Photo Report – News From The Realm

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All photos me too, copyrighted

Faced with a consistent lack of anything of note to write about – except the weather, which has been so poor lately that catching a good flying day is on par with winning the national lottery 😀 – I’ve decided to fill the void by cobbling together something of a “mix post”, combining the few recent photos from Lučko, Pleso and neighboring Slovenia into one convenient little package. It’s not really much to be honest, but hopefully it’ll provide for a bit of amusement until the arrival of an extensive, work-in-progress historical article… 🙂

The only (operational) Blanik at Lučko poses with its best friend while they wait on RWY 28R for their pilots to assemble. In the event, the first flight of the day would be with a future gliding student, who was given a short demo flight above the western end of town…

While it sounds deceptively simple, a proper aerotow take-off often requires a helping hand on the ground. Due to the absence of a conventional landing gear arrangement, most gliders – especially those boasting larger wingspans – require someone to hold the wingtip at the start of the take-off run. Intended to prevent it from scraping along the ground and possibly slewing the glider off course, this is only necessary during the first few seconds of the run, until the speed builds up sufficiently for the aerodynamic forces on the ailerons to take over.

One of the most beautiful kit planes in Croatia is seen rolling towards RWY 10R after a short fuel stop. Part of the famous Van’s family of nippy two-seaters, DVM is the company’s only design registered here, and spends most of its time staying clear of the more frequented airfields (to the continuing disappointment of the author).

The simple and uncluttered cockpit contains everything one really needs for a good time aloft. Interestingly, even though it is powered by a four-cylinder engine developing 200 HP, DVM uses a fixed pitch propeller – something not generally seen on speedy homebuilt kits of this power range.

The “Grey aircraft only seem to fly in on grey days” photo series continues with the legendary Stratotanker, which had on this occasion hauled itself into Zagreb all the way from Minneapolis. A modernized version of the aircraft that many still consider to be THE tanker, the R model differs primarily by its powerplant, dispensing with the old J-57s in favor of the modern, economical – and significantly quieter – CFM56. An interesting detail is the frost on the wing underside, a common feature on original 717s* during humid days.

* and that isn’t a misprint. While the “717” is today associated exclusively with the re-branded McDonnell Douglas MD-95, the designator had actually been in use ever since the late 50s. Following the introduction of the Boeing 367-80 jet airliner prototype – the famous “Dash 80” – a number of interested civil operators had requested that the design’s slim fuselage be widened to accommodate a six-abreast seating configuration. Boeing had readily agreed, thus giving birth to the 707 as we know it today. However, the US military – also one of the interested parties – was satisfied with the Dash 80 as-was, lobbying that it too be put into production. Knowing that the American military establishment has always been a loyal – and well-paying 🙂 – customer, Boeing agreed to these terms as well, christening the new-old model the 717.

But, since the US military has always used its own original aircraft designators, the new aircraft was quickly labelled the C-135. As the years went on – and the design started making a name for itself in its military guise – the 717 brand had slowly begun to fade from people’s minds… so when Boeing bought MDD in 1997 and inherited the in-development MD-95, they simply recycled the old designator and pinned it to the venerable Maddog (more precisely, the -95 became known as the 717-200 to differentiate it from the original, which had been known within Boeing as the 717-100 since its inception) 🙂 .

To complicate matters even further, the US military has actually operated – and still operates – BOTH the 707 and the 717-100. The former (in its 707-300 version) had served as the basis for the E-3 Sentry, E-6 Mercury and E-8 JSTARS, while the latter covers everything with a -135 designator (including the KC-135, RC-135, OC-135, VC-135 and so on)…

Another of the year’s Globemasters to have visited Pleso, “Reach 574” is just about to put to an end its long flight from Mazar-i-Sharif in Afganistan. Transporting home soldiers of several NATO nations, it would eventually depart again towards Kogalniceanu Airport, serving the Romanian coastal city of Constanta.

A machine that gives no impression that it is actually 33 years old, DJM is one of the last Skylane RG models to have been manufactured by the renowned Reims works, located in the town of the same name up in northeastern France. Sporting retractable landing gear, full IFR equipment and the capability to carry four people with nearly full fuel tanks, the 182RG is probably one of the best cheap – but still capable – light touring aircraft nowadays available…

A bit of that Alpine feel as we climb along the MODRO 1W departure procedure following takeoff from RWY 30 at Ljubljana (LJLJ), Slovenia. While we were expecting (and hoping for) a bit of fog to test our instrument skills, by the time we’d gotten airborne it had already transformed into broken mid-altitude clouds, leaving us with an almost ideal late summer’s day (despite the frosty 12 C out on the apron!).

EDIT: after a lengthy struggle with an uncooperative piece of editing software, I’m also happy to bring you a short video clip to accompany the previous photo 🙂 . Mind you, it’s not really my best work to be honest, but I was handed a GoPro camera and told to have fun with it, so I tried to make the best of the situation (especially considering I did not get a suction mount to securely stick it to the window)…

Photo Report – All You Can Photograph @ Ljubljana (LJLJ)

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All photos me too, copyrighted

Even though both Lučko and Pleso have their fair share of rare and interesting aircraft for me to snap to my delight, a change of scenery never fails to do wonders for my photography :). Through operational necessity (mostly ferrying the Skyhawk for servicing), this change nearly always involves Brnik Airport, a “Pleso-like” single runway airport that serves the city of Ljubljana in neighboring Slovenia. And while its traffic picture is mostly similar to that of Zagreb, it always redeems itself with its GA apron, service centers and – not least of all – its small but interesting “corrosion corner”. Located conveniently all in one place, these are unavoidable stops on any flight to LJLJ – naturally with predictable results on my part… 😀

