Confined in your country? Solution: fly around it?
The path of the flight as seen thru Google Earth:
Admittedly, the country in question is Switzerland, this little speck in the middle of Europe? neighbored by Germany, France, Italy and Austria. What?s it shape like? Well, I remember too long time ago at school, the question was asked and the answer obvious: a cow patty! Unfortunately and in opposition to that patty, Switzerland?s contours are really jagged since the mountains played the arbitrator.
So, during CoVid times, since international flights were not possible anymore, I decided on a remake (see text below) round flight of my country of residence.
A couple of considerations for a flight like this:
Choice of route. I had done a similar flight, though clockwise, on 2 July 2009 with my Falco HB-UOD and remembered some of the pitfalls. 3 major airports, namely Basel BSL, Geneva GVA, and Z?rich ZRH, sit more or less on the border. The choice is either to negotiate flying thru their airspace with ATC (which can be very though to impossible here in Europe), stealth flying, or circumnavigation.
Weather, obviously the important factor. More than 40 years of criss-crossing the Alps taught me plenty of things, and I?m still learning. The most important is Respect. Clouds, visibility and winds are major players.
Physical. More than half of the trip is flown around 10-13K feet. Not carrying oxygen means self assessing one?s state of fitness. Accelerations is another major factor. The only straight lines are over Lake Geneva and Lake Constance. The rest is a grueling serie of hard turns, every few seconds, most of them pulling around 3-4Gs, as required to try to follow the jagged contours of the map as closely as possible.
Aircraft. Of course the RV is the perfect aircraft for a flight like this, wouldn?t dare to write anything else on here anyway ;) Unfortunately and despite using my usual sedate settings of 19?/2000, the max endurance is around 7 hours, which meant I had to land somewhere for fuel. Lugano LSZA sits very close to the Italian border, is about half-way round, an expensive but friendly place.
Wednesday 18 March 2020. Weather checks all good. 20 Minutes drive to my field. Lowered my -6.9 (-8 tail, -7 cowling & engine mount, pre-punched wings/tail) from its hanger in the hangar. Topped up the fuel. After take-off I leave the traffic pattern and take a northely heading towards the nuclear power station of Leibstadt. The river Rhine, natural border between Germany and Switzerland, lies ahead. Left turn and a westerly heading, the horrible chemical factories suburbs of Basel quickly appear.
French ATC, the controlling body for Basel, is not too concerned about my flight since I tell them to be closely circumnavigating their CTR. Right now I?m trying to anticipate all turns, watching the border line on my map, calculating the heading change ahead, I then set the heading bug, and turn accordingly. The bank angle I have to use in most turns results in a rate of turn that has my navigation software lagging, which means I can?t fly as precisely as I had hoped for?
The tops of the Jura mountain range, which I?m now following, separates France from Switzerland. It can be very crowded in the summer here, gliders, hangliders, etc. Nobody around today, thanks to CoVid I guess?
Approaching Geneva, stealth mode is the applied flying tactic. Flying around the city, the famous water sprout is in action.
The middle of Lake Geneva defines the border to France.
The heading has been reversed, and I?m now flying Northeast, towards the big ones. Mountains they are. A few minutes later, on my right, the highest of Europe, majestic Mont Blanc, all of it?s 4?808 m (15?774 ft) of white snow cap and surrounding sharp needles.
Also on the right, in the valley below, Chamonix. Now diving right into in my playground, the Alps!
Still on the right side is the Italian park of Gran Paradisio. Soon ahead my friend the Matterhorn, which I have circled, overflown and admired on countless occasions. Even trekked around, 9 days of it.
Passed it, I follow the edges of the Monta Rosa massif and can?t help, but be once more be amazed at the spectacular location of the Margherita Hut, located on the summit of Punta Gnifetti, perched atop the cliff, riding the precipice.
The border is extremely tortuous now, and I decide to have no more of this setting the heading bug affair. No time anymore. Instead one eye is used to look at the fine border line on the map and judge the direction and angle of the next turn, whilst the other eye is used to keep the aircraft clear of the cumulus granitus. Turn after turn after turn. Flying almost north, straight ahead the region of the Aletsch glacier and the Jungfraujoch, to my left the ski stations of Saas-Fee, Zermatt, etc.
