Venice – Dubrovnik

Last year we did two big trips: one to Portugal and one back from Dakar. This year we had some brainstormings of where we could go: we considered going back to Africa (east side this time), Sicily but we finally settled onto flying to the Black Sea: Romania and Bulgaria.

So bought the necessary Jeppesen IFR charts, we gathered the VFR charts into one server location and we booked out Ryanair tickets from/to Sophia where team 2 would take over from team 1. This year, we (Fred and me) would go in first as team 1.

Our plan was as follows:

  • Day 1: Lille – Venice Lido over the Alps
  • Day 2: Venice – Portoroz – Dubrovnik
  • Day 3: Dubrovnik – Varna
  • Day 4: Varna – Sofia

This gave us one extra day as weather or technical reserve.

We would book hotels as we arrived or just a day ahead as this was bot top tourist season. We didn’t have to bother with overflight or landing permissions this time.

However, we took our life vests as we planned to criss a little piece of the Adriatic Sea between Italy and Slovenia.

All pictures/movies are from Fred or me.

Our first day was a truely beautiful day all the way from Lille to Venice. We were quite early and therefore there was autumn mist on the ground which gave beautiful views!

The flight was flown by me and under VFR. Fred was of great assistance: he took care of the radio and helped on navigation. We used Skydemon as navigation tool.
We flew from Lille to Metz and onwards to Strassbourg. In Strassbourg we asked to deviate to the north to avoid parajumping activity over the local airport. Once passed that, we crossed into Germany.

We continued east in South Germany and after a while, the alps became visible over our right wing. We climbed to 7500ft and steered clear of some restricted areas.

We turned our nose south towards the mountains at Kempten VOR. There the highway is taking its pass (Fernpass) towards Innsbruck so we followed the highway.

Over the Alps, there is a nice way of weatherforecasting: per route, there is a sepcific forecast and it allows you to make the decision to enter the route in the Alps or not based on that forecast (GAFOR). That forecast is also indicated in colors on Skydemon. I verified the forecast for route A10 again with Air Traffic Control and they confirmed that the route was clear. We remained at 9500ft.

The Alps were gorgeous ! I let you enjoy the views we had live…

The Karwendel mountains on our left.

Tyrol on our righthand wing.

Innsbruck ahead of us. Its airport is bearably visible. Then we turn left towards the Brennerpass.

After a while, the Dolomite mountains (the eastern Italian part of the Alps) were visibel with all their beautiful outcrops.

At about that moment, I lost the GPS signal to my iPad. I tried many times to restore it but it didn’t work. It was an annoying distraction while flying over the Alps. Luckily Fred was there to assist. Navigation remain easy as we just had to follow the highway over the Brennerpass. The only thing which helped was doing a total reset of my iPad. I believe the problem was caused by the upgrade to IOS 11 the night before… Learning point !

After crossing the Brennerpass and Vipiteno/Sterzing (where I learned to ski many decades ago), we continued south towards Bolzano and Trento.

Abeam Trento, we turned towards the east and started to descend. Visibility was partly affected so we modulated our descend in function of visibility, terrain and VFR rules.

We stayed north of Padua while talking to them and getting flight following. I was dreadful with Italian ATC, but they were very helpful and could be understood very well.

They cleared us to reporting point Chioggia (PZS4) so we could approach Venice Lido from the south while steering clear from their TMA. Next reporting point was Porto di Malamocco (PSZ3). After a while, the famous laguna of Venice became visible ahead of us.

We turned northeast towards the tip of the Lido isle which shields the Laguna from the Adriatic ocean. Our destination airport (LIPV) is on the north-end of that island.

Here you can see our complete approach towards the Lido airport.

Venice is on the lefthand wing. You can see all boat activity in the Laguna. We landed on the gras runway 05 and taxied back to the terminal.

The terminal is a beautiful art-deco building, oozing charm from the early days of aviation !
We fueled Papa Charlie so to be ready for our next flight without delay (expensive fuel!). I taxied the airplane back onto the grass parking to leave it resting overnight.

At the terminal we discussed how we could pass customs the next day to fly to Dubrovnik (extra-Shengen). They told us to submit the necessary info via the internet, to file a flightplan, and to be present 15min before EOBT so to host Customs if they would choose to show up. Everything ran smoothly.

We stepped out of the airport, walked a bit and immediately, the charm of Venice showed itself to us!

We walked to our nearby hotel, checked-in and readied up for our visit to the city. We took Vaporetto boat towards Venice over the Laguna we just admired from the air. Soon we were ready to take-in the magic of Venice. It was my first visit to the city, and Fred guided us.
I let the impressions speak for itself.

The Bridge of Sighs…

Thé classic picture ! Yes, it was very crowded and touristy…

Towards Piazza San Marco.

Basilica di San Marco.

The Rialto Bridge.

On the Rialto Bridge overlooking Canale Grande.

The art of the Biennale was in town !

From the Ponte dell’Accademia.

