First cross country trip in the ArrowCopter

ckurz7000

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Vienna
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(Part 1 of 2)
=========

Yesterday I returned from the first longer cross country trip abroad in the ArrowCopter. Several factors had convened which seemed to make this trip an opportunity which I couldn't pass up. First, there was a nice and stable high pressure system in place which had been giving us temps in the high 80s and beautiful flying weather for the past weeks and was going to continue to do so for at least another week. Second, I managed to take a couple of days off work. And third, I needed to do some flight testing at seal level conditions anyway. Last, and maybe most important, my wife Katharina wanted to dip her toes in the Mediterranean.

So what is there to do but to plan a quick trip down to Portorož, Slovenia. We have been there several times before and it is a beautiful destination for a quick, relaxing get away. Portorož -- or the Port of the Rose, as is its English translation -- has a lot going for it. It is a culturally rich place only minutes away from Trieste, Italy. It used to be under Roman, Austria and Croation dominance under various times in history before finally ending up lying in the country of Slovenia, formerly a part of the Yugoslavian republic. The sea is warm and crystal clear, the food is excellent, local wines are well above being merely potable and the general atmosphere is relaxed and easy going. Just what the doctor ordered...

Before boring you with too many details, here is the route:



Starting from Wiener Neustadt (LOAN) flying pretty much south past the city of Graz, I planned a fuel stop just across the Austro-Slovenian border at Maribor (LJMB). The second leg of the journey leads south and west, around the airspace of Slovenian's capital Ljubljana, and toward the coast. Portorož (LJPZ) is a small international airport right at the coast. The total trip length turns out to be just over 200 nm, with the stop at Maribor after 80 nm. Total time airborne I figured as 2:15. In the best of all cases I wouldn't need the fuel stop but I always like to be on the safe side. I'd rather enjoy all aspects of the flight than having to worry about head winds being stronger than forecast.

The day before our departure I had already given the ArrowCopter a thorough check out. I had been flying a lot locally and was sure that the new gyro would not pull anything unexpected on me. On the day of departure things went smoothly, which is always a good thing when a second person is involved with their own expectations and concerns. At 9 am we were at the airport, I refuelled, did the preflight check and we got strapped in. We were airborne by 9:45 and I asked the tower to open our flight plan which I had filed the previous evening over the internet. Doing it this way is quick and easy while also providing confirmation by email and/or text that it was actually accepted.

Here is our departure airport of Wiener Neustadt:



Once we were clear of the immediate vicinity of Wiener Neustadt I called up Wien Information and give them the info required to check in with them and have them watch over us, "Wien Informaion, OE-VXE, AC20, flight plan to LJPZ, 5 south of LOAN at 2500." -- "OE-VXE, Wien Information, roger, squawk 1533, QNH Wien 1022." This was pretty much all I heard from them as there was no traffic crossing our path along the first leg.

The ArrowCopter -- I call him James, as in Bond, James Bond (just kidding :)) -- was biting at the bits even though loaded up to the gills with weight and fuel and then some. Despite a density altitude of 5000 feet and being loaded up to the gills (you catch my drift) it carried itself gracefully and showed climb speeds well in excess of 500 fpm.

The air held some moisture and visibility wasn't superb but flying was smooth at 4500 foot (6500 foot density altitude) and I set an easy 75% cruise giving me 150 km/h (81 kts) at 22 l/h (5.8 gph) fuel flow. The hilly countryside with small patches of fields and green ribbons of tree lined creeks drew our eyes outside. Apart from the occasional squawk of the radio it was serene and beautiful. Once in a while a thermal finger would reach up from the ground and nudge us a bit, which brought a smile to my face.

ATC asked us to report shortly before reaching the border but then, before I could call them, they handed me off to Maribor Approach, "OXE, contact Maribor Approach on 119 decimal 2". From the border crossing point GOLVA to Maribor airport was only a short leg of maybe 5 minutes and the visual approach chart asked for crossing of MN1, the reporting point coming from the north, at an altitude of 1500 feet. So I pushed the nose down to accelerate to about 100 knots and pulled the throttle back to give me a 1000 fpm descent. Approach told me to land at runway 15 and report crossing the city, which amounts to an easy straight in to 15.

