Feet firmly back on the ground in The UK, 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.
After a fantastic start, day two started bright and early as taxis took us from our hotel in central Prague back to Letnany airfield. The first job of the day was to refuel, which isn’t as straightforward as it sounds! Dave has an unwritten rule that taxiing to the fuel pumps is too easy, so expedition policy dictates that we push the aircraft to the pumps – regardless of how far it is! It’s good for teamwork and the environment, apparently. Surprisingly, everybody seemed to enjoy the short cardio workout involved in pushing 5 aircraft to the other side of the airfield for fuel.
Once fuelled, we picked our crew for the day and boarded the aircraft ready to go. First stop: Breclav, a 125 mile leg to the South East of Czech Republic. Breclav is located amongst lovely green countryside with plenty of glider activity on the airfield, giving us lots to see during our short time on the ground fuelling up on coffee.
We left Breclav and headed for Budahors on the outskirts of Budapest; a short 1 hour hop, taking us over Slovakia. The leg was pleasant enough, but nothing spectacular – the real treat being on the ground. Budahors is a magnificent airfield dating back to 1937, with an original control tower unlike any other I had seen before.
Next stop was Pecs-Pogany in the South West of Hungary. We had chosen to stop mainly for logistical reasons as we needed to clear customs in Hungary before leaving the Schenegen area. Landing felt like we’d arrived in a ghost town – a lovely new airport with modern terminal facilities – but we were the only people around! We fuelled the aircraft for our next leg (luckily we parked at the pumps, so no pushing required this afternoon!) then had a short wait for the local police to turn up.
Whilst waiting, we got word the Romanian press had heard about our expedition. Apparently a crew from the national news would be waiting for us at Oradea, our next stop. Wanting to make a good impression, we decided to treat them to a formation fly-by, so we used our downtime to plan and brief the display.
Eventually, the police arrived, checked our passports and waved us goodbye. We headed back to the aircraft and were quickly airborne, flying towards Romania. During the 2 hour leg, we had plenty of time to practice our formation display, perfecting the routine before our big moment on TV!
As we approached Oradea, we contacted the Tower and, a first for me, requested permission for a fly-by before landing. Top Gun eat your heart out! Permission granted, and we entered close formation, flying down the runway at low level before doing some impressive looking steeps turns, circling back to land.
Sure enough, as we stepped out of the aircraft, we were met by a TV crew who interviewed Dave and Pods. After a quick walk through the empty terminal building to clear customs, we said goodbye to the press and flew the 10 minute hop to Ineu, our final destination for the day. Ineu is a lovely grass airstrip to the East of Oradea, situated alongside a beautiful golf course.
We landed as the sun was setting, giving us a perfect sunset view to round off the day’s flying. We were met by the local flying school’s team at Ineu, led by British man Liam Kelly, who had put on a special barbecue to welcome us. Even the wedding party from the neighbouring country club left their celebrations to welcome us!
After the BBQ, we headed back to Oradea, this time in a taxi, where we checked-in to our hotel. Two long days had taken their toll on the campers, so we had an early night to try and catch up on a bit of sleep!