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.
“We’re way too fast, slow down as much as you can” says Ori as we approach Schloss Auerbach, one of the many castles in southern Hesse, built by nothing less that King Charlemagne. I reduce power, pitch up the nose to the limit of stall and extend flaps. In matter of seconds our speed drops by 35 knots. “Great! Now off to RID VOR”. This way we headed to gain the second place at the 2020 ESA-ECB Air Rally.
What is an air rally?
Back a few years, air navigation was conducted relying only on paper charts, compass and stop watch. There was no GPS and even no radio navigation aids (like VORs). A great way to train pilots was to have them compete in races of precision. Pilots would need to reach given waypoints exactly at the time declared and every deviations either in terms of time of space would add to a penalty. The crew to complete the course with the least penalty would win.
Today, most pilots just rely on their GPS, after obtaining their license. Moving maps and GPS are indeed great tools if used properly, but one should not lose proper navigation skills, so air rallying is a great way to keep one’s ability honed and have fun with other pilots.
The idea of our own Air Rally
2020 has been an incredibly bad year for most people because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Aviation was among the sectors that were hit harder.
I had been planning for months to join a very special competition, the Air Rally of the Six lakes, organised by Aeroclub Como and to be run with Seaplanes. Due to COVID-19 my original plans were sadly frustrated and the race was first postponed and then cancelled.
I really did not want to give up, after so much preparation. At the same time I wanted to make any possible event meaningful for who was truly suffering because of COVID.
After a lot of reflection, I put some ideas down on paper and discussed with some friends, members of the flying club of the European Space Agency. After a brief call, we decided to go ahead and put the foundations for the first ESA-ECB Air Rally together with fund-raising for various intiatives.
A very special guest
We were also blessed with the participation of Paolo Ferri, former Spacecraft Operation Manager of the ESA Mission “Rosetta” and Head of Mission Operations when the Air Rally took place. Paolo was fundamental for the success of our event: he was our honorary judge, he took all the air-to-air pictures and gave an unforgettable presentation about Mission Rosetta. The talk with him was truly a special experience to understand the intricacies behind one of the most complex missions of space exploration in the history of mankind.
I strongly recommend to take a look at the Masterclass series, which he recorded for the European Space Agency, and to his recently published book about mission Rosetta (“Il cacciatore di comete“, the comet chaser)
Finally the race
Pilots and navigators gather around the table of the flight planning room. For this edition of the Rally it was decided that the pilots would agree together the route rather than receiving a given one from the judges.
After a brief discussion the route is decided: EDFE (Egelsbach) -> RID VOR -> The entry of Eicher See (a small marina on the side of the Rhein River) -> the Coleman Airfield (a former US base) -> CastleAuerbach -> RID VOR and then back to Egelsbach.
All navigators work on their planning, calculate routes, times and speeds. Check the weather and wind corrections. The hall is silent, but the tensions is high. It’s a friendly contest, that’s clear, but nobody wants to lose.
All crews walk to their aircrafts, run the pre-flight checks and start the engines!
Ori and I decided to fly with a Diamond Aircraft DV20 of my flying club. We chose it mostly because it’s responsive, offers amazing visibility and can accelerate or slow down in matter of instants, should that be needed.
We had a shocking surprise as we hopped on, though. The directional gyro, a really important instrument for precision flying, had been removed due to some malfunction in a previous flight.
When flying the compass gives very erratic indication due to the movement of the plane on different axes and its acceleration. For this reason, when flying the gyroscopic compass is preferred. It keeps a steady heading thanks to a fast-spinning rotor and is not subject to the errors which affect the compass.
Running this type of competition without that instrument meant that our competition was already going uphill. We don’t lose our cool. Visibility is good and I am confident that we can locate the way points also visually.
We accelerate on the wet runway 26, we detach from the asphalt at 55 knots and the DV20 climbs nicely through the cold sky. On the ground, the participants stare with awe at the planes lining up and departing one after the other.
Close to RID-VOR, we were in contact with the mighty Maule of Christian. Paolo, on board, took great air-to-air shots of all aircrafts.
Too fast! Too fast!
The rally was going well, we were practically perfect on all waypoints. We just had a slight delay on the entry of Eicher See, but still nothing dramatic if we could make sure that the other legs would be flown precisely. But just as we approached Castle Auerbach, a castle in the hills erected by King Charlemagne, Ori warned me that we were very fast and had too much advantage with respect to the planned target time. I pitched up the plane, applied carburetor heat and reduced power. As soon as the airspeed indicator dropped below 90 knots I also applied full flaps and reapplied power to maintain the plane at 55 knots. The DV20 maintained its speed without any issue. At such a low speed any turn must very gentle and the bank must remain very contained in order to prevent a stall.