Here's a snap shot of the city as seen from final approach to runway 15.



Looking out the front window I had runway 15 straight ahead and all to myself:




Maribor is an airport only governements can afford to maintain. It has a huge runway occasionally used by airlines for flight training. Parallel to the asphalt runway is a grass runway used by a local flying club for gliders. A spacious tower, terminal building, customs facilities and baggage claim round out the facilities available. At no time that I have been there have there ever been more than one other aircraft in the pattern. On the ground, I always was the only customer over which at least four staff people hovered to tend to my needs. One doing the met briefing, one discussing my flightplan, the refueler doing the wet business and the chief of staff coordinating everything. That's not counting the guy driving the marshaller car and an occasional lady about whose function I am not entirely clear. The airport has been busily building an addition, which easily doubles its size. It is supposed to be finished by the end of this year. I can't wait to visit next year and hope I won't get lost inside the cavernous and empty halls. Still, the atmosphere is very cordial. The person providing flightplan counceling was a controller from Slovenia's busy capital Ljubljana (LJLJ) who enjoyed the relaxing ambience at Maribor for a bit.

The vending machine provided some needed calories for us and after everything was set and done, we took off again to Portorož. I particularly like this part of the trip because it leads over beautiful countryside with meandering rivers lazily winding their way through green valleys dotted here and there by small villages. The red rooves and church steeples mark them out well against the green background. Right after Maribor the countryside turns hilly. I planned my altitude at least 2000 feet above the peaks around me, and from that altitude always had landable terrain within gliding distance.

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/4967607244/]


There exists a charted VFR route between Maribor and Portoroz, which actually makes a lot of sense to follow. It avoids military airspace and the busy terminal area of Ljubljana. Even though on weekdays most of the Danger Areas are not active and you can ask for a shortcut, this time I wanted to milk the flight for every minute. A short cut felt like being short changed.

Leaving the control zone of Maribor we were handed off to Ljubljana Information. Talking to them is usually a good idea because traffic can be quite heavy along the VFR route. However, this time we had the sky almost to ourselves. After a bit over one hour the Mediterranean Sea made its appearance on the horizon and we felt ourselves drawn to the distination. PE1 is the reporting point where Ljubljana Information handed us off to Portorož Approach. From there we were cleared into the control zone and asked to report field in sight and enter a right base for runway 33.

Here is a the airport of Portorož as seen from a right downwind to runway 33



Portorož airport is very different from Maribor. Both are international airports with all facilities required, but Portorož is much smaller, actually really cosy in comparison. But it is also the much more active and busy airport serviced by several charter flights during the summer months. Service there is exceptionall good (for European standards). The marshaller drives a yellow moped with a hand painted "Follow Me" sign on display. There is one lady who coordinates everything and she can get you rooms, a shuttle and fuel while you aren't even done stating what you want. And all of this in Italian, Croatian, Slovenian and English. There's a met office and flightplanning office, each staffed by a dedicated and very helpful professional.

Here is James all parked and secured with a very nice custom made canopy cover. Next it is all the baggage we had for the two of us for four days including all maps, documents, flying gear, etc. Space is at a premium when you travel with a passenger.



We hopped in the airport shuttle which took us to Hotel Piran in the nearby town of Piran.

Piran is like a small town perched on a peninsula jutting out into the Gulf of Trieste. It has the enchanted feeling of an open air museum with all its rich cultural heritage and medieval architecture. There has been a village and even small city at this place dating back to pre-Roman days around 170 B.C. With the decline of the Roman empire, neighboring Slavic tribes entered the area. By the 7th century Piran had become heavily fortified. Around the year 1000 A.D. Piran again become a member of the "Holy Roman Empire". Much later, in 1812, British and French forces fought a sea battle near Piran as part of the Napoleaonic war. With the dust all settled, at the beginning of the 20th century, Piran became a part of teh Austro-Hungarian empire. It grew to a size of 12,000 inhabitants and evolved to a busy hub for transportation to and from the Balcan region. The first trolley bus line in the Balcans was introduced to public service in 1909 and was replaced by a tram line in 1912 which remained operational until 1953. In 2010 Piran was the first city of the former communist Europe to elect a black mayor.

