Days 17 & 18, May 27 & 28: Red Rain & Flight Santorini, Greece to Istanbul, Turkey (325 NM)

Day 17, May 27: Two nights before flight from Santorini to Turkey we experienced a strange “Red Rain”. The whole island was dusted heavily with a reddish fine dirt which came with the night’s rain. It reported was dust from Africa mixed into the rain.

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Pilots took a few hours to attempt cleaning this dirt off of the airplanes.  Despite the efforts…we took off with dirty airplanes and actually hoped for some clean rain clouds to help wash them.  Destination: Corlu, Turkey…about 2 hour drive to Istanbul. We could not get a “slot time” at the main airport (Ataturk) unless we arrived at 0430  (am!!).

Day 18, May 28:

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Captains Tom and Diann are dressed and ready for todays flight.
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All pilots are dressed to arrive in countries where general aviation is not common nor respected. We need to look professional.
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You may see the white line was a zig-zag route initially give to us. The “magenta” line shows how we were actually given direct clearance.
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Along the way we needed to divert around some significant build ups with electrical activity….a little rain might have cleaned airplane, but it was more than we were willing to deal with!

Turkey actually has many agricultural fields and the country is self-sustaining in regards to food.

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No, not mid-west USA…but, Turkey fields!
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Looking left out our balcony the pool, the gardens and one of two suspension bridges over the Bosporus.
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Looking right see the Bosporus opening to the Sea of Marmara and the magnificent Caravan Palace, which dates back to the end of the 16th century. This was home to the last Ottoman Sultan.
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Captain, Tom after the day’s flight.
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First Officer, Diann after the day’s flight.
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At Sultan Ahmat Square, next to the “Million”, is signage which notes distance to many locations. The old stone pillar, the Million”,  is all that remains of a Byzantine triumphal arch from which road distances to all corners of the empire were once measured.

Istanbul is a fascinating city which is home to empires and the crossroads of two continents. Turkey’s complex beauty is borne of history – layer upon layer of history. Hittites, Hellenists, Romans, Byzantines, Selcuk Turks and Ottomans all left their mark on this geographically strategic land – and the result is magical.

Our Hotel: Cirigan Palace on the Bosphorus–is a beautiful setting!

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Day 16, May 26, 2015; Day on the Caldara on a Catamaran

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Our day on the Catamaran in the Caldara.
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Properties are purchased and built on the VERTICAL space on Santorini Island.
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Hidden cove where a family of children hid from Nazi soldiers…but were ultimately found.
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Sunny face of friends along the journey….
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Finding our spot in the shade.
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Father/daughter plunge.
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Wisconsin White whale sighting in Agean Sea?

Santorini, Greece is a Volcanic Island with well-known magnificence and its truly unique characteristics; it combines an array of spectacular features that cannot be found anywhere else. The traditional villages of the island, built on tall cliffs, offer a breathtaking view of golden sunsets over the submerged volcano. Santorini combines colorful sandy and rocky beaches, wonderful archaeological sites, traditional Cycladic architecture, and the impressive Caldera and volcanic area.

Hotel: Kirini Suites & Spa

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Delicious Foie Gras
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Kirini suites are carved out the cliff, seemingly cave-like.

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Outstanding view from our room and our dining area.

What a fantastic day!

Day 15. May 25: Flight to Santorini, Greece (530 NM)

Today’s flight was in question due to strong crosswinds expected at our destination.  Aviation weather predicted a direct crosswind of 20 Knots–the TBM’s limitation is 20 K direct crosswind component.  One runway: 16 – 34 with winds 250 @ 20 K with potential gusts exceeding that.  Our directors with weather advisement continued to keep  us posted…..to go or not to go?  At last it appeared there could be a decrease of wind by the time of our arrival and a visual approach may be expected.  The alternate (should wind be too strong) was decided to be Nikos Kazantzakis on the island of Crete (Sitia) where winds were less.  We will go!!

