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 considering the acquisition of another aircraft for a long time, mainly due to the replacement and substitutability of aircraft even at the time of service, repairs and revisions. Since we already own one PS-28 Cruiser “Glass” aircraft and operate another, my decision was clearly aimed at procuring an aircraft of the same type. Around the same time, Andrej, a colleague and training leader at our flight school, also considered plans and investments in the aircraft. Based on the knowledge and experience gained from the position of flight training instructor, today’s Czech Aircraft Group, s.r.o .. decided on the same airplane from the Czech manufacturer Czech Sport Aircraft. During one joint telephone conversation, he outlined his intention to me. It didn’t take long and the decision was made to join forces for a common goal. We quickly agreed on the equipment that the aircraft should have at its disposal, and we wanted it to be as identical as possible to the one already in use, if possible. We obtained up-to-date information from various sources on aircraft available for sale, which at least partially met our requirements. We shortlisted several candidates. After considering the pros and cons, we finally decided on the farthest from us. However, it met all our requirements in terms of equipment and also a big plus was the low number of flying hours with one owner. We became more interested in the plane. And why from Norway? As both owners are now pilots and air travelers, the opportunity to fly a small plane from Tromso Airport, located behind the Arctic Circle to Slovakia, also played an important role. The initial plan was three days on a plane over an unknown and beautiful northern landscape, over the sea, which was simply a challenge for us. Unfortunately, all this in the period of approaching winter, unstable, cloudy and rainy weather, shortening days, polar nights in the north and escalating Corona measures.

You have a relatively difficult period behind you, full of phone calls, emails, requests, contracts, agreements, permits and European bureaucracy. Almost a new plane is parked in the hangar. Was it difficult at this time of restrictions and bans to transport the aircraft to Slovakia?

We are certainly not among the people who give up right before the first obstacle, but at first we had no idea what awaited us. Our idea was to fly to Tromso, Norway, where we will take a good look at the aircraft, test it and decide on the next steps. The plan was that if everything was in order, we would immediately plan to fly to Slovakia. Beautiful, simple, fast and we have equipped. Life and the current global situation in connection with the Corona virus pandemic have arranged it completely differently. The first attempts to get to Norway looked promising, because at that time Slovakia was not on the list of countries from which it was impossible to travel. The problem, however, was that the other countries from which the airlines flew to Oslo were on the list of red countries, and this required a 14-day quarantine after entering Norway, which we could not afford for work reasons. After several attempts to get to the plane, we were at the stage when we had also bought tickets from Hungary, but due to the ever-changing measures against the countries concerned, there was no departure and the tickets were forfeited. Despite our efforts, our goal became more and more distant from us. And so, unfortunately, we had to complete everything necessary and desirable only in the increasingly popular electronic form. After tens of hours spent on the road, we both understood that we would not win the fight against nature and we had to find another solution. After a short consultation, we grabbed a completely different ending and set out to examine the possibilities of transporting the aircraft in another non-aerial way.

A really difficult decision for pilots. Thanks to Andrej’s ability to communicate perfectly, we managed to obtain the maximum amount of information about the technical condition and documentation in a relatively short time, so that we have the best possible picture of the aircraft. Buying an aircraft that you have not seen before is really a big risk and we had to eliminate it to the lowest possible level. It’s always about people and our business partner, on the other hand, was very accommodating to us. In the meantime, after a few days of phoning, emailing and other means of communication, I worked my way up to the possibilities of transporting the plane. We probably had the famous drop of luck and we came across the right person with rich experience in transporting goods from the Nordic countries of Europe. After clarifying all the necessary details, it was decided. The cruiser travels to a new home in a truck semi-trailer. During the communication with the transport company, our Norwegian partner ensured that the aircraft was dismantled so that it could be loaded on a truck and at the same time managed a journey of more than three thousand kilometers. At the same time, all other necessary processing took place, such as contracts, permits, deregistrations and the like. Finally, the long-awaited “D” day came, when our Slovak truck arrived at Tromso airport, where he loaded rare goods and slowly set out on a long journey home to Slovakia. The transport lasted less than a week and led via Norway, Finland, by ferry to Estonia, then Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to Slovakia. Customs clearance took place here and after all customs operations, the plane on the truck continued to Brno, where it was to be reassembled into a flight-capable condition. The whole communication with the previous owner was almost 250 e-mails. The very decision to buy the aircraft was made in June last year, in July we chose from the offer of aircraft and in August we started intensive communication with the seller. In September, despite the remaining restrictions, we tried to go to the seller to inspect the aircraft before the purchase and find out its true technical condition. In October, a final decision was made on the partial dismantling of the aircraft, its loading and transport by land.

