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Leg 66 - LIPB to LSGS (Bolzano to Sion)

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"So, are you up to anything next week?", Phillippe asked. Was he kidding? It had been a crazy few months, and all I wanted to do after I had finished my last leg for Joe and the Hangar, was to batten down the hatches, unplug the phone, and spend some quality time with my long suffering husband..


"I'll make it worth your while" he added, sensing that I was about to say no, "and I'll make sure you get the 5-star treatment". There was a pregnant pause as I weighed up the options; I had been having terrible problems trying to find an aircraft for my last leg at such short notice without the Hangar credit card having to pay an extortionate premium, and then there was the distinct possibility that my husband's patience with my worldwide jet-setting had already run out. "Where and when?" I asked, trying to make it sound as much of a chore as I could whilst mentally planning how I could incorporate the handover of the baton in the same route. Phillippe continued, "The PC-12 is stuck at Salzburg with a bent elevator after some idiot in a de-icing rig reversed without looking, but it’s being repaired and will be ready to fly over Marseille where I'll pick it up from you".


Just as I was about to agree, but only on the proviso that I could detour to fit in with my obligation to Joe and the Hangar, things suddenly and almost inexplicably fell into place... "You need to pick up a couple of people from a film crew in Italy and get them to a shoot in Interlaken, Switzerland".  A film crew? Phillippe's taste in blockbusters left a lot to be desired and I wondered what sort of 'movie' he could be referring to. "Where in Italy?", I asked,


"North of Milan. they have been filming in an old 13th century castle. Mareccio, I think". I quickly Googled the castle. Nearest airport was Bolzano. Oh, this was just getting better and better. "OK Phillippe, tell you what, I'll get the film crew to Interlaken and then fly the route as far as Geneva, and then I'm heading home". "You drive a hard bargain, mon Amie" he replied, "but that will work". "We have a plan", I said, and having agreed with Phillippe that all the details would be emailed to me by the end of the day.


Result! I would pick up the PC-12 at Salzburg, fly it down to Bolzano in the South Tyrol, which was once famed for having the best quality of life in Italy, pick up the 'B-movie' crew, deposit them in Interlaken, overnight at a 5-star hotel, all expenses paid, and then skip off to Sion to drop the baton off, before hopping across to Geneva, and a flight home before I ran out of clean clothes. Oh, was I a GENUIS at organisation or what!


Fast forward to Bolzano. I'd been standing out on that cold and windy apron for almost an hour before Brian found me. I knew I shouldn't have worn a summer dress in April!  I would have missed him entirely were it not for that PINK bag, and even then I turned around in denial, vainly hoping that the strange man would walk right past me, but I felt a tap on my shoulder. "I'm not even going to ask where you acquired that bag, Brian", I said with a disapproving look. He looked pretty beaten, obviously from his grueling leg, so I suggested a beer and maybe some carbs to pick him up.


"Not bad", he said, taking a huge mouthful of the chocolate cake we'd purchased in the arrivals lounge cafe.. "You're kidding", I said, "Jess's cake was ten times better than this". I pushed my plate aside, and it was quickly collected and devoured by an obviously famished Brian before I could change my mind. He handed me the Baton and I quickly popped it in my flight bag. "Let’s get out of here" he suggested. I need a shower and some nightlife". I was not going to disagree with him.


We'd painted the town red until we were in the witching hour (after midnight), and I'd said goodnight in the lift before I handed back the pink bag and suggested he mail it if he wasn't going to see Jess for a while. No way was I carting that back across Europe [sorry Jess, Pink is just not me]. I managed a couple of hours sleep before it was time to get up and head back to the airport. 


I went back out to the apron to check the aircraft. Although the elevator had been repaired at Salzburg and had given me no problem on the flight to Bolzano, I wanted to make sure that all the flight controls looked sound. I didn't relish the prospect of being over the alps with limited landing options and unreliable controls. 


I'd finished my walk around using my Maglite to illuminate the surfaces in the pre-dawn gloom, and was about to get things warmed up in the cockpit, when a black 4X4 drove up to the side of the apron. One of the occupants got out and walked towards me, taking off his sunglasses as he approached (why is it that some people feel compelled to wear sunglasses in the night, I mused). "You're the charter to Switzerland?" he enquired. "That’s right", I replied, "we will be leaving shortly so if you want to get your gear stowed in the hold, we can be on our way". "There are only a few cases, but I'm still waiting for two other passengers who are running late".


