Day 2 preparation

Getting ready for our second leg from Dubrovnik to Sitia in Greece. Weather doesn't look that great today but we will give it a try.

Filled up our jelly cans here yesterday after arrival as getting AVGAS will become challenging from now on.

Had a great dinner in the old city center of Dubrovnik yesterday. A georgeous city we can recommend visiting. We are already looking forward to our trip back and the stopover in Dubrovnik.

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Electronic gadgets

Our trip requires some special equipment. On top of the survival equipment (life vests, life raft, signal flares, first-aid kit, etc.) we have to carry some technical equipment helping us with in air navigation/communication and properly documenting this adventure. In the best case, the documentation will let us keep the memories of this trip alive, in worst case it will be useful information for the aviation accident investigation authorities.

The following equipment will be carried on board:

The primary tools for planning and performing the flight are two Apple iPads. Those devices are a perfect fit for the cockpit and are being relied upon by commercial airlines. We use them to get up to date weather information and warnings from the flight deck but also do the complete navigation with digital maps in PDF format. One iPad replaces a whole cupboard of paper documents and in case of emergency provides for a much quicker lookup of important documents than with the impractical large paper charts and binders. Also stored on the iPads are the checklists and operating instructions for emergencies (e.g. engine failure, landing gear trouble, cabin fire). We will carry two devices with identical data so that we have a backup in case an iPad packs up. Also this allows for parallel use of data: one pilot uses the map to navigate and the other checks the approach plate for the required radio frequencies (when both are playing with their iPads, George the autopilot will have to do the actual flying).

SPOT Connect is a GPS tracker with satellite communication, constantly radiating our position to the satellites (which in turn feed the live tracking page of this blog). In case of emergency, our SPOT can alert the rescue crew or send text messages of up to 45 characters to mobiles and email addresses of predefined recipients. On top of that, it can post to Twitter and Facebook and is therefore capable of everything the modern person couldn't do without for more than 30 minutes a day.

 

The Thuraya satellite phone allows for making phone calls in areas without mobile phone reception (e.g. in the air), send SMS and even emails. The charges when using it our outrageous so sorry mum, we're not going to call you to discuss the neighbor's cat. The Thuraya phone also acts as a wifi hotspot which lets us access the internet from our iPads in filght. This cannot be compared to your high speed flatrate at but but gives us the opportunity to send important messages, query current weather information and even make posts to this blog. It is all pretty new so there is no experience and at this point we do not know how well Thuraya will work in the cockpit.

 

The GoPro video cameras that we are going to carry are very robust and waterproof outdoor cameras delivering fantastic wide angle recordings. They will be an important tool to document our adventure. One camera will go inside the cockpit and the other will be mounted outside on the aircraft’s hull. The GoPro app on the iPad and mobile phone provides a convenient feature to remote control the cameras so we can turn them on and off as required.

For still images, we also carry a Canon EOS SLR camera with an all round lens. Last but not least, two laptop computers are part of our equipment so that we have a good platform to post to this blog and prepare our next legs.

 

Flight planning

AirwaysWhile the little excursion around the home aerodrome only requires a quick look at the map and the weather report, planning our adventure is a tad more complex: during our flight to Egypt we will be crossing several borders and there thus required to file a “flight plan”. This plan contains the exact route, time, details on the aircraft and crew and a few additional things and has to be submitted with the authorities before takeoff. This is not an issue as flight plans can also be used for domestic flights and every pilot should be familiar with them. Customs clearance which has to be requested upfront (we are going to leave the EU and Schengen) is a no brainer and free of charge.

Several other factors make it more complex: while Germany is a private pilot’s paradise with excellent maps, a large number of public airfields, a reliable weather service and excellent air traffic control, things are rather different south of the Alps. In Greece, flying according to visual flight rules (VFR, the most common way of flying for private pilots) is possible but there are no official maps. One has to be creative. In Egypt, self controlled VFR isn’t possible at all, only controlled VFR (CVFR) and instrument flight (IFR) as used by airliners. IFR allows penetrating clouds and therefore reaching the destination when the weather is less than great but one is bound by the instructions of air traffic control (ATC) who will issue course and altitudes and any deviations like circling overhead your friend’s house and greeting are not possible (our route will lead us directly overhead the Pyramids of Cairo so it’s a pity).

We will be flying “IFR”, i.e. under Instrument Flight Rules but still have to be prepared for safety (weather) or emergency (technical problem) landings at any other aerodrome on the way. This requires maps for both visual and instrument flying and landing charts for all airports that are close to our route. All this information has to be up to date. Luckily we didn’t plan this trip 5 years ago as we would have had to reserve half of our useable load for the paper binders with the maps. Not just impractical for logistics but also an issue when a chart is needed due to a diversion and there is limited time to go through books and find the right paper. Today one can fly truly paperless. The GPS devices come with a “moving map” and on two iPads, we will be carrying all required checklists, landing charts, IFR and VFR maps. As we have two devices, there is sufficient redundancy.

We’ve already determined our preferred routing. It will lead us from our home base Heubach (near Stuttgart) in southeasterly direction to the Alps, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, Greece and the open sea to Egypt. Due to the aircraft’s endurance, customs (we’re not just leaving the EU but also Schengen) and cost (aircraft fuel is extremely expensive in Egypt and we want to buy as little as possible there) we need several stopovers. The first one in Dubrovnik (Croatia), the second in Sitia (on Crete in Greece), the third in Port Said (Egypt) as the port of entry and then onward to our destination El Gouna at the Red Sea.

We’ve prepared all maps, opening hours, fuel prices for this route and taken a first look at the landing procedures. Next we will have to come up with a list of alternate airports in case we have to divert, due to bad weather, revolution in Port Said, strikes in Greece, a technical problem, etc.

Ahmed is alive!

Ahmed, that’s the most important person at the moment, deciding about the fate of our little adventure. With Egypt going back to political chaos and Ahmed, who normally answers email within minutes, going silent, we’ve started to get a little bit worried. However, today Ahmed has resurfaced. All documents are fine he said but he expressed concerns about the our planned stop in Port Said – the port of entry and one of the three cities currently under martial law. At this point, we’re not overly concerned as we think the media are – as so often – exaggerating and we have Achim who prentends to know Egypt well. We’re looking forward to learning what Ahmed’s contingency plan avoiding Port Said will look like and in the meantime we continue with our flight preparations which at this point mainly consist of writing this blog.

Flight Planning with Mursi

You can read it in the press: the Egyptians like to celebrate their revolution in a rather extrovert manner. President Mursi has enacted martial law for 3 Egyptian cities for 30 days, including a curfew at night. Well, our planned date of arrival is about two weeks from now and apart from the fact that one of the martial law cities is on our planned route, our local helper Ahmed, who is responsible for securing the necessary landing and overflight permissions, appears to have disappeared. We surely hope that all is well for him and that he will manage to get us the permissions.

Apart from this little issue, we are making good progress in our preparations. Today our pilot uniforms arrived, which make Achim look like a cheap callboy. Achim did a few traffic patterns yesterday and refreshed his memory of the basic functionality of the Cessna 182. In the meantime, I am reading the user manuals of the autopilot, glass cockpit and FLARM (anti collision monitor) and our feeling is that we are well prepared. Now it's up to Mursi and the weather and of course Ahmed our friendly helper to decide whether we can take off as planned on February 14th.