A cruiser flying behind the Arctic Circle

“Oskar Mike, Sierra Charlie November, good morning. PS-28 Cruiser by Sky Story “… these words were heard by air communication at the airport in Brno Tuřany recently for the first time. Yes, this is also proof of development, innovation and progress. To provide its customers with the best services and options in the field of general aviation. Expanding its fleet with another airplane was therefore another inevitable and necessary step. Cruiser is the main and main type in the Flying Service DTO flight school and thus to those already operated these days in the hangar under the banner of the partner company Sky Story s.r.o. another was added. His journey to Slovakia was long and not easy. But everything was managed despite the restrictions. Today, after almost half a year, the hangar is at home, and we decided on this occasion about the whole demanding procurement process, at the end of which there is an operationally capable aircraft, what to write. We therefore asked the most professional and directly interested persons for the interview. Bronislav Kubiczek and Andrej Zelem told us their feelings and impressions.

You have decided to expand the fleet of the flight school with another aircraft. Why a Cruiser and why from faraway Norway, from Tromso Airport beyond the Arctic Circle?

It all started quite a long time ago. I have been thinking about getting another aircraft for a long time, mainly because of the replacement and substitutability of the aircraft even in times of servicing, repairs and overhauls. Since we already own one PS-28 Cruiser “Glass” and operate another, my decision was clearly to acquire an aircraft of the same type. Around the same time, my colleague and head of training at our flight school, Andrej, was also thinking about plans and investments in an aircraft. Based on the knowledge and experience he gained as a flight instructor, he decided to choose the same aeroplane from the Czech manufacturer Czech Sport Aircraft, today’s Czech Aircraft Group, s.r.o.. In a phone conversation we had together, he outlined his intention to me. It was not long before the decision was made to join forces for a common goal. We quickly agreed on the equipment that the aircraft should have and we wanted it to be as identical as possible to the one already in use. From various sources we obtained up-to-date information on aircraft available for sale that at least partially met our requirements. We have shortlisted several candidates. After weighing the pros and cons, we finally decided on the one furthest away from us. However, it met all our requirements in terms of equipment and also a big plus was the low number of hours flown by one owner. We started to take a closer interest in the aircraft. And why from Norway? Since both of us are pilots and air travelers now, the opportunity to fly a small plane from Tromso airport, which is located above the Arctic Circle, to Slovakia, played a big role. The initial plan was three days in a plane over an unknown and beautiful Nordic landscape, over the sea, which was simply a challenge for us. Unfortunately, all this in a period of approaching winter, unstable, cloudy and rainy weather, shortening days, polar night in the north and escalating Corona measures.

You have had quite a busy period of phone calls, emails, applications, contracts, agreements, permits and European bureaucracy. An almost new plane is parked in the hangar. Was it difficult to get the plane to Slovakia in this time of restrictions and bans?

We are certainly not the kind of people who give up at the first hurdle, but at the first moment we had no idea what was in store for us. Our idea was to fly to Tromso, Norway, where we would have a good look at the plane, try it out and then decide on the next steps. The plan was that if everything would be OK we would plan a flight to Slovakia. Beautiful, simple, fast and we have equipped. Life and the current global situation with the Corona virus pandemic have arranged it quite differently. The first attempts to get to Norway looked promising, because at that moment Slovakia was not on the list of countries from which it would be impossible to travel. The problem was that the other countries from which the flights to Oslo were flying were on the red list and this required a 14 day quarantine after entering Norway, which we could not afford for work reasons. After multiple attempts to get on the plane, we were at the stage where we had also bought tickets from Hungary, but due to the ever-changing measures against the countries concerned, in the end, the departure did not take place and the tickets were forfeited. Despite our best efforts, our goal was getting further and further away. And so everything necessary and desirable we unfortunately had to complete only in the increasingly popular electronic form. After dozens of hours spent on communication, we both understood that we can’t win the fight against nature and we have to find another solution. After a short consultation, we grabbed it by the other end and started checking the possibilities of transporting the plane in a different non-flight way. A really tough decision for pilots. Thanks to Andrej’s ability to communicate perfectly, we managed to get the maximum information about the technical condition and documentation in a relatively short time, so that we had the best possible picture of the aircraft. Buying an aircraft you haven’t seen before is a really big risk and we had to eliminate that as much as possible. It’s always about people, and our business partner on the other side has been very supportive. In the meantime, after a few days of phone calls, emails and other communication, I have worked out the possibilities of transporting the plane. I guess we had the proverbial drop of luck and came across the right person with a lot of experience in transporting goods from the Nordic countries of Europe. After clarifying all the necessary details, the decision was made. The Cruiser will travel to its new home in a truck trailer. During the communication with the transport company, our Norwegian partner ensured that the aircraft was disassembled to a condition that it could be loaded onto a truck and at the same time handle a journey of more than three thousand kilometres. In parallel, all other necessary arrangements such as contracts, permits, deregistrations, etc. were being made. Finally, the long-awaited “D” day arrived, when our Slovak truck arrived at Tromso airport, where it loaded the precious goods and slowly set off on its long journey home to Slovakia. The journey took less than a week and took us through Norway, Finland, by ferry to Estonia, then Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to Slovakia. Here the customs clearance took place and after all the customs procedures the aircraft continued on the truck to Brno, where it was to be reassembled to a flyable condition. The entire communication with the previous owner amounted to almost 250 emails. The actual decision to buy the aircraft was made in June last year, in July we chose from a range of aircraft and in August we started intensive communication with the seller. In September, in spite of the ongoing restrictions, we tried to travel to the seller in order to pre-inspect the aircraft and find out its actual technical condition before the purchase. In October, a final decision was made to partially dismantle the aircraft, load it and transport it by ground trucking.