The general heading has once more changed. Now flying almost due South, towards virused (as a new verb) Italy. The Southern tip of Switzerland. Lugano ATC is slightly surprised when I tell them I don?t want a direct approach, but to fly the long way round around the airport. Nice view on the lake of Como, Italy, also famous for its floatplane center.
In from the East, on the same route I?ll take when departing, no shortcut allowed on this flight, left base for a short approach to runway 19.
Fuel bowser arrives. I walk to the terminal and pay the fees. Just to give you guys in the US an idea of what it takes to fly in other parts of the world, my bill amounts to a total of CHF214.35, this includes 59 liters of AVGAS at CHF2.51 a liter. Equals about 9.5 US$ a gallon. The rest of the bill is composed of approach charge (ATC), landing charge, gas emission charge, noise tax, winter tax? Friendly service, the lady at the desk is wearing the now standard mask.
Take-off again on runway 19, outta 2?000 right turn to the border, now flying northeast, heading towards the Swiss National Park. A few hundred turns later, heading has shifted southeast, Silvaplana lakes and the area of St. Moritz to my left. I overfly the famous Piz Bernina flying east.
Heading changes continuously, my eyes have more difficulty in discerning the fine border line on the moving map. Curiously the fine border line running SkyDemon on the iPad mini ain?t the same as the one on the Garmin 375, go figure...
Southeastern border, Piz Combul passed, if flying straight for about 15 minutes I would reach RV-8 Luca?s place at Trento, ciao Luca! I just wave, another time, hopefully.
I now have reached eastmost Switzerland, general heading is to the northwest. Flight conditions have been very good. Little wind, rare at these altitude, in the region of 5-10 knots. One lesson experience taught me is to check the pressure difference between the south and north of the Alps before setting out for a flight. More than 7 hpa difference and I usually postpone a flight. Turbulence can be very interesting in the Alps. Today all good, clouds are forming, but no avoidance required at my altitude.
Minutes later the mountains still defend Switzerland? against friendly Austria. I smile at this thought and make a major navigation mistake: Approaching the Rhine valley, I make a direct right turn instead of flying towards Bad Ragaz. I thereby annex the Lichtenstein principality into Switzerland :o Oh well, since they speak the same langage and their aircraft are Swiss registered, they hopefully won?t be too cross about it.
Over Lake Contance, the border to Germany runs in thru the middle of the lake. Another friendly wave to RV-8 Hermann who would be only 20 minutes flying time away, gr?ss dich Hermann. To my right Friedrichshafen and it?s cancelled Aero show.
Some Swiss VAF members work the approach and tower at Z?rich ATC, and I get a spontaneous clearance to enter the airport?s CTR at will and as required by the course. Out goes a big thanks to Alex, Fabian, and Bernie :cool: As an aside I have to mention that though the flight wasn?t advertised, the whole local gang was following me live via Flightradar24, thanks to ya all guys. Ok, I will not call you spies anymore ;)
The peninsulas and enclaves of the Swiss-German border close to Schaffhausen make following the border precisely a difficult task, just hanging in there. And another wave, this time to RV-7 formation guru Tobias.
Tiredness has set in, and I?m happy to straddle the Rhein river again and finally spot the cooling tower of Leibstadt, close to my field, the loop is closed!
Done, I'm very tired and happy! I?m thirsty as well, I didn?t have much time drinking off my water bottle. Once out of my craft, a strong sway sets in that will last for a couple of hours? Back home I now realize and feel how tired I am, that beer sure feels good :)
Thanks DC. Great pictures.
What a trip and a nice write-up !!!
7 hours to circumnavigate Switzerland !!! wow
Thanks for the superb photos, they bring back a lot of memories, as I worked there for 15 years... :cool:
Fond memories of ex-collegues in Lugano and Zurich airports.
Would of loved to be part of that trip...
Stay safe and healty in this crazy era...!!!
Beautiful photos DC. You missed the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the town of Wengen, my favorite place in the world.
Gruezi Dan, I envy you!
These days with blue skies I?m often looking skywards but it?s all quiet - except one RV waving....
THIS - was a really great read! Thank you!
Well Hermann, nothing to envy anymore, 2 days later was the Last time round Matterhorn (http://www.vansairforce.com/communit...d.php?t=180658). Also staring at the blue skies since then, no-one's waving now :o
springer, since the Lauterbrunnen valley ain't ON the border I couldn't have missed it ;) Nice place indeed!
Thank you very much for the beautiful photos and interesting descriptions! I really enjoyed this.
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