“We made it!” announced Ori “now off to RID”. I “cleaned” the aircraft, which means retracting flaps, and pitched down to get back to our cruising speed.
The last leg was exhilarating. We joined in formation the other aircrafts who kept orbiting around RID and then landed back in Egelsbach winning the second place of the 2020 ESA-ECB Air Rally.
The main purpose of the event was to raise charity. The many donations received were given to the ONG “Emergency“ which offers free medical care in war zones and in areas affected by extreme poverty, attending a patient every minute since 1994.
I would like to thank wholeheartedly Paolo Ferri for his involvement and for sharing his unique experience. I would like to thank Gavox Watches for sponsoring the first prize , all the volunteers who supported our event, Holger Neuhaus for the amazing pictures, Dirk Wagner for the moderation of the event with Paolo Ferri, Diamond Aircraft for letting us use their space and Motorflugschule Egelsbach for additional logistical support.
Very often, a VFR pilot wakes up in the morning, looks at a gloomy sky and has to make the call whether to go on with a planned flight. This call is sometimes very difficult to make. Chasing clouds definitely requires some luck.
I woke up at 5.00 am because of the rain. Half asleep I couldn’t avoid thinking of the weather I would find two hours later and if I would manage to fly at all. However, the rain stopped quickly. I checked the meteo forecast for Frankfurt Egelsbach (which, unfortunately does not have a METAR anymore): 16.5 C, 91% humidity and weather improving over the day.
Now, you may or may not know that you can estimate the cloud height with a simple rule of thumb:
(local temperature – dew point) * 400m where the dew point is simply the local temperature multiplied by the humidity rate.
In this case, the result gave me the hope of having a very special flight with scattered clouds at low altitude. In airspace G, (the closest to the ground in uncontrolled space, more info here) you are required to simply keep clear of clouds but have no specific requirement for horizontal separation. However, please, always respect the Rules of the Air and don’t take risks. Entering a cloud in VFR is a top killer of pilots and very likely to disorient even most expert pilots.
I am going to remember the flight for a very long time. Dancing with the clouds, chasing and flying around them is a very special way to start your day. The contemplation of nature is what make flying very special for me (check this article too). So, after this very special dance I returned to the airfield very grateful for the breathtaking images I engraved in my mind.
But you are lucky, because I also caught them on tape!
A few times I have offered her old to join me for a flight. She generally declined in various ways, ranging from a diplomatic “oh today is not a good day, what about tomorrow?” to a more direct “No, I don’t want to!”
Still flying with her remained a big dream for me.
A few weeks ago, a friend with whom I was supposed to fly called me in the morning to say he could not join.
“Well” I thought “perhaps this is the time”. So without inquiring or explaining too much, I told my daughter and my wife that I needed to go to the airport and whether they wanted to come with me. Once there, I asked the little one whether she would like to fly with Dad and see our house from the sky. Her excited smile mattered the world to me. I walked her to the DA40, which was waiting for us out of the hangar, did the walk around with her, answering to any question she might have and then sat her in the plane.
She loved talking through the headset. It was so funny to see how she tried to act and talk through the mic as professional as a six year-old can. The day was relatively calm, but we felt a couple of bumps here and there. I explained to her this was normal and she wasn’t scared at all. She loved to watch the town and the fields from a 1000 ft. Eventually we flew over our home. When she recognised it, she could not contain her excitement. “Papa, that is our home! Look!”
We headed back and, after landing, completing the final checklist and removing the headset, she looked at me and told me the words that every pilot and father would like to hear: “Papa it was the most beautiful thing I have ever done! I want to come with you every time you fly!”…. she waited a few more instants and then again: “Papa, can I give you a kiss?”
I wanted to share with you this very emotional moment for me. Did you fly with your kids? How was it? Feel free to drop me a line!
Coronavirus is causing huge disruptions across the globe.
The main danger coming from this virus is that it doesn’t necessarily present symptoms in a number of infected individuals while it can have potentially deadly consequences on others. The only way to fight this for the time being, i.e. as long as a vaccine is not available, is to stay at home as much as possible and avoid physical contacts apart from the people with whom we live.
