Nic Rodgers continues his account of Freedom’s adventurous trip to Romania. Join us at 6pm every day this week to relive the trials and tribulations.
Day 5 was seen in with a very leisurely breakfast – Andrei even managed to sleep through his alarm! We needed all the energy we could get for the obligatory push-the-aircraft to the fuel pump routine at Ineu airfield. After refuelling, we thanked our hosts, said goodbye, and made the short 10 minute hop back to Oradea to complete customs. Passports checked, bags x-rayed – but no sign of the paparazzi this time – we flew to Heviz-Balaton (Sarmellek) in Hungary.
We decided to take a slight detour on this leg, heading further south and close to the border of Serbia and Croatia, via the Hungarian town of Szeged, to do some sightseeing. The route took us across some stunning forest trails and rivers, including the Danube and the Barva, which winds along (and defines) the border between Hungary and Croatia.
Heviz-Balaton airfield was very similar to Pecs – large, modern and well equipped, but apart from a small number of airport staff, nobody else was around! Luckily customs were though, so we completed the paperwork which signalled our arrival back in to the Schengen area. From here, we headed to the Alps, where we planned to overnight in Zell-am-See.
As we made our way towards the Alps, a number of weather diversions (to keep us VMC) had extended our flight somewhat, and it was looking less and less likely that we’d make it to Zell-am-See before nightfall. Flying at night through the Alps – whilst perfectly legal – isn’t exactly the sort of thing you’d want to do for fun. With safety being of paramount importance to the group, we decided to divert to Graz, where we would spend the night.
I hadn’t made a diversion before, but found the whole process to be remarkably easy and pretty much a non-event. After contacting Graz on the radio and advising them of our intentions, they couldn’t have been more helpful. They cleared us to enter their controlled airspace to land, fitting us in with their scheduled commercial traffic. Once safely on the ground, we were in the best position to watch the a beautiful sunset over the Alps whilst patting ourselves on the back for making the right choice. After a couple of minutes on the iPad, we’d sorted accommodation for the night, and joined the taxi queue. Our hotel looked – and felt – authentically Austrian, just like the sort of thing you see in the movies. A wonderful evening was had by all, enjoying Austrian delicacies like Schnitzel and Apple Strudel, with some refreshing drinks to swill it all down.