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Low And Slow Over Italy 2


Low And Slow Over Italy 2

By Joe Thompson (18 April 2007)







"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." - Robert Louis Stevenson






"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." - St. Augustine



In Part 1 of our Italian travel adventure we covered the northern region of Italy from Milan in the west to Trieste in the east. We went from Bolzano, in the Dolomites, southward to Rome, where we spent our first night. Day two began with our departure from Rome and a flight westward to the island of Sardinia and then to Sicily, where we landed in Palermo for lunch. And so we now continue our adventure – climb aboard Mercator VA’s twin Beech N18MC and make yourself comfortable.


DAY TWO (Cont’d)

Rome – Olbia (Sardinia) – Cagliari (Sardinia) – Palermo (Sicily) – Catania (Sicily) – Lamezia – Brindisi - Bari


After a very relaxing lunch at the Ristorante La Tartaruga, near the Palermo airport, we roared off on the next leg, which would take us east to the vicinity of Termini Imerese, a city in the province of Palermo, on the northern coast of Sicily, founded by the Greeks. From that way point (WP) we would track east southeast and skirt the southern flanks of Mount Etna (at 10,900 ft tall the largest volcano in Europe) and land at Catania (LICC/CTA). By early afternoon we were parked on the transient line at Catania in the shadow of Mount Etna.






Once again we stretched our legs and chatted up some of the local airport officials who we would be working with in our future revenue endeavors. From Catania we flew straight up the Straights of Messinia. Once we spilled out over the Tyrrhenian Sea, just to the north east of the city of Messina, we tracked northeast over the Golfo di Gioia. We continued over a hilly portion of the Calabria region then more water, this time the Gulfo di Sant’Eufemia, and finally landed at Lamezia Terme (LICA/SUF). With beautiful, romantic rocky bays and sandy beaches, Lamezia Terme is an untouched and unspoiled region of Calabria. Tourists in this area however are well advised to know some Italian because few locals speak English. OK, five legs down today and we still had two to squeeze in and the light is fading.


We got something to drink in the terminal and in a few minutes found ourselves climbing away from the airport heading northeastward. We transited Calabria then flew out over the Gulf of Taranto and coasted in just south of the city by the same name. A short hop over the ‘boot heel’ and we landed at Brindisi (LIBR/BDS), the capital of the province of the same name. After a quick look around the ramp area we were airborne once again. We followed the coastline northwestward to Bari (LIBD/BRI) where we would spend the night. Day Two was in the logbook with 7 segments, 729 nm, give or take a couple, and 7.2 hours flown. We looked forward to a hot shower, some delectable local cuisine and a good night’s sleep.



Bari – Naples – Pescara – Forli – Florence – Venice – Brescia – Torino – Milan






The 0430 wakeup call in Bari was a jolt. I had slept well but I was still a little slow getting up to my normal “operating speed”. A peek out the window revealed drizzle and low clouds. Once we had ‘topped off’ with espresso and some local sweets we boarded 18 Mike Charlie and everything was deemed in order. Levers were set, switches thrown, and in a couple moments the two radials belched voluminous plumes of smoke and roared to life. We taxied out, were immediately cleared for a straight-out departure off runway 25 and in a few minutes the relatively flat area around Bari gave way to the rising eastern terrain of the Apennine Mountains. The mountains lend their name to the Apennine peninsula, which forms the major part of Italy. The mountains are mostly green and wooded and the eastern slopes down to the Adriatic Sea are steep, while the western slopes form a plain on which most of Italy's historic cities are located.


Our next stop would be one of those historic cities – Naples, which was 100 nm almost due west of our present position. Forty eight minutes later we were on deck at Naples (LIRN/NAP). The drizzle that had kept us company all the way from Bari now beat a louder tattoo on the fuselage of the old Beechcraft. Mount Vesuvius, the infamous volcano south of the city, had all but disappeared in the rain. During a session of meet & greet with local airport representatives the rain continued to fall and visibility now dropped to 2 miles. I filed IFR to get out and after breaking out just north of the city I cancelled IFR and drove on to our next destination VFR.






Pescara, our next stop, was due north, and we would re-cross the Apennine Mountains once again. Soon though, I was talking to Pescara Tower who gave me a left base for runway 22 and as we passed the looming hulk of Mount Amaro, just off my left wingtip, the town of Pescara and the Adriatic Sea came into view. Pescara (LIPB/PSR) lies on the shores of the Adriatic in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The city is divided into two distinct sectors by the River Pescara, which flows down out of the mountains into the Adriatic. Turning final over the town's small, quaint harbor I could hear Byron’s camera shutter firing away as we flew the approach. I carried a little extra speed due to some wind burbles off the mountains and got the nose a little lower than I wanted. With the squeal of rubber we ‘crow hopped’ on and I pulled the yoke back and got the tail down onto terra firma. Momentarily we were on the ramp and listening to the familiar clicking of the props as they wound down to a halt.


“Sorry about the crow hop” I said embarrassingly! “What’s a crow hop?” asked Byron. I told him that when an airplane lands and bounces or balloons up into the air and then back to earth, sometimes several times, it’s referred to as a crow hop, (after the peculiar hopping motion crows are famous for.) However an old aviation maxim came to mind, “Any flight where the aircraft can be used again with little or no repairs is cause for a celebration!”


