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Come And Visit Spain



Come And Visit Spain

By Bastian Blinten (7 January 2008)



It's not long ago that "Cub-Flounder" Ron Blehm invited all of us to write about our favourite flights for giving others a new idea about where to go. Looks like I'm the first to follow his advice so here is my story.


My favourite locations are highly dependent on the scenery I use so if I find anything new I take my time exploring.


There are several reasons for the flight I want to present today. It all started with an online flight from Barcelona to Munich. My online flying activities have taken me to destinations all over Europe. Germany is quite in the middle so with Frankfurt as my starting point I have been to the north, south, east and west. Well, the southwest was missing a little so I took some time to find maps for Barcelona and had a flight from there to Munich in an Airbus A330.


Afterwards I found it quite unsatisfactory that I had used the default scenery. Usually I plan my online flights to destinations where I can enjoy some eye candy.


Better late then never I checked the file library for Spain. I only had Madrid so far and if I didn't like the photoreal sceneries of Barcelona I had to download the complete Spain scenery by Toni Agramont (available for FS2002 and FS2004). Well, why not? That gives me plenty to explore.


I hadn't flown my Spitfire for a while (original by Paul Rebuffat, modified by Marek Dobrzanski) so I decided for my favourite plane for this trip. I know the Spit is not the typical cross-country aircraft but what the heck. I would take it down low for a fast sightseeing.






About the same time I was watching some Spitfire videos on YouTube and found a lot about Mark Hanna, a former RAF and airshow pilot and, founder of the Old Flying Machine Company. He had been heavily injured in an airplane crash on September 25, 1999 and died the day after in hospital.


Mark was the son of Ray Hanna who was the leader of the Red Arrows for four years.


That day Mark was approaching Barcelona Sabadell in a Hispano Buchon, a Spanish license version of the Bf109 when he met his fate and crashed in flames. The airshow scene had lost a great pilot and a very fine person.


Barcelona should be the starting point of my journey so I decided to start with a tribute flight for Mark. Of course I would use my Bf 109 and continue the journey in the Spit. This gave my the chance to have a direct comparison between these two warbirds.






To my astonishment I found that my Spitfire MKIX, MH434 was actually painted in the colours of Mark's real Spit that he had flown at airshows all over Europe.


This was one more reason why the whole flight should be a tribute to Mark and his father Ray who died in 2005 aged 77.


The Spitfire has always been described as a fighter pilots dream. It was powerful and well balanced. A joy to fly and easy to handle. At least as long as you were airborne. On the ground both the Spit and the 109 were unstable with their narrow undercarriages. This is well depicted in both models while the Spit is a bit over sensitive. Be very slow while taxiing! If you turn a little too fast it will turn over to the side and crash. The 109 is a little more forgiving.






The forward view is in both cases blocked by a large engine. If you want to stick to reality you can open the canopy in the Spit and set your view point to the left or right. That's the way real Spitfire pilots get a little forward visibility.


The pilot of a 109 is trapped. You cannot open the roof on taxi or in flight because it opens to the side. At least the bigger side windows offer a little view on the runway and helps keeping direction during the takeoff run.










Takeoff takes quite a while. As long as the rear wheel is in contact with the ground you need only little rudder to correct the engine torque. The takeoff run is pretty long and the nose will stay up most of the time. Don't push! The tail won't move. It comes up by itself when ever it finds it is time to. This movement is so abrupt that any pushing the stick will make your nose dig into the runway. This is the moment when you will also need a lot more rudder to keep straight.


Right after the tail gets up, I apply a little elevator and I am airborne.


I enjoy the powerful sound of the DB engine and cross the airfield several times at low level.














The 109 is fun to fly but by far more difficult than the Spitfire. This has been the case in all simulations I've tried. It doesn't turn as tight and be careful of stalling at lower speeds. It's not that stable and the nose is moving up and down a lot.


I don't think that these two aircraft are so far apart in reality. I must state that in the simulation the Spitfire lacks any stall-behaviour and is probably much too good-natured.


Visibility on approach is again terrible. Pilots use a curved approach to be able to keep sight of the runway until they are almost there.










