Total flight time 5 hours, total distance about 386 miles to 400 due to storm deviations!
Our day began with lots of negotiations with the Italian authorities at the airport, who finally relented, allowing us to fuel up and depart at 1100-1115 hours exactly- believe it or not, the only way they could get around their regulations was for the Italian Civil Aviation authorities issuing a national NOTAM (basically, a mandatory notice to all pilots) that Forli was officially CLOSED to all traffic between the above hours, with absolutely no traffic allowed in or out, so we could depart safely…!I told Brian it was an honour to be giving such an honour, and we felt quite important, going through our pre-flight checks, knowing nothing would move until we did!
We headed down the huge runway after flight clearance feeling both relieved to be getting away, as well as a bit like VIP's- as they never offered the same status to the Ryan Air flight that had just flown out before the airport was closed!
We headed South in high spirits on a beautiful cloudless blue sky, aiming to fly non-stop from Forli in North-East Italy 375 miles to Brendesi at the bottom East of Italy beyond her heel.
Feisty thermally flying for quite a time, although surprisingly cold at 3,500 feet.
After skirting a huge aerodrome near the coast we headed inland into a completely different weather system over broken hilly countryside below, with a following wind boosting our ground speed to up to 110mph The weather began deteriorating, with growing turbulence, cloud build up above us and visibility dropping. We began encountering heavy rain, despite skirting the worst of it, and seeking to move back out above the Adriatic Sea looking for less turbulence.When nearly abeam the airfield of Piscara we encountered really severe conditions- quite exciting really- with me doing my best to navigate a reasonably good track flying from the back, relying on my compass heading audibly in my headset whilst Brian was trying to raise the airfield, changing frequency settings, and turning up the radio, playing with the squelch knob, trying to improve reception in what was now a full-blown storm. The funny thing is that, as Brian turned up the radio volume, it drowned my own compass input into my headset that I was relying on to flyaccurately- the result was us doing some interesting antics in the storm, with me trying at the same time to get Brian's attention to turn down the radio a bit so I could "see" where we were going!
We flew through the worst of the storm and decided to press on to Brendesi right at the bottom of Italy. Conditions and visibility improved, despite us flying in almost continual rain for the remainder of our 5-hour non-stop flight. We toyed with the idea of going out to see around the 3,500 foot high spur to Italy's heel, but visibility improved inland, saving us valuable time and fuel making a direct approach to Brendesi after getting clearance to fly through a MATZ (military aerodrome terminal zone) with a very friendly ATC person on the radio to us.
We landed in Brendesi still in the rain, tired but happy after a great 5-hours flight, with once again some beaurocratic mix-up meaning they did not have a record of our flight clearance arranged months ago from Britain.
We were once again treated like royalty, with some 8-9 police, customs officials and other civil security officers with lots of guns in evidence roaring out to us with flashing lights to welcome us in the pouring rain, asking us a multitude of questions in perfect Italian!
After a mere 3 hours we had clarified our legitimacy to be there, and we managed to refuel the aircraft and get her hangared and ready for departure tomorrow after final clearances and filing a flight plan for Corfu and then on to Athens or Marathon.Our final joy this evening was the hotel van come to fetch us running out of fuel before the hotel a mere 2 miles away!
A great day, with lots more to come!
"Sight without vision is equal to blindness" -Helen Keller