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.