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Between Water and Sky

It’s been a long time since the last post. This period of silence is only apparent, as I kept working on writings, articles and stories on actual magazines and on my other social media channels (Instagram, YouTube).

To be fair I am still very busy working on my ATPL exams, my upcoming visit to Montenegro an about another exciting novelty, which I will share here soon. However, I wouldn’t like to leave these cherished pages without an update, especially when I marked a year of flights on I-76, my ICP amphibious plane.

So, I though about collecting here all short clips related to my journey with that little spectacular machine. To this conceptual compilation I gave the name of “Between Water and Sky” (but sometimes change the order depending on the desire of the moment…).

Between Water and Sky reflects my feeling when detaching from the water: I am not floating on the water anymore, but I am still lower that most land features and houses around me.

I put all my passion in these videos, so I hope you will like them. Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel as well…


Between Water and Sky – the video collection

Episode 1 – It’s about my first flight with India-76 and my feeling of gaining freedom and achieving the greatest childhood dream.

Episode 2 – In the second episode, I explore some of the corners of Lake Maggiore, in Italy. On the way back, I had to face the difficulties posed by the valley currents which culminate with a challenging landing.

Episode 3 – Together with a friend, we dock the plane at Hotel Lido di Angera. A wonderul hotel with a private pier. Tiziano, the owner, welcomes us with the best expresso a seaplane pilot ever tasted.

Episode 4 – Time for more missions. This time we head to a beach in the vicinity of Laveno-Mombello. Once more the coming back proves challenging because of the mountain winds.

Episode 5 – In this episode I talk more about the region of the lakes in Northern Italy, about the Aeroclub Como and then I take you for a ride on a short flight on I-76.

Episode 6 – The real Tour of the Six Lakes. Aboard of a Cessna 172 of Aeroclub Como we explore the lakes composing the so called Tour of the Six Lakes. Enjoy spectacular views from the air and from the ground in some of the most iconic places in Italy.

Episode 7 – In preparation for the Seaplane Regatta of Montadria 2023, (about which I wrote here) we perform some flight test on I-76. We land in Calcinate del Pesce (LILC) and make it back in the usual turbulent winds of the valley.

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Montadria Seaplane Regatta 2022

One of the most successful events for water aviation just concluded in Montenegro after 3 days of flying around the enchanting landscape of the small Balkan state. As Montadria Seaplane Regatta 2022 comes to an end, I can say that another important milestone has been laid to bring back water aviation to its splendor.

The regatta

I mentioned Montadria Seaplane Regatta briefly in my previous article. The key idea behind the event is simple: displaying the potential of water aviation to the local and foreign public as a resource for both leisure and commercial purposes.

And indeed, the fleet of seaplanes which came from every corner of Europe achieved and exceeded this ambitious goal. With every flight, through the breath-taking sceneries of Montenegro, Montadria raised the interest of local communities to the infinite possibilities of water aviation. At the same time, we all met new friends and strengthened existing relations.

Also, no event better than Montadria displays how relationships are the corner stone of aviation.

The routes took the fleet of seaplanes through several sites with historical relevance for seaplane aviation. Indeed Montenegro can pride itself with a very florid past and one of the oldest seaplane basis in the world, located in the Kotor bay in 1913. Thanks to the energy of Dragisa-Gaga Raicevic, organiser of the event, Montenegro reopened its water bodies to aviation.

Another achievement of Montadria 2022 was to show the strong European vocation of the Country and to confirm that the borders of the aeronautical world are much wider than administrative ones.

In other words, European water aviation definitely passes by Montenegro.

The crews

So, crews from all over Europe travelled to Tivat, Montenegro, for the Regatta. World-known Raimund Riedman and Matthias Dolderer took part onboard of the Cessna 208 Caravan on amphibious floats of the Flying Bulls. Scandinavian Seaplanes came with a beautiful and powerful Quest Kodiak 100 they currently operate (on a side note, If you came to AERO Friedrichshafen, you may have seen both planes on static display).

Lake Renegade, Cessna 208 Caravan, Quest Kodiak 100

Cesare Baj, from Aeroclub Como, participated onboard a Lake Renegade, followed by another Lake 200, a Cessna, a Piper and a numerous group of amphibious ICP (Savannahs and Bingos) mounting the floats of Scuola Italiana Volo.

A Super Cub and ICP Savannahs of the Swiss Seaplane Association

Aside from the flying crews, Textron Aviation, Seamax Croatia and the Tourism Authority of Maldives were also present at the event showing how much interest water aviation is now gathering in Europe.

A look at the routes and take-off!