As a pilot it is particularly frustrating to have to stay at home, especially while the weather in the northern hemisphere is getting better and better. So here’s a short list of 5 things you can do to face the lock-down in the most productive way for yourself and your family:
#1Keep your boat clean and take care of yourself
Most of us are forced to stay at home, but this is not a good reason to spend your day in pajama and slip into laziness mode. To the contrary, make sure you shower, shave (if you happen to have facial hair…), dress up and keep your home a comfortable place for you and your family. This will help you enter into a better mindset, but will also signal to the rest of your family that you have everything under control.
#2 Have a daily routine
Follow a daily schedule and make sure your kids have one too. This helps making the most of this time as you will be able to syncronise your working time with their studying and then have place for fun together.
#3Remember the 8-8-8 rule
There are 24 hours in a day. The change of habits can challenge the way we organise our day. Make sure you dedicate 8 hours a day for work or other intellectual activity, 8 hours for relaxation or fun and 8 hours for sleep. This will help you avoid accrual of unnecessary stress.
#4 Use the time to refresh theory and use flight sim to test your readiness to act in difficult situations
Time on the ground can be still used for a lot of aeronautical activities. Go back to those parts of your training which you like the least (mine is airlaw, I have to admit) and refresh them. Also if you have a flight sim on your laptop (and I am positive most of you do), simulate difficult situations like gusty winds or system failures.
#5 Read some good aviation book
Here are my favourites:
A Gift of Wings – Richard Bach
Flying the Knife Edge: New Guinea Bush Pilot – Matt McLaughlin
I love Cyprus. Its light and its scent are unique. When you get out of the international terminal of Larnaca, you feel a special warmth in the sun and in its blinding yet joyful light. A similar feeling I derive by my frequent exchanges with all the Cypriot friends I had the fortune to meet in the past two years. Indeed, I pass by here frequently and anytime I am impatient to log some flight time and feed to my brain some unique memories of the breath-taking landscape of the Island.
Although when you fly in Cyprus you feel relatively constrained by the VFR routes, the limited availability of G-airspace areas (a type of uncontrolled airspace) and a number of restricted areas along the path, it’s an experience that I strongly recommend to any pilot for a good series of reasons:
• The landscape is absolutely amazing in any season and in any moment of the day.
• You can find not only very skilled FIs, but also great people with whom to share the passion of flying.
• You can start from Cyprus to do some island-hopping.
• The cost is generally more reasonable than in other countries and possibly set to decrease for fiscal reasons.
I have been in contact with Demos Ektoros for quite some time and I have regarded him as one of the friendliest and most helpful instructors I know since our very first contacts. He opened a flying school called The Pigeon (link to their Facebook page here) and together with a passionate investor they are building the youngest fleet on the Island, with a few brand new Tecnams. So, if you are interested in discovering this part of Mediterranean by plane or simply wish to do some hour building, give him a call and enjoy a service of the highest level!
I was excited to try the P2008. It is a high wing plane with a nice slick line. The cabin is larger than its predecessor the P92 and is mostly made of composite materials, while the wings have a metal infrastructure. The combination of the engine (a most common Rotax 912s) and the very capable tanks (with a stunning 110-litre capacity) makes the plane able to undertake long navigation.
The glass cockpit solution by Garmin complements the ability to travel long distances with remarkable peace of mind along the trip.
When we fired the engine the weather was just ideal: a few clouds crowded the west of the Island, but above our heads the sky was of a deep blue, the wind was around 12 kts perfectly aligned with RWY 04 and the temperature was a mild 14 degrees Celsius.
The P2008 is a remarkable machine: the interiors are incredibly well designed. The dashboard is well designed and you find all switches easily thanks to their size and the backlit indications.
One major improvement from the P92 and the P2002 is the flap lever, which doesn’t need to be kept in position till the flaps reach the desired angle. This means having your right hand busy only for an instant in a busy phase of flight, unlike in the older models. The steering on ground is by differential braking (also very welcome change).
So let’s get to the fun part, i.e. the flight. We line up behind an Airbus from Aeroflot and take off from RWY 04, the two-seater climbs beautifully passing in front of Mackenzie Beach (a very sweet spot in Summer). The VFR procedure of Larnaca requires you to fly over the Salt Lake which is north of the airfield and from there enter the chosen VFR route.
In Summer the lake is often dry, but in winter the orange evening sun reflects on its waters making the view simply incomparable. We continue towards the training area of Makri, north of the mountains. The Garmin is a stunning navigational aid as it projects the flight plan over a 3D profile and it is so well programmed that you may almost forget to look outside and enjoy the view.