The cruiser headed from Norway directly to the service organization in Brno. What preceded the first takeoff and the actual flight to Slovakia?

Just like you said, the plane was unloaded from a truck at our Herbst Aero service organization. After unloading it, the mechanics set to work and the photographs prove that it was not enough. But okay. First, the condition after the transport was checked, where it was found that the aircraft did not suffer any damage along the way. 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 entire transport. Subsequently, the technicians began to inspect and assemble the individual parts so that they not only completed the aircraft, but did not overlook any hidden defects. If the findings were found, they were subsequently removed. Limited parts were also inspected, which are parts that may have expired even though they do not show signs of damage. In addition to these works, the aircraft gradually assembled and got into flight capable condition. One of the fundamental service tasks was also 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 receive the necessary documents without it. In Norway, this is not yet mandatory and the 25 kHz division is still used. At the same time, work on the documentary part and communication with the authorities began. Office for Regulation of Electronic Communications and Postal Services and their employees Mr. Ing. Milan Mizera, the director of the department and Mrs. Bibiána Chrobáková willingly, quickly and on a professional level complied with our requirements and issued us with the “Permit of the aircraft station”. The transport office assigned us the codes for the transponder and ELT and they had to be programmed. The aircraft received a new registration mark OM-SCN and it was necessary to mark the aircraft with it. In short, we were in the finals. Just before Christmas, the first engine test was performed after the plane was assembled. We have been waiting impatiently for that. We still had to complete the documentary part in cooperation with the Transport Office. Despite the still persistent restrictions in the pre-Christmas period, the employees of the transport office came to our aid and in a very short time we received all the documents necessary for the operation. Here we would like to thank Mrs. Sona Gažiová and Mr. Ing. Ľubomír KVAKOV for their professional approach and helpfulness. A small step for a man, but a big one for our plane. And Christmas is here. We took a break and the new year came again before we got married. The plane obediently waited in the hangar for its big day, the “flight”. However, the weather was not good for us, so we had to wait. The coveted day came on January 8, 2021, when the Cruiser was saddled by the flying pilot Mr. Lenert and made his first flight on it under the name OM-SCN. We finally had the coveted ra message, “the plane is completely finished, flown in, we can come and pick it up.” With a smile on our faces, we began to arrange a flight home. After the attack on the Brno Tuřany airport in April, we activated our flight plan and as a group of 2x PS-28 CRUISER OM-SCA and OM-SCN we headed home to the airport in Lučenec. We enjoyed the trip with pleasure. After the flight, we evaluated that everything works as it should and therefore our thanks also belong to the entire team of workers from Herbst Aero, a.s. under the leadership of Mr. Milan Mičák as the chief technician and Mr. Ing. Ján Peřan, the company’s director, for their large contribution to the success of this project.

What about 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 standard from the ROTAX 912 ULS company with a power of one hundred horsepower, currently the WOODCOMP Klasik 170/3 / R propeller is installed on it, but in the future we are considering replacing it with a SENSENICH propeller, but time will tell. The instrument panel is equipped with screens from the DYNON company, namely the EFIS D100 flight display and the EMS D120 engine data display. There you will also find a GARMIN 328 GTX transponder, a GARMIN GNC 255A radio with a frequency division of 8.33kHz 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 the company BRS. The aircraft has an innovated 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 innovated Cruiser aircraft for use in so-called VFR night operations. Is it 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 authorizing the aircraft to operate at night under VMC conditions. Unfortunately, our aircraft cannot be operated in these conditions at this time. All newly manufactured aircraft marked PS-28N are equipped with certified Rotax 912 S2 engines with a backup alternator and associated avionics. Wondering what it would be like to meet the conditions for flying at night? An extensive reconstruction of the aircraft would be needed. However, this intervention is so costly that it would be economically unbearable. There is considerable interest in VFR night training by students and pilots, but the usability of this method of flying in practice is minimal. The fact that our aircraft are not certified for VFR night operation is certainly not considered a handicap, due to the fact that we provide this type of training to other types of aircraft within our flight school.

Today, the Cruiser already holds a seat in the hangar. You are expanding the offer of aviation training and services. What will be its use?

The aircraft will be operated by the newly established airline 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 DTO’s privileges in the future. Of course, if necessary, it will help to cover the excessive requirements for aircraft in the partner flight school. The offer will 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 at the same time the main actors in the whole story, Andrej Zelem and Broň Kubiczek, for their helpfulness, willingness and cooperation in writing this post and an experience not to be forgotten in group flying and photographing a group of Cruiser aircraft.
Photo: Juraj Uhliar