Michael Anastasiou flies from Pontedera, Italy to Athens, Greece
The first time I came across the Pipistrel Sinus apart from the virtual world of the internet was in Australia, when I arranged a familiarization flight with Mr. Michael Coates in September 2005.
I was already in love with the performance and the shape of the Sinus even before our meeting.
Marcel Dassault (Designer of the Mirage fighter planes) used to say that if an airplane looks good, then she flies good!
Being an Aerospace Engineer and airline pilot for JAL flying B747, my privately owned machine had to comply with many and very strict personal standards.
The paper data, performance and appearance of the Sinus were exactly what I wanted. An aircraft 2 in one. A good performance glider and a normal plane, with astonishing performance from a Rotax 912.
The flight with Michael, confirmed my ideas and beliefs and I was off home to order my plane.
As my home country is Greece, in Europe, I negotiated a Sinus from Pipistrel Italia. It was a matter of days now to visit Italy, inspect and fly the Sinus to Greece, in October 2005. A season that the weather usually is unstable with fog, low ceilings, precipitation and strong North Easterly winds.
The total planned trip was 1,300km.
Departure point was from Valdera, Italy.
The Pipistrel Italia local airport is located a few kilometers Southeast from Pisa, Northern Italy.
Destination, Kopaida, a UL and gliding field 100 km North of Athens Greece.
In Italy UL aircraft are not treated as GA planes. Weekdays they are allowed to fly at a maximum altitude of 500’ and weekends at a maximum altitude of 1000’ or 100m over mountains. Also ATC will ignore any call to them and you can not file a flight plan. With these conditions seems a lot of fun until you try to do an international trip as we will see below.
Alessio, a friend by now and instructor at the local air club, assisted us in making the flightplan to the Southern part of Italy. It was nothing like we have planned before. We had to stay clear of all TMA, Controlled airspace, Military zones, etc. We had to fly over the Midwest part of Italy and on the west side of the Apennine Mountains. To our luck the high pressure over the area except the morning fog, created blue skies and no wind conditions.
The plan was to briefly stop at the Southern part of Italy, an 800km flight, refuel and continue to our final destination in Greece. We had to fly over the Adriatic Sea, a stretch of 200km before we are over land again. South Italy – Final Destination was a 600km trip.
Valdera 29 Oct 2005
The Sinus I-6248, is fully ready. Carlo, had warmed the plane up for us and did the final mechanical checks for the trip.
60 liters of fuel, our luggage loaded (3 small bags with 2 toothbrushes and few bottles of fine Toscana Vino Rosso, present from Fabrizio, the head of Pipistrel Italia.)
Alex and I, my good friend that came from Greece to share the unique moments of the ferry flight, have prepared the cockpit of the Sinus for the flight. Double GPS, a small LCD piezoelectric ADI (horizon) for “just in case” use, a traffic scope, charts, IAS-TAS charts, etc.
Although we were ready, the weather was not
The high pressure over Italy, has caused for another day early morning fog. No winds were forecasted so we expected delayed departure as the fog needs a lot of sun energy to lift off and in October the sun is not that strong. Around noon, the visibility improved, and we were able to depart VFR
Heading south and complying with the local restrictions, we climbed quickly to 1000ft and set the cruising parameters on the Rotax 912. 26in manifold pressure and 5300rpm gave as a very comfortable and quiet cruise of 200km/hr (110kts). The air was absolutely still. Almost like flying in an aquarium! Tuscany below us in the autumn colors was out from a fairy tale.
The Sinus was gulping the distance in an astonishing pace, but not the gasoline. Already 2 hours in the flight and we have calculated a burn of 20 liters. Few weekend pilots showed up around us, flying in formation for a while. It was not that easy to keep up with the Sinus.
3 hours later we reached the Gulf of Grotagle, and we set course to our refueling airport (Aviosuperficie) in Supersano, South Italy. We have been informed that the coordinates of the Aviosuperficie in various printed guides are not very accurate. The GPS was indicating 2km from the field and still no visual contact. 500m and still no visual. All of a sudden, there was the landing strip straight ahead, lying in the middle of olive tree and grape fields.
Flying over the field and repositioning for a long final, we realized that an old man, was crossing slowly the threshold of the rwy with his walking stick. Almost short final and he was still in the middle of the runway staring at us coming in. A modified descent profile took us 300 m down the runway. Still had another 400m. More than plenty for the Sinus to come to a complete stop without touching the brakes.
The local flyers came to salute and inspect the Sinus. We refueled the plane. 40 liters for 4 hours flight and 800 km. As per the specifications. We were amazed.
From now on the real problems start.
Italy does not allow UL to file a flight plan. Greece does not accept traffic with no flight plan.
No transponder required in Italy. Mandatory for Greece. Sinus has no transponder.
The time is 4pm, with Civil Night in 2 hours and our final destination by now is really out of reach. We had to do another 500km, and to cross the Adriatic Sea a straight of 200km, also the FIR of Italy and Greece.
The Go-Home syndrome starts to kick in.
The weather to the south does not look that good.
Next day the forecast of our destination airport did not look very pretty, as a cold front was supposed to move from the North East, bringing rain, low ceilings and strong winds.
Slowly we start giving solutions to the problems one by one.
After calling Greek ATC we got a special permission to ferry the airplane with no transponder. They also advised Italian ATC to accept our flight plan.
