Favourite Airports

Some of my more obscure favourite airports ...

Dubrovnic, Croatia

Dubrovnic Cilipi airport is set on a coastal hill, separated from Dubrovnic by a bay. The airport is 527ft above sea level and landing on it is a little like landing on a table top. Approaches along the coastline in either direction are attractive, with mountain ranges and small islands along the way.

Recommended aircraft: At 10827ft, the runway will take anything but to appreciate the scenery, low and slow is preferable. Try flying from Venice (LIPZ) or Split (LDZD from the north, or Ohrid (LOWH) or Athens (LGAV) from the south.

Isafjordur, Iceland

The approach to this small airport, set in a fjord in the north-west of Iceland, is nothing short of spectacular. The most exciting approach is runway 26, which involves skirting the northern flanks of the fjord, then timing a 180° left turn over a spur running from a mountain at the end of the fjord to arrive at the threshold. Runway 08 might not be quite so spectacular but is still not straightforward; skirt the southern flanks of the fjord and approach the threshold at an angle with a late turn to line up.

Isafjordur is about 120nm north of Reykjavik which makes for a pleasant trip of less than an hour, and lots of opportunities to practice NDB navigation.

Recommended aircraft: any small to medium-sized propeller aircraft, e.g. Douglas DC3, De Havilland DHC2, De Havilland DHC6, Fokker 50.

Classic Routes

The Hump

The Hump was a famous supply route from Assam, India to Kunming, China during WWII. This is my best approximation of the route from historical maps but note that the pilots who flew it didn't have the benefit of the NDBs. It was an extremely hazardous route, mostly due to weather conditions, with almost 600 aircraft lost attempting to fly it.

Recommended aircraft: Douglas DC3/C47 (3h). Advanced weather, turbulence on full. Snowline set less than 4000m.

Berlin Airlift (British Sector)

This is my best approximation of the Berlin airlift route flown from the British sector and, from a navigational point of view is more interesting than the US sector route below.

Notes: depart visual south to Mölln before turning left on a track of 137° to Brunkendorf. Turn left on a track of 114° to Tegel West NDB (RW) and make a straight in approach to runway 26 or enter the pattern for runway 08. Remember that there is no go around because of the queue of aircraft behind you. If you miss your approach, you get to fly back to Lubeck! For the return leg, track 261° to the west, turning right to track 354° at Braunschweig. Use dead reconking to identify Luneburg airfield before turning left on a track of 340° to Hamburg VOR (HAM). A right turn onto 067° returns you in line with runway 07 at Lubeck. If the wind dictates runway 25, enter the pattern to land.

Recommended aircraft: Douglas DC3/C47 (2h), Lockheed Constellation (1h15). For realism, use VORs as NDBs, i.e. ignore the CDI.

Berlin Airlift (US Sector)

This US sector route is less interesting than the British sector route, only because it contains longer straight sections.

Notes: Depart Wiesbaden direct Mauhelm VOR (VFM) and then direct to Charlie VOR (CHA). Turn left on a track of 026° to Fulda VOR (FUL). Turn right on a track of 052° to Berlin NDB (MW) and make a straight in approach to runway 07 or enter the pattern for runway 25. Return to the west on a track of 267° to Leine NDB (DLE) and turn left on a track of 195° to Fritzlar NDB (FTZ). Follow a track of 212° to Wiesbaden NDB (WBD) and enter the pattern to land.

Recommended Aircraft: Lockheed Constellation (2h).