I flew over a couple of dams, which are vital for the Country, and enjoyed the long dark shadows plotted on the ground by the dying sun. From Alampra we headed directly to the Salt Lake and I had the impression that darkness falled upon us almost abruptly before reaching the lake.
Doing traffic patterns in an international airport is beautiful and in Larnaca the ATC is also particularly friendly. Under Demos’instructions, I performed a few traffic patterns and a forced landing in the dark. The plane handles perfectly, the lighting system is very good and makes night landings as easy as daylight ones.
Taxiing back to the apron, you wish you could just fly that plane to the last drop of fuel available.
But, now it’s time to let the picture speak for themselves. Once again many thanks are owed to Demos for his time and dedication. If you pass by Cyprus and like to fly, The Pigeon Aviation School is by far the best solution, if you care for a friendly environment and brand new planes!
“Perhaps, this is something I will regret…” I can’t even finish the thought when the abrupt change of direction of the Robin 2160 draws all my brain power to try understand what is going on around me.
Udo Pieh, the instructor and owner of MKM Flight Training in Mainz (Germany), is showing me the minimum amount of acceleration (Gs) he wants to feel when I am in control of the plane.
He asks me to perform a steep turn with 60 degrees. I do my best, considering that it’s not a manoeuvre I practice daily. Udo taps with a finger on the accelerometer: “1.5 G… not enough! – exclaims smiling – How many shall I see?”
“Two” I answer, almost instinctively.
“Then show me 2 Gs” he adds laughing … and there starts my course for the aerobatic rating!
Let’s start from the very beginning: a few weeks before I booked a trial lesson with MKM Flight Training. The reason why I booked it was very simple: I want to progress on the path to become a safer pilot, learn something new and perhaps test my body’s tolerance to Gs.
For some reason, aerobatic flying is one of the aviation disciplines that attracts most attention from non-pilots for its spectacularity, but very often it is avoided by airmen.
The image of a plane flying in all directions and fashions, except levelled and straight, best than any other represents the idea of freedom.
However, I share what Alan Cassidy, an icon of aerobatics, wrote in his must-read manual “Better Aerobatics”. He explains that the representation of aerobatics as something free of rules is very misleading and that the one quality an aerobatic pilot can never lack is extreme self-discipline.
I believe thrill-seekers are not good in aviation, regardless of what and how they fly it. I think aerobatics is no exception. As Udo said during our first lesson, quoting a known aviation say: “there are bold pilots and old pilots, but not old bold pilots”.
So, I showed up at Mainz airfield (ICAO: EDFZ) at 8.30 of a sunny summer morning. At the hangar Udo welcomed me and introduced me to the plane: a shining Robin 2160 powered by a Lycoming 0-320.
I notice the long ventral fin running all the way to the tail. I liked instantaneously the profile of the plane and the front-sliding canopy.
Udo runs the pre-flight inspection with me, makes reference to a couple of peculiarities of the plane and then he hands me the keys to take the plane to the fuel station.
After the refuelling, we wear the parachutes. Udo explains me how to jump out if need be and in matter of minutes we’re running for take-off.
The parachute briefing doesn’t really help me gather courage, but in matter of 2 minutes we are already running on Runway 08 for take-off.
The day is ideal, with a clear sunny sky, but still no thermals.
We start with steep turns and as soon as I make a clean 2G 60 degree bank turn, Udo informs me that that’s the only way I am allowed to turn from that moment on.
He then guides me to perform an entry into a spin.
Some friends spoke of it as one of the worst feelings a pilot can go through. I don’t share their view: spins develop quickly, but the plane (and most planes in the SEP category are like this) will recover as soon as pressure is released from the control stick and the rudder is in neutral position.
After the initial figures, I feel much more relaxed. I don’t feel sick and my curiosity is only increasing.
We do a few more and I get more and more and more comfortable with the quick rotation of the aircraft and the loss of altitude.
From there on, I am hooked and hungry for more figures. Udo guides me through loops, split Ss and Immelmanns.
An important aspect of most aerobatic manoeuvres regards vestibular illusions. Closing a loop or recovering from a spin impress on the body a lot of G force. When still not familiar with the aircraft and without having developed an eye for the attitude of the plane without looking at the attitude indicator, a pilot may have the illusion of being climbing while they are, as descending quite quickly as a matter of fact.
