, a bit of light reading that I hope enthusiasts could find interesting!

The proper way to enjoy your first flight on a new type: sunny skies above, excellent light all around and fine terrain below!

Rallye around

The little bird in question is a 1973 SOCATA* MS.892E Rallye 150, sporting the reg SP-IKY and serial 12238. As its name implies, it has 150 HP on tap, provided by a garden variety Lycoming O-320-E2A – the same basic unit found in the most common Cessna 172 variants (the M and N) and the Piper Warrior – which spins an equally common 1.93 m McCauley 1C series two-blade fixed pitch propeller (though a 1.88 m Sensenich M.74 can also be fitted). With 980 kg of Maximum Take Off Mass to move, this combination gives roughly the same performance ballpark as the other two, while a fuel capacity of between 180 (standard tanks, fitted to SP-IKY) and 220 liters (optional long-range fit) gives broadly similar endurance and range.

* though the basic design – the MS.880 – was designed by Morane-Saulnier, by the time the MS.890 rolled by, the company had been incorporated into the Societe de Construction d’Avions de Tourisme et d’Affaires, the Company for the Manufacture of Touring and Business Aircraft – or SOCATA for short

As was the case with the U-75, the type’s specifics (and indeed its charm) become apparent only after you stop looking at the numbers and start fiddling with the aircraft itself. The interior, for example, looks deceptively small from the outside; my fears of fitting in – being 1.9 meters tall and all – turned out to be completely unfounded, since the front seats provide space enough fore, aft and to the sides to rival the Cessna 182 (a near-identical experience to that of the U-75). The only letdown at this point was the height of the convex canopy, which was a bit restrictive with headphones on (the Utva says hi again); however, in my case sliding the seat fully backwards did the trick – and even though I could have done with a few more centimeters of extra headroom even then, I was never really uncomfortable at any one point.

Top of the world, ma! Flying, both on and off work, a high wing aircraft, this is somewhat of an unusual perspective for me. As on most low-wing aircraft, climbing aboard is as easy as step-grab-pull; being lower off the ground than the U-75 (though slightly higher than the PA-28), the process is also not awkward nor physically strenuous. One slight complaint is that the size of the canopy precludes the fitting of handles, meaning you have to grab hold of the canopy frame if you need help to haul yourself aboard

The large sliding canopy means that getting in is a complete non-issue. However, since the wing spar passes underneath the front seats – and an additional cross-brace is needed to keep the fuselage stiff since it lacks a load-bearing roof – leg space in the back is a bit of an issue… you definitely cannot stretch out like you can do in the 172. Interestingly, the same issue plagued the U-75’s four-seat variant – U-75A – but was not a worry since only three were ever made…

Once inside and with the seat fully back, I found the sitting position to be one of the best I’ve ever experienced in a light aircraft, with good elbow room, all controls within easy reach – and a near-ideal position and distance of both the control wheel and rudder pedals. Unlike some Cessna 172s I’ve flown, I could turn the wheel fully** to either side without interference from my legs, and never needed any gymnastics to fully actuate both at once (not even when crossing them as if to initiate a side slip).

** conversely, a colleague of roughly the same height and build flew the more powerful Rallye 180 that comes equipped with a stick as standard; he reported that in some conditions, he could not always move it to the sideways stops without first moving his knees to the side

Being a low wing aircraft designed for (among other things) flight instruction and utility roles, the view outside is, unsurprisingly, very good. Since the canopy frame is not load bearing (unlike on the U-75), it can be pretty thin and light, making it unobtrusive (conversely, the large frame of the UTVA gives the impression of peering through a postbox, though it is very easy to get used to). A notable criticism from my end is the aforementioned convex canopy shape; its low front lip means you either have to fly with it slid back to half-open, or fully closed, otherwise there’s no space left for your head