A short ride on the shuttle saw us to Hotel Piran, which a nice hotel we like to stay in. There are also private Bed & Breakfast type apartments available which can be very charming, too. If you ever go to Hotel Piran, make sure you ask for a sea side room with balcony. The view is definitely worth it:



-- Chris
 
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ckurz7000

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(Part 2 of 2)
=========

We spent part of the days winding our ways through the narrow cobbled streets of the city. The main square is devoted to a local composer and named after him: Tartini Square.




Avove the square sits the church of St. George (Svjatog Jurijeva in Slovenian). When you make your way up to the church you get some nice views of the surroundings including Tartini Square itself:



Here is a view of the church's beautiful interior:



And if you feel adventurous and climb the bell tower, you enjoy a stunning view of the turqois sea:



Looking out to the north-east is the fortress built in the 9th century to protect the area:



Despite the heat we decided to go up to the castle, which is only another 15 minutes or so along an ascending cobble stone path.

Along the way you get an impression of the ingenious ways in which people use space to create their own little oases of relaxation:



Sunset from atop the castle and looking out toward the city of Piran is particularly beautiful and serene:



Between swimming in the sea, beachside dining on excellent local sea food, reading and strolling around, the days flew past quickly. Originally we had planned to stay from Tuesday through Thursday. Alas, a line of thunderstorms across our way near Maribor convinced us to tack on one day and return on Friday. It wasn't a very hard decision; there are much worse places to get stranded.

Friday promised to be beautiful all the way back home and we set off at 9 am on the shuttle back to the airport. On departure I asked for a course that would take us over Piran for a last picture:



Greetings, -- Chris.
 

Resasi

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Chris, in a word spectacular!

I am delighted to see this, and read about you and Katherina enjoying your wonderful machine, do please give her my best regards, I enjoyed very much meeting her and your daughter. I do hope that she did not have to 'split' any reading material?

I am quite sure that James lived up to you expectations, you have had quite a bit to do with how 'he' performs, it seems funny that, I have always thought of any of the aircraft I have ever flown as she's.

The great photos show us the beauty of Europe, and your choice of tranquil and unspoilt places with no teeming hordes swarming in the masses we see in other places.

One thing that the trip and you have shown quite starkly, the need for a Spartan wardrobe when travelling by gyro, even in this top of the range machine. But then one must consider, if you were traveling in a supercar you would not have very much more space.

Are they still considering the underwing pods? Would pod/fairings under the wing root along the lines of the Magni be a possibility? The ability to have small detachable conformal paniers in that form might be a very desirable feature. A number of military jets have added fuel tanks in that manner.

Another pause for thought, the liesurely climb-out of 500' fpm, I am assuming at/near max gross and I would imagine temp probably mid 20's with the DA of around 5000'. In SA and Aus, and hopefully at some stage Kenya with higher DA's and higher temps I wonder what sort of climb one would see.

Chris it was a great pleasure to be able to join you and Katherina on this trip, thank you very much for sharing it with us. I wish you many more such wonderful excursions
 

twistair

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Lovely report and amazing photos, Chris, thanks!
 

ckurz7000

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...Another pause for thought, the liesurely climb-out of 500' fpm, I am assuming at/near max gross and I would imagine temp probably mid 20's with the DA of around 5000'. In SA and Aus, and hopefully at some stage Kenya with higher DA's and higher temps I wonder what sort of climb one would see.

Hi Leigh, thanks for your kind words. Regarding the quote above: I don't want to post more details on the public forum but you can be assured that the climb and cruise performance is anything but leasurely up to and above the MTOW.

-- Chris.
 

Vance

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An Epic Flying Adventure!

An Epic Flying Adventure!

Thank you for taking us along Chris.

Your pictures and narrative had me day dreaming of exotic destinations and romance.

You make it sound so easy.

James seems up to your spirit of adventure as does Katharina.

You are living a dream; you have earned it.

Thank you, Vance
 

Irishpilot

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Chris,

As I wake up on a Sunday morning with thunderstorms (another weekend of no boating or flying ;-), I read your story and can fill the warm Mediterranean sun! Great story, great pictures and a good looking aircraft!

