A Slow Flight to India – Day 1 – Kortrijk-Budapest

Oh I was so excited ! This day was my first real ferry gig in a crew of 6 pilots flying three brand new Piper Archers all the way to exotic India… as slow as we could go.

These airframes lately have been certified with a diesel engine which gives them a range of a whopping 11 hours … if and only if you fly slowly. Slowly is real slow : at around the Vy speed of 80 knots indicated !

The ferry was split up in section of 6 to 8 hours nett flying in order to minimize the number of stops. Stops add to cost and consume extra-ordinary time because of airport bureaucracy, particularly in the south.

The airplanes had been ferried already from Florida to Belgium with about 50 hours on their counter. Today the planning took us from my home airfield Kortrijk (EBKT) to Budapest in Hungary (LHTL) over Belgium, south Germany and eastern Austria. Flight was planned to last 7 hours and we totalled about 8 hours engine time.

I was crewed with Raymond Duquesnay, a nice more senior flight instructor from Belize, now living in Indonesia with his family. We would end up sharing about 2 m2 of space together for 50 hours over 5 days … and it was pleasant all the way.

The drill was to drink a lot the evening before every flight, stop drinking fluids 8 hours before takeoff and then only take small sips of water that you sweat out… like this there was no need for toilet visits during these long flights.

We had a team briefing and took off with nice weather from runway 24 in Kortrijk. This would be a formation flight with a dedicated callsign “Waffles”, which made the controllers chuckle. No formation take-off allowed in Kortrijk but we soon settled in a loose formation, throttled back at 50% engine power yielding about 80 knots IAS.

We tried to fly as direct as possible letting controllers and the leader Macksolo of the formation dealing with proper clearances. For me it was a bit weird not having to prepare and execute all things, but having to operate in a crew, in a team.

And so the fields and citied of Belgium, Germany, Austria and Hungary passed under our wings. We got a little excitement when passing under Frankfurt’s airspace when large jets were vectored 800ft above us : only the formation leader had its transponder on so the big boys could not see us on TCAS but we spotted the easily by the naked eye.

We also got vectored around Vienna over the factory of Diamond Aircraft, reminding me about how Micke Lang on YouTube gave me inspiration to do these type of trips.

The Waffle Formation slowly cut its way through the european skies, chatting and joking with one-another over our common frequency while keeping an eye out for not flying too close to one another and nor loosing sight of the others… only one transponder squawking also means that your separation should be done visually.

We finally entered Hungarian airspace and after about 8 hours non-stop hand-flying we landed safely with some minutes separation in Tökol airport in Budapest, an old Sovjet type military airport now used for General Aviation. We refuelled with fresh Jet A1, and took taxis to a cute hotel.

At the Buda side of Budapest we enjoyed a lovely local dinner with the crew : goulash or what had you thought of !? We were tired but satisfied : this trip could actually work out !

Tomorrow we do two long flights all the way to Hurghada at the Red Sea in Egypt with a fuel stop on Heraklion, Greece.

Stay tuned !

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