Flight from Shoreham EGKA to Prague LKPR, July 2013
This writeup is a simplified version of my normal ones in which I go into a lot more detail of each trip.
FAA CPL/IR, JAA/EASA PPL/IR, ~1600hrs.
The aircraft is a 2002 TB20GT
Oxygen is used on all IFR flights, with the Mountain High O2D2 electronic regulators and cannulas
Due to Eurocontrol routings (e.g. Frankfurt overflight needs FL140+) European IFR flight is only marginally feasible without oxygen.
The original plan was to fly to Vodochody LKVO which is much cheaper than the main Prague airport - Ruzyne LKPR - but when I telephoned Vodochody as a part of my normal preflight planning, the man who answered the phone said the manager wanted a long weekend so he closed the airport! Nothing in the Notams... This is outrageous but it does illustrate the value of making that contact with the airport, which many pilots say is unnecessary.
LKPR is known for high pricing which has gradually climbed up from around €50 in 2005 to a reported (2012) €150. So I phoned them up to check, and was told the prices were recently changed and the landing and parking would be about €50 each i.e. €100 in total. I should have noted the man's name because he failed to mention the other charges...
The original departure date slipped by one day due to a landing gear issue, which turned out to be due to the emergency gear release valve not pushed all the way in. Even though the cause was identified with a high degree of certainty, I still didn't want to fly unless the landing gear was fully checked with the aircraft on jacks.
Weather was very good, with a high pressure area covering the entire route.
GRAMET - never seen these as clean as these were... on the way out:
and on the way back:
There are two issues which can crop up however: one is the possibility of thunderstorms and the other is coastal fog which Shoreham has suffered from recently. There isn't much one can do about those, although serious storms tend to be depicted on the MSLP charts as troughs, which usually appear in the TAF as a PROB30 TEMPO TSRA.
These were developed using FlightPlanPro and filed using EuroFPL
Both flights were filed for FL140
WIZAD M140 DVR L9 KONAN L607 RUDUS L984 SULUS Z650 TONSU Z35 LOMKI
because that is the lowest level at which one can cross Frankfurt, without which one gets a large detour into southern Germany. One used to be able to do this at FL120/130 but evidently this has been stopped and these lower levels no longer validate via Eurocontrol.
For the return route, a hack "don't actually plan to do this" descent to FL090 was filed for the UK end
BALTU L984 DONAD T170 RAPET Z93 KODUK Z12 SULUS L984 BOMBI Z75 NOKDI Z104 GESLO N852 LNO L607 GILOM/N0140**F090** DCT KOK DCT KONAN DCT LYD DCT
to get around the silly airway rules around the south east UK, which Eurocontrol enforce on behalf of the UK but which UK ATC ignore anyway.
On the morning of departure, the weather was clear but very hazy, with a visibility of around 5000m
We got a climb to FL140 very soon. The top of the haze was reached at FL100
On this route, FL140, one is never out of glide range of land
Oxygen is necessary. At FL140, with the O2D2 electronic demand regulator, the flow rate is very low and one would expect to use only about 10-20% of the "48 cu. ft." cylinder, per person.
The computed landing fuel on board (LFOB) stabilised at 36 USG early on
and it stayed that way - until we hit a stronger headwind later on. The final LFOB at Prague was 33.3 USG.
Like N France, N Germany cannot be described as scenic - from this altitude
Here is Frankfurt
Only one other aircraft was seen reasonably close, but it was not showing on TCAS so must have been at least 3000ft below (I have the display configured to not show traffic above or below 2900ft).
Towards Prague, there was a lot more light cumulus around
All ILS approaches at Prague are currently out of action due to building work, and only a VOR 30 or a GPS/RNAV 30 approach was available.
It was amusing to hear airliners asking for the VOR approach when the GPS/RNAV approach should be so much simpler, but they have their approved procedures, and many do not even have GPS.
LKPR publishes a lot of STARs but every one of them is PRNAV and thus it is apparently not possible to fly to LKPR without PRNAV approval. However the guidance notes state that aircraft not certified for PRNAV can fly these if certified for BRNAV, which makes the PRNAV requirement nonsensical.
I was assigned the LOMKI6R STAR and did fly the first few waypoints of it and then with about 30 track miles to run ATC gave me vectors. My GPS does not offer a Vectors to Final option for this particular approach, and I had already entered one of the two available IAFs, so this would be interesting...
The issue was whether the GPS would correctly sequence to make the inbound track the active leg (the magenta line) if the IAFs were ignored and one simply flew to the inbound track using the HDG mode. This did turn out to work OK although I did not verify that the GPS correctly sequenced its full-scale sensitivity to 0.3nm; I set the 0.3 setting manually prior to the inbound track intercept. I also set a DCT to one of the waypoints on the inbound track; I don't think this made any difference.
The tops near Prague were around FL070 and that was the initial issued descent, so we skimmed the cloud tops for a while
Runway 30 is very close to the GA terminal
Unsuprisingly given the pricing at LKPR, the GA terminal is deserted
One gets a FOLLOW ME vehicle, whose driver was a keen plane spotter, recognised my plane from a previous visit to the Czech Republic, and took loads of photos.