We walked and walked and walked. We stopped for beers and coffees … it was all worth it!

And we took the watertaxi back to the Lido island.

We refreshed at the hotel and had an apéritif. It was Saturday evening and we had clearly underestimated how full restaurants are on that evening. The restaurant at our hotel was full, so decided to “borrow” some hotel bicycles and we drove around until we found a place that still could host us … The food (fresh seafood!) was excellent, but as it was outdoors (with a view onto the Laguna, thank you), the mosquitos took the better part of us…

We had a good night of sleep, and the next morning, things didn’t look good at all weatherwise …

From our hotel we walked back to the terminal of Lido airport. The sky was grey and a small sliver of light was visible on the horizon: so VFR passage should still be possible. Fred had planned the flight VFR: first a bit to the north, then cross the Adriatic Sea towards Slovenia, cross the peninsula and follow the coastline all the way to the south of Croatia into Dubrovnik. But now a thick grey cloudmass was blocking the north.

To our surprise, and that of the airport people, the Customs and Immigration officers did in fact show up. They checked all our paperwork and were found good to leave Shengen. We paid the airport bill (about 56 euro), and started walking towards Papa Charlie.

In a swarm of Venetian mosquitos, we preflighted and checked the airplane which had spent the night in Venice. All was ok and at the very moment that I boarded, I felt a first splash of rain onto my mosquito-bitten hand…

We crawled inside, donned our life jackets and the full rain came drashing down! We asked startup but the controller wisely explained that it was too late… I checked the rainradar and we were indeed engulfed in showers. The showers slowly drifted northeast, blocking our intended route towards Slovenia.

We stayed about 30 minutes inside and the rain started to soften a little. Towards the south, we saw the ceiling becoming a little clearer. An intense look on the rain radar showed us hope in the south. So we adapted our planning: rather then flying north, we would depart south, follow the Italian eastcoast and the Adriatic halfway. As this would be a long crossing over water, the plan was to climb high to give us optimal gliding distance. We also strapped the life jackets somewhat tighter.

Fred took off from runway 5 and turned to the left towards the south. We avoided the clouds and after 20 minutes we were totally free of clouds. Italian ATC was again very helpful and we tracked the famous coastline.

At Ravenna, we were asked to do a 360 degree turn to let other traffic take off. Before Ancona, we asked permission to climb to 9500 feet to prepare for our Adriatic crossing.

We crossed without any hickup and soon the first islands from the Croatian coastline came into view.

Fred descended to 1500 ft and we tracked the Adria VFR route southbound.

The scattered islands, set in the turquoise seas were magnificent!

After about 1hr of pure estethic joy, we got in contact with Dubrovnik Approach. They first cleared us on a direct base followed by final for runway 12. The old city of Dubrovnik slid under our left wing.

Fred landed us nicely on runway 12. We made it so far!

A follow-me car guided us to our parkingspot.

We decided to fuel immediately so not to loose time tomorrow on our way to Varna.

A nice taxi driver brought us to the old city of Dubrovnik. We checked in in our hotel, and were ready for the discovery of the city.

Dubrovnik is a heavy fortied city overlooking the Adriatic. We toured the remparts and discovered the old port.

Inside the walled old city, you find beautiful old streets, full of tourists but with plenty of good restaurants.

The next morning we woke up and discovered a sky filled with monstreous CB clouds ready to dump plenty of moisture. We checked the weather forecasts in detail and the more we looked, the more we realised that we were locked in in an area of bad weather. The good weather that had been predicted (no fronts) turned into an area of throughs throwing walls of local thunderstorms on both sides of our flightpaths: we could not continue towards Bulgaria, we could not continue south to Albania, we could not cross the Adriatic again to Italy and we could not return to Zagreb or Split. IFR didnt help against CBs, TCUs or TS…

So we took the drastic but safe decision to not continue our flight, to book new airline tickets out of Dubrovnik, so invite our incoming team 2 to fly into Dubrovnik instead of Sofia, and most importantly: to enjoy the rest of our stay here in Dubrovnik!

No Sofia, no Varna …

That morning turned out to be cataclysmic in terms of rain…Streets got flooded!

So in between bad weather we visited everything that the city could offer to a tourist.

The most impressive parts were those related to the wars of the 1990s… here and there traces were still visible of gunfire, mortar-rounds and mostly: plenty of museums.The next day was better in weather, but we had made our decision to stay and we had booked our new tickets, so we played tourist for another day.

Dubrovnik seen from the hill behind.

Boat ride around the island.

Yes: a yellow submarine.Team 2 arrived with the same airliner from Brussels that we left Dubrovnik with, so we missed each other in the airport. They were able to return as planned with Papa Charlie via Pisa and Carpentras avoiding having to cross the Alps.

It was a beautiful trip, cut short by unpredicted weather unfortunately, but we were able to enjoy Dubrovnik to the fullest!

Next time, we should mentally prepare multiple flight scenarios and destinations to avoid getting stuck again.

Thanks for the flying & pics, Fred!

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