Across the Pond #5: A Big Fat Greek Conference, Flying in Norway and More
From the country where it's considered polite to hurl your dinner plate at the wall once you're done dining comes one of IAOPA's most dedicated and passionate leaders. Yiouli Kalafati is a true poster-girl for GA. As president of AOPA-Hellas, she has been a driving force behind its successful bid to host next year's biannual IAOPA World Assembly in Athens, June 9-14. Writing on AOPA-Hellas' website she says, "The Greek Ministries of Transportation and Tourism are enthusiastically preparing to welcome AOPA members from around the world to the land of Icarus, where aviation was born." At the time of the announcement, IAOPA President Phil Boyer said, "The enthusiasm, drive and commitment to general aviation shown by you and your organization have always been impressive; I'm sure that you will conduct a high-quality assembly for our delegates."
Every other year representatives from IAOPA's 65 worldwide affiliates meet to discuss current and anticipated challenges to the global GA community. Members develop policies that shape GA's future, taking in airports, airspace, security, user-fees and the environment. Yiouli sees the next year as a unique opportunity to introduce the Greek public to flying and work with the Greek authorities for legislative changes that promote general aviation. She also wants to promote the image of Greek airports to other European countries by making them "a friendlier and more affordable destination for private aviators." She urges visitors to the Hellas site to "Come visit the bustling city of Athens, attractively renovated for the 2004 Olympics. Indulge in anything from opera to golf or sailing, discover the last unspoiled beaches of the Mediterranean and fly to friendly small airports. Greece offers a unique mixture of the ancient and the modern -- see for yourself. You are all very welcome. See you in 2008!"
After spending time with Yiouli at Friedrichshafen recently I can only recommend going and meeting her and her team. An experienced pilot, she is keen to promote awareness of GA in Greece. In terms of flying in Greece -- if you enjoy beautiful beaches, azure seas and hanging out with friendly people who feed you and let you throw plates, you're guaranteed some fun. 2008 is a way off, so there's plenty of time to plan your trip. As promised, I'll introduce you to some of AOPA's prime movers and shakers in Europe over the next few columns.
Giving GA Wings
Red Bull is cooking up a storm over here in -- which is surprising but pleasing, given the amount of negative publicity aviation receives in Europe. Although we know light aircraft are a world away from the heavy iron, many people cast us in the same mold, so it's a relief to see a positive slant on flying in the European press. Air racing is zooming up the popular charts here, with more than a million people squashing onto the banks of the Golden Horn estuary in Istanbul in Turkey to watch the fourth Red Bull Air Race World Series event at the beginning of the month. Mike Mangold of the U.S. snatched victory from Britain's Paul Bonhomme, taking the circuit in 01:31.78 minutes, with Bonhomme lagging behind by 1.39 seconds. Although Bonhomme is currently in the lead with 20 points, Mangold is hot on his heels with 19 points and another six races to go. The next event will be in Switzerland at Interlaken on July 14-15.
From Red Bull to Red Wing: The British Light Aircraft Company relaunched the Trago Mills Sprint 160 aircraft as the Redwing 160, saying it already has 10 on its order books. The company says it intends the plane to be a replacement for the former military trainer the Bulldog. Production will take place in Romania with a British base in Somerset. At £113,000 (U.S.$223,000) you can buy the all-metal Lycoming AEIO-320 powered aircraft in kit form or directly off the production line.
The compulsory upgrade of Mode S has caused many rumblings over here. With effect from March 31, 2008, all transponders will have to have SSR instead of the outdated Mode A/C technology. All aircraft will need to be upgraded to Mode S to gain access to controlled airspace, with four years of grace to upgrade existing transponders. In the U.K. the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is still consulting the public on whether it is feasible to expand the requirement to carry and operate SSR transponders on VFR flights conducted within controlled airspace. It is also looking at building Transponder Mandatory Zones (TMZs) within specific portions of uncontrolled airspace and to remove the exemption for gliders to carry transponders. Apart from TMZs, flights through Class G airspace below Flight Level 100 would not be affected. For more information and to air your views, go to the CAA's Mode S Web site.
Isle of Man Grows Micro Melon
As of May 10, European tax haven the Isle of Man now has its own aircraft registry (symbol M) and the first few aircraft have already signed up. Tail numbers such as M-ELON and M-ICRO have already flown away. The register will be a boon to businesses as there is zero rate of corporation tax on the island. The Manx government has its sights set on corporate jets, but the register is open to all non-commercial planes. Unlike the U.K. register, M-reg names will be transferable to new aircraft.
Norway Has Ideal Flying
Here's a great one for you explorers: Try Norway. The country is stunningly beautiful with its dramatic fjords and mountains in the West, vast swathes of farmland in the East and Lofoten with the midnight sun, idyllic fishing villages, and glaciers to the North. During summer (May through September) there are loads of daylight flying hours and AOPA Norway's Web site has helpfully offered a VFR touring suggestion, including GPS-coordinates for the best beauty spots.
Norway boasts several international airfields. Oslo/Gardermoen (ENGM), Stavanger (ENZV) and Bergen (ENBR) charge landing fees, with Oslo particularly heavy in traffic, meaning you need to book a slot before you come in. The Web site recommends landing around noon, or using the free Sandefjord/Torp (ENTO) further south. Kristiansand (ENCN), Haugesund (ENHD), Trondheim (ENVA), Bodø (ENBO), Tromsø (ENTC), Alta (ENAT), Banak (ENNA) and Kirkenes (ENKR) are all fee-free. The site is a treasure-trove of information, some of which I've reproduced here to inspire you to dig out your passports.