Quite far from their (former) base in Russia, these three Altant-Soyuz Brasilias wait out their uncertain future.
Quite far from their (former) base in Russia, these three Atlant-Soyuz Brasilias wait out their uncertain future. Stripped of interior fittings, avionics, systems – and, in the case of RA-02856, even engines – they appear to be sentenced to a slow death by decay as Ljubljana’s sub-Alpine weather takes its toll…

Hiding between the Globals, Galebs and abandoned Embraers was this beautiful Citation 500, the official aircraft of the Republika Sprska and one of the very few surviving original Citations. Clean and tidy, this little thing will likely soon become another addition to the Croatian register .
Another rare find was this beautiful Citation I, one of the very few original production Citations still flying in Europe. Clean and tidy (though reportedly mx-intensive), E7-SBA is operated by the government of the Republika Srpska (one of the two entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina), and will soon likely become the newest addition to the Croatian GA register

Despite the Isle of Man registration prefix, it is not all that hard to figure out the origin of this imposing Global parked on Ljubljana Airport's GA Apron . Just when a man thinks that he'd seen his fair share of bizjet paint schemes, the Russians go and surprise him :)).
Despite the Isle of Man registration prefix, it’s not that hard to figure out where this imposing Global is from! Increasingly popular in the GA world, the Manx register is the world’s only aviation registry open exclusively to business aircraft, offering easy paperwork, low taxes – and many possibilities for creating witty registrations!

There’s definitely no shortage of CRJs here! An interesting scene as this Turkish VIP-configured CRJ-200ER barely manages to share the hangar with German regional operator Eurowings’ CRJ-900 D-ACNC

A selection for all tastes: a pair of Galebs for fun, a Global 6000 for travel... and a former Malev CRJ registered in Sudan and dumped at Ljubljana as a conversation piece in the bar at night
A selection for all tastes: a pair of Galebs for fun, a Global 6000 to fly home in… and a former Malev CRJ registered in Sudan and dumped at Ljubljana as a conversation piece in the bar at night. Fully airworthy, the two Galebs belong to local operator Aquila Air Adventures, and will eventually be used for joyrides and promo flights (retaining US regs to avoid the bureaucratic hassles European aviation is known for)

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

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

A beautiful - and freshly repainted! - KMV Tu-154M just starting its gear retraction sequence after a noisy RWY 13 departure, bound for Moscow. Ever since Aeroflot pulled the 154 from commercial service, they've become an increasingly rare sight, European spotters now having to make do with occasional charters such as this one...

Climbing out with the 154's typical shallow profile, intended to quickly accelerate the aircraft to its 550 km/h (296 kt) optimal climb speed. Little known outside the lands of the former USSR, KMV actually stands for "Kavkazskie Mineralnye Vody" - or "Caucasian Mineral Waters". The name makes more sense when you know that the airline is based in the Russian town of Mineralnye Vody, located on the Caucaus, in an area known for its abundant mineral springs 🙂

"What's In A Name" continues with this somewhat less exciting Czech ATR-42-500 flying in from Prague. Nowadays never expanded, "CSA" actually stands for "Československé Státní Aerolinie", or "Czechoslovak State Airlines", formed in 1923 in then-Czechoslovakia as one of the world's oldest airlines. By the time Czechoslovakia dissolved in the early 90s, the CSA brand (and especially the acronym) had become well known and established, prompting the company's new owner - the government of the Czech Republic - to keep it, thus forming "CSA Czech Airlines"

This shot made my day - and was worth the searing heat and scalding sun of a summer noon spent standing outside :D. Intense concentration in the cockpit of "Kadiköy", a Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-752, as it crosses the numbers on RWY 31 for a smooth and gentle landing

Sparkling white - maybe it's a vampire aircraft? (bad pop culture joke) - and clean, even an A319 can be made interesting given the right conditions :). Lining up on RWY 31, this example is operated by Slovenian national carrier Adria Airways, another company with a long history stretching back to 1961...

One more Embraer for me :). Contrasting brilliantly with the dark woods - further enhanced by the crisp mountain air - this ERJ-145 is operated on behalf of Air France by a small French company called Regional Airlines, and with its sister ships can often be seen at Zagreb airport as well...

Type-wise a common enough CRJ-200, VT-SAS was nevertheless the most interesting visitor of the day, hailing all the way from - India! 😀 Operated by JetLite, an Indian domestic carrier, SAS had flown in from Budapest on unknown business, though speculation includes servicing or a C check by Adria Airways' maintenance department... also, the white sphere behind the aircraft is the airport's Doppler weather radar 🙂

I'd say that "Boka" could do with a wash... named after Boka Kotorska, a bay on the Adriatic Sea shared by Montengero and Croatia, this Montenegro Airlines Fokker 100 from Podgorica was one of the last interesting arrivals of the day. Formerly sharing the YU registration prefix with Serbia (back when the two countries were part of the "Serbia and Montenegro" union), Montenegrin aircraft have been allocated their unique identifier - 4O - joining the alphabet soup of other ex-Yugoslav country prefixes (9A, S5, E7, Z3, ...)

Yay, lighties! 😀 An almost perfect profile view of a Jet-A powered Diamond Star as it aims for the touchdown markings on RWY 31

A welcome break from the steady string of CRJs arriving during the early afternoon rush hour. Rising sharply upwards less than a dozen kilometers away, the Kamnik mountains - the foothills of the Julian Alps - provide an excellent backdrop, especially during the winter

And finally, a small twist on the ubiquitous Diamond Katana. Unlike most Katanas flown in Europe, S5-DTF is a C1 model, powered by a 125 HP Teledyne Continental IO-240 engine spinning a two-blade fixed-pitch prop instead of the standard Rotax. The first C1 I've seen, they seem to be widespread in the USA...