Extreme Airports – Every Pilot’s Guilty Dreams…


With the plethora of aviation magazines out there, there doesn’t seem to be much space available for new publications: whether your interest lies with vintage aircraft, state-of-art airliners or aeronautical engineering RnD, you’re bound to find as much information as your mind can process… and much more. Nevertheless, one daring little newcomer has managed to grasp my attention, as I was eagerly walking through the aisles of Aviation Megastore, Schiphol’s fantastic avgeek paradise.


Extreme Airports just came out in 2018 and the cover attractively displays legends of aviation that most pilots dream of on day conquering. Taking us on-board is the gorgeous silhouette of a 747 in KLM colours landing at the plane-spotter paradise of St Maarten for a first issue dedicated to classics.

We’re swiftly taken on-board towards mystical names, Bara, Memphis, Innsbruck, for a detailed presentation of what challenges these airports offer to us pilots, both from the air and on the ground.

Extreme Airports took me back to Lukla, and it’s with my mind full of memories from Everest and its high passes that I delve into the post.

Directly linked to my own training plans for 2019 is also an article featuring the gracious but vicious slopes of Courchevel, a world famous French altiport renowned for its very short runway of 537 metres (1,762 ft) and daunting 18.6% gradient! A trophy to all mountain flyers, both wannabe and seasoned, the altiport will be top on my list when training for my Mountain Rating, cruising the dented landscape of the Alps to stroke the slopes in a tail-dragger.

Oh and I forgot… There’s also a full chapter (and approach plate!) retracing the story and history of Kai Tak, narrated by one of these incredibly lucky birds that got to experience it from the flight deck.

“The Highest, the Coldest, the Busiest, the most Hazardous”… Santa has come early this year!


B738 Type Rating – Welcome on-board!

Here is the start of a new aviation chapter!

Time to scale up the fun, MAXimize knowledge, and develop proficiency on the world’s highest-selling commercial jet-liner in history, the beautiful Boeing 737.

With its aggressive-looking fuselage, more than eager to slice through the air at high Mach and its easily distinguishable hamster-cheeked engines, the 737 is a well-loved dweller of most commercial airports around the globe.

Originally envisioned in 1964, the 737 made its maiden flight in April 1967 in its 737-100 model. The “Originals” (737-100 and 200) dominated the scene until the early 1980s.

Faced by the need to increase the capacity and range of its jet-liners, Boeing continued to innovate and developed its second-generation derivative of 737, nicknamed later on as “The Classics”. Produced from 1984 until 2000, they include three variants: -300, -400, and -500, with a maximum capacity of respectively 149 and 174. The 737-500, in its case, had the longest range of the family.

737 Classics Key Dates:

March 1981: 737-300 anncounced.
17 Jan 1984: Prototype 737-300 rolled out.
24 Feb 1984: First flight of 737-300.
24 Jul 1986: EADI & EHSI certified by the FAA.
19 Feb 1988: First flight of 737-400.
25 Feb 1991: 2000th 737 delivered.
26 Jan 1998: 3000th 737 rolled out.
9 Dec 1999: Final 737 “Classic” – a 737-400 is rolled out.

The Boeing 737 Next Generation, NG, or 737NextGen, are introduced in the 1990s. They display a redesigned, increased span laminar flow wing, a upgraded “glass” cockpit, and a brand-new interior. One key number and fact about the NGs, is that they include 33% fewer parts than the Classics. This greatly reduces their production time. Furthermore,  improvements in design, performance, total fuel capacity, increase the range of the NGs by 900 nmi, for the first time permitting transcontinental service for the airplane.

I will be operating on the 737-800, hoping to start catching glimpses of the dual-feathered 737 MAX 200 in 2019. In the meantime, here are some numbers from my new bird!

