Within my pilot training, I had the exceptional chance to join the Pilotenclub Wien  club-trip to Italy. It took place from the 4th to the 7th of July 2015. This was actually possible, since my pilot trainer joined and agreed to fly with me there.
Everybody is thinking about flying as the freedom to go wherever you want – but actually it is not. Flying requires a lot of preparation, as you are not allowed to fly under any conditions and not everywhere you want. And the farther you go, the more preparation is required. In a nutshell the following major preparation task for the club trip had to be done:
- Airspace Charts: Organise valid & up-to-date charts of Austrian, Slovenian and Italien Airspace.
- Approach Charts: Printouts of valid approach charts including alternative airports. Also consider where you are able to get the proper fuel for your airplane.
- Route planning: It is utmost importance to plan the routes in advance. Having that said it is also important to have alternative routes in case weather conditions on your initial route might not be good.
- Checking the weather conditions (local and greater area)
- Airplane & interiour preparation: We had an iPad as an supporting device – therefore we required and adopter to power it and alternatively a battery pack. Furthermore since we planned to go over open water, we had to take life jackets with us.
- Personal luggage: since you will require some stuff for 3 days – but consider that you are not flying with an airliner, so your space is limited. Consider it on your weight and balance calculation.
- Financials: You definitely need cash – not every airport/aerodrome offers the possibility to pay with credit card. Furthermore note that the fuel prices in Italy are quite high (around EUR 3,- per litre at the time).
Day 1: Bad Vöslau (LOAV) – Klagenfurt (LOWK) – Reggio Emilia (LIDE)
After a short general briefing with the colleagues, we went immediately to the plane, did the initial checks and went straight to the petrol station. After refilling and lining up, we finally started our trip. Within the first leg we started from Bad Vöslau and went through the Austrian Alps via Mariazell, Liezen, crossed the military control zone of Zeltweg and landed in Klagenfurt. Having perfect weather for this trip, we could enjoy a beautiful view crossing through the alps.
The landing in LOWK was quite interesting. After the touchdown I indented to roll until the end of the runway to go back over the taxiway – but there is no taxiway! So my trainer looked at me and asked me what I want to do? Ops! So backtrack and exiting the runway as I should. After refuling and a short wheater briefing, we got back to the plane and started the second leg of the day-trip Klagenfurt(LOWK) to Regio Emilia (LIDE). We actually needed to speed up, since the forecast was not that promising, while the current timeslot still looked acceptable.
We followed the route through the Val Canale (in German: Kanaltal), and when crossing the border to Italy we tried to contact Padova Information on 124,150. Unfortunately, due to the high mountains between us, we have not been able to get in contact until we exited the Val Canale. From there the controller routed us by following the river down to Lignano. There we followed the cost line until Chioggia in 1500ft. From there we then took a direct line to Reggio Emila (LIDE).
After doing some paperwork we checked in in the hotel and had a short rest before we meet up with our colleagues for a debriefing in the town with fine Italian cuisine and wine. Coming back to the hotel, I think I already felt asleep before I touched the mattress.
Day 2: Regio Emilia (LIDE) – Isola d’Elba (LIRJ) – Regio Emilia (LIDE)
The second day started with perfect weather – actually too perfect. With 35 degrees in the morning hours, the check procedures with a closed cockpit and life jackets are not joyful. At this point you wanted to wish that those planes would have a air condition. Going through the tuscany mountains we headed to the Firenze VOR, which actually turned out not to be working. From there we then followed the route to the coast and the crossed over to the island Elba. The approach on Elba was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. The mixture of the perfect weather, the dark blue of the sea and the runway directly on the edge of the island was so amazing.
When going back we took a different route. Departing Elba we headed to the main land and followed the cost line, shortly after Pisa, where we then took a direct back to Reggio Emila. The advantage of this route was basically that we did not had to climb too much.
