Back in the hotel, and after a good night sleep, the weather forecast for Austria (originally our next stop) was, once again, a borderline case. Since we already used our spare day and didn’t want to be stuck in Salzburg, the plan was changed to fly directly home, with a pit stop half way in Germany: Nürnberg. With only a 1 hour margin to arrive in EBGB before sunset, we rushed through our breakfast and headed to the plane. The plane was already refueled the day before, and while we were waiting for our flight plan to be accepted, we visited the Hungarian Pilot shop and bought the long desired “Remove before flight” key chain.
With the souvenir in my pocket, and the time ticking, the plane was taxied to the runway and we took off, headed for Nürnberg. It was the longest flight of this trip (approximately 4 hours) and took us over the hills at the foot of the Austrian alps. Hoping to fly over the real alps one day, we left Austria behind us and headed in to Germany. Germany is a neighbor of Belgium, so we’re almost home, no ? Continue reading →
The next morning the weather looked a bit similar as the day before. There was one big difference though: this time, the forecast for Oradea was very good. We decided to go for it, take-off and make some circling climbs through some holes in the cloud base until we were clear of the clouds and high enough to cross the mountains safely. With this plan in mind, we set course to Sibiu Magura airport.
We repeated our routing from the previous day: checking the airplane and inspecting the runway. The airplane was in good condition. A little bit dirty, but that was to be expected if you’re stationed in a swamp for 4 days. The runway was a bit more of a problem. The right side was very muddy with a lot of puddles. The left side was better, but the good part was rather small. To fix this problem, the operator moved the runway markings to the left, so the runway was suddenly 25 meters wider. Unsure about how the plane would perform on a grass runway in such conditions, we decided to abort take-off if we weren’t airborne after the 5th marking (there were 9 markers in total). Continue reading →
The next sunny morning, it was time to say goodbye to some old friends (we already said goodbye to some new friends and some other old friends the day before). Our friendly hostess drove in front of our car so we could find our way out of the giant maze which was Bucharest. We enjoyed the big communist-like giant 6 lane roads for one last time. We managed to get to Bucharest, had a wonderful time there, but now we needed to get back home.
And then there was Sibiu
While driving back to Sibiu, we paid close attention to the weather. It was sunny with only a few clouds until 20 minutes before our arrival in Sibiu: very cloudy, low clouds, and the mountain tops were disappearing in the clouds. Not willing to give up just yet, we drove to the airport and checked the weather, only to confirm our suspicions it was too bad to fly. Also the weather at our destination (Oradea) was too risky (predicted thunderstorms and low clouds). While we were there, we checked our plane once, only to discover it sunk 5 centimeters in the mud. The runway was muddy as well, but had some firm spots. A mental note to check the runway again the next day was made. Continue reading →
The next morning we visited the impressive Romanian “Peoples House”. After that, we visited the ruins of the “real” castle of Dracula, situated in a much less touristic area of the mountains. It took a couple of hours to drive there, but it was definitely worth it. The last stop of this touristic day was at a dam which was once featured in the famous “Top Gear” series.
Because we changed our plans due to the incorrect forecast from the day before, we were going to fly back to Oradea –which doesn’t had fuel- instead of Bucharest –which had fuel-. We phoned the friendly owner of Magura and asked him to get us some fuel from another nearby airfield. Before going to sleep, we checked the weather forecast for the next day. The forecast for Sibiu was not that good, but remembering the incorrect forecast of the day before, we didn’t worry too much. Continue reading →
The next morning, we looked out of the window and saw a beautiful blue sky. It would be a hot day with good weather, so we thought. Our optimism made room for doubt and frustration when we checked the weather forecast. In the afternoon, there would be temporary showers and thunderstorms. The original plan was to fly to Bucharest Baneasa airport, and enjoy the sight of the beautiful mountains in which the Bran castle was located. Due to the fact that we would be flying an hour over mountains, with little or no room to divert to other airports, the decision was made it would be too risky to fly that day. Instead, we rented the car a few more days, and would drive to Bucharest by car in the afternoon. During breakfast that day, we got a call from Tokol Airport. This was an airport we were going to fly to while returning to Belgium. They just called to check if we would still be coming. It was a very nice gesture, since we were a little unsure if they understood our intentions when we made our first call a few weeks earlier. The guy at the telephone spoke very bad English. With mixed emotions, we finished our breakfast and prepared for some touristic activities: we were going to visit the castle. At last!