Width : 35.79 m
Lenght : 39.5 m
Wingtip radius : 22.9 m

CFM 56-7B (maxi thurst 26k lbs, can be derated to 24k and 22k)
EGT limits:
– 950° T/O (5 minutes maximum)
– 925° Maximum continuous
– 725° Engine start

Max Fuel temperature : +49°
Min Fuel temperature : -43° or 3° above fuel freezing point, whichever higher


Maximum 41 000 ft
For T/O and Landing 8400 ft
Runway slopes : ± 2%

Max tailwind for T/O & Landing: 10 kt
Max demonstrated crosswind (runway dry or wet): 36 kt
Automatic landing (dual channel CAT2 or CAT3 approach):
– tailwind ………………………..…. 10 kt
– crosswind ………………………….20 kt
– headwind ………………………… 25 kt

Max cabin differential pressure: 9.1 psi
Max cabin differential pressure for T/O & LDG: 0.125 psi

VMO / MMO: 340 kt / 0.82M
Turbulence: 280 KIAS /0.76M



Sources: Wikipedia and the incredible Boeing 737 Technical Site.

SEP(sea) – Get your Splash rating at Aero Club Como – Italy

We all have dreams. When I started my pilot education, I wasn’t aware of all the possibilities that were opening up to me once I would get my pilot license. Airlines, charters, air ambulance, on floats, on skis, on wheels… My original idea of going straight to the airlines quickly got bended by the diversity of air operations around the globe.

I am an adventurer. Give me a backpack, a few weeks offs and some water-purifying tablets, and I’ll head straight to the Himalayas, losing myself in pristine nature, far from everything, discovering a culture and a landscape that, to many, still hold the mystical feel of last frontier.

It is so normal that my flying aspirations quickly got influenced and turned upside-down by this explorer’s gene. Today I dream of bush flying, of the large expanses of Northern Canada, and the unlimited wild of Alaska… Flying conditions and terrains that are unseen in our European countries.

To wait for the chance of taking a flight to North America and earn backcountry flying wings, I took advantage of what our little continent had to offer, and decided to get Splash-rated in Europe’s largest seaplane club: Aero Club Como, in the mountainuous waves of Northernn Italy.

8h of instruction plus 1h of skill test should give you the seaplane rating: during those hours, you are introduced to water-taxiing, take-off and landing in wavy situations, and you practise “glassies”: glassy take-offs and landings in situations where the absence of wind make the surface of the water still and reflective, creating a liquid glue holding tight onto your floats, and making it very difficult to judge the time of flare: this calls for an alternative landing technique, where keeping a constant pitch and shallow rate of descent until touch-down prevent any misjudgement of height.

Next time I’ll head into the wild, but for now, fragrant coffee and fresh pastas will have to do! ^^


“Rolling” for departure runway 19 🙂
Leaving Como, northbound.
Beautiful Bellagio from 1,200 feet QNH.
Gorgeous view over the lake.
Looking out for some glassy conditions 🙂


OUiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiizzzzz! 😀
I-SAAB waiting for a skilltest.

Icelandic Aviation Museum – Akureyri

Beautiful TF-NPK (Douglas C-47A).




Rolls Royce RB-211.
TF-JMH – Piper PA-23-150 Apache with Lycoming O-320.
Details from TF-SIF.
Details from Gullfaxi: Iceland’s first jet (Boeing 727-108C).



Das Deutsche Technikmuseum – Berlin

DC-3 welcome!
Museum entrance
Jeannin Stahltaube – 1914 – Engine: Daimler D I (100 PS).
Radial engine – Shvetsov ASch-82T – 1958.
Rolls-Royce Engine – Packard V-1650 Merlin 68 – Liquid-cooled V-12 piston (Major applications: P-51 Mustang and Spitfire).
Arado Ar 96 B-1 – the Luftwaffe’s standard advanced trainer during World War II.
Cockpit – Lockheed L-1049G “Super Constellation”.
Junkers Ju 52 – German trimotor transport aircraft manufactured from 1931 to 1952 –  In a military role, it flew with the Luftwaffe as a troop and cargo transport and briefly as a medium bomber.
Test your French! ^^
Nord 102 (Messerschmitt Bf 108) – German single-engine sport and touring aircraft, developed by Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Bavarian Aircraft Works) in the 1930s.
View from above
Positive Climb!
Auf Wiedersehen…


Iceland’s most challenging airports – Vestmannaeyjar (BIVM) (1/5).

