“We made it to Serifos, but kind of only just!
When we arrived in Portorož, the Slovenian immigration and customs officials absolutely insisted that having arrived in the European Union, and in a Schengen country moreover, there was no need to travel from airport of entry to airport of entry. Taking that to heart, we set off at the airport opening time (10h30 local, because of shortage of staff) direct for Milos, more than 700 nm away.
The flight was uneventful, save that 12 miles out of Milos, the ATC informed us that we were not permitted to land except at an airport of entry. He just wasn’t persuadable otherwise and put us in a holding pattern while he phoned for instructions. (He also told us that anyhow, handling had left, and so we wouldn’t have been able to land anyway). About 10 to 15 minutes later, we were told to head instead for Santorini. Very beautiful, but not where we wanted to be!
In Santorini, we were welcomed by Skyserve – the local handling outfit. They were very helpful but also very clear that in Greece, ‘Rules is Rules’. There’s no flying here without handling, there’s no flying without a flight plan and there’s certainly no private fuel allowed into an airfield. There’s also no avgas and certainly no Mogas, either at Milos, Santorini, Naxos or any other close-by island. In fact, only Heraklion in Crete has avgas. We were down to the smell of an oil rag but it was too late to return to Milos, even without our fuel problem, and so there just was nothing for it except to head off to Heraklion for the night.
Fortunately, I had in Slovenia, for the first time, set up a SkyDemon account for flight plan filing, and using my cellphone hotspot in the cockpit, (Andrea introduced me to the Airalo eSim service in the USA – incredibly cheap and effective mobile data absolutely wherever you travel – brilliant for this kind of thing) I quickly filed a flight plan to Heraklion. 40 minutes without wind. We had a tailwind but we had only 45 minutes fuel in the wings. We filed with 0200 endurance, just for decency, and our flight plan arrived at the tower literally 20 seconds after we hit file on the app. Man the internet works well.
Things got quite fine when we were put into a hold 7 miles out of Heraklion, at number 4, with only 8 liters of gas left (of course, I didn’t want to say anything, having lied a bit in the flight plan!). I did also know though, that even when the gas in the tanks ran out, there were still 6 liters left in the header. Still, it was kind of uncomfortable. We landed in that quiet, reflective moment, that comes every day just after the sun has set.
Andrea’s been holding out for Greek food for weeks so instantly after checking into the Hotel Sofia, we headed out for dinner, beer to ease the stress, and a good long walk.
Tuesday morning we were informed by our handlers (and boy do I feel handled!), fortunately before leaving our hotel, that the Milos tower would be closed from 10h00 am to 13h00 pm. With that, we had to delay Milos again and miss our second Milos to Serifos ferry booking! The Serifos task was beginning to feel more and more Sisyphean. Anyhow, we headed off to check out the ruins at Knossos instead, which was actually a pretty cool trip – the oldest city in Europe (3,700 years), place of the Minoan civilisation and home to the Minotaur.
We finally got out to Milos at 13h00 local time, caught the evening ferry and now here we are, settled into an Air BnB up at Ano Chora (upper Chora), next door to Andrea’s earliest school friend, Maira Koutsoudakis. What a treat to be in Greece, with Greek friends, our kids and time to rest. We head back to Milos for 3 days on 13 August, and 16 August, we head for southern Italy, this time as a family. Phase 3 back towards England!
For those who don’t know – en route, back to England, we’ll also be stopping in Switzerland, at the location of the eSling TSi development by ETH University, Zurich. Mike and Sue will be meeting us there and we’re really hoping we’ll get to see the eSling do her first flight. SHW then heads back to the UK and Pilot Bambi and her boyfriend, Maurits, will be flying her back to SA. The adventure for an aeroplane never ends!
Goodbye all, at the very least until 17 August!”