Dragisa planned three days of flying around three themes to honor 1) the past of water aviation in Montenegro, 2) the historical site and 3) the natural beauties of the Country.

As the bus drops the crews in front of the General Aviation Terminal in Tivat (ICAO:LYTV), the emotion starts to build up. The crews file the flight plans, which were circulated the night before, and walk to their machines for the pre-flight checks and start-up.

The crews heading to the planes

I take a seat onboard the Kodiak, with Daniel and Christian (the pilots), Dragisa and André (Seamax Croatia). A short back and fourth with the ATC to clarify order of departure and flight plans and we’re backtracking the runway to then take off north-west-bound.

We’re number two for take off after the Cessna Caravan. Daniel applies take-off power. The Kodiak speeds up aggressively under the 700hp released by the turbo 5-blade propeller and in almost no time it climbs over the marina of Tivat.

Porto Montenegro – the Marina of the city of Tivat

Budva and the incredible landscape of Skadar Lake

We follow the coast Southbound till we reach the astonishing bay of Budva with the picturesque Island of Saint Nicholas. The water is blue and the surrounding mountains make this view absolutely unique.

We head to Skatar Lake and the surprise is even bigger as the clear water mixes with wide light green vegetation. The landscape is absolutely gorgeous and unique for Europe.

Landing back for the Grand Opening

As we hold a pattern in the narrow bay of Kotor, we find ourselves to orbit very close to the Cessna Caravan of the Flying Bulls. What better way to save some space and make the life of the ATC easier, if not by flying and landing in formation?

Once on the ground, the incredible views and the excitement for this incredible flight, with a formation of exceptional pilots is still running before my and the other passengers’ eyes. We head to the Marina of Porto Montenegro, where the official opening Ceremony is about to take place.

The pilots remain in the airport as they will be part of the ceremony soon.

The welcome of Montenegro to the seaplane crews is the warmest one could imagine! At the presence of ministers and functionaries, Dragisa and the other speakers lay down the best case for the promotion of water aviation.

Indeed, like no other, water aviation can have a determining role to bridge the distances between Mediterranean countries, to promote peaceful cooperation and, perhaps to further the spirit of progress that moved the very Jacque Schneider, promoter of the Schneider Cup.

The video

Perhaps, thinking of describing the experience in words was an excessively ambitious goal for me. So let’s image speak in the video below.

But let’s first thank Montenegro for the unforgettable welcome, Dragisa Raicevic for his visionary project and all pilots that took part for contributing to the growth of seaplanes in Europe.

Looking forward to see you all at the next event around the Mediterranean Sea!

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A new dawn for water aviation in Europe

A bright past

Seaplanes carry with them a charm that no other plane type has.

Difficult to say why. In our heads they certainly recall images of movies like Indiana Jones, The Aviator or Porco Rosso.

A scene from Indiana Jones: the Raiders of the Lost Ark

At the beginning of aviation, water planes enjoyed at least as much fortune as land planes. Indeed, the possibility to use immense water bodies to take off and splash down, seemed a better alternative to unpaved short grass strips and flying boats were generally flying the longest intercontinental routes, like that from Australia to UK by Qantas.

Historic events of astonishing importance like the Schneider Trophy or the “Decennial Air Cruise”, led by Italo Balbo, were also conducted with seaplanes. The speed record for piston-engine powered aircraft was for a few years the one that the famous Macchi Castoldi – MC72, one of the most magnificent machines ever designed, scored in 1934.

However, after this initial and relatively long-lasting period of success, during World War II, seaplanes let the pace to faster and more agile land planes. Seaplanes found more commonly employment as support vehicles.

Following the end of the war, seaplanes in Europe lost little by little their status. Water aerodromes were closed, or simply forgotten, one after the other, and this beautiful way of flying was kept alive only by a handful of passionate aviators and organisations, like Aeroclub Como, active since the 1930s. Very different was the fate of hydroplanes in North America, where, due to geographical and social characteristics, seaplanes kept being designed, produced and employed without particular hiccups.

Back to the future

In the last few years, however, water aviation in Europe gains momentum once more. It’s hopefully a new dawn for water aviation in Europe. The credit goes once more to the relentless work of a few pilots and clubs.

The upcoming establishment of a European Seaplane Pilot Federation is a great signal. In facts, representatives from 14 states met in Mallorca in September 2021 for the first European Hydroaviation Congress. They agreed to establish a pan European Association with the purpose to lobby for uniform and more understanding set of rules for seaplane across the EU. Indeed, General Aviation overall enjoys uniform application of rules across the Continent. Sadly, water aviation falls still somehow hostage to national waterways rules. The result is an unjustified hinderance to its existence or its ability to develop.