Welcome to Vestmannaeyjar, 63°25′30″N 020°16′45″W, and home to one of Iceland’s most challenging fly-in!

BIVM sits on the island of Heimaey, located 4 nm off the south coast of the main island. It is the archipelago’s biggest and only inhabited grounds, surrounded by honeycombed walls of puffin nests, hyperactive volcano cones, and the glacially high waves of the Atlantic ocean bathing in a subpolar oceanic climate.

It’s sublime in daylight,  enthralling at sundown and eerie at night.

The airport itself features two asphalt-stabilized gravel runways 03-21 and 12-30, with a respective slope of 0.2% and 0.7%. The light slope remains comfortable in both cases, occasionally bringing some positivity into the landing should the edge and center lines play trick to the eyes!

Runway 30 is particularly famous for the 90m-steep cliff fringing the threshold, a real arcade game in three-dimensions. The islands born from this volcanic hotpot are sandwiched in alternating layers of tuff and lava, their crispy crusts on display as soon as they rise over the water. All eyes are immediately drawn to the geological ground-show below, and as soon as the airplane breaks through the clouds, this Pandora box shines  dauntingly with promises of shrills and delights.

In BIVM, departing from the glideslope quickly becomes critical, all variables coming briskly into play to create the siege for a  head-on collision on approach and a quick sink into cold, rabid waters on departure or go-around. Both runways are over 1000 m long, enough for comfort, but never too much to forego staying alert.

The weather on this unknown little island is infamous, with records to break each time the polar depressions decide to spill down our coasts. Stórhöfði, a peninsula at the southernmost point of Heimaey, is claimed to be the windiest place in Europe, and holds the record for the lowest on land observation of air pressure on our continent (2 December 1929 – 923.6 hPa). (By the way, Stórhöfði, “black cape” is the Icelandic term for Darth Vader. The Force is definitely strong down there!).

With 20+ knots an everyday climatic expectation, gusts over 50 as soon as Njord awakes, 70 and above in the dead of winter, bumps are in the air on this basaltic Death Star replica!

Crowned by the crests of the Southern Icelandic Volcanic Zone, the final for 30 (and to a lesser extent, 03) can become particularly turbulent. Caught swinging in rotors, an argentic world tumbling upside down, every pilot synaptic bridge firing bright, it takes healthy doses of skills, and manic shots of fun, to glide your bird onto the asphalt.

Departing on a misty morning, or a bright wintery night, BIVM will also surprise by its aura of calm and quietness. With stars above and glitters below, we drift back towards the Icelandic capital feeling like pioneers who’ve just discovered a brand-new world.







Wintery Vestmann – Approaches in Argentic.

February 2018

It’s time for the storms. I get outside my building well bundled in layers upon layers of thick Icelandic wool (In French, we would use the word “se saucissonner”: literally “to wrap oneself in tightly like a sausage in its drying net”… What a sweet reference from home!). My little Golf is buried  chilled under a meter of snow, her dreams of roaming the countryside during the whitest hours of the year grounded to a halt.

There is a steady breeze from the South , just enough nip to prick the skin into pinky cheeks and gnaw at unprotected finger bones. Over the coast, in the distance, a couple of stray cumulonimbi  are spraying their path East, a veil of silvery powder obscuring today’s route. Thanks to a much-awaited climatic stand-still, the friend I am back-seating today will be honing his instrument flying skills before his final skill test. For this purpose, he will be taking us to the dramatic Vestmann islands, a volcanic archipelago just off the South coast of Iceland.


Practising approaches under a sky of steal, black cushions weaving our path to and away from our navigation aids, we seem to evolve in a world in argentic, colours drained to unravel metallic gleams.





The sky has cleared in the West, and we catch a glimpse of mount Keilir while descending on approach into Keflavík. The sky is purple and cobalt, and as we touch down after yet another one-engine inoperative approach, it goes all to winter black.