Though SP-IKY’s owner – who also had an original MS.880 – says that pretty much no two Rallye cockpit setups are alike, this one is pretty conventional, with the usual Basic T and all levers and switches where you’d expect to find them in any Cessna. Unlike 80s 172s however, the Rallye has two sets of warning lights below the glareshield, as well as more engine instruments as standard (such as CHT, EGT, carburetor temperature and the like). A sign that the MS.890 series was from the outset intended for utility roles is the red pull handle at the top of the panel, which operates the tail hook (also a standard fit, as on the U-75). Another feature of the MS.890 series are the electric flaps; the original 880 had a Piper-like mechanical system operated by a lever between the seats. Naturally, being designed in Europe, at least one instrument has to be Metric – in this case the Airspeed Indicator (ASI)

With a slat and a bump

Once ready to start, things move in pretty much the same manner as on any O-320-equipped aircraft. The major difference here is that the Rallye does not have a standalone primer pump; priming is achieved by operating the electrical backup pump and then advancing the throttle lever several times to its forward stop (five worked wonders for us that day). The electrical pump is also used when switching between tanks to ensure a positive fuel feed until the engine-driven pump builds up enough pressure in the pipes (like the PA-28 – and unlike the C172 and U-75 – the little Morane does not have the option of drawing fuel from both tanks at the same time).

Taxiing out is pretty straightforward despite the lack of nose wheel steering and a reliance entirely on differential braking. Mercifully, the Rallye has conventional Cessna-style pedals, heel for rudder, toe for brakes – and not separate controls for each as seen on the U-75. Since the aircraft had – as mentioned – been designed for utility roles from the outset, the brakes are quite powerful, which makes ground maneuvering pretty easy after a bit of stumbling about (SP-IKY’s excellent pedal feedback certainly helped… changing direction, not the stumbling 😀 ). With some practice, very tight turns are possible – but my lack of experience on the type and Lučko’s wide apron and taxiways made that redundant (at least at this stage). However, as soon as I rolled off the smooth apron and onto the grass taxiway, I ran straight into another issue: keeping a constant speed across the uneven ground requires some practice, since even a slight jab at the brakes to maintain direction results in a noticeable drop in speed. After some time (the taxi to the RWY 10R end takes awhile!), I got the hang of adding a brief burst of power with each brake application – standard stuff, but it definitely feels odd after stepping out of an aircraft with nose wheel steering.

Having successfully – albeit far from elegantly – reached the holding point, it was time to experience the Rallye’s party piece: its wonderfully quirky full-length retractable slats. A feature seen on many short take off designs, slats do their magic by channeling additional air through the gap between themselves and the wing. The benefits are most prominent in the most difficult regime of them all – flight at high Angle of Attack (AoA) and low speed – where they help the airflow to stick to the wing down more of its chord, delaying its separation and the resulting stall. Apart from obvious benefits to general handling and a reduction in the stall speed, this also serves another vital function: it keeps the air flowing over the ailerons, ensuring adequate roll control even at very low speeds – and reducing the risk of the downgoing aileron increasing the AoA to the point of stalling the entire wingtip (the reason why some STOL planes have slats only on the outer sections of the wing).

A sure sign that an airplane means business! Of interest, sporting full length retractable slats is quite unusual for an aircraft of this size; in most cases, they’re either fixed (then called “slots”) or fitted, as mentioned, only to the outer portions of the wing

As on many light aircraft that feature them (up to the 5.5 ton An-2), the Rallye’s slats are fully automatic, and are “operated” by changes in air pressure along the leading edge of the wing; at high AoA, the reduction in pressure simply pulls them out of their retracted position – while the increase in pressure as AoA begins to reduce pushes them back in. All good, solid aerodynamics – the quirk being that on take-off and landing they deploy so suddenly and loudly that you’d be excused for thinking something fell off the airplane (a point SP-IKY’s owner was keen to stress before departure… and one on which he was not exaggerating by any means).

The Big Bang occurred – as foretold – at around 60 km/h (32 kn), roughly halfway to our briefed 100 km/h (54 kn) rotation speed. With the two of us on board, very nearly full tanks, flaps at their first notch (15°) and a 5 knot headwind component, we left the ground in just under 300 meters – not a bad show for a draggy and bumpy runway, and considering that we opted for the standard vs short take off technique (which would have called for maximum flaps and a rotation speed of just 85 km/h (46 kn) ). The performance specs for a full aircraft call for 365 m over a 50 ft obstacle in standard conditions, so that puts us almost right on the money.