The castle itself was quite spectacular. It was beautifully renovated, and made a typical Romanian impression. It was located in Bran, one of the most touristic little villages in Romania. There were a lot of tourists and a lot of locals trying to sell their wide variety of products. I picked up some 5 Euro sunglasses to regain my cool pilot look. It was a very hot day. Luckily, the entrance to the castle was a little bit shaded. The tour of the castle itself was nice, with all the typical elements you’d expect from a castle. Continue reading →
The next morning we enjoyed a very well balanced breakfast, and returned to the airport as soon as possible. It would be a long flying day. In the briefing room, everything was slow in the usual way. After 10 minutes we could access the weather information. It looked good for the first half of our flights, but in the afternoon the chance on thunderstorms would increase. During taxi, we had a discussion with the people from the tower, because our call-sign did match with the one they received by fax. Turned out it wasn’t so easy to convince them that we were the OO-AWT, and not the OO-ANT, not even when we were the only OO-registered airplane in the whole airport, and the only C172. When we were ready for departure, the flight plan problem was fixed and we set course to the biggest airport we would visit on our trip: Budapest international!
Hungary / Budapest
The flight to Budapest was relatively short. We needed to maneuver between some clouds that were floating between the hills surrounding the NW-area of Budapest, followed by a relaxing landing on the big airport. The “Follow Me” car guided us to a parking spot next to an impressive looking Italian airplane. It was painted in shiny yellow and red, and was part of some sort of rescue organization. And it was huge, especially in comparison with our little Cessna. Continue reading →
The next morning, we ate or breakfast –in which the bread was counted, 2 pieces a person, not more! –, I discovered I lost my sun glasses, and we waited for our taxi that was ordered the day before. It was the owner of the hotel himself who drove us to the airport. He told us the hotel was damaged from a fire, which explained why they were planning to renovate it, and there were not too much people present.
Once we arrived back at the airport why took care of the administration. Turned out the guy from the day before “guessed” our weight: 1800 kg. Do we really look that fat ? After correcting the number –it was 1087 kg- we checked the weather again, decided it was good enough, and walked to the plane. No van this time, because the driver was busy with something else. After a short walk during which I must have looked like a hunting dog trying to find his prey (but the prey/sunglasses were never found), a pre flight check and the loading of the luggage, the plane was ready to fly. Continue reading →
Visiting Dracula by Plane It all started a four years ago. I was taking flying lessons and practicing my first navigation flights. The fascination with all those little trees, tiny cars and funny railroads made me dream away. In Belgium, there is no space anymore. Every square meter of space has been used. Would it be like this everywhere ? The mind starts to wander… Fly outside Belgium. Sounded crazy. What would be a nice destination. France ? Too close, and they speak French there. UK ? Everybody goes there. Something a little further. A place related to flying. Too bad Superman lived on Krypton. Flying. Like a bird, or a bat… Wait, a vampire. Yes, that’s it. I want to fly to Dracula’s castle, Transylvania, Romania. A plan was born.
It would take four years to find a soulmate who was willing to fly to this far away, mythical and –let’s face it- not so appealing destination. It was no touristic highlight, and many pilots prefer to spend their time in more sunny places, closer to the Western Europe they know. But not us. No, the adventure and the unknown, those are the sexy elements. Those are the places worth visiting, worth flying to. Easier said than done, yes… Continue reading →