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Baltic crossing  
27. Juni 2012: Von Frank Naumann  Single < 2 to. C182

Salzburg W A MOZART LOWS | Chemnitz Jahnsdorf Chemnitz EDCJ | Rugen EDCG | Visby ESSV | Helsinki Malmi MALMI EFHF | Visby ESSV | Bornholm Ronne Ronne EKRN | Chemnitz Jahnsdorf Chemnitz EDCJ | Salzburg W A MOZART LOWS

One of the journeys I undertook lately lead me from my homebase in Austria across the Czech Republik, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the Baltic Sea to Finland and back to Salzburg. I flew this with our aeroclub's Cessna Turbo Skylane which is also equipped with a Garmin1000 glasscockpit. The weather preconditions didn't look too nice since a huge low pressure trough was spreading over large parts of central Europe with humid, unstable air rushing in from the southwest ahead of a cyclone frontal system. Nevertheless - the first day turned out to be relatively calm, so the flight from Salzburg (LOWS) to Chemnitz (EDCJ) was smooth and uneventful with a slight tailwind component.

Chemnitz airfield is well suited for general aviation needs: 900 m tarmac runway with lighting, AVGAS und JetA1 supply, a brand new terminal building with pilot's lounge and internet pc, even a maintainance facility. The only thing missing is a restaurant. The next morning welcomed us with a clear blue sky from one horizon to another - at 6:00 local time. I decided to start as early as possible as the temp's showed an increasingly unstable atmosphere. So I took off in Chemnitz early in the morning heading north towards the next stop in Guettin (EDCG) on the island of Ruegen. The first half of the flight was as smooth as the day before. After passing Berlin more and more TCU's popped up and forced me to manoeuvre around them. Bremen radar was very forthcoming and vectored me down to 2000 feet over the Bay of Greifswald until visual ground contact. Between two rain showers I finally made it to the airfield. Guettin is somewhat similar to Chemnitz with regard to airfield infrastructure. Instead of a maintainance shop they have a restaurant - this was exactly what I needed right now as my stomach showed up the red "low fuel" flag already...

After having lunch I checked the METAR's for the next leg to Visby (ESSV) with a nasty surprise: fog with 500 m runway visibility - just below CAT1 minimum. A phone call to the met office revealed that this is sea fog sometimes rolling in from the Baltic Sea. The alternate airfields further away from the coastline on the Swedish mainland all reported CAVOK, and the situation in Visby might change rapidly depending on slight variations in wind direction. Unfortunately it is the only airfield on the island of Gotland, so I decided to fetch some extra fuel to have more time to wait for a "window of opportunity" should the necessity arise. I took off from Ruegen short before the next rainshower and skipped the sightseeing loop around Cape Arkona with its chalk stone cliffs due to the weather. After a rather expeditious IFR pickup (thanks to Bremen radar again) I found a comfortable flight level in FL90 between two cloud layers. After passing the island of Bornholm the weather started improving, the southern coastline of Sweden greeted with few cumulus clouds and a base around 8000 ft, and landing in Visby was no big deal at all. No trace of fog - the afternoon sun seemed to have burned it off completely.

Visby is famous for its well preserved mediaeval town center und city wall. The airport features a little restaurant, the pilot briefing room was only accessible by calling airport security so I didn't check this out. The security staff just let me through to the apron after checking my ID and pilot license. There is no GA office, they send the landing fee invoice to the aircraft holder afterwards. The self service fuel station (AVGAS, JetA1) was a bit tricky. Normally I am used to top up my tanks and pay afterwards whatever I filled in. In Visby you have to specify the needed amount of fuel in advance. If your aircraft is showing up fuel consumption in gallons a little reckoning is necessary...

The next morning I looked out of the window and saw - nothing! Dense sea fog with the sun shimmering through every now and then. The weather ahead on my way to Helsinki (EFHF) looked fine except for the fog in Visby. From the day before I knew that this fog is about to disappear in the afternoon so I drove to the airport anyway. After finishing preparations the fog just in time started to retreat out to the sea. The runway seemed to be the borderline between dense fog on the sea side and CAVOK on the land side, you can see this strange situation on one of the pictures. So I quickly took off and climbed through some fog patches to FL110. The situation was like in a meteorology textbook: the cold Baltic sea stabilized the atmosphere by cooling it from below causing the fog. For the next two hours I didn't see the water at all. Far in the distance the land masses of Sweden and Latvia under the hot June sun heated the atmosphere from below thus destabilizing it and setting off massive convection cells. Usually I am kind of concerned when flying over water single-engined but today I was lucky to be over water rather then inside those TCU's. After frequency change to Tampere radar and adjusting the watch one hour forward the archipelago of Finland came in sight - an amazing view with thousands of tiny rocky islands scattered across the sea.