The slats came into their own again immediately after departure, staying fully deployed throughout the initial climb and allowing for sprightly “vertical performance”. Whereas the 172 becomes asthmatic immediately after leaving the ground effect with the flaps still down, the Rallye never missed a beat, and we were quickly at our 130 km/h (70 kn) climb speed while still in configuration, doing a not-at-all-bad 700 FPM. With flaps retracted, our vertical speed increased to 800-900 FPM, slightly better than what a similarly loaded N model Skyhawk could do in these conditions (bearing in mind our 10 horsepower deficit).

Interestingly, throughout the entire climb to pattern altitude – and particularly during turns around the circuit – the slats kept extending and partially retracting in response to airflow changes (it was a slightly turbulent day too), being designed to fully stow only above 150 km/h (81 kn) in straight & level flight conditions. An observation that particularly intrigued me is that despite their constant motion, I had very little sense of it in the control wheel, and needed to make almost no corrective input to compensate for their effect – which inspired a good deal of confidence in the Rallye’s handling as a whole.

As noted previously, my plan for the day was to spend most of the time just cruising around, soaking up the low wing views – and giving the owner a tour of the Lučko CTR and some of its more pertinent features and points. Because of this, I had not gone through the same set of PPL skill test maneuvers as I did with the U-75; but nevertheless, I did get to spend enough time at low speed and high AoA to at least get a basic & very rough idea of what the little Rallye is capable of.

Straight off the bat, I was impressed with how docile it behaved in all of the flight regimes I went through – equally as impressed as I was when I first flew the U-75, which shares that very same trait. The smaller and “hotter” wing (9.6 m span / 79.8 kg/m² loading vs 9.73 m / 65.3 kg/m² for the U-75 and 10.97 m / 64.4 kg/m² for the Skyhawk) made for sprightly maneuvering, while the slats kept things from getting out of hand even at low speeds. Indeed, even at 100 km/h, the Rallye exhibited none of the hesitation in pitch and roll common to slow-going C172s – and no sense in the control wheel of impeding drama should you reduce speed and/or increase AoA further. Put simply, even in the limited experience I had that day – and considering my acknowledged lack of flight test credentials, knowledge or skills – through the controls it felt like it could cheerfully handle reasonably everything you threw at it without much fuss or undue effort.

Other characteristics that I very much liked were the effective vertical stabilizer and powerful rudder, which made for very little footwork in any turn and at any speed – yet another parallel with the U-75. Interestingly though, SP-IKY needed very little right foot even during the take off roll and climb, a stark contrast to S5-DCI, the Utva I had the privilege to fly; though this may be simply down to the specific rigging of their rudder tabs.

Keeping up with the Skyhawks

The manuals, however, suggest that the aerodynamics that make this possible do come at a price in the cruise. The Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) for the MS.892 quotes a True Air Speed (TAS) of 160 km/h (86 kn) at 55% power (2,300 RPM) in standard conditions at 500 m (1,650 ft); the C172N POH states 53% power (2,200 RPM) will give you 185 km/h (100 kn) TAS in standard conditions at 2,000 ft.

In a particularly fortunate turn of events, 2,200 RPM just happens to be the setting I use most often on the 172 – while 2,300 RPM was the number SP-IKY’s owner suggested I stick to since we weren’t really in a hurry to get anywhere. Likewise, I do most of my local flying at 2,000 ft – like I did in the Rallye – usually traveling with just one other person on board – like I did in the Rallye – so I conveniently ended up with a somewhat solid baseline from which to try and work out how they actually behave in real life (bearing in mind that one example a poor statistic makes!). In these sort of mid-spring conditions with temperatures between 10 and 20° Centigrade, 2,200 RPM on the N model Skyhawk usually gives me about 175 km/h (95 kn) indicated; on that specific day, with an OAT of 18° C on the ground, 2,300 on the Rallye showed me 180 km/h (97 kn) on the ASI.

