Saturday, 22 November 2008

2008/10 Diamond DA40 Burgos to Holland

click on the title to see the video on DailyMotion

After diverting to Burgos (LEBG) on Wednesday there was no chance of flying back to Holland on the next day. Severe thunderstorms, very early snow in the north of Spain and over 50 kts of wind lead to an additional day in Burgos.
The people on Burgos airport are unbelievable friendly and supported us all the way. We were even offered a space in the hanger to get shelter for the storms during the night. Both landing fees and overnight parking charges are very cheap in Spain, as we found out in both Valladolid and Burgos.

Burgos turns out to be a very authentic Spanish city with all kind of local shops, restaurants and tapas bars. Lots of tiny little alleys, beautiful buildings (cathedral, castle, plaza major), and nice view from the hills. Apart from the hotel and airport virtually nobody seems to speak English, so we had to improvise with the few words of Spanish/Portuguese we were able to produce.

The next day, Friday October 31st, we decided to try to leave as early as possible to use the short and only temporary improvement of the weather. ATC at Burgos starts a bit later than the airfield opens which was new to us on an airport of this size. The very friendly girl from operations recommends using blind transmissions during backtracking and departure, in case of eventual other traffic.

Between two layers of clouds we were able to follow our VFR flight plan over Vitoria (LEVT) and San Sebastian (LESO) into France. The Pyrenees don't extend all the way to the ocean, so you don't have to fly very high to be able to cross the Spanish/french border over land. Both San Sebastian and Biarritz (LFBZ) are very nice airports close to the ocean. The beautiful San Sebastian airport is even directly parallel to the water in a small bay.

ATC allowed us this time to follow the coastline across all restricted area's around the coast between Biarritz and La Rochelle. Further north we encounter some rain showers until we have to decide whether to stay below in marginal visibility or go on top. The TAFs promised us an easy descend further up north, and clouds seem stratified and not to high so although freezing level is at FL50 we start to climb. After an additional hour cloud tops are getting gradually higher and higher until we are at FL115 and minus 10 degrees.

The altitude is no problem for the DA40 with its turbo diesel whatsoever, but with this temperature we would have to stay out of clouds even when switching to IFR. ATC provides us with MET updates for Deauville and Le Touquet (both are indicating good weather), but in real life the overcast extents a lot further north than we had anticipated.

We had been flying for almost 4 hours already at that point, but with the long range tanks still no worries. No worries would be appropriate for experienced pilots. The lack of experience with icing conditions made the situation for us personally lot less relaxed. Finally we decide to descend through a number of mailbox like openings in several layers of clouds and we find out that there is no ice build up at all.

Later we are told that even if there would have been a thicker stratified cloud layer of a couple of thousand feet, a freezing level of FL50 will give you plenty of time to loose the ice if you are building up some. Nevertheless, a DA42 or DA50 anti-icing system would offer a more relaxed descent to us in similar situations.

Approaching Le Touquet we asked Paris area control for an ILS approach. No problem for them, and he gives us a heading at 2000ft across the Channel. According to the MFD we are almost in the UK before we get a base and intercept heading which gives us clear view of some huge container ships at high speed.

Arriving at Le Touquet (LFAT) after a 5 hour flight we witness a lively discussion between a German private jet pilot and the local tower about their flight plan, who has this flight plan and who should have had this flight plan. The jet is already at the holding point for the runway, has to catch a connecting flight somewhere south with very little margin in time; but has to return to the apron nevertheless. 10 minutes later we see it depart anyway, lovely sight the acceleration and climb rate of a private jet.

After a short stop on Le Touquet (if you have more time visit the fish restaurants in town in stead of the airport restaurant) we were just in time to be able to beat sunset at Lelystad (EHLE). Flying at 2.500 feet we were just on top of a cloud layer in the sun, marvelous sensation. Holland turns out to be rainy, with poor visibility (what else is new).

Pancake Airlines Crew is trained by Dwarf Powered Gliders ( and Wings over Holland ( Information on the PH-PCA Diamond DA40 can be found on You can click on the title link to see the HD video on DailyMotion.

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