After the first lesson, my head is busy processing all the information and rethinking about the timing of each move.
In the following lessons I practice rolls, snap rolls and hammerhead (or stall turns). The more I fly aerobatics and the more I wonder whether I will ever be able to fly straight and levelled again!
Another lesson I learnt, is to make a pre-flight check of myself. Learning aerobatics requires being responsive and “consequential” as Udo says. If you didn’t sleep well and feel you are sleep or distracted, it’s better not to waste time, money and, worst, risk “being flown” by the aircraft instead of controlling it.
If you start this course, and I truly recommend it, bring an action camera (or better two) with you. It provides a very good learning support in between lessons from which you can learn a lot.
Find some of my footage below, both in 2D and 360 VR format.
The sequence of events is pretty simple: I showed up at my base airfield, walked to the plane and ran the pre-flight inspection. Everything looked good as always. My guests and I took our seats and I started the engine. The sky was clear and the wind was slightly gusty, but perfectly aligned to the runway.
During the engine run-up check, there was no indication of any malfunction, so I lined up and applied full power checking all items: “Airspeed alive, all engine instruments ‘green’, power 100%”.
After rotation, I felt a vibration for a couple of seconds. It was strong enough to draw my attention and trigger my brain to start comparing it with the memory of previous take-offs. However, it quickly disappeared, so I continued the climb, ascribing it to the gusty situation and possibly some adjustment of the propeller pitch (the plane I was controlling has a hydraulic pitch control system that works autonomously to yield the optimum power output for each situation). Another 10 seconds in the climb, the vibration showed up again. I had the clear impression it came from the engine bay. Speed, climb and engine were still in the green.
A number of questions crowded my head, such as “What to do?”, “Is it just me being overcautious?”, “How would my instructor react?”, but none of these could guide me to a proper solution of my problem, so I forced my head into a more orderly and neutral assessment: is it unusual? YES; is it affecting a vital system of the plane? YES; What is the nearest airport? Clearly the one I just left. So, I announced I was coming back. The voice on the tower acknowledged. During the other segments of the traffic circuit, the engine -now with lower power settings- continued to vibrate at intervals. The landing went fine and was possibly one of the softest I have had this year.
I taxied back and asked to have the plane checked. After 15 minutes, the technicians had downloaded the computer data, but they seemed inconclusive and more checks needed to be carried out.
So, I left the airfield with a bitter feeling. A lot of thoughts went through my head as I drove back to the city, but all basically coming down to: “Was it me or the plane that ruined my day?”. I feared that perhaps I had been overly zealous after all and maybe my reaction was the result of a loss of self-confidence. On the other hand, the possibility that the plane had indeed problems, despite all pre-flight checks going well was also leaving me a bit shaken, as I have a lot of trust in that beautiful and complex machine.
I watched the video I took with the GoPro (which is posted below) and I chewed on my thoughts during the night. I woke up reinforced in the opinion that I had done the right thing: I have one life and I have one propeller, nothing justifies taking a risk.
Walking down to my morning coffee, I read a message on my phone saying they had indeed found problems with one of the components of the engine. If the flight had continued it may have later developed into a catastrophic failure.
I was happy to know that I made the right call. At the same time, I though of what made me almost go ahead with the planned flight. I found it was very likely the attitude of some macho-type instructor during my training, too quick in discarding my questions and ignoring problems as they arose, and then the attitude of some pilots around the airfield. For this reason the initial question “what would my instructor do?” was the wrong one to ask.
It’s a great lesson learnt for me in the field of Human Factor, one which I am happy to share with you. As usual, feel free to send me your comments: have you ever been in a similar situation?
If you want to learn more about hazardous attitudes for pilots check the FAA’s materials on aeronautical decision-making here.
I have to apologise to all of you for such a long break. Unfortunately, this is the collateral effect of excessive work and study. The good news is that finally I found time to publish my review of a fantastic book. This volume, without any question, is now one of my favourite books about aviation and a must-read: “Flying the knife edge” by Matthew McLaughlin.
I cannot recommend enough this book to anyone interested in aviation, regardless whether they have a pilot license or have absolutely no clue about what bush-flying is. “Flying the knife edge” is one of the most comprehensive, entertaining and informative books on aviation.
It is basically about Matt’s experience as bush pilot in one of the most dangerous areas of the globe for a pilot, Papua New Guinea. However, there is so much more to this book: the story about the author’s struggle and challenges to become an airline pilot is accompanied by brief historical and technical insights and also some very funny accounts.