He wandered off with his mobile phone in hand, pointing it to the sky every now and then as though the signal was weak. His companion took the flight cases out of the 4x4 and together we loaded them into the back. He seemed to be looking around like an animal that was about to be pounced on, so I thought I'd divert his attention. "Have you been film crew for long?" I asked, assuming that his role was behind the camera. "Oh, I'm one of the production assistants. Still pretty new to all this Hollywood stuff. I'm here to make sure that the top dogs get where they need to be, when they need to be there. Everything was going fine till some bureaucratic idiot decided to cut our access to the Schilithorn location, so we only have 2 days to shoot 5 days’ worth of scenes. We were supposed to be staying in Italy for another week, but now we've got to fly out to Switzerland early, do the shoot and then fly back. Pain in the <expletive deleted>".


No way was I tottering around the alps at the behest of some B-movie crew, so I thought I'd better get things clear at the outset, "Well, I'm only taking you guys as far as Interlaken and then I've got a stop in Sion and then its Geneva for me".

"Here's one" 'sunglasses man announced. I turned around to greet the third of my passengers. "Are you our pilot?" the bearded man said with a smile and a perfect British accent. "I am, it’s a pleasure", I replied, my Hampshire roots immediately making him relax. I shook his hand firmly and, trying not to look at him too closely, I tried to figure out where I'd seen him before.



The remaining passenger, presumably the 'talent', wasn't far behind, and appeared to be consciously melting into the background; just another passenger... Okay, I'm good with that. Paparazzi and the spotlight are not things I would choose to be a part of.


Let’s get the pre-flight done and we're off, I thought. the clock is ticking. With as much 'ignorant dignity' I could muster, I welcomed our last arrival and then shepherded all 4 into the cabin, and helped them stow their personal bags. There wasn't any cabin crew on this flight, given that most of the business Phillipe handled was below the radar, so to speak, so It was my job to go over the safety procedures, give instructions on emergency evacuation, and to show them where the bar was. I was hoping that the bar wouldn't be open too soon!


Bolzano is surrounded on 3 of its 4 sides by mountains, and has two runways, 19, and 01 which we would be using. At 784m above sea level it wouldn't cause too much of a problem for us with our light load.


I got clearance to taxi to Runway 01 and then lined up for takeoff. The airport was still quiet so we were already ahead of schedule. I gave our four passengers a brief precis of our journey that would be approximately one hour, suggested that they might want to check out the fantastic scenery as we flew to our destination, and then requested take off clearance.




Although it hadn't been more than a few months since I had flown 'Juliet Lima' in Africa, I'd forgotten just how much she liked to climb. Better get some trim in quick!









Turning to the west towards the TZO VOR we were almost half way to our cruising height of 18,000 feet


The sun was up and although there was a slight headwind, we were on course. I was marveling at how beautiful the scenery was when I heard a knock on the side of the wall to the cockpit. It was the 'talent'. "Hey, how are things up here?" he asked, craning his neck to see over the top of the instrument panel. "We're on our way and making good time", I replied. "Can I sit with you?" he asked, "I've done some parts that involved flying but rarely in the real thing. Most of it is CGI, green screens, and a lot of smoke and mirrors. I've always been fascinated...". 

"No problem", I replied, "Have a seat on the right, but just don't touch anything".




Passing over the TZO VOR, we turned North West and headed for PEPAG and CANNE . The next two Waypoints would be over in a matter of minutes, so I'd better think about my descent and before landing checklists or I might run out of time.


Our route at the south, took us over Milan, and doing all the checks solo needed a lot more of my concentration, so I suggested that my visiting 'co-pilot' go back into the main cabin and tell the other passengers what was happening.


I had just finished the descent checklist when the bearded passenger stuck his head around the cockpit area and asked if I know what the 'Piz Gloria' was. Being an avid reader of espionage, I replied, " Of course. It’s one of the locations of the Bond movie On Her Majesties Secret Service, but I much preferred when it was featured in one of last year’s top movies, Spectre". He grinned at me, and winked.