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To our left, view Kithira island and south mainland Greece
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Off our right wing, little island of Andikthira

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Interestingly, our route 375 NM over the Mediterrean Sea brought us as close as 210 N.Miles from Benghazi!

Landing with a 16 knot, 250 degrees crosswind on Runway 34 worked out very well. Crab into the wind, left aileron continue on landing…steer with rudder control on the ground.  Basics!

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Day 14 — May 24, 2015: Touring Valetta. Malta

Our half-day city tour included a visit to Valletta, the capital city, built in 1565 by the Knights of St. John. Our tour started with a visit to the Upper Barakka Gardens where we enjoyed the views overlooking the stunning fortified Grand Harbour. Then we toured the Grand Masters Palace, the old seat of the order of St. John and today used as home to the parliament.

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Marquis sharing his pet parrot

We were privileged to have an entree into the 16th cenury palace of a noble Maltese family: Casa Rocca Piccola, Valetta. This is the home of the 9th Marques and Marchioness de Piro: Frances (Barroness of Budach) and Marques de Piro. Marques personally guided our tour through the important rooms sharing family stories and highlighting portraits and furniture. While enjoying their company in the courtyard we also met KiKu the parrot. We were intrigued by the network of underground tunnels (tunnels cut out of  the rock over the 400 year history.) These tunnels were used as bomb shelters during the Italian and Nazi air bombardment in 1941-42.

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Casa Rocca Piccola
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Statue of Liberation from England: 1964
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Peninsula and walled city — built by the Knights of St John.
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Hall in Grand Masters Palace
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View of harbor & city from our room, Hotel Pheonicia.
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Country side view from our airplane on approach to final.

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Our guided tour in the morning proved interesting as we learned more of the history and the conquests of the Knights of St. John.  The afternoon Tom and I enjoyed exploring Valletta’s steep streets and discovering interesting styles of the Maltese people.

The Maltese Cross has new meaning to us: it is the insignia of the Knights of St. John. The Maltese Cross symbol is also on aviation approach charts and specifically identifies the FAF (final approach fix).

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Creative parking: narrow streets, small cars—park half on part sidewalk and half on street!

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Day 12 & 13–May 22 and May 23: Venice in the Rain…Flight to Malta (615 NM)

Venice is just four minutes by private launch from San Marco, on the tip of Giudecca Island, the Cipriani hotel commands unrivalled views of the lagoon and Doge’s Palace. Steeped in Venetian style, it is known for interiors decorated in exquisite local artefacts, classic cuisine with an innovative twist and the most fabulous swimming pool in the city! Since Peggie and George spent several weeks over 15 years vacationing at the Cipriani, it was a time of re-connecting with their spirit and we are certain they are pleased that Tom and Diann finally made it to the “Chip”!

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Dinner: our leader, Thierry.
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Air Journey group Italian dinner.
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.Evening String concert…Vivaldi

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Day 12: Our half day tour began with a boat tour as we explored the Grand Canal as well as some of the city’s smaller canals. We enjoyed the demonstration of Venician glass blowing, looked at 8 rooms of amazing products (including chandeliers) and a few of us made a purchase.

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The glass blowing demonstration — sets us up for appreciation of all the pieces of art glass.
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Baumann’s purchase.

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Next was St. Mark’s Cathedral — the highlight of our tour.  Our guide detailed the history and building of this magnificent cathedral.  Although it was a day of study rain, Tom and I made it our “sampling” of Venice–shopping followed by lunch at the famous Harry’s Bar.

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Center ceiling dome of St. Mark’s Cathedral
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St. Mark’s fianl burial site.

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Bell Tour of St. Mark Cathedral

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Leaving Venice: we climbed throught 27,300 feet before breaking out of the clouds — fortunately it was smooth air and no ice. Tour flight was 2 hours 25 minutes which took us over the middle of Sicily.

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Flight Venice to Malta. (North is up on moving map display)
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Flying over Sicily, on toward Malta

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Lined up on final approach into Malta.
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Shipping yards — Malta.
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View on final approach.

