Pilot Journal
Thursday, September 1, 2005

Flying In Europe

You wouldn’t believe how easy it is with just a little extra preflight planning

flying in europeWhen the chance came to fly a Cirrus across Europe, it would be an understatement to call it a chance of a lifetime. For years, it had always seemed to me that Europe was the perfect place to have a small, personal airplane. You can fly from almost anywhere to anywhere else in western Europe on a single tank of gas." />

“If a pilot sends us a copy of his or her passport, pilot’s license and medical, we will arrange all the necessary paperwork before the pilot arrives,” Cesare Baj, president of Aero Club Como, told us. This nonprofit group is one of the busiest seaplane training operations in the world, and their clientele come from everywhere. Aero Club Como does everything from seaplane ratings to complete private-pilot licenses, with all the training done in a seaplane!

flying in europe
The Cirrus’ all-glass cockpit made flying in Europe much easier. While the PFD displays pertinent flight data, the MFD shows the aircraft en route above the familiar outline of the boot of Italy.
Baj offered us a tour of Lake Como in a Lake Renegade. We overflew the Bellagio (the original resort with hundreds of years’ head start over its counterpart in Las Vegas), several villas dating back a thousand years and the red rooftops of tiny villages that have remained on the lake ever since the days of Julius Caesar. We landed our amphib next to the ruins of Castill di Cannero, a castle that clings to the same rocky island where it was built in the 13th century. We didn’t have to remind ourselves we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

As turnabout, we took Rino Caldiroli, an Aero Club Como pilot, for a sightseeing flight in our airplane. Cirrus is just now spreading itself across Europe, and the sight of one of these modern wonders is still a bit of a spectacle. The Italians like to pronounce Cirrus with a “ch” sound, so Caldiroli referred to our SR22 as a “Chirros.” After some time at the controls and a tour of the Avidyne glass panel, his eyes had turned the size of grapefruits. In his limited English, he said, “The Chirros, it’s a miracle!”

In fact, everywhere we went, the Cirrus created a stir. Pilots are pilots anywhere, and many wanted to stop and talk to us about the aircraft, our trip and our route—conversations that frequently ended in some valuable exchange of local knowledge. In Saint Moritz, a pilot who had watched us arrive came to help us file our next flight plan using a new interactive computer-based kiosk, the first that we had seen along the way. In Salzburg, a line crewman got on his radio to call another line person over just to look at our new Cirrus. Of course, in no time, we were all immersed in more flying stories, and no one was from any particular place anymore. We were all just pilots.

And like any great trip, it was all over too soon. After touring the home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Salzburg, we packed the Cirrus for the last time. A short flight back to the Netherlands, and it was over. But in a short week, we had transformed ourselves from meek American pilots cautiously sticking our toes into the European airspace to veterans of one of the great places to fly in the world. The best thing about the trip? Flying in Europe made me remember why I got a pilot’s license in the first place.

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