"I was hoping that we might do a fly-by before we land in Interlaken" my passenger asked..


"It’s a great idea, however, I doubt that Air Traffic Control will allow us that much flexibility" I replied, secretly hoping that we might be able to.. "Could we try?" he asked, with a knowing look on his face.


"Zurich Control, this is Janet 101, 23 miles, requesting fly past at Schilithorn prior to approach into Interlaken"


"Janet 101, Cleared for descent to 9,000 feet, Zurich Control"


Wow.. as easy as that, eh? I wasn't expecting that, but maybe my passengers had more clout than I thought. The 'talent' had disappeared into the cabin to announce our position and I could make out the heightened excitement as we descended.


The revolving restaurant at the Schillithorn is almost 3,000 metres high and offers a panoramic view of some of the most well-known mountains: The Eiger, Jungfrau, Titlis, Vosges and Mont Blanc. The tourists usually go up via cable car, however those of stout hearts and trim waistlines can hike the 5 or so hours to the Piz Gloria restaurant at the top for a well-earned beer.


I reduced speed and added one notch of flaps to slow our speed enough for my passengers to get a good look at the site. I could hear the voices in the cabin as they marveled over the setting.






I did 2 full circuits over the Piz Gloria from both directions before heading off to Interlaken just a few kilometers away in the distance. "Interlaken traffic, Janet 101, 5 miles South West, 5,600 feet for right downwind entry to runway 23, Interlaken".


As we emerged from the mountains I could make out the runway on the port side between the Thunersee and the Brienzersee lakes. This was going to be fun, I thought. There was no tower at Interlaken, no commercial or military aircraft used it anymore so there would be very limited facilities for things like snow clearance and de-icing, if indeed they even had that. 


I opted to fly East over the Brienzersee, do a 180 and then see how the winds were. I'd need to make sure that I could do a missed approach and clear the mountains at the end by flying South into the valley if I needed to. I just hoped that the runway wasn't too icy.


On approach to Interlaken



Flaps down to 30, getting a little slow.. add some power



Whoa, the surface was a bit icy, but I was just after the numbers and had 6500 odd feet to play with. The braking in the PC-12 is pretty good even on this surface.


The welcoming party for the Hollywood group was already waiting with their armored black Land Rovers so I shut down, and walked back into the cabin to open the exit door. As each one passed me, I wished them well and watched as they were quickly ushered into the vehicles, and disappear into the distance.


Phillippe had enlisted the support services of a local aviation manufacturer, which was the only noticeable presence at the airport. As I was securing the aircraft a 4x4 arrived and I was greeted by a suited and booted gentleman who extended his hand to greet me. Must be one of the management, I mused. He would ensure that the aircraft was de-iced and ground power was provided for the following day, so I had no need to worry on that score.


Phillippe had asked that I be dropped off at my hotel and shown every courtesy during my stay. Interlaken, early morning, and I was starving! I hoped that he wouldn't hear my stomach rumbling as we made our way towards the town. The Hotel Du Lac was hard to miss, and I silently thanked Phillippe for finding something with character as well as a stunning location.



"Thanks for dropping me off", I said, as he pulled up to the Reception. "Not a problem", he replied, passing me his business card, "Monsieur Beringer and I do a lot of business. Just call this number in the morning with your expected time for departure and we'll handle the rest. If you need anything at all while you are here, please speak to the hotel concierge". I grabbed my overnight and flight bags from the back seat, and waved as he sped off into the morning traffic. Time to grab a shower, put the baton into the hotel safe, and head out for a late breakfast. Interlaken offered many choices, even for me as a vegetarian, but the sound of the Three Tells got me before the welcome smell of the food..



Having spent a day in Interlaken at my leisure, I headed back to the hotel early evening only to bump into the Hollywood film crew which, with the rest of their entourage, were booked into the same hotel. They had been filming up at the Piz Gloria all day, and from the sounds of it, they had managed to film most of the scenes, so they were all out celebrating, and I was invited.