In Italy, Aviazione Marittima Italiana (Italian Maritime Aviation) made stunning progress. Together with Regions and Municipalities, the association founded by Orazio Frigino and Graziano Mazzolari, maker of amphibian floats for ultralight aircraft, signed several memoranda of understanding to reopen historic water aerodromes across the Country. The main goal to create some viable stop-over bases for seaplane pilots travelling across the Continent.

Unexpected growth during Covid-19

Indeed, in the context of the Covid pandemic, general aviation grew markedly in several EU countries. Travellers looked for alternatives to airline flying. General Aviation, unknown by many before, succeeded in acquiring some considerable portion of the market. The water aviation segment benefitted of this trend, too. As a matter of facts, various entrepreneurs and companies moved the first steps. Some Aviation Authorities already issued approvals for Seaplane AOCs. Connecting wealthy cities with holiday destinations on coasts of lakes and seas represents the main target. The use of existing waterways, allows to avoid the high costs related to airport slots and handling fees. In addition, companies have already eyed the feasibility of routes between Italy and Greece, where, for instance, Hellenic Seaplanes is ready to start operations in 2022 with a fleet of modern Twin Otters.

Back to the glamour

Against this backdrop, seaplanes are back to charm the public with more than just connecting two places. As Richard Bach splendidly captured in one article, if you asked random pilots why they fly, almost nobody would answer “to fly from A to B”.

And indeed the beauty of the seaplane lies in the very machine and its possibilities. Imagine to dock at the pier of a lakeside town in Italy. Drink a freshly brewed espresso at the local yacht club. Then hop on again, maybe with a friend, to look at the beautiful Villas from the best angle, from just below 2000 feet.

Villa del Balbianello, Lake Como

On the East side of the Adriatic sea, Dragisa Raicevic, President of the Seaplane Regatta MontAdria, launched a second edition of the rally. Around 30 seaplane crews will come to Montenegro, in the first week of June 2022. It will be an incredible occasion to connect with seaplane pilots and makers. Moreover, Montenegro with its history, geography and culture, is the perfect link between Europe and East.

With the ongoing pandemic it’s hard to make strong commitments. However, we work to launch some seaplane events at the end of Summer 2022. Come check for more information in these pages soon!

Some additional materials

The Voyage of the Southern Sun: in 2015 Michael Smith started the circumnavigation of the globe aboard of a small Rotax-powered Searey. Don’t miss the DVD and the book he wrote.

Gli Scarponi del Cielo (Scarponi literally means boots, but it’s a colloquial term to mean floats) – a vintage short movie, directed by Antonio Leidi in the 1960s. it shows unique views of Lake Como and the life of seaplane pilots.

Collection of seaplane flights and events starring the ICP Savannah on floats

Porco Rosso – An amazing animation movie by Hayao Miyazaki. It takes place in Italy in the age of the seaplanes (a fictional early XX century). It features, a pig and a reinterpreted red Siai S21.

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The 2021 ESA-ECB Air Rally

After the great fun of the first ESA-ECB Air Rally in October 2020, we were impatient to arrange another one. So, after only a few months, we launched the 2021 ESA-ECB Air Rally.

Dive with me into the memories of this exciting competition!


The 2021 ESA-ECB Air Rally was made possible by the invaluable support of:

and by the artwork of Tom Colbie Art and the photographic account of Elena Barsottelli

Why an Air Rally

In October, we arranged this type of contest for the first time. While there were a few things that we knew we would need to fine-tune, all participants had a great time and were enthusiastic about the Air Rally. Indeed, it’s a great way to keep navigation skills and situational awareness honed. Naturally, the use of GPS is strictly forbidden.

You can read more about this type of competition in my previous post here. In this article I will simply say that flying an air rally requires you to fly a route as close as possible to your flight plan. Basically, It’s about being at the right place at the right moment!

The route

One of the key aspects for the success of a Rally is the route. In facts, waypoints must be challenging enough to identify. At the same time, they must be at a sufficient distance to prevent conflicting traffic and allow for a certain duration of the flight. Luckily, we had a friend of the Deutsche Flugsicherung to help us there and design the perfect route.

In our route, we had fountains, castles and even the final straight line of a car test track to conclude triumphantly the race.

All of them proved to be challenging, but if you made your flight plan well and followed it to the letter, it was achievable by all pilots.

Finding some balance during Covid-19 times

We initially planned May 8, hoping that the pandemic situation would be lighter. Sadly, the then-new Delta variant made things more complicated. Despite all restrictions, we managed to carry on with our event and had the great honor to be supported by very special guests:

Filippo Barbero and Filippo Fontemaggi, former Italian Airforce pilots, supported us as judges, and Elena Barsottelli, one of the most talented aviation photographers, documented the whole ESA-ECB Air Rally for us.