Want to see fjords and the highest Alps in Northern-Europe? Go west to Stavanger, which is home to the national air museum and one of the biggest heliports in Europe. From ENZV fly radial 070 from the ZOL VOR/DME into the breathtaking Lysefjorden. About 17 miles DME you will pass the mountain plateau Prekestolen ("Pulpit") 2,000 feet above the fjord water (GPS 58:59:30 N, 06:13:00 E). Flying some feet below the plateau you can wave up to the hikers and the base jumpers preparing to free-fall. After passing them, turn straight north towards the Folgefonni glacier (40 nm southeast of Bergen airport (GPS 60:00:00 N, 06:20:00 E). Then head towards Bergen -- "the city between seven mountains"; with its cableways, a fish market and beautiful wooden houses, it is a must. From ENBR proceed north or northeast to the world's longest fjord (Sognefjorden) -- more than 230 km into Norway (starts at GPS 61:05:00 N, 05:13:00 E). When you fly the fjord, keep at least 1500 ft. MSL due to power lines crossing the fjords, and stay in the center of it. Some few miles southwest of the STOL airport at Sogndal (which is worth a landing as well) there is the narrow Aurlandsfjord (GPS 61:05:00 N, 07:00:00 E). From here set course to the biggest glacier in Europe -- Jostedalsbreen (GPS 61:40:00 N, 07:00:00 E). Be aware of "white out" conditions.
To see summer and winter two miles apart, 35-45 nm due east of the glacier you can pass the highest peaks in the Nordic region at more than 8,100 feet (Galdhøpiggen, GPS 61:38:00 N, 08:20:00 E). Then fly heading 350 to the deep valley of Romsdalen and "the land of the Trolls" (GPS 62:29:00 N, 07:50:00 E) 25 nm southeast of the city of Molde. From the vertical mountainside of Trollveggen, base jumpers fly free-fall more than 1,500 meters down. Molde airport ENML is a picturesque and quiet stop.
Land of the Midnight Sun
Trondheim airport (ENVA) is a 24-hour port with avgas. Follow the west coast northbound towards the Arctic Circle. If carrying a GPS, the famous Arctic circle is at 66:33:00 N. Half an hour later you can touch down in Norway's "aviation city," Bodø. Here you can visit the Air Museum (civil and military, including the Cold War). Forget sleeping now ... the sun simply won't play ball. The only way to absorb the atmosphere is to sit relaxed on the wharf or on the beach, listen to the waves and see the red and orange sun flare above the ocean at midnight. Since many of the airports also have a military status, you can use them 24-hours (check the fee during nighttime). Fly from Bodø straight towards the sea at 1,000 feet. On a northwesterly heading you will see the rugged and dramatic range of mountains called the Lofoten. Because of the stormy weather during most of the winter, sea travel is difficult, but you can do it by air. Therefore you will find STOL airfields (800 meter runways, an Aerodrome Flight Information Service [AFIS] and taxiways) all over. The dramatic views on final approach to Røst airport (ENRS) and Svolvær airport (ENSH) offer wild nature and lots of impressive villages. Next stop could be Tromsø city (ENTC), the Arctic Gateway. With 50,000 inhabitants, a university and an important transport junction, you're promised a good time. According to the Web site there are lots of pubs, nightclubs and restaurants -- even 1,500 feet up the mountain.
Next waypoint is the special latitude 70 North. Check the weather and file for Honningsvåg airport (ENHV). This is as close to the North Cape (GPS 71:10:30 N, 25:55:00 E) as you can land. The midnight sun shines between May 12 and August 1, although some weeks before and after these dates it is still very bright 'till late at night. If you want to go closer to the North Pole, the Svalbard is Norway's exotic outpost in the Arctic, with its deep fjords, glacial valleys, and polar bears. However, there is more than 350 nm of ocean to cross to get there. Contact the CAA in Oslo for application procedures (due to search and rescue issues). Longyear (ENSB) is the northernmost in the world, and it is open 24-hours. Avgas 100LL is available -- if you have an agreement before leaving the mainland.
Fees and Procedures
Buy a Weekly Season Card when you get there, which costs 550 NOK (U.S.$90) for aircraft up to 1,500 kg (3300 lb) and 800 NOK (U.S.$131) from 1,500 to 2,000 kg (4400 lb). These can be used at all the state-owned airports for seven days. Otherwise landing fees for light aircraft not exceeding 2,000 kg are between 120 and 170 NOK (U.S.$20-28) for a landing and 24 hours of parking. Filing ATC flight plans is not mandatory but advisable on domestic flights. It is also a difficult country to cover with ATC radar and VHF, so ask for the NOTAMS to determine the approximate altitude to be in radar and VHF-range. VFR transponder code is 7000. The Web site assures readers that English is used 80 percent of the time on the radio -- even at the small strips in the mountains.
Norway is an important NATO member that borders Russia. A lot of the bigger airports are military. Prior permission (PPR) must be obtained prior to departure and foreign aircraft must obtain permission from the Norwegian CAA at least three working days in advance. From late April to July the weather is quite stable and humid with southwesterly winds from the British Isles or the Atlantic giving rain and windy conditions. Look for north or easterly wind across the mainland. If en route to northern Norway with rough weather on the coast, proceed inland (Oslo-Trondheim). Watch out for turbulence in the mountains and below the ridges along the fjords. As a rule of thumb, if there is good weather in the East there is rain on the West coast and vice-versa. In northern Norway an easterly wind gives stable conditions, northerly gives some rainshowers and southwesterly gives continuous rain and low clouds.
If anyone out there has recommendations for great places to fly in Europe, it would be great to hear from you and I'll flag it up in the column. Happy landings!
For more aviation news and information from Europe, read the rest Liz Moscrop's columns.