Reaching Helsinki turned out to be a bit of a challenge. Helsinki approach advised me that I have to expect considerable delay if I insisted on my planned IFR approach due to lots of incoming traffic to Helsinki Vantaa (EFHK), the big neighbour of Helsinki Malmi (EFHF). That's why I was offered the solution to cancel IFR and to land visually. The weather ahead looked fair so I agreed. Now I was vectored out over the sea and ordered to descent to 500 ft or below. Starting out of FL110 those 500 ft above the rolling waves do look really low! After reaching 600 ft and cancelling IFR I was cleared to proceed to destination via DEGER, a visual reporting point on a motorway which was barely recognizable from that low altitude. So I asked for navigational assistance to avoid infringing the Helsinki Vantaa airspace. The guy on the Helsinki Malmi tower did not seem to be surprised, perhaps I was not the only foreigner who got lost in agricultural flying...

Helsinki Malmi is the former international airport of Helsinki that serves nowadays as the main general aviation hub. A lot of training and parajumping takes place, as well as helicopter traffic for rescue and firefighting. Procedures are quite informal here, just stop by at the C-office and say hello. The staff was glad to assist in calling a taxi or filing a flight plan. They have a well equipped - and manned! - met office there. Where else do you get a personal weather briefing face to face these days?

My way out of Helsinki three days later was much less demanding: "climb straight ahead and contact Helsinki approach after reaching 1000 ft". The planned route crossed the Gulf of Bothnia and followed the Estonian coastline for a while before crossing the Baltic Sea once more to Visby. The weather started out fine except for a strong and ever increasing southwesterly wind. Abeam of the island of Hiiumaa I had to face a 30 knots headwind. Moreover an active warm front moved in from the west so the weather deteriorated constantly. After passing the island of Saaremaa I found myself in solid IMC and fighting a 40+ knots headwind. The tops of the huge nimbostratus clouds were reported to be around FL220 - out of reach for me. Finally ice forced me out of the controlled airspace down to FL60 below freezing level. Visby reported overcast 1000 ft in rain. "At least they don't have fog this time!", I thought to myself.

After refuelling in Visby the main warm front line had passed by and the clouds started to layer out a bit so I found a convenient flight level in between at FL120. My next target was Ronne (EKRN) on the Danish island of Bornholm. The flight path followed the Swedish south coast, I caught a glimpse of the island of Kalmar but most of the time I flew in between cloud layers. Short before approaching Bornholm one brave sunbeam made it through the cloud deck creating a magnificent rainbow. Interestingly the ground wind at Ronne was opposite to the wind direction at altitude so I landed safely on RWY 11 after fighting the westerly winds for two hours. Must be some kind of local wind phenomenon. While I was spending the night in a hotel near Ronne the associated cold front passed through with heavy rainfall and thunderstorms. The early next morning awaked me with clear blue skies and sunshine again, a good start for the last day of my journey. At Ronne airport things went on a little different: the lady at the C-office said that she has not the authority to invoice the landing fee. This is the duty of the tower, so she advised me to call the tower on the phone. Must be a boring job to handle the air traffic over Bornholm if they are additionally tasked with invoicing fees. After a couple of minutes a fax (!) arrived from the tower in the C-office stating the amount of Danish crowns to be paid. I handed the lady the money but she refused to take it. "We don't accept cash." was her stunning reply. "You don't accept your own national currency??" - "No, we only accept credit cards." I know there are quite a few countries in this world whose currency is not worth the paper it is printed on but until today I didn't consider Denmark to be one of them...

After taking off from Bornholm I headed south towards the Polish coast. The weather ahead looked pretty fair with scattered cumulus clouds so I settled on my usual enroute altitude at FL120 above the cumulus tops. I reached the mainland near Swinemünde. The CFMU routing over Poland was sort of ziczag shaped but Warsaw control was kind enough to grant a shortcut direct to the border crossing intersection to Germany. So I proceeded via Stettin along the river Oder, passed by the oil refinery of Schwedt and the recently reconstructed Berlin-Brandenburg international airport (EDDB). A couple of miles south of Berlin the smooth flight suddenly turned into a bumpy ride. I took a look at my Garmin 1000 wind indicator: 65 knots from 250 degrees - now I realized that this was clear air turbulence in the outskirts of the jet core above me! I have never hit a jet stream before in a Cessna 182! Now I can imagine what a mess it must be to hit a full-blown jet core with 150+ knots windspeed. I requested descent to get rid of it but wind speeds kept above 60 knots until descending through FL110 - amazing how low a jet stream can go.

The rest of my way home was a rather uneventful flight in VMC most of the time. I crossed the river Elbe, made my last fuel stop in Chemnitz (EDCJ), joined IFR again overhead Karlsbad (Czech republic), crossed the river Donau east of Regensburg and had a lot to tell back at my home base in Salzburg (LOWS). The big smile on my face lasted for almost a week (said my wife) :-)))





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01.JPG

Fuel stop in Chemnitz, why does the rich neighbour get the cheap fuel?? Life ain't fair :-(


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