following screenshots are route maps excerpted from FliteMap® VFR by permission
Sanderson INC. They
show all airspaces excluding restricted, prohibited and danger zones. The actual
flown course differed sometimes from the planned route. NOT FOR NAVIGATIONAL PURPOSES -
CLICK ON THE MAPS TO ENLARGE
Day 1 (30.03.2004)
Muehldorf am Inn, Germany (EDMY) to Besancon,
Dist: 283 nm (524 km), ATE: 3:05 h
We planned to begin
our trip on March 28, but we were grounded due to snow on the grass runway in
Bad Endorf (EDPC), our homebase near Lake Chiemsee. Luckily enough, Werner (www.utc-flugschule.de), who owns
the D-MUTB, offered us to fly the plane with minimum T/O-weight to Muehldorf,
where the asphalt runway was dry and therefore a perfect starting point for our
journey. After planning the first leg on our laptop (Acer TravelMate C300 with
the Jeppesen FliteMap VFR Europe software), consulting the aviation weather on the
net (www.allmetsat.com/en/i_europe.html, www.ultraleicht.de/wetterseite.htm,
from the DWD over the phone (+49-69-80622015), filing a flightplan to AIS in
Frankfurt (+49-69-78072-500), fueling the plane and performing the outside check, we
were ready for departure. The time was then already 1400z, but since sunset in Besancon was not until 1837z, there was still enough time for our estimated 3
hrs VFR ride.
We then took off, contacted Munich Information, activated our flight plan and climbed up to Flight Level (FL) 65 westbound to Basle. We contacted the controller of Zurich and he gave us our own squawk-code, which we entered into the transponder. This helps the Air Traffic Control (ATC) to track our aircraft on their screens.
"Delta-Mike-Uniform-Tango-Bravo, radar contact."
After having passed Zurich FIR, we asked the controller of Basle if we could go through his TMA via reporting points NOVEMBER and WHISKEY.
"D-MUTB, cleared direct to WHISKEY in FL65." That meant we didn't have to descend to get passed the busy area of Basle-Mulhouse.
Half an hour later, we reported to Besancon Thise, right downwind runway 07, but didn't get an answer. We turned into base, still with no reply, and - what was even worse - the airfield was not in sight. The pilot to the confused navigator: "OK - concentrate now! This is the difficult part. Find the runway!!" "There it is!" Safe on French ground we were welcomed by three men and a cellphone. Reims Paris had already called for us since we were behind our scheduled time of arrival. Although the weather forecast had given us a nice tailwind of 30 knots, our two GPS indicated a groundspeed (GS) of only 90 knots, which equaled our true air speed. So obviously there was no wind that day. There was no landing fee and they offered us a hangar for the plane and a free ride to a hotel in town - a nice end to an eventful day.
Day 2 (31.03.2004)
France (LFSA) to Nimes Courbessac,
Dist: 225 nm (417 km), ATE: 2:58 h
Bumpy, bumpy, bumpy... Rhone Valley is a windy place. Although we have to say that we were quite lucky. We read so many stories about this part of France. Some experienced wind speeds of up to 80 knots, in most cases of course coming from the front which means traveling almost backwards. Nothing for small planes and impossible for our 300 kg microlight to fly through. Precise weather briefing is extremely important. It took us 3 hours until we decided which route to follow, at which altitudes to fly and which controllers to call to make it as safe as possible. It turned out to be easier than we expected, but this was still the toughest ride of our whole journey.
Day 3 (01.04.2004)
France (LFME) to Ampuriabrava, Spain (LEAP)
Dist: 124 nm (230 km), ATE: 1:32 h
Clouds and wind! We were very happy to find that Nimes Courbessac has an excellent weather station (METEO FRANCE) - it really makes this airfield a recommended destination! We struggled hard to make the go/no go decision. The ceiling was very low and we would have expected a lot of turbulence. We finally decided to give it a try since there were plenty of alternate airfields along our route and therefore always a place to land. As we passed Beziers, a thin cloud layer forced us to fly not more than 500ft above the ground and it was bumpy to the limit. "D-MUTB, we ask to climb due to heavy turbulence." We were cleared to FL 65. The rest of the flight was fantastic! Flying along the coast was really nice and at that altitude, we didn't have any turbulence.