Sadly, no audience could attend and we had to cancel the presentations that our guests had prepared. I hope this article and the video below, will transmit all the enthusiasm and energy of the event. We hope to hold all presentations at the next occasion!

The pilots, the planes, the start

Finally, comes the moment of the race. Pilots receive the explanation of the rules and soon start their planning. Each crew is different from another: there are commercial, private and even student pilots. And the beauty of the Air Rally is that it’s so unique that flight hours don’t necessarily matter.

The handover of the routes

For this edition, we also had very different planes: a few 4-seaters (a Piper, a Maule and a Mooney) and many 2-seaters (Diamond Katana, Aquila A210 and the beautiful historic Ercoupe 415-D).

The Ercoupe 415-D

When the time for planning is over, we reconvene in front of the terminal and assign the starting time. Ori and I are the first to start with a declared speed of 115 kts.

Our race

I have already checked the Piper PA28 that will take us through this challenging route. The engine is warm, the red and white livery of the plane shines under the morning sun.

We hop on, but first let two special passenger accommodate. As the stress to fly the route as precisely as possible wasn’t already enough, we invited our Airforce guests onboard (please note that we were all already vaccinated and tested negative to multiple tests). I had already checked the weight and balance in case they trusted me that much.

And indeed, I took it as a very big sign of trust when they happily sat in the back of the plane.

The engine starts smoothly, we taxi to the holding point of RWY 26. As the plane accelerates on the asphalt the emotion leaves pace to concentration. The route officially starts on the first waypoint in Dieburg. I make use of the few minutes available to adjust the power settings and the elevator trim.

It’s a very clear day. As we enter the race track, I can see the bend of the Main river where the Aschaffeburg castle (our next waypoint) is located. I rely then on this visual reference and focus on my speed. Ori measures the time with its cronograph. I ask him a check when we are about 2 miles from the target. We seem to be doing fine.

Bias and illusions

Off to the next point! The next one is probably the one target that worries me most. Indeed, it is the fountain in the garden of an old German palace. I think I know the palace, but this makes me even more worried: there are so many historic buildings around Frankfurt. I may convince myself (and my navigator) that the target is that one castle with which I am more familiar rather than the correct one. In the end, the difficulty of a Rally lies all here. Trusting your planning and instruments more than your instinct.

Bias and illusions can trick us during a navigation. Many pages have been written about the subject and, thankfully, I read some of them.

As we get closer to our supposed target and the target time, we scan the ground intensely. In my recollection now, I may swear to have spotted at least 5 fountains!

But eventually there she is! In the front of the Philippsruhe Palace as described.

Intense traffic, difficulties over Ronneburg, and finally on ground

As more planes taking part to the Rally depart, also the radio chatter becomes more intense. I pay particular attention to where Tiago with his fast Mooney is. Fortunately there seem to be always proper separation.

In such context, it’s important to use the frequency for concise meaningful information. On each waypoint, I declared my position, the following reporting point, the heading and expected time overhead.

After the Ronneburg Castle, we were supposed to make a left turn. However, we found ourselves a few hundred meters left of the castle and had to make a right turn instead. This caused quite some difficulties to find the following one, the farm , but eventually we managed. Sadly, not without accruing some delay on that leg.

Ronneburg Castle seen from Tiago’s plane. Photo by Elena Barsottelli

Once found the solar farm, we confidently headed to the old Frankfurt airport, located in the district of Bonames. The airfield was opened by the Allied Forces and was used until 1992. Although converted now to a public park, the runway is still paved and the markings well visible.

We crossed the centre of the long asphalt strip right on spot and turned South for the final two waypoints: the stadium of Offenbach and the straight of the Opel test track.

As I landed the PA28, I realised the intense effort that one hour of such navigation meant. I felt truly satisfied for managing to keep the attention so high regardless of the final ranking.

On adifferent note, I was also quite happy for flying around two of the best pilots I may possibly know without being shouted at for some mistake!

The final ranking

Thanks to the great work of Mikel who coded the algorithm for the score, we had the ranking in matter of few minutes:

1st place: D-EMUX – Crew from ESA Aviators
2nd place: D-EXDA -Crew from Frankfurter Verein für Luftfahrt
3rd place: D-ETLK – Crew from Hanseatischer Flieger Club Frankfurt

Following the overwhelming positive response, we just can’t wait to organise the next Rally!

Don’t miss the video below for a visual report, and don’t forget to subscribe to the channel for more updates!

Watch the full video