Visibility: about 8 kilometers under a blue sky (inversion)
QNH: 1022 hPa
Equipment: Cessna 152 (D-EMFM)
A friend of mine is collecting hours for his commercial pilots license. In order to do so, he is taking trips. And he asked me if I wanted to come with him!
Friday morning, we meet at the airport, he is here by motorbike. The weather is good. A bit of haze below a blue sky (inversion). We take our time to prepare the flight. It is about the learning experience and we are in no hurry. I am going to be the navigator. I take a copy of the flight plan and fold the map so that it will be easy to turn pages in the confined space of the cockpit.
We are flying to Jihlava in the Czech Republic today. My friends brother is working there.
The flight will be about two and a half hours. We will head south via the cities of Cottbus and Görlitz were we will cross into Polish airspace. After about ten miles we will cross another border into the Bohemia region of the Czech Republic. We will fly over the city of Liberec in the western foothills of the Riesengebirge mountains.
Our course continues south and lets us pass the capital city to Prague at a safe distance to the right. Jihlava is a mid size industrial town, about 130 kilometers south east of Praque. The airfield is small and does not have a paved runway. It could be a challenge to find it.
After preparing the route and submitting our flight plan, we go out to the aircraft. “Foxtrot Mike”, a yellow Cessna 152 is going to be our ship for the trip. I do the outside check while my friend gets his GPS ready as a back-up.
We take off to the west. Before we can climb over the misty weather, we have to clear the controlled airspace of the near by international airport. We go south and navigate by the lakes and highways and eventually start climbing. The inversion is higher than we thought but nothing keeps us from going higher. So we climb all the way to flight level 75 or almost 2.5 kilometers (7500 feet). This is the highest I have been in a small aircraft. The sun is shining up here, we are playing with the clouds and the air is silky smooth.
Air traffic control
We are flying Visual Flight Rule (VFR) in uncontrolled airspace. But it is still a good idea to use the flight following service. We call the “Flight Information Service” on the radio, tell them who we are, were we are traveling from and what our destination is. The controller provides assistance like warnings about approaching traffic as well as information about restricted air space and other security relevant information.
On todays trip we start with the controller in Bremen center. Before we cross the border to Poland, we are handed over to Munich center. They are able to clear us for the short cut through Polish air space (very convenient) and hand us over to Praha center right away.
The Czech controller is friendly, professional and not very busy. He gives us information about restricted air space (we are cleared to cross) and hands us to the controller of the military airport of Caslav, over which we would like to cross.
As we are in the airspace of Caslav, we listen to a military pilot with a technical problem. His gear did not deploy as it should. First he performs a low pass to give the tower a chance to visually inspect his gear. Then he goes around and lands. I can see him touch down successfully and I see the fire trucks that had been waiting next to the runway. Very intense experience.
Caslav is close to our destination. And before long, we see a town that can only be Jihlava. The airfield is not far from the highway and much easier to find than we had feared. We fly over the airfield once to get an idea of the area and then my friend lands the little Cessna on the grass strip. What a trip!
The Czech people are known for uncomplicated hospitality and an appreciation for all things technical. We are greeted by friendly aviators and everything is easy at the small airport.
There and back again
The next day starts with a quick breakfast at the local bakery. No coffee as we are planning our trip without potty break. At the airport we are submitting our flight plan. We say good bye to our friendly hosts and take off. The weather is similar to the previous day and we climb up to 8500 feet today. We both like the high altitude. The world looks calm and quite and being up with the clouds is a spectacular feeling.
Of course we are highly concentrated but we are also more confident than yesterday. We know that the controllers are friendly and the navigation is doable.
About an hour before our destination, we are over the Lausitz region of Germany. There is a lot of open-cast mining in this area. The ground looks like the moon, a very sad sight. We are both looking at the map and confirming our position as the engine suddenly changes its pitch. That grabs our attention!
The RMP have dropped by 200 and they do not come back with more gas. We diagnose the problem as carburetor icing and I pull the leaver for the carburetor heating. After a few seconds, the RPM start going back up and the engine sounds normal again.
We have fixed the problem but we are still alarmed. So we sink to a lower altitude with warmer air.
Not so long after our icing experience, we have to begin our decent into our destination. We are welcomed back by the flight instructor. He is eager to hear how our trip was. When we tell him about the carburetor icing he looks at us with a blank expression. He explains that of course we have to use the carburetor heating in regular intervals at these altitudes. Had he told us before, we would have been less shocked. But neither one of us will ever forget this experience!
To be continued…
(originally posted on April 3, 2012 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/international-flying/)