Day 4 (02.04.2004)
... waiting for better weather - relaxing in Ampuriabrava.
Day 5 (03.04.2004)
Ampuriabrava, Spain (LEAP) to
Igualada (LEIG), Spain
Dist: 77 nm (142 km), ATE: 0:59 h
Today's goal was to reach Barcelona so the leg was quite short. The weather was good and gave us no trouble. The challenge was rather to find out how microlight flying is handled in Spain. We first wanted to fly along the coast to Sabadell, but had to change our route since we were informed that we could not land there with our microlight. A local pilot advised us to fly to Igualada instead. He knew the airfield and could give us their frequency. The route was set - next was the flight plan. We received so much contradictory information about the aviation rules for microlights, i.e. what altitudes were ok, which airspaces we would be allowed to enter, whether flight plans were mandatory, etc. Pretty confusing! For the first (and last) time during our trip, we ended up flying without a flight plan. We contacted Barcelona control after take off, identified ourselves and asked to stay on their frequency (as we had done for all our previous flights). But this time, they just ignored us. We were happy to experience this on such a short leg with good weather. Fortunately, Igualada had an English speaking controller. They gave us a free hanger, did not charge us a landing fee and refueled our plane with avgas - but we were informed that there were people at the airfield only during the weekends. We were offered a late ride to Barcelona, but decided to take the local train (90 min, 5.- €) so that we got into Barcelona early enough to find a hotel.
Day 6 and 7 (04.-05.04.2004)
... visiting Barcelona.
Day 8 (06.04.2004)
Igualada (LEIG), Spain to Requena (LERE),
Spain (quick fuel-stop)
Dist: 181 nm (335 km), ATE: 2:49 h
Requena (LERE), Spain to Cordoba (LEBA), Spain
Dist: 215 nm (398 km), ATE: 2:36 h
The day before, we spent
the whole day
finding out the rules for microlight planes in Spain. We discovered that microlights in Spain, as a general rule, are not allowed to fly higher than
1000ft above ground. It is not mandatory for such small planes to file a flight
plan, but our experience so far suggested that doing so has some advantages: You
always have someone during the flight who guides you through traffic and weather
and you are easily cleared to altitudes as high as 9500ft. Filing
a flight plan from a private airfield like Igualada was, however, not easy. We did
not (despite a lot of effort) find a phone number in Spain to file a flight plan, and doing it through Germany would cost as much as
10.- €, but we were happy to experience that we could file it also in the
air through the controller.
We wanted to fly all the way to Cordoba today. It is a long flight and we therefore needed to fuel once on the way. We found that Requena would be about half way between Igualada and Cordoba. Our Bottlang Airfield Manual had no information about this airfield, but AIS in Spain was able to give us some information, and we eventually decided to make this our fuel stop. It was a good choice. Requena has a nice concrete runway. Luis and his father, two guys we met after landing, helped us refuel the plane and we were also able to grab a quick bite before we took off again.
The flight from Requena to Cordoba was very smooth, unlike the bumpy first leg. Valencia control let us climb over the clouds to FL 95, so we easily could pass the high mountains and landed in Cordoba just as the sun was setting.
Day 9 and 10 (07.-08.04.2004)
... visiting Cordoba. Local flight with our friend Eduardo over the City.
Day 11 (09.04.2004)
Cordoba (LEBA), Spain to Granada (LEGR),
Dist: 149 nm (276 km), ATE: 1:46 h
What a day! First of all we
had an incredible episode at the fuel station at the Airport of Cordoba: We
fueled, as always, until our tank was full (47 Liters of Avgas 100LL) on this
morning. The guy at the station charged us 72.- € for that, which is
1.53€/Liter! That was by far the most expensive price we had to pay on our trip (especially if
you compare it to the 0.65 €/Liter in Ampuriabrava). But the joke was that if we
fueled only 3 Liters more, we would have paid 20.- € less!! Of course that was
not possible anymore after we found that out. Only 120nm to Africa!
