This is the Saga of G-BONC’s trip to the land of the Vikings (Bornholm Island in the Baltic) . John and Anne Milner have a group of friends who fly out of Blackbushe one of whom is Danish. Jan suggested to the group that we all go to Bornholm for a weekend fly out over the Bank Holiday and so that was decided upon.
G-BONC was duly booked (G-RIGH being unavailable) for speed and big tanks and the flight planning started. From Bottlang and the Jeppesen charts getting across Holland and Germany looked like a complete nightmare, but more detailed scrutiny showed that most of the danger areas were above 6500 ft and most of the controlled airspace was C, D or E.
The only class A issue was getting across North of Schipol where a biggish chunk of land and sea is under the TMA, it’s not a problem really you just have to be at 1500 ft for a while, don’t waste time trying to get a SVFR clearance. Otherwise VFR semicircular rules seem to work fine and we flew elsewhere at FL055 going and FL045 coming back
So the route was planned Fowlmere to SPY VOR on the Dutch coast, Groningen for a “pit stop” and then via the northern edge of Hamburg zone, the Trent VOR on the coast and into Bornholm….. then I read the Notams and found that Groningen was closed for an air display on Friday! Oh well back to the planning and decided to call at Lelystad.
Friday dawned breezy and showery but nothing too horrible and so GBONC leaped into the air at 0900 Z and headed for SPY with a 30 Knot tail wind that stayed with us the whole trip-Yippee!
Usual service from Lakenheath and London Info to mid channel and then we began to get continental service why oh why is it so much better?
Contacted Amsterdam info, promptly given squawk warned about the TMA and as we approached land prompted to change frequency. One very busy but very organised controller. Requested handover to Lelystad who gave us a simple overhead join because as we were coming in from the North we claimed not to know about the joining point to the South;-) Landed refuelled and had lunch all in an hour! The hardest part was wrestling with a grotty old DOS programme for flight planning until we figured out the format for field 18 that it could understand!
So now for the long stint across Holland, Germany and the Baltic.
Thanks to our stonking tailwind we were in Bornholm in well under three hours and the service from Lelystad, Amsterdam Info, Dutch Military, Bremen Info, Berlin Info and Bornholm Tower was just so good and they all had us on radar.
The rest of the group from Blackbushe were there to meet us and our bus took us all to a splendid local hotel. Most of the group were golfers, so since we and a few others aren’t, there was the question what do we do on Saturday before the sightseeing on Sunday.
The answer was go to Gdansk for the day! Simple route straight across the Baltic to a VOR (DAR) turn left and there’s Gdansk. Unfortunately the Notams state Gdansk closed for the celebrations of 25 years of Solidarity. However a few phone calls to Gdansk duty office and Warsaw info allowed us in provided it was only a day trip and we left at tea-time – perfect! So our little fleet of GBONC a BE33 and BE36 together with a Commander 112TC set off, each with its own Polish squawk!
About 10 mins into the flight Bornholm tower passed a message from Warsaw control asking us to route via intersection REPLA. Hmmm no IFR charts so where is that then? Garmin 430 check, not there! Happily the BE 36 was equipped with an up to date Garmin 530 that had it, so we quickly input a user waypoint and very professionally followed our assigned routing!
Land fall at DAR was about 50 mins and about half an hour later we were on final for Gdansk. A delightful afternoon in the old town followed the ladies in particular appreciating a day in the amber capital of the world. On our return to the airport we found that we had a souvenir, Airport security had placed a sticker seal across the door, while the others tore theirs off Anne carefully sliced ours with her Swiss army knife so we could keep the souvenir!
On the way back we decided to ask Bornholm for practice ILS approaches which were happily granted to all four. This was going well until BE36 did reds blues greens and found only 2 greens! Bornholm tower very coolly got him to do a fly by and sent him into the circuit while the rest of us continued our approaches and one of our number with great presence of mind suggested that a bulb swap might be in order. Problem gone and muppet prize of the day awarded! (the other Beech Driver got a muppet award for forgetting where he was and I got one for forgetting my call sign!)
Monday dawned bright and windy and still in the same direction so we set off early routing back to Trent and then over Wilhelmshaven and Bremerhaven to Groningen, since we had to go there having failed to get in on Friday. The head wind slowed things down but at least meant straight in approaches to both Groningen and Fowlmere and I took the opportunity of another ILS practice into Groningen. We arrived at Fowlmere at around 4.00pm local.
Throughout the trip I was struck with how much easier GA is in these continental neighbours. ATC services, low cost landing fees, friendly helpful staff, access to major airfields are simply routine, I do hope the CAA review of GA brings us closer to our USA and European colleagues. I also recommend such travel, it’s not difficult if you do conscientious flight planning as we were all taught.
There is now a wealth of flight planning services on the web. In particular most of the European AIP is accessible through http://www.eurocontrol.int/ais/links/europe.htm, you will find you need to register a username and password for many (as for UK AIS) but it’s quick and easy. As well as the usual weather sites I’ve found http://euro.wx.propilots.net very handy.