Flying in Papua, before turbo-prop planes became common, meant flying with very thin safety margins between short unpaved and unforgiving landing strips, “on the knife edge” one would indeed say. The descriptions of certain flights flight or approaches will take your breath away and ‘glue’ you to the pages until you know the not-always-positive ending.
Just to give you a flavour, imagine a place with little or no radio navigation aid at all, a deadly territory where entering the wrong valley means having no way out and on some landing strip there’s no go-around as a vertical rocky wall stand in front of you at the end of the runway.
As I said, I loved this book. I loved it because it’s a well-balanced mix of all those elements that I enjoy in aviation: personal reflections about the life and risks of a (bush) pilot, history, technics, beautiful planes and friendship. Also it is always explained in simple terms so that really anyone can read it and enjoy it.
In many parts of the book I thought about the internal dilemma of how much risk is worth taking in order to pursue one’s dream. Depending on your “risk appetite” and most likely what phase of your life you are currently going through you will answer differently.
Also, one may wonder how a new MPL airline recruit would stand compared to an old-school pilot.
Please read it and let me know if you share my opinion.
One of the reasons why I value my job, is the opportunity to visit regularly different countries around Europe. What I normally do is to find an airport and rent a plane to fly around.
Two things made me dream of my latest trip: the country, Cyprus, and the plane. Indeed, I finally managed to fly on a Tecnam.
I landed in Larnaca (ICAO code: LCLK) at 14.45 and at 15.30 I was already running the pre-flight inspection of 5B-CLE, a Tecnam P92JS owned by Nemax Pilot Training.
Nemax is a small school, but they offer all pilot courses and offer a fleet of planes at a very reasonable price. I liked the friendly, relaxed yet deeply professional atmosphere and I am looking forward to my next trip to the Island to do some hour building and seriously considering some additional steps in my training with them.
The P92 is a high-wing plane, with a nice aerodynamic profile and characterised by a very light weight (its first version was indeed conceived for the ultralight market). It uses a stick control, like in the Katana, but the nose wheel is directly connected to the pedals and the breaks are controlled by a lever between pilot and passenger seat, which makes taxiing a little different from what I am used to. I could write for a few pages about Tecnam, but I don’t want to repeat myself, so take a look at my previous article about Tecnam’s founders, the Pascale bothers.
The airspace of Cyprus is not particularly vast, but due to the presence of military installations and high terrain, VFR flights must be conducted according to pre-defined routes between Paphos and Larnaca or to training areas in airspace G. Flight plans must be submitted for all flights departing Larnaca. The VFR chart is available at the website of the Department of Civil Aviation of Cyprus (link here)
Zakos, joins me to guide me in the familiarisation with the area. We contact the tower to request the start-up and receive the expected taxi instructions via CU and B. Large airlines like Lufthansa lands in Larnaca. We waited around 20 minutes in front of holding point B enjoying the close touch down of a few A320s and then were cleared for take off by radio and by the green lights on the taxiway.
I lined-up the P92 and applied full power. I barely had the time to call the speed because the P92 likes short take-offs and it accelerated and detached in matter of instants. We overflew the right (north) downwind of runway 22 till over the Salt Lake and then entered the VFR route for the Marki training area.
I like the P92JS, the checklist is short and you can focus on flying. Due to its lightweight and high-wing configuration the pilot must fly in the most precise manner to avoid the cabin to swing sideways. I like this aspect of the machine because it helps me focus on my primary goal as pilot, i.e. flying well!
I tried the usual check ride manoeuvres like steep turns and stalls and I still have a baby smile on my face. Having tried the Savage Cub, I was expecting a wing drop while attempting the stall much earlier, but it just didn’t drop.
Fully satisfied by the behaviour of this plane, I enjoyed the landscape in front of my eyes: green fields, hills hiding small towns and then river becoming lakes just before a dam.
The weather was so enjoyable at 22 Celsius, even inside the cockpit, where typically every temperature above 20 is easily doubled. We then left Marki, via the reporting point of Alampra and then went back to Larnaca for some Traffic patterns.
The standard traffic patterns develops to the South of the airport of Larnaca, which means that you fly over the sea. I loved this too: a light blue sea, completely transparent and reflecting the glare of the sunset depending on the angle.
This plane flows beautifully through the air and has a great glide ratio. Something to keep in mind on a short final, where excess energy is hard to dissipate.
Indeed, the P92 loves to fly and you really have to convince her to get back on the ground.