On this leg, we first planned to fly to VEJER (VJR)-VOR at the Costa de la Luz near Gibraltar before going to Granada, but due to the decreasing visibility on our way to the coast, we decided while in flight, to turn around and fly direct to Granada. Although the weather improved a little, we had to fly between 500 and 1000ft AGL to stay clear of clouds. When we reached the reporting point WHISKEY of Granada, we informed the controller of Granada Tower that we would land in Cogollos Vega, a small private airstrip northeast of his airspace. When we approached this little grass field, we recognized that the runway was not in perfect condition, but we decided to give it a try. That was a mistake. Shortly before touchdown, we realized that the field was covered by stones - too dangerous to ensure a safe landing. On go-around, we touched the ground and heard a loud bang from the rear. We first thought that it might be a flat tire, but we couldn't be sure that we didn't have a tailstrike. We were cleared by Granada direct to our alternate Atarfe, which also turned out to be more of an agricultural field than a safe place to land a plane. To end the unfortunate search for a nice place to land, we asked for landing clearance on the international Airport of Granada, which was surprisingly easy.
"No problem, Sir! Fly direct to the field, active runway is 27, wind 290deg/6knots, you are cleared to land."
After taxi to the parking position behind our own follow-me car, a Sabena stewardess was waiting for us in a crew bus to drive us to the Terminal. Out of the plane, we could finally see what had happened: Stones were smashed into the stabilizer, accelerated by the main gear, which itself was undamaged. There was one bigger hole and some smaller cracks and scratches on both sides of our stabilizer. We were thankful that later on, a Sabena mechanic helped us to tape the damaged parts with a special metal tape which is also used to repair parts of airliners.
Day 12 and 13 (10.-11.04.2004)
... visiting Granada and the Alhambra.
Day 14 (12.04.2004)
Granada (LEGR), Spain to
Requena (LERE), Spain
Dist: 191 nm (354 km), ATE: 2:24 h
Today we planned a
flight to Ampuriabrava with again a fuel stop in Requena. At Granada Airport, we were
treated like an executive air crew! The same Sabena employee who picked us up 3
days ago again guided us through security past a crowd of passengers waiting to
board their Airbus. In the AIS office, we checked the weather and came to the
conclusion, that today's second leg to Ampuriabrava would lead us through
minimum visual meteorological conditions, and we therefore decided to stay in Requena
for the night. We paid less than 9.- € for the landing and 3 days parking,
surprisingly cheap for such a big airport! Avgas was however expensive.
We were cleared by Granada Ground to taxi to TANGO 5, which wasn't indicated in the Jeppesen Bottlang Airfield Manual. (The apron and taxiway outlay of Granada is more complex than revealed in the Bottlang!) That's why we first taxied into the completely wrong direction and were redirected from a polite ground controller. The next confusion was that Granada Ground cleared us for take-off (instead of the tower) after we reported "ready for departure runway 27". We never had to contact Granada Tower, everything was managed by the ground control. We never had that before!
After having passed NOVEMBER in 1000ft GND, we were cleared to climb FL95 by Seville Control. We were just some miles inbound YES-VOR on radial 235 when Seville reported a Boeing 737 at our 1 o'clock position descending to FL100, 20 miles away. "D-MUTB, traffic NOT insight." 10 miles now. "Traffic NOT in sight." But then we saw him, passing our right just some 500ft above us ... (A traffic radar onboard would have been nice!)
As we were flying above the clouds, they became more and more dense until we were only able to see land after every few minutes. Although FIS gave us good weather for Valencia (only scattered in 7000ft), the ceiling constantly rose, sometimes higher than our cruising level (which forced us to circumvent some cumulus towers), until finally we had to descend to 5000ft to stay clear. It took us 3 attempts to get the inflight weather which in the end was totally wrong. VFR flying still requires looking out of the windows and navigating your way through traffic and weather.