A solution to gain some time was to fly to the Greek island of Corfu and overnight there. Still marginal though as the night was coming.
The people in Supersano, were extremely friendly. They offered us cookies, espresso and also the option to overnight at the local eco tourism hotel in case we decided to do so.
Decision making now…. ‘the hardest part’.
Marco, a retired Alitalia captain, gave the solution. 2 cool Italian lagers, with a tasty prosciutto sandwich (we were starving) directed the decision making process.
We stay. This solved most of the above problems: The Go- Home syndrome, the night flying etc.
Observing the late afternoon activities of the club, we enjoyed a beautiful and peaceful sunset in a South Italian scenery.
The near by hotel was awesome. And even better the home made South Italian recipes.
Enjoying an excellent panacota, we discussed tomorrow’s flight and loaded the GPSs with the flight plan. Our plan was to file direct to our field North of Athens. A 500km trip, and plan to arrive before the weather deterioration. It was feasible.
Supersano 30 October
A beautiful morning, with some high cirrus clouds. The nature was quite and peaceful.
The hotel owner would not let us go if we did not do the following:
Get the breakfast offered
Visit the agricultural museum they hosted.
We did not agree that the big white horse they had was : Bella , Bella
Completing the above we got a ride to the airport.
The Sinus sat gloriously in the field covered with the morning dew.
Another set of must do items otherwise we were not allowed to depart.
The treats of the airport manager was a no-go item. Espresso and cookies!!! We had to calculate our new Max Take Off weight with all this eating!
Italian ATC accepted our flight plan with no problem and we opened it as soon as we were airborne.
The controller offered us a higher altitude than the normal for UL. We have chosen 7000ft and we were cleared to climb. This would improve our Point of No return crossing the channel.
Only minutes later, we were given an in-flight aviation regulations course for Italian airspace. We were not supposed to climb more than 1000ft as we were a UL. The conversation (single sided only, as we did not argue) continued for a few minutes and when we offered to return back to 1000ft, the ATC replied: It is OK continue at 7000ft!!!
Some weather ahead and we had to reduce to Va. It lasted for 15 minutes and we had to deviate almost 90deg from our course. The Sinus behaved perfectly.
FIR change point and the Hellenic ATC (Greek) greet us with a question of our intentions regarding destination airport. Soon we realized that they modified our flight plan and a mandatory landing at Corfu International Airport was necessary. As the flight was considered international, despite that we were EU citizens, flying an EU registered airplane within EU countries. Similar cases arguing on the same issue have ended to the European Court with no outcome yet.
Lesson learned we never argue. A beautiful approach over the island of Corfu and final for rwy 17.
The landing cost 1:30 hours delay from our flight schedule and 1,65 euros of landing fees (justification for the follow me car and the use of the airport)
From now on we are treated like a normal GA aircraft.
A new flight plan to our destination, which was reporting open conditions but strong winds at 25kts and South Departure using 300m of runway and having couple of thousand more remaining!
We were cruising in absolute still air at 11,000ft. Our IAS was 145km/hr and our ground speed 225km/h.
This for 2 reasons:
Above 3000ft IAS all IAS limitations must be treated as TAS. (See TAS-IAS conversion chart)
a 40km/hr tailwind.
The scenery below was magnificent. We covered the 300km trip in 1 hour 20 min.
The OAT was -15° C. It was magic.
Approaching our airfield, we had to think the descent profile through patches of clouds, avoiding them, and also not to cool the engine below normal operating temperature.
The whole descent was performed with spoilers extended, observing the spoiler speed limitation of 165km/hr and following it on the TAS-IAS chart.
A low pass over the field (no victory roll unfortunately) and positioning for a long final (rwy 09) with wind 360/20. Max crosswind for Sinus. First time I am landing the Sinus at such a strong wind. The behavior is exemplary. As it does not have a large side area, crabbing and touchdown is a lot easier compared to other aircraft.
Finally we are at home after this small outward bound.
Friends and our airport dog were waiting for the festivities.
Total Distance Covered 1,300 km , 812 sm , 702 nm
Total fuel used 70 liters (with 3 Take offs)
Total Flight time 6:50
Altitudes flown 1,000ft, 7,000ft, 11,000ft
Max Ground Speed 230 km/hr, 144 mph, 124 kts
Average Gnd Speed 195 km/hr, 122 mph, 105 kts
2 Stops, One refueling
The decision making process is the hardest part of any flight.
The better your knowledge is regarding, aircraft systems, limitations, Aviation regulations etc, the easier the decision making process is.
Plan ahead and anticipate the worst.
Check the weather and never underestimate.
To learn how to fly takes approximately 50 hours. To learn when to fly, it takes a lifetime.
I want to thank all those who contributed to the safe execution of this flight.
A big thank you to Fabrizio, Max and Carlo from Pipistrel Italia for their great hospitality, support and patience.
Thank you to Alessio Bartoloni, for the flight plan that kept us out of any troubles in Italy.
Thank you to Michael Coates for being the Godfather of my first Sinus experience.
Thanks to the people in Supersano for their hospitality, support and help. (We meet again soon!)
Many thanks to my friend Alex, sharing this experience with me and the excellent CRM we had while dealing with the upcoming problems and situations.
Finally I want to thank Pipistrel and Mr. Ivo Boscarol for making such an excellent airplane.
This is what dreams are made off, Michael Anastasiou www.pipistrelhellas.com