While the Spitfire shows a strong tendency to bounce on landing the 109 stays on ground once you get there. While I doubt that the takeoff is too realistic the landing is. On touchdown the 109's slats retract keeping the aircraft safely on the ground.


At least this part of flying is easier than in the Spit.






I switch to the MKIX to begin my journey through Spain. Canopy open and virtual cockpit view for easy taxiing.










I am in the northeast and proceed heading west-northwest. A good mesh scenery makes the Pyrenees a joy to look at. I'm heading for Andorra, a little state in the mountains. It is a country without airport. So after a short glance I head south to Seo de Urgel.


The airport lies in a big valley and the approach is fairly easy.






A Spitfire pilot opens the canopy for a better view on landing.






I park next to a Falcon 50 and some Cessnas.






Originally I had been looking for some dangerous approach in the mountains to add some spice. Seo de Urgel is beautiful but doesn't test your skills. So I am looking for something else.


I turn on the magnetos and push the starter. The Merlin coughs for a moment and bursts into life. Takeoff directing north offers some rising terrain but that is no challenge for the Spitfire.


I follow the Spanish-French border. There are very few airports around. I check Bagneres de Luchon and I am satisfied. A small French grass airfield surrounded by high mountains.










The climbout is steep but still no problem for a Merlin pumping out 1600 hp.


I continue along the border until I reach the Bay of Biscay. I descend from the mountain tops down to wavetop height. I set the mixture to rich and chase along the coast.


The journey leads me straight west to the vicinity of Bilbao.






I pull up and follow the bay to the left which leads my to the city.






My apporach is high and fast so I choose runway 28. Just a short refuelling and after a few minutes we are back airborne.






I cross the city and the harbour before I turn straight south.


The plan is to cross the country from north to south.I leave the mountains behind and the scenery becomes flat and a little boring.


Next stop is Madrid. Madrid Barajas had been my only airport scenery in Spain so far. I find that the Spain scenery is sparse here but anyway it is not a proper place for a Spitfire to land.


West of Madrid lies Quatro Vientos. The sun is setting and my fighter is touching down softly.






I taxi to parking among a bunch of Cessnas.






The next morning I climb out close to the city. In the background you can see the buildings of Barajas airport.






I turn south again, cross country to Sevilla. While I am getting closer to the airport I realize that there is lots of scenery in the city center and decide to explore that first.






Churches, bridges and parks are a friendly invitation for a low fly-by which offers the imaginary population a rare occasion of enjoying the sound of a Merlin overhead.






Another refueling stop at Sevilla airport where I share the apron with some Iberia 737's.






The next leg is straight south again. Enroute I pass some mountains and lakes. Microsoft has put enough work into the scenery that you can navigate with your old school atlas.






I must admit that three airports planned for my Spain tour are actually not in Spain. So much for the next stop which is Gibraltar.


I've been flying with real weather all the time and it is now the first time that I see a few clouds. Spain must be a sunny and warm place, even in October. Right across the Mediterranean you see Africa.






Gibraltar is a very special place to fly. It was of great importance to the British during World War II. It was the entrance to the Mediterranean and so it was important for controlling the sea.






Gibraltar is rather small and the airport divides the city in two. A street crosses the runway and is open as long as there is no air traffic.


Gibraltar consists more or less of the airport, a big harbour a big rock and a few houses.










I taxi onto a big and empty apron and after refuelling I climb out for the last leg.










I turn west and follow the coast. Enroute I pass the beautiful city of Cadiz.






I am crossing the border to Portugal and head for the popular holiday destination Faro which will be the end of my journey.


The approach is right across the city and a big blue stadium.






Flaps and gear down and canopy open for final approach.






Taxi to parking,






After our long but fast journey the Spitfire comes to a final standstill and gets some time to relax.






After two days of handling an old warbird and an enjoyable stay at the sea I return home to Frankfurt in an Airbus A320.










I take off, switch to autopilot and the Airbus gets me home almost by itself. Just setting the desired speed and altitude... This is the comfort of modern flying. But what is that compared to high speed at low level, beautiful aerobatics and the roar of a Merlin?


Bastian Blinten

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