Day 3: Reggio Emilia (LIDE) – Reggio Emilia (LIDE), Reggio Emilia (LIDE) – Lido (LIDO) – Reggio Emilia (LIDE)
On the 3rd day the initial plan was to fly from Reggio Emila to Trento. We basically went in formation flight up to “Gardasee” when the weather condition turned bad. We decided that it was far to misty to continue the flight to Trendo and therefore returned to LIDE. After landing we checked the weather and decided to go alternatively to Lido, which is next to Venice.
As like the trip from the first day, we never climbed more than 1500ft. The advantage there is actually that you get a quite good view on the landscape, while the disadvantage is that you don’t enjoy a change of temperature. After landing in LIDO, we took a walk-around through the city, enjoyed some snacks and a coffee before heading back to the aerodrome.
One the way back – which was basically the same route we noticed some technical issues with the VOR navigation on the Aquila A211. Basically whenever the button for radio communication is pressed – the VOR signalled to be out of order. Releasing the talk-button, activated the VOR navigation again.
On the aerodrome of Reggio Emila we’ve seen that a jet plane was prepared to do some aerobatic training. So we stood at the fence of the aerodrome watching out for the start of the machine. Our presence was actually noticed by a colleague from the local flying club, which invited us for a espresso. While enjoying one of those perfect espressos, he showed us the planes of the club and we had a nice chat about – guess what – flying. And here a joke which he told us: “If you know how to navigate you get a good pilot, if you don’t know how to navigate you go aerobatic!”.
The evening, we spend at the restaurant at the aerodrome. From the outside it did not look that inviting, but inside we had an really delicious dinner. For started we had like 10-15 different kind of Ravioli and Tortellini, which was followed by some nice steaks.
Day 4: Reggio Emilia (LIDE) – Portoroz (LJPE) – Bad Vöslau (LOAV)
Time passes so fast – we are already settled for the trip back home. After checking out we went to the aerodrome to get ready for the flight back home. Good that we already refilled on the day before – so we did not had any waiting time. For the return we planned to go over Portoroz back to Bad Vöslau. So the first part of the trip looked as follows.
The approach to Portoroz was actually quite interesting, since we had to land from the land side. This is tricky since there are quite high hills, which requires to decent fast, while trying to gain not too much speed. Short break, refuelling and go for the second leg, which went through Slovenia to the border of Austria. The first thing you notice when you are coming from Italy to Slovenia is the radio communication. While most of the time the radio was so busy in Italy, I’ve been able to talk to the controller in Slovenia.
Shortly before the final landing in LOAV, the circuit breaker for the radio communication got activated. While I thought I might have said something wrong on the radio, my trainer immediately noticed the problem and fixed it by putting back the circuit breaker after a short break.
After the landing and the parking of the plane, we cleaned it and went back to the office where we did the final paperwork. I guess both of us has been to exhausted to talk too much about the trip. Especially for me it took some time to process the experiences of the trip. Altogether it was a really amazing experience and once again proofs that it was the right decision to go for the pilot licence. It was really great to had the chance to do this trip within my training, to go there with my trainer and to meet and chat with the colleagues from the club happy to share their experiences. Whenever there is the chance again and I am able to join, I would definitely go again.
There are a few lessons learned that I take from this grandiose trip:
- Don’t be afraid of radio communication: While in Austria the radio communication is quite understandable and not that busy, Italy was challenging. Take the courage to do such a trip – it helps to get rid of anger.
- If you plan to do a long trip, you definitely need a buddy: While flying in an more-or-less unknown territory you will need a buddy taking over the radio communication and navigation. Far too often we have been routed other than initially planned.
- Don’t panic: Whenever a technical issue occurs – don’t panic. Think first then react!
- Prepare yourself: For myself I noticed that is utmost importance to prepare properly. Especially when it comes to the approach charts.
- Flying is a sport: Going there, having a lot of food and drinks – I noticed when I’ve been back in Austria that I lost 2kg.
Once again thanks to the organisation and especially to my trainer. A few pictures of the trip can be found under .