Monday, June 30, 2008

Flying in Turkey

I recently took a vacation to visit with relatives in Istanbul, Turkey. Wouldn't you know it, my wonderful wife set me up with an opportunity to fly with my her cousin's son, Emre, who is training to become an airline pilot in Turkey. Of course, I'm never one to pass up a chance to get into a light airplane (after the plane ride to Turkey, I was keen to avoid the commercial ones however). Emre trains with an outfit near Istanbul call Ayjet. Through a bit of negotiating and skid-greasing with higher-ups, Emre mananged to convince his instructors that it was kosher to take me up with him on a couple of his training runs.

I caught a boat at 7AM to go across the amazingBosphorus and Emre picked me up at the ferry station. After experiencing some of Emre's high speed driving skills blasting to the airport on some country roads outside of Istanbul we reached his home base of Hezarfen. Besides pilot training, Hezarfen is home to an acrobatics pilot, a motocross track, a RC plane strip and a RC car race track. I could spend a week there...

Interesting things about flying in Turkey, all of the airports are towered, and there are far fewer airports than in the US, even comparitively depending on the metric used. It appears that even flying VFR requires a flight plan to be filed (not sure on that). Also, night flying in a single engine aircraft is not allowed as is overflying the city of Istanbul in a single-engine. They do use many of the same conventions that we use in the US, including altitudes and runways measured in feet, knots and nautical miles for speed and distance, similar looking VFR sectionals, etc, so it was not very hard to transition.

We perfomed a walk around and pre-flight prep and then saddled into one of the school's Diamond DA20's, TC-AYC. After running the cockpit checklist we closed the canopy and got ready to take-off. There was a nice 15 kt wind, however it was right down the runway and we were off with no issues. Our plan was to intercept the ILS at Corlu which was an airport about a 20 minute flight away. Emre did most of the communication with the Hezarfen in english so I could understand, but Corlu is a military airport so he had to communicate with them in Turkish. Emre did a fine job flying the glidepath and we landed at Corlu for a touch and go. The runway was 10,000' long and seemed about half as wide so we were a tiny speck in the middle of the runway in our DA20. We joked that we could easily take off and land a few times on this runway.

Back at Hezarfen, after an uneventful flight back and landing, we went out to grab lunch and get ready for our afternoon jaunt. About 3PM the school's Diamond DA42 landed from a day trip to Izmir and I got a chance to see up close and sit in one of the most beautiful light aircraft out there, in my humble opinion. The DA42 is an excellent trainer being a docile and easy to use advanced twin engine aircraft. Even more interesting the DA42 will cruise at about 150 KIAS burning a total of 8 gallons per hour! According to Wikipedia, it was also the first diesel powered aircraft to cross the North Atlantic. I must say, it seems to be a very comfortable and manageable cockpit. At 8 gallons per hour I would be interested in at least renting one someday, if not owning (although footing the bill for TWO engine overhauls would be scary).

Enough dreaming. Anyhow after drooling over the DA42 we were off again in our DA20. This time we just did some practice maneuvers in their practice area. After a couple of steep turns, fun with negative G's and a camera case, and some lazy eights, Emre turned over the controls. After a few minutes of getting used to the stick vs the yoke I was in love. The center stick is a much more natural feeling way to control an aircraft than a yoke for me. Also, I forgot to mention earlier, I was very impressed with how quiet the DA20 is, and Emre tells me the DA42 is even quieter. After our fun in the practice area, we flew down the coast of the Marmara sea for a bit, which was beautiful and then headed back to the airport. This time Emre had a nice gusty x-wind to handle, and the DA20's relatively large wings had us bouncing around quite a bit, but hey, he's going to be landing 767s someday...

I can't thank Emre enough for taking me flying, and Emel enough for arranging it! Can't wait till next time, perhaps it will be in a jet... Emre?