The cruiser was heading from Norway directly to the service organisation in Brno. What preceded the first take-off and the flight to Slovakia?

Just as you said, the aircraft was unloaded from the truck at our service organization Herbst Aero. After unloading it, the mechanics got to work, and the photos prove that there was no shortage of work. But in order. First, the post-transport condition was checked to ensure that the aircraft had not suffered any damage en route. Here I have to thank and highlight the really professional approach of the forwarding company TECTA Logistic s.r.o Bratislava and Mr. Václav Bartoušek, who supervised the whole transport. Subsequently, the technicians began to inspect and assemble the individual parts so as not only to complete the aircraft, but also to ensure that no hidden defects were overlooked. Where findings were found, they were subsequently removed. Also, limited parts, which are parts that may have reached the end of their useful life even if they show no signs of damage, were inspected. Alongside this work, the aircraft was gradually being assembled and brought to a flyable condition. One of the essential servicing tasks was the replacement of the radio station with a new one with a frequency division of 8.33 kHz, which is required by us and the aircraft would not have received the necessary documents without it. In Norway this is not yet mandatory and the 25 kHz division is still used. In parallel, work on the documentary part and communication with the authorities has also started. The Office for Electronic Communications and Postal Services and their staff Mr Ing. Milan Mizera, Director of the Department and Mrs. Bibiána Chrobáková willingly, quickly and on a professional level met our requirements and issued us the “Aircraft Station Permit”. The Transport Authority assigned us the codes for the transponder and ELT and these had to be programmed. The aircraft was given a new matriculation mark OM-SCN and the aircraft had to be marked with it. In short, we were in the finals. Just before Christmas, the first engine test was performed after the aircraft was taken down. We have been eagerly waiting for this one. We still have to complete the documentary part in cooperation with the Transport Authority. In spite of the still persistent restrictions in the pre-Christmas period, the staff of the transport authority met us and in a very short time we received all the documents necessary for the operation. Here we would like to thank once again Mrs. Sonia Gažiová and Mr. Ing. Ľubomír KVAK for their professional approach and helpfulness. A small step for man, but a big one for our aircraft. And Christmas is here. We indulged in a little rest and the new year came again sooner than we thought. The plane was obediently waiting in the hangar for its big day, “the trip”. However, the weather was not favourable and we had to wait. The coveted day came 08. 01. 2021 when the Cruiser was saddled by the pilot Mr. Lenert and made the first flight on it under the designation OM-SCN. Finally we got the longed-for joyful news, “the plane is completely finished, it is soldered, we can come and take it over”. With smiles on our faces, we began to arrange our flight home. After loading at Brno Tuřany airport apron we activated our flight plan and as a group of 2x PS-28 CRUISER OM-SCA and OM-SCN we headed home to Lučenec airport. We enjoyed the journey. After the flight we evaluated that everything works as it should and therefore our thanks go also to the whole team of workers from Herbst Aero, a.s. under the leadership of Mr. Milan Mičák as chief engineer and Mr. Ing. Ján Peřan as the company director for their great contribution to the success of this project.

What about the aircraft equipment? Engine, propeller, instruments, parachute?

Everything fits as we planned from the beginning. The equipment of the aircraft is identical to the first operated Cruiser, except for small details. The engine is a standard ROTAX 912 ULS with 100 hp, currently it is equipped with a WOODCOMP Klasik 170/3/R propeller, but in the future we are considering replacing it with a SENSENICH propeller, but time will tell. The dashboard is equipped with DYNON displays, namely the EFIS D100 flight display and the EMS D120 engine data display. You will also find a GARMIN 328 GTX transponder, a GARMIN GNC 255A radio with 8.33kHz frequency division and a GARMIN 695 GPS. The ELT AK 451 emergency signal transmitter is installed in the luggage compartment. And the parachute? Of course the aircraft has a built-in pyrotechnic rescue parachute system from BRS. The aircraft has an upgraded and reinforced front landing gear leg. All other Change Service Bulletins are already incorporated on the aircraft.

The Cruiser Aircraft manufacturing plant, recently introduced an upgraded Cruiser aircraft with use for so-called night flying in VFR conditions. Is it also possible to implement innovations in already used aircraft like yours? What does it entail?

Yes, it’s exactly as you said. The aircraft manufacturer has received a certificate from EASA authorising the aircraft to operate at night under VMC conditions. Unfortunately our aircraft cannot be operated in these conditions at this time. All newly manufactured PS-28N aircraft are equipped with certified Rotax 912 S2 engines with a backup alternator and associated avionics. Did you ask what it would take to qualify for night flying? A major rebuild of the aircraft would be required. However, this intervention is so costly that it would be economically prohibitive. There is considerable interest in VFR night training from students and pilots, but the applicability of this method of flying in practice is minimal. The fact that our aircraft are not certified for VFR night operations is certainly not a handicap for the reason that we provide this type of training with a different type of aircraft within our flight school.

Today, the Cruiser no longer occupies a place in the hangar. You are expanding your aviation training and service offerings. What will be its use?

The aircraft will be operated by the newly established aviation company Sky Story s.r.o., which is a partner organization of the Flying Service DTO flight school and plans to provide flight training beyond the scope of the DTO’s authorizations in the future. It will of course assist in covering excess aircraft requirements at the partner flight school where necessary. We also include aircraft rental for clients and those interested in flying. We are constantly working to continue to expand and improve our services.

I would like to thank my friends, pilots and also the main actors of the whole story, Andrej Zelem and Bron Kubiczko for their helpfulness, willingness and cooperation in writing this article and the experience that will not be forgotten when flying and photographing a group of Cruiser aircraft.

Photo: Juraj Uhliar

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