Trips / Athens / Piloot and Vliegtuig article, May 2011

Piloot en Vliegtuig, May 2011 - original text in Dutch - by Rene Hebels

Flying abroad?
Become a member of a local aero club!
In January 2011 I was on a flight from London City Airport to Amsterdam with an English aviation magazine that I had purchased on the airport. My neighbour on the flight was chief-editor Ruud Vos, and because of the aviation magazine I had with me, we started to talk about the press presentation at BAE/AVRO, the split-up of Piper with the Czech supplier of the Piper Sport, the Aero 2011 Friedrichshafen and all that kind of things we shared an interest in. I told him about the trip that I had made earlier that month in Greece. When Vos asked me to share the experiences with the readers of Piloot en Vliegtuig, I happily agreed.

As an amateur pilot without an instrument rating, I make most of my flying hours to the slightly further destinations in July and August. The risk to become grounded for a longer period because of weather in our regions is then small, and of course it is also summer holiday. Two children accompany us, but the destinations must also be reachable for my wife, as she drives to the holiday address. She then can take the lugage necessary for four persons, and additionally we are not dependable on the bigger airports with car rental companies. From the holiday-hub we then make our joined day trips by plane of by car. During the other months the flying trips are limited to three or four days at most, and then only if the weather outlook is good. It would not be the first time that I had to leave the plane behind, to return later to pick it up again.

Renting difficult?
In order to enable flying to other destinations during the winter months, it is of course possible to divert to the United States, Australia or South Africa. In these countries it is relatively easy, with some preparations, to rent an airplane. Validation of our JAR-FCL licences is simple. With our JAR-FCL licenses we can fly on European airplanes, but it is difficult to find a plane for rent. In Great Britain or Germany it is possible, but there the weather circumstances are similar as in Holland. In Southern Europe it is more difficult. With the necessary Google-work it is possible to find aero clubs and flight schools, but not seldom requests to rent an airplane for a trip remain unanswered. Flight schools love to have students for a flight course, but licensed pilots are less attractive. Probably in Holland the situation will not be that much different.

Aero club Mesogeion
At the end of 2010 I received a positive response from Aero club Mesogeion in Athens. I could rent a plane there, but first I should receive an extensive local guidance, I was told. I am rather used to aero clubs and flight schools in the southern countries consider 'their circumstances' as special and difficult, and as a northern European one should just be flexible with it. I proposed that I would become a member of the aero club, and come over for a weekend to fly with someone from the aero club. Then the aero club could determine if it would have sufficient confidence with my flying. If that would not be the case, no harm done, we still would have enjoyed a nice flying weekend. I was brought in contact with Ilias who was going to accompany me, and we agreed that I would be the PIC. Early January I travelled to Athens. Ilias turned out to be a nice flying companion, and he was relaxed and flexible with the itinerary.

Fantastic weather
On Saturday and Sunday we made two flying trips in fantastic weather. On Saturday over the Gulf of Corinth to the island Kefallinia in the west, and the general aviation airfield Ikaros on the way back to Athens. On Sunday we made a trip to Syros and Naxos. The RT was in English, and only on the military field Tatoi there was a slight hurdle to be taken to move the tower to respond in English. Ilias indicated at the aero club that it would be no problem for me to fly in Greece. The next month I returned, this time with family during the spring holiday, to Athens to continue flying. Unfortunately the weather was disappointing, and only on the first day I could make a flying trip to Milos. The flying holiday turned into a museum holiday, but that further did not turn down the mood. For the future I am 'cleared for the option'.

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