I always fill up immediately upon arrival but in this case there would be a delay, but they offered to fill the plane up overnight, which was fine.
The GA terminal (Terminal 3) is very nice but operates mostly as a cafe for local workmen
There is a pilot shop selling the usual pilot shop stuff...
Prague is a lovely city which just a few photos do not do justice
Finding non-lethal food is tricky
Above the city is the old Stalin memorial, where the following statue of Stalin which was taken down when Kruschev came to power
has been replaced with a silly looking and no longer functioning metronome
and the site is used as a skateboard park.
I was born in Prague (1957) and remember it well. My grandad used to take me for walks up there...
The return weather was essentially identical to the outbound weather
The IR image showed no significant high altitude cloud
and no fog was forecast at EGMD which was perhaps the nearest one could get to EGKA
EGKA 080850Z 03011KT CAVOK 22/13 Q1032
EGMD 080850Z 03012KT CAVOK 20/15 Q1033
EGMC 080850Z 04010KT 350V070 CAVOK 21/12 Q1034
LKPR 080830Z 06004KT 360V120 9999 FEW036 21/13 Q1030 NOSIG
EGKA: no results found
EGMD 080758Z 0809/0818 05013KT 9999 FEW045 PROB30 0809/0818 6000
EGMC 080758Z 0809/0818 04007KT CAVOK PROB30 0812/0818 6000
LKPR 080500Z 0806/0912 36004KT CAVOK TEMPO 0809/0817 05010KT BECMG 0907/0910 03008KT
On the way out, the apron was slightly less deserted than on arrival, with an SR22 (who was going to get a shock upon getting the bill) and a PC12 (who probably didn't care about costs)
Security was thorough but very efficient, with no delays. On the way out through the Czech Ground Handling firm I got the unpleasant suprise in the form of an extra €100 or so in charges. The landing was about €40 and the overnight parking was about €30, but another €130 was piled on in the form of handling charges. No wonder the apron is nearly empty and the 20 or so staff in the terminal are doing very little. When I first flew to LKPR in 2005 there was a lot of GA aircraft parked; mainly DA42s. Clearly the accountants have won - again...
Last time this happened was at Split in Croatia. The amounts involved were trivial (about €10 in total) and I offered to pay the correct amount but they insisted, because they gave me the wrong info. This time, in Prague, they were not interested and I had to pay the lot. They were perfectly nice but if this was my business I would have _never_ done that.
The plane spotter was back again, in his van, to get more pictures of the departure...
For the runway 30 departure, we got slotted between two airliners, with no problem at all and no waiting. I have no idea why Prague is trying to push out GA. It would be no problem for them, and would be extra money.
The departure clearance was BALTU2B and I got cleared to FL120 immediately after takeoff, and FL140 shortly afterwards.
There was some bumpy cloud to climb through, with tops around FL100
The return flight was simple, with various shortcuts, of which the longest one was again right across Belgium, of 134nm.
Here is Frankfurt airport
After long non-scenic flights like this it is always nice to see the UK coast appear on the MFD
London Control were great as usual, allowing FL140 and then FL120 all the way to Lydd which avoided low flight over the water. They also asked for a brief stop-descent at 6000ft due to unidentified traffic below the 5500ft base of CAS. I did see something pop up on TCAS, about 2000ft below...
Due to the tailwind, we landed with 44.0 USG in the tanks which is slightly over 50% of the usable fuel!
Spot the odd one out...
The actual routes flown were almost identical - largely due to ATC shortcuts
We had 10-15kt of headwind on the way there and 10-15kt of tailwind on the way back; this is due to the High pressure centred over southern UK which drives the air clockwise around it.
Flight times were 4:30 out and 3:50 back. On long flights, it is nice to have some snacks (preferably healthy ones like fruit).
The thing which is always curious is that there is virtually no light GA in the IFR controlled airspace. All one hears is airliners, and the occasional business jet.
Also, almost none of the jets get anywhere near. My TCAS605 system has a range of about 15nm and the display is configured to show 2900ft above or below, yet on a 600nm flight like this one is lucky to see 2 or 3 targets displayed, and that is true even when overflying Brussells and Frankfurt.
Vodochody LKVO seems to have an "interesting" status. Its AIP entry (local copy) contains the phrase "2.20.2. Pilot-in-command is obliged to request permission for using of the aerodrome from the aerodrome operator before flight." and it has been suggested (by a local pilot) that this is to be taken as literally meaning the airport could be closed at any time. The problem I see is that, in this case, I could have obtained the permission on say Thursday and then found it closed on Saturday, with nothing notamed...
A better option might be Letnany LKLT which has Customs on a 24hr prior notice, but is grass and has no instrument approaches. One can however use one of the ILS approaches in the area to get down.
The weather forecasts were correct except the GRAMET site evidently doesn't forecast a relatively thin (say 1000-2000ft thick) layer of cloud.
All pics were taken with the Nokia 808 phone.
This page last edited 24th July 2013