From Pescara we hugged the coastline up to Ancona where the land swings a little more west northwestward. We continued up the coastline until we were directly abeam the city of Rimini, on our starboard wing, and San Marino off our port wing. The Most Serene Republic of San Marino is the third smallest nation in Europe (after Monaco and Vatican City). It is an enclave surrounded by Italy, and is one of the European microstates. According to legend, San Marino is the oldest constitutional republic in the world still in existence today. From abeam this Most Serene Republic our next destination, Forli, was only 24 nm more. And after a brief stop in Forli (LIPK/FRL) we headed back across the spine of Italy and the Apennine Mountains once more.






The magnificent city of Florence (LIRQ/FLR), the capital of the Tuscany region, lying on the Arno River would be our next stop. Present day Florence has a population of around 1 million people counting the surrounding environs. A center of medieval European trade and finance, the city is often considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and was long ruled by the Medici family. It is also famous for its magnificent art and architecture. We wouldn’t be visiting any museums today but the approach to the airport should provide us with some spectacular views of the city, not the least of which would be the Ponte Vecchio Bridge spanning the Arno River, and the Duomo (Duomo is a generic Italian term for a cathedral.) and Campanile (Bell Tower) in the city center. Twenty five minutes after leaving Forli the Florence controllers were giving us vectors to put us on final for runway 05. As we crossed the Arno low and slow on short final the city center, off our starboard wing, looked as if we could reach out and touch the brick dome of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo). Byron’s camera shutter sounded like a machine gun as he rapidly took picture after picture. Seconds later we settled onto the active runway and taxied to the GA (General Aviation) apron and shut down. Not far away, hovering above the roofline of the city, I gazed at the brick dome of the Duomo. They don’t build them like that anymore!


Less than an hour later we were airborne again and headed northeastward to Venice. We crested a ridgeline and as it passed behind us the city of Bologna made its presence known not far to the left of our track line. Now the terrain dropped in elevation as we skirted the northwestern terminus of the Adriatic Sea and approached the Laguna Veneta (Venetian Lagoon), in which the city of Venice is situated. The lagoon is comprised of 8% land, including Venice itself and many smaller islands, 11% permanently water, (or canals as the dredged channels are called) and the remainder (80%+) is mud flats and salt marshes. The lagoon is connected to the Adriatic by three inlets. And since its at the end of a closed sea it’s subject to high variations in water level, the most extreme being the famous spring tides known as the acqua alta (Italian for "high waters"), which regularly flood much of Venice.






Venice’s “Marco Polo” tower (LIPZ/VCE) cleared us for a long, straight in approach to runway 04R. I adjusted mixture, propellers, and throttles and made sure the fuel boost pumps were on. The landing light was activated, wing flaps were fed in and cowl flaps set. As we tracked down the glideslope at a breathtaking 95 KIAS the RPM needles twitched nervously around their approach settings but the Manifold Pressure pointers were rock solid. Over the threshold I assumed slight nose high attitude and held the yoke back a bit until she settled onto the runway. No crow hop this time – life was good! I took the first available exit off and in no time we were sitting on the cargo ramp tucked back away from the passenger terminals. Welcome to Venice. Venice's nicknames include "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water" and "The City of Light." but no matter what one calls her she is spectacular in every sense of the word. Time however was moving on and we had to have this aircraft back in Milan before the next morning.






Venice was the fifth leg of the day and the end was getting nearer. We had three more segments and our junket would be over. Before long we were climbing to the northwest, over the Laguna Veneta, heading to Brescia (LIPO/QBS). After a brief stop in Brescia we were on to Torino. We skirted to the south of Milan, crossing from east to west, and then landed on runway 36 of Torino’s Caselle Airport (LIMF/TRN), in hazy conditions. Not long after we were up again and on our final, brief leg back “home” to Milan. The light was fading into a blend of soft pinks and blues as we headed east out of the Torino area. The Alps Cozie, a part of the Alps mountain chain that separates Italy from France, disappeared behind us in the waning light. The firefly-like lights of surrounding aircraft became more pronounced as night fell and before long we were on our approach into Milan’s Malpensa. Another nice landing and a long taxi back to Terminal 2 and we were done. On Day Three we had transited 744 nm in 7.0 hours of flight time and visit seven airports before returning to Milan.






Now the trip was over and the Baby Wasps fell silent. Byron and I just sat in silence for a moment, savoring the experience that had just been afforded us. We collected our gear and as we walked across darkened ramp I thought to myself “Where will the next adventure take me?” Only time would tell but there is definitely no shortage of aircraft to fly or landscapes to visit.


“Arrivederci i miei amici fino alla nostra avventura seguente” - Good-bye my friends until our next adventure.



Once again, without the unselfish and tireless efforts of many aircraft and scenery developers this trip would not have been as dynamic and as realistic as it was. To all those very talented people listed below and to the thousands of others that daily contribute their efforts to sites such as FlightSim.Com and Avsim.com for our enjoyment I can only say is - Thank You!



Beechcraft D18S by Milton Shupe, Scott Thomas & Andre Folker, is available at various sim sites. At FlightSim.Com see files: D18SVC2.ZIP for the FS2002 version or D18SVC4.ZIP for the FS2004 version


Also highly recommended is Milton Shupe’s website for additional files or suggestions regarding this aircraft at FlightSimOnline @ http://www.flightsimonline.com/


Mercator livery design, aircraft repaint, and panel modifications by the author.



See Shupe website for recommendation.



See http://walhalla.mine.nu/fs2004.php and http://walhalla.mine.nu/fs2002.php for airport scenery links for all the airports in this story; or just search the FlightSim.Com file library.



70m Global Terrain Mesh - converted & compiled by Stephen Rothlisberger










Too numerous to list - consult your local travel agent!



If you enjoyed the article or have comments please let me hear from you. I always look forward to your feedback.


Joe Thompson
Read other articles by Joe Thompson

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