Take care,

Mike
 

Gyro_Kai

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Fantastic report, Chris, thanks a lot. I put Portorož on my holiday-destination map, now.

Kai.
 

C. Beaty

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Flawless English 99.9% of the time, Chris.

The 0.1% is the plural of roof; unlike hoof and hooves, it is roof and roofs.

Otherwise, a very entertaining report.
 

BEN S

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Gee CB, I'm not sure Ill ever understand you. Chris posts an incredible thread about their trip complete with photos and maps and you "pull out the red pen" and correct his english?!?
And all this time I thought it was just your math skills I didn't "get"!
 

BEN S

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Chris, your story has me already planning my next trip in my head! I just have to figure in a few more fuel stops to get to portoroz than you!
Thank you for your time posting!
 

StanFoster

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Chris- Absolutely stunning! Thanks for sharing. Ben------Chuck pointing out the one flaw in Chris's post just put a spotlight on ow Chris is closer to flawless English than the majority of us that speak it as our native language. I took it as a big compliment to Chris. Stan
 

ckurz7000

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It is a pleasure sharing this story with you because it makes me smirk with anticipation as I write it and re-live the whole thing again. Thanks for dropping by this thread.

I must say, though, that the name "James" for my gyro was meant tongue in cheek by me. Having a gyro named after a guy might not give someone the right impression about me. The discussion about how to call her (definitely a she!) has been the topic of several discussions in our family. The dice haven't been cast yet.

Alex, thanks for the note. It was nice meeting you once in Fertöszentmiklós and I wouldn't mind at all if the opportunity arose again.

Vance, thanks for your comments; they mean a lot to me. How many reasons to you need to get yourelf and Ed over here (speaking of romance...)

Mike, I did meet a couple of people from the UK in Portoroz. No Irish that I could discern, however. Why not be the one that makes the difference? ;)

Kai, when you plan the trip I hope you'll stop by our place on the way!

Chuck, I actually had to chuckle (pun fully intentional :)) when I read your comment. I should proof-read my posts. "Rooves" definitely looks way wrong. I just have to use the mnemonic bridge that "roofs" are more like "riefers" than "hooves". Actually, though, I did find a couple of more things that I would mark in red:

  • "It used to be under Roman, Austria and Croation dominance": that better read "Austrian" dominance.
  • "Once we were clear of the immediate vicinity of Wiener Neustadt I called up Wien Information and give them the info": that should read "...gave them the info" to match the tense of the narrative.
  • "At no time that I have been there have there ever been more than one other aircraft in the pattern.": is more correctly: "...has there ever been more than one aircraft..."
  • "The airport has been busily building an addition...": bad style because airports cannot build anything.
  • "Service there is exceptionall good": that should read "exceptionally good".
  • "We hopped in the airport shuttle which took us to Hotel Piran": that would be us hopping up and down inside the shuttle. What I should have said is: "we hopped into the airport shuttle..."
  • "Piran again become a member of the "Holy Roman Empire": should be "...became a member..."

... and then I stopped looking. You're very kind, Chuck, to point out only one of them. And...rest assured...I do enjoy this remark and discussion :)

Ben, just come on over anyhow, the water's warm!

Stan, thanks for stopping by and dropping me a note.

Greetings, -- Chris.
 

GyrOZprey

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Chris --- you could whoop the pants of 95% of US College English teachers- let alone the public school teachers! AWESOME language skills! :hail:

Your wonderful post I vote as "post-of-the year" on this forum!

Good-un Mate!!! - (how's your Aussie English?????)
 

perbgyro

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I recently flew 445nm and didn't come across any scenery close to that! Maybe there will be a "see Europe by gyro" touring company... Now that would beat any other form of transportation!
 

scandtours

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Chris,
Please add to you pre check list ... Video camera o.b.
Beautiful, just beautiful, Chris.
 

BrianEsq

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Chris, amazing adventure..thank you for taking us along. Do you mind me asking you what kind of camera you are using because each picture looks like it's straight out of National Geographic. -especially loved the church picture.
 
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