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Geneva - Brindisi - Santorini  29 - 30 October

In spite of delaying our departure by 48 hours, the to-do list of compulsory items to perform prior to departure still looked impossible Sunday morning. Thanks to great teamwork, Ray, Angela and myself managed to make enough progress so that I could go happily to bed at 1:30 Monday morning, convinced that the Monday 29 October  pm departure was just possible.

A last minute invitation for the 'Pot de départ' was sent out by e-mail early Monday morning to our friends. The weather was unseasonably warm and sunny and by noon we left the house in Peney in a fairly orderly fashion. We are going!!!!

While we were packing the plane our friends were watching from the other side of the fence while having a glass of wine or beer. So we were like monkeys in a cage. However the monkeys on one side of the fence were going back to work, while the monkeys on the other side of the fence were going on holiday for seven months! We were happy to be on the right side of the fence! The weather was fabulous and we could even see Mont Blanc to the south-east, the direction in which we were departing. The VFR (visual flight rules) take-off  at 14:24 local time towards Roma Ciampino was an orgasmic feeling of relief from the stress and  persistent pressure of the last two months. The only positive side-effect of this nightmare was that I have lost 8 kilos. The views of the spectacular Alps with its many familiar peaks was gorgeous: Pointe Percé, Mont Blanc, Grand Paradiso were inspected closely. We joined IFR (instrument flight rules) from Torino (Italy is full of megasized class A TMA's) and had just blue skies and a 15-knot tailwind all the way. Angela and I were so affected by the stress and the immense pleasure of departing that   several times we had tears rolling down our cheeks from the emotion and pleasure. We just could not believe that the nightmare was over. We are OFF!!!

Shortly before Elba, we decided to go on for another 1 1/2 hours to our alternate Brindisi and the request was quickly approved by Milano control. This had the advantage over Roma Ciampino that we could sleep 1 1/2 hours more in the morning and still hit the early afternoon opening slot for Santorini. There were some low scattered clouds, and we made the night ILS (instrument landing system) approach and landing with no problems. It was not difficult, but I concentrated very much on doing a perfect job as I knew that a very tired pilot and night time landings is a dangerous mix. A second aircraft with a cryptic call sign coming in from the south was put on hold for a few minutes (they have no approach radar there), and its captain (Max Stickert, whom we were to meet next morning) had, like me, an easily recognizable Danish accent. Soon after shutting down, a huge C-130 Hercules from the Royal Danish Airforce parked right next to us.

We were directed by the pleasant and efficient handling staff to a hotel in the centre of Brindisi, found a very nice trattoria for dinner after which I totally collapsed from fatigue at the table and almost had to be carried back to the hotel.

Mourad Chabani from FSI called us early in the morning with the new Greek clearance number due to our late departure, and the flight plan filed with Swiss Skyguide was modified accordingly. Yes, all private flights are strictly PPR (prior permission required) in Greece since 11 September and training flights prohibited. So flying in Greece is now like flying in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other difficult countries.

Next morning was another perfect day for flying: blue skies and tailwinds and we were ready to depart as planned at 9:00 local time EXCEPT that we could not get any AVGAS. It was supposed to be available every morning from 09:00 to noon according to a current NOTAM. Many desperate phone calls were made, we were seriously worried about missing our 12:00 - 13:30 opening slot at Santorini. Finally an hour late a pretty, young Italian mother turned up and explained that her father had had an operation and she had to look after her baby which she brought along in her car!

While waiting we were chatting to the Danish air force guys and told them about our plans to fly around the world in our little Mooney and that, as far as I know, it is the first time a Danish citizen is doing this. A few minutes later, Captain Max Strickert invited us for a guided tour of the C-130 which arrived last night from Skopje. He hinted that our Mooney was a 'friendly' plane while his was not. We understood what he meant when we saw that all crew seats and the few passenger seats in the huge cargo bay were armoured with 15 mm thick steel to protect them from bullets!!

We were cleared to taxi to the holding position for runway 32 just behind the huge Danish Hercules. There was a small break in the radio conversations, so I could not resist to transmit: "Honey-Mooney to Captain Max, the little earthrounder Dane is taxiing just behind the Great Dane". After a few seconds came back over the radio a deep Great Dane growl: "WOOOF, WOOF, WOOF...". We had a good laugh!

Thanks to the ever present blue skies and tailwinds (20 knots from the north) we arrived on schedule in Santorini and were received like VIP's by our Greek friends Vagelis and Matina Sigala.They have a nice hotel in Kamari 'Hotel Matina' and their Greek hospitality is unforgettable. After a short rest, we went for a superb Greek sundowner at the edge of the spectacular caldera followed by the best local Greek dinner we had had for a long time.


John and Alya MILES

Matina and Vagelis SIGALA

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'Pot de départ' Geneva/Cointrin

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Honey-Mooney loaded up and ready!

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Last drink with John and Alya for 7 months!

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The happy round the world crew ready to go

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Happy captain! We are on our way!!! Climbing through 8'000 feet over sunny alps.

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Thank god the nightmarish preparations are over!!

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The Alps between Mont Blanc and Torino were bathed in sunshine

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Captain Max Strickert giving us a guided tour of the C-130 with armored crew seats.

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Matina & Vagelis SIGALA in Pyrghos, Santorini restaurant

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The best greek meal for several years - thanks Vagelis & Matina

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