The difference may be down to the engine or prop or even the number of dead bugs on the wing; whatever the cause, it does seem to indicate that in the sort of everyday flying practiced around here – mostly low altitude across short to moderate distances – performance-wise both the mid-model 172 and the Rallye have very little between them (the discovery of the century considering the vast 10 HP difference 😀 )***.

*** one other route performance metric – fuel consumption – is a bit difficult to compare precisely, since SP-IKY does not have a fuel flow meter. However, the owner had told me he uses 9 GPH as a low altitude benchmark – which is within tolerances of the measured ~8.5 GPH I see in the same conditions on our 172N’s engine monitoring system

Same altitude, same speed, same region – but a different view… flashing back to my first cross-country flights and related cross-country flight traumas (many caused by our famous hilltop church-to-hilltop church navigation method)!


First time on an aircraft with a sliding canopy – and loving the photo possibilities!

Other stuff? Well, apart from improved visibility (and the option of opening the canopy in flight for a bit of natural aircon), the experience of cruising in the Rallye vs cruising in the 172 boils down mostly to subjective criteria and the differences in trim and furnishings of individual aircraft – something the U-75 in particular does not suffer from, since its production run was just 4% of the Rallye’s (and 0.3% of the Skyhawk’s), with only one “military spec” trim level provided. Personally, the only niggle I had that’s worth writing home about is the overly sensitive pitch trim wheel, with very little rotation producing a very noticeable result; a situation I had also encountered on the U-75, with the added trouble of S5-DCI’s wheel having been far coarser and generally significantly less user-friendly than SP-IKY’s.

The Rallye, however, comes back into its own once on approach. The wing’s low-speed finesse becomes obvious already on base leg, since the airplane’s 1/13 glide ratio in clean configuration (achieved at 140 km/h (76 kn) ) means it does take a bit more persuasion to go down than the 172N (which sports a 1/9.2 glide ratio; mind you, the U-75 “outclasses” them both at just… 1/8.4). Selecting flaps to the second and final notch (30°) makes things easier, resulting in a standard approach speed of 120 km/h (65 kn) – a figure that can be brought down to 105 km/h (57 kn) in an emergency.

Flying the final approach is generally pretty humdrum, with the only real difference being the better visibility over the nose, which does wonders for depth perception and glide path control. Life starts to become interesting again once in the flare, not only due to the cushioning effect of the low wing – but also to the quirkiness of the slats, which will suddenly**** slam fully open at around 90 km/h (49 kn), setting you up for an embarrassing ballooning float if you’re not fully ready for it (as I was not). Having “seen the elephant”, my subsequent approaches were… hmm… less worse, and with more experience I am certain I would be able to plant it gently right onto the aiming point, using all the benefits of the slats to their fullest. One of these was actually obvious right from the outset, since the Rallye has an uncharacteristically flat (but still two-point) touchdown attitude, which affords an excellent view ahead – a consequence of the improved airflow along the entire wing that allows the same lift to be generated at a lower AoA… and thus at a lower pitch.

**** the reason why the slats are so “quirky” – i.e. why they extended so suddenly and so late in the landing – has everything to do with the oft-misinterpreted aerodynamic principle behind them. Despite constantly using SPEED to describe their operation – indeed, the 150 km/h retraction and 90 km/h extension are straight from the POH – the slats in fact respond solely to ANGLE OF ATTACK. In the climb, the AoA is high, and the air pressure on the upper wing surface low enough to keep the slats fully or partially extended; on the approach however, the combination of the shallow downward path of the aircraft and the extended flaps means that the AoA is still moderate (despite the low speed), and the air pressure is still such that the slats can be kept pressed in. The flare itself – when the AoA suddenly increases to near stalling values – is the first time during a normal approach and landing that adequate pressure conditions for slat extension actually exist.

Their dependence on AoA also means that you can essentially activate them at any speed – provided you increase the AoA sufficiently enough. If you take the Rallye to its maneuvering speed of 210 km/h (113 kn) – the maximum speed at which a full control deflection will not cause structural damage to the airframe – and yank it over into a combat break, the slats will pop open instantly, despite being 64 kn above their “landing extension speed”.

