|IFR/VFR to Girona 2011|
A month back or so, I informed around to see who would be interested in flying with me to Spain.... one of things on my fliying-wishlist. Etienne liked the idea, also to obtain a few IFR hours.
Although Girona is in the north of Spain, flying to Girona from Rotterdam takes about 6.5 hours if you don't have head wind, so it is not a short trip. To make it more fun, we tried to not be any longer in the air than 2 hours at a time, because landing is fun, and it allows for personal pit-stops and fuel.
The goal of the trip was also to take some family living on the Costa Brava for a local flight over their house and businesses.
We prepared the flight during a couple of weeks and had selected a grand variety of airports (from regional airports to ultra small aerodromes and quiet airfields).
Leg 1: Rotterdam (EHRD) - Chalons Vatry (LFOK)
Friday September 23 we took off from Rotterdam early in the morning. The METAR showed haze in Rotterdam and fog in Vatry. Not a very big problem as Etienne was flying IFR. The fog should be well gone (or above minima) by the time we'd arrive. The views on a hazy landscape were stunning, and the flight was never actually true IMC (instrument meteological conditions, or "in the clouds"). Passing Brussels on Flightlevel 70 (7000 ft at HPa 1013, or 2.3km altitude) and even with some tailwind, it took over 2hrs to reach Vatry. Etienne shot a perfect ILS approach and soon we could buy a cup of coffee, after refuel-ling. Not that it was necessary as we can fly 6.5 hours without refuel-ling, but on a day like this you never know if the next field has our kind of Diesel (JET A1) available. Landing fee: EUR 12 and a bit.
Leg 2: Chalons Vatry (LFOK) - Clermont Ferrand (LFLC)
On my wishlist was to land at the major regional hub of Clermont Ferrand. I once transferred there on a flight to Montpellier and was impressed with the airport. We left Vatry under a VFR flight plan with some visibility of 4000 meters, although we already knew that higher up the visibility was not that bad. Another 2 hours later we saw the airport coming up, on a plateau in between some mountains, and soon we were cleared for a right-hand downwind runway 26. The runway is somewhat upslope, so great for landing. Wind calm and a pretty landing followed. We taxied to the Aeroclub parking stand where we paid the landing fees: EUR 12,50. We asked for fuel Jet-A1, and that confused the "petrolier" (petrol-man) as he came driving his AVGAS truck. He had never seen a Cessna with a Diesel engine. He switched trucks and soon we were airborne again.
Leg 3: Clermont Ferrand (LFLC) - Béziers (LFMU)
Climbing through the hills and soon flying over the mountains near Clermond Ferrant. At that moment it was beautiful weather and we saw the mountains ahead of us coming up. We went up to flightlevel 80 (8000ft or 2.6km) but it still looks as if you are not going to make it over the mountains, but that's just perspective. We passed the bridge of Millau, had to avoid some restricted areas and enjoyed the great views. Upon approaching Béziers we had to descend quickly as a reporting point not far from the last mountains needs to be passed at 1000' (300m) altitude due to the commercial trafific headed for Montpellier airport. I had some trouble finding the airport as we approached it from a 90 degree angle, but the GPS helped us a lot.
On Béziers we choose first to go drink something and refuel after, but we soon regretted that. By the time we finished our coffee, some young couple in 2 Extra's had arrived and the petrol-guy was busy serving them. Altough it was cool to look at the Extra's (hers was pink!), we wanted to leave soon in order to reach Girona around 1900. Next time, we would refuel directly!
Leg 4: Béziers (LFMU) - Girona (LEGE)
Etienne took off on an IFR flight plan. Good for training but also because daylight was running out and visibilty in Girona was expected to become less. We flew over Perpignan and climbed to flightlevel 80 to pass some of the eastern Pyrenees. Thereafter, and it was becoming quite hazy with low sun, Etienne intercepted the ILS for runway 20 and we landed soon after.
We were brought by the handler to the terminal building and walked out. Juan Carles came to pick us up at the airport and brought us to Lloret de Mar where we would stay for the night. He had arranged a hotel room for us and around 20.30 we were walking towards the beach for some dinner. Soon after dinner, after checking out night life (which wasn't too animated at this time of night and season) we returned to the hotel to get some sleep. We had set up a rendez vous with Juan Carles and his wife around 10am for the local flight. The TAFs (weather forecast at an airport for pilots) looked good at that time.