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General Aviation–Around the World

Several aviation friends have asked questions about differences and issues we may be experiencing on this Around the World Air Journey. Here are a few points regarding General Aviation (GA):

*            GA’s presence is minimal in Europe compared to USA & Canada.

*            The universal language of aviation controllers is English. Once you check in they know to speak English.

*            Squawk codes are changed frequently in flight: Barcelona, Marseille, and Milano each switched our code. Milano controller amusingly: “N850 Tango Delta squawk-a, new-a code-a, 6-a,4-a, 2-a, 2-a”

*            Briefings which Air Journey prepares for pilots is very inclusive with anticipated weather, including winds aloft, weather at destination; the anticipated departure procedures, approach procedures and parking instructions.

*            It seems more common to always have detailed SID (standard instrument departure procedure) and the STAR (standard transition arrival route). This adds many waypoints to the flight plan.

*            Start up procedure is different: one must call to request and receive permission to start-up. You will then receive your clearance.

*            Transition altitude (switching to Standard barometer setting) varies between 6-11,000 at different airports.

*            Barometer is set in HPA (Hectopascals). 1014 = 29.92 inches

*            Flying in a group we monitor a common frequency to ask/inform our colleagues enroute. This is helpful when the leading pilot details what to expect. Our four aircraft usual take off order: Pilatus (2), the TBM (us) then the Citation Mustang. With a 45-knot advantage we (TBM) overtake the Pilatus (both) mid-flight and the Mustang with a 35-knot advantage, overtakes us. This brings the landings in opposite order.

*             Jet fuel is about the same cost as USA–so far. It is anticipated cheaper later in our journey.

*            The handling charges are what might choke you! Paris charged 1,248 Euro for 3 nights parking and handling while Ibiza was a bargain at 365 Euro for 3 nights.

*            Over the North Atlantic, where there is no radar contact, pilots must radio Ground Station scheduled position reports: Your ID; Flight level, time crossing the designated point (longitude & latitude), expected next waypoint in UTC (universal time coordinated) and next waypoint after that one.

*            Europe’s lack of Nexrad is rather shameful.

Day 11, May 21: Flight from Ibiza, Spain to Venice, Italy. (680 NM)

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View: leaving the Old City of Ibiza.
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Note the choppy sea on our flight to Italy. We spotted and over-took our comrades flying their Pilatus.
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Leaving Ibiza north near Mallorca                                         (where Ana Ucedo works & lives).

We captured several great views today….looking over the Mediterranean Sea–there were VERY choppy seas visible.  At 30,000 all clear until desending through clouds into Venice.

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Arnold trying to get the hang of it!!

Weather was not so great, but we touched down at Venice Marco Polo Airport perfectly!  Today we spoke to Spanish, French and Italian air traffic controllers. Decidedly, the French were the easiest to understand. (BTW: English is the international language for controllers. They use English once you check-in speaking English).  Italian air traffic controllers kept us at 18,000 feet until 20 NM before the final approach fix, runway 04 R. (This is often too high and too close for a smooth approach). Finally, they asked if we were able to make the 3,000 feet IAF (initial approach fix) requirement . We did it!!   15,000 feet in 20 miles using 10% power and a decent of 3,200 feet per minute.  Our TBM’s propeller behaves like a 4X8 sheet of plywood when slowed to near flight idle! (Do not try this is a Cessna Mustang!)

Weather was not so great, but we touched down at Venice Marco Polo Airport perfectly!

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Venice as we are short approach.
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Transfer from airport via the Vaporetto (water taxi).
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Boats on waterway.
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Beautiful Venice under rainy, cloudy skies.
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Lunch at the Cipraini Hotel.

Later we were concerned about the afternoon hail storm which involved BB sized hail. All were releaved as there was no damage to our aircraft!

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Happy pigs…the sky is clearing!!
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Beautiful view of Cipriani pool…cool rainy skies made it not inviting.