Unfortunately, the day’s conditions meant I had no opportunity to see how it behaves in a crosswind, something I was particularly interested in due to the possibility of significant sideways drift in the float – and scraping the wingtip along the ground with too enthusiastic a correction. The manual itself quotes a crosswind component limit of 20 kn – noticeably higher than that of both the 172 (15 kn) and U-75 (8 kn).

The wide cabin, extensive glazing and narrow cowl all make for surprisingly good views downward, which makes life far easier in the circuit

Lučko’s rough runway also made for a good test of the type’s trailing link suspension, which sports a similar setup to that of the U-75. Though the Utva is far superior in its handling of uneven terrain – having been designed from Day 1 for eventual wartime operation out of auxiliary dispersal fields – the Rallye handled things with ease, ironing out the bumps without any undue sloshing from side to side. On the last, full stop landing, we needed roughly 300 meters to decelerate from touchdown to taxi speed, using only as much braking as was necessary to maintain direction; the manual quotes a 265 meter landing distance over a 50 ft obstacle for a fully loaded airplane (980 kg Maximum Landing Mass), which seems easily attainable by avoiding greasers and applying maximum braking immediately after touchdown (as well as flaring late and letting the slat extension slow your rate of descent).

Spiky ticking itself cool after our sortie… definitely one of the better flying experiences of the year so far!

Vive la France!

Though I must once again stress that one hour aloft with no professional flight test background does not make for reliable (or even usable) conclusions, on a purely subjective note I was as smitten with the Rallye as I was with the U-75. Despite being multipurpose machines that can, like the C172, do many things well, both could boast a fun factor that was completely alien to the Skyhawk, comparable even to (dare I say it?) the Super Cub and Citabria. While that may simply be down to my perception of their specifics – such as the Rallye’s slatted low-speed wing or the Utva’s military heritage – both are a hoot beyond even subjective doubt, and can boast a mix of genuine joie de vivre and everyday usability that’s tough to beat.

Or could that be a just low wing thing? 😀

ADDENDUM – 7 JUN: it may have taken me awhile – for the Q400 bids often during the summer! – but eventually I managed to plonk myself back into the left seat of SP-IKY and finally head into one of Lučko’s training zones for a bit of air work. Due to my pretty obvious fascination with its slats, I’d decided to put it through a couple of textbook stalls and see what’s what on that edge of the envelope…

In short, the Rallye’s behavior was just as one would expect – but with a slight twist. Throughout the entire maneuver, SP-IKY held rock-steady despite the day’s turbulence, and showed no inclination to drop either wing even as the indicated airspeed reduced to below 90 km/h (49 kn); indeed, even my attempts to provoke it with a bit of aileron came to naught, and it kept at it well into the 70 km/h (38 kn) range. When the stall finally did come, it was as dramatic as watching paint dry: just a slight forward tug on the wheel and all was well… not even U-75 “went” so cleanly. If anything, the slats meant that the wing regained a healthy airflow as soon as the AoA reduced even slightly, returning to “normality” at a pitch that would be quite unnatural on a non-slatted wing. The downside of this ease of recovery is that it can be quite deceptive, and a conscious effort is needed to continue to push the nose down and build up a healthy AoA margin, despite all feeling well in the wheel.

And the twist? As on landing, the sudden deployment of the slats and the resulting rapid increase in lift along the entire wing can come as quite a surprise, leading to a pronounced and very visible ballooning motion that looks and feels VERY odd… as the following vid shows! Even more so, in a more aggressive stall, the change in airflow distribution will actually rock the ailerons slightly; aerodynamically this is not much of an issue – since at that point the wing still has quite a bit of life in it left – but an instinctive/panicked counter movement of the wheel could in some conditions cause more problems than it solves…

As always, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Lukasz for the opportunity to fly his baby and cross another aircraft from my To Fly List!


  • 7 June 2019: stall characteristics + video added
  • 10 May 2019: added slat operation videos + additional photos


Photo File – Story Time Part 2

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

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

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

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

By me
All photos me too

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 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).