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Santorini - Iraklion - Aqaba 31 October

We awoke early the next morning to a gorgeous flying day (that is blue skies and tailwinds..) as a long day of flying awaited us: a half hour flight to Iraklion, Crete, to refuel, followed by a 5-hour flight to the Jordanian port of Aqaba. 

There is now compulsory handling at most Greek airports and Santorini was no exception. The handling agent PANDAIR did not have any vehicles to transport us; so they delegated the crew and passenger transport to OLYMPIC as we were NOT allowed to walk the 50 m from the aircraft to the terminal for security reasons. For the PANDAIR services  we had to pay US$ 75 (they did not do ANYTHING useful for us: no weather, no NOTAMS, no flightplans, no transport!!) and the OLYMPIC bus ride cost us US$ 120. I would say that AOPA Greece is NOT doing their job! The landing fee for using the airport was a quite reasonable US$ 14. Add to this that for private flights the highly taxed aviation gasoline cost US$ 2.20 per liter, more than three times as much as we pay for duty free AVGAS in  Geneva, which translates into more than 200 % tax. A private aviator in Greece faces flying cost more than doubled due to government taxes and government approved money-grabbing companies associated with the Greek airports.

We know that in some countries around the world we will be faced with paying high handling fees, high cost of red tape associated with clearances etc., but to be exposed to such a government approved robbery of private aviators in an otherwise civilized European country is scandalous!! I have been happily flying in Greece for the last 20 years and it did not used to be that bad in the past: no compulsory handling fee, no Olympic buses charging fees suitable for jumbos, much less fuel taxes, especially for international flights.

But all three of us love Greece very much, the warm kindness and Greek hospitality we enjoyed during our short stay in Santorini compensated for this. Thanks again Vagelis and Matina, we will come back and promise to stay longer next time!!

The short refueling stop in Iraklion went smoothly thanks to the prior actions of a very good Greek pilot friend: Yannis Vlatakis, president of the Iraklion aeroclub. No Olympic bus was sent to collect us, and we only paid the US$ 75 to PANDAIR. This time that included the landing fee and we did not get delayed by 15 minutes as in Santorini while waiting for the PANDAIR receipt; they came with a prepared weather folder and offered their car for transport to the terminal as we needed to go to the toilet.

There are frightening warnings on the chart about entering Cairo FIR (Flight Information Region) from certain neighbouring FIR's, so we made sure via HF radio that Cairo control knew about our whereabouts before entering at the PAXIS waypoint. Soon we were over the Egyptian coast at Alexandria, where I used to live as a student for 2 months in 1965, and the views from the air recalled sweet memories about familiar places. Soon we were over the mega-city of Cairo with its usual haze of  pollution (visibility 3 km). All of a sudden Cairo Control asked us if we were military or civilian.   I replied that we were civilian and they then asked how many soldiers we had on board! All the way over Egypt air traffic control went smoothly and soon we were over the Gulf of Suez, Sinai peninsular with its spectacular desert and finally descending over the Gulf of Aqaba with spectacular views of the mountains west of Aqaba. Entry formalities went smoothly, people were very friendly and helpful and soon we were on our way towards the ancient Nabataean capital of Petra in a hired car.



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Early morning departure from Santorini

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Approach into Aqaba

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Port of Aqaba - On final for runway 01

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Approaching the ancient Petra through a narrow canyon

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