Closing the flight plan was again a pain in the neck after we lost contact to all controllers. A jet pilot offered us his station as a relay: "D-MUTB from Red Eagle 55, do you want to close your flight plan to land at Requena?" "Red Eagle 55, D-MUTB, affirmative! And thanks a lot!" Easy landing on the nice and long asphalt runway of Requena - great people there by the way! Luis organized a nice hotel for us and even offered us to pick us up on the next morning back to the airfield. Thanks Guys!
Day 15 (13.04.2004)
Requena (LERE), Spain to Ampuriabrava,
Dist: 258 nm (478 km), ATE: 3:00 h
Called Frankfurt in the morning to check the weather. They told us no clouds but a strong wind with up to 35 knots on the ground at our destination. Once airborne, we contacted Valencia APP to activate our flight plan and climbed again to FL95. Less traffic today, nice and calm cruising above some clouds. For the last 45 min, we had to descend to 5500ft to stay clear of the rising clouds which again showed us how much calmer it is above the weather. We had to recycle our squawk-code several times, especially when we passed Barcelona. Our only concern today was the strong wind in Ampuriabrava, still coming out of the north - so directly in the runway direction, but gusted up to 35 knots. On our approach to the airfield, we were handed from Girona APP to Ampuriabrava, who didn't reply. After the turbulent approach with some nasty gusts, we touched down smoothly. The tower was completely empty - no one was waiting for us. Valencia had obviously failed to forward our flight plan to them. With the plane safely secured and tied down to the ground in the wind shadow of a hangar, we went to the hotel to relax.
Day 16 (14.04.2004)
Spain (LEAP) to Nimes Courbessac,
Dist: 124 nm (230 km), ATE: 1:24 h
Nimes Courbessac, France (LFME) to Besancon, France (LFSA)
Dist: 223 nm (413 km), ATE: 2:29 h
route included the Rhone
so we again called Frankfurt for weather. They
us nice weather
through the whole day, but it
before the phone call was
finished. We had to delay our take off time and waited together with some
who wanted to fly the same
as us with their Cessna. We took off
some 30 min after them,
that they were
shortly ahead of us throughout the day. This was fortunate for us since we knew all the time
which altitude they
were flying in, which gave us an idea of the weather conditions ahead of us.
We had some drizzle on our first leg (Ampuriabrava - Nimes) but the flight was all together not a problem. METEO FRANCE in Nimes gave us good conditions for the Rhone valley, so we quickly refueled the plane and took off again. The ceiling was low. This was not a problem for the flying but since we flew low, we were not able to reach Lyon control for we wanted to ask permission to fly through airspace D of Grenoble. We were just about to make a 360 degree turn to give ourselves some time to try another frequency as Grenoble TWR finally replied and gave us the clearance.
We had to circumvent one rainshower south on Lyon, but we had been told in Nimes to expect that and the Cessna ahead of us seemed to have some better weather. The sky cleared as we landed in Besancon. It was nice to be back and once again we enjoyed their hospitality.
Day 17 (15.04.2004)
France (LFSA) to Muehldorf am Inn, Germany (EDMY)
Dist: 274 nm (507 km), ATE: 2:58 h
This was our last day. Back home to Chiemsee. Thanks to everybody from the Aeroclub Besancon Thise! They have a nice grass field, long enough for even bigger planes than ours :-) They offer a free hangar overnight and even drove us to and from our hotel (Des 3 Iles). Today the ceiling (overcast cumulus) was again quite low, turbulences made it difficult to hold course and altitude. We had to pass Basle TMA in 2500ft and managed to climb to 5000ft after NOVEMBER to get over the mountains, but had to fly the rest in 3500ft to Muehldorf (who stole our autopilot?!). Lots of traffic information on Munich FIS - busy, correct and organized - no doubt, we were back in Germany.