Two JD's down and I slipped out leaving the Hollywood gang to celebrate into the early hours. I would be out before any of them were awake.
Or, so I thought. I was woken at 3am as my mobile vibrated until it almost buzzed itself off the edge of the bedside table. Phillippe.. what could he want?


"I'm sorry to call you so early, mon Amie, but the film crew contacted me to say that they were almost done and need to get the footage back to the studios in England, so you need to take two of the production staff back to Geneva with you and they will travel on from there". That was a bit of a spanner in the works, but I could still work around it. "I still need to stop off in Sion", I explained, " I have to re fuel there". I was hoping he wouldn't question why I hadn't loaded enough fuel at Bolzano.


If Phillippe had any suspicions, he certainly didn't let on, so I agreed to extend the charter but with the agreement there would be a brief stop in Sion.
The following day, I was ready to get going by mid-morning, but a call from the film crew to the hotel announced the bad news that filming had stopped due to weather conditions and that the team would be late back to the airport. Dammit, we'd either have to spend another night in Interlaken or a night in Sion. Wanting to get the baton over to Matt as soon as possible, and given that Sion was less than an hour away, I opted for the latter.


The Hollywood crew didn't seem to care either way. They were more interested in getting the footage back to Geneva and then back to 'Blighty'. We agreed that we would meet at the airport no later than 4pm local time, and I called the number on the business card to arrange our departure, and the necessary de-icing and ground crew.


True to their word, the production crew arrived on time with the flight cases containing the film footage. I secured the cases in the hold and ran the checklists as quickly, but as thoroughly as I could. The sun would be going down soon so we needed to get cracking.

Our route would take us to the West towards Fribourg then through the mountains before approaching Sion from the West.


Ready for take off


As we climbed we could make out Berne in the distance to the North 


Passing St Stephen airfield


Heading for Gstaad (Saanen Airport), beloved of the jet set society not only for the skiing, but for the countless boutiques, art galleries and restaurants.




Heading for the mountainous Waypoint 5 in the Vaud district


Overflying waypoint 5, I begin our descent to 7,000 ft for the approach to Sion, contacted ATC and checked the ATIS. Sounded a little blowy but still within limits


We stayed on a heading of 159 degrees to our last waypoint, following the A9 AutoRoute du Rhone all the way to Sion.
Turning into the valley


"Juliet 101, Sion Tower, Cleared to land runway 05. Winds 13 at 01 gusting 22"


As this airport is frequently used by the military, it has RHAG (rotary hydraulic arrestor gear) but I would never live it down if I had to use it.


Down in one piece, and my reputation is safe as far as the RHAG was concerned. I taxied to the stand and shut down. My passengers were in no hurry to vacate, and offered dinner and whatever 'nightlife' was to be had in Sion. "I'll give you a shout", I replied, "it's been a long couple of days".


I did one last walk around to make sure that everything was secure before grabbing my flight bag and heading for the terminal.


As I neared the warmth of the arrivals lounge I spotted Matt. "What's with the sunglasses, Matt? It's not exactly sunny out there", I asked, trying to see his eyes behind the glasses that were only reflecting me. "You haven't been in a fight have you, or was it too many sherbets?", I added. "Long story, but a good story", he replied, leading me off to what could barely be called a bar and restaurant. "I like good stories", I said, pulling the baton out of my flight bag and passing it across, "first round is on me", I grinned.



Add ons:

Schilithorn Scenery (Freeware) by Hans-Ruedi Maibach / Hertellt

Flight1 PC-12

Aerosoft Sion



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Thanks guys

I've got to say that this is such a lovely region I can see me flying it often.


22 hours ago, Captain Coffee said:

Oh noes...now I am obligated to come up with A Good Story before my Maui trip?...jeeesh. :(


Thats what i get for bumping the Atwc I guess.


Terrific story here...and a hard Act to follow. :D




Sorry about that Matt.. I was itching to get it on as soon as I read you were going on holiday.


On 4/16/2016 at 13:52, needles said:

Classic Steph. Great leg and story. I feel Jess is going to be annoyed at you leaving her bag in Bolzano. I won't be carrying it back that's for sure.


Ahhh, you've forgotten already Brian, I gave the bag to you in the lift didn't I... You're going to need to make it up to Jess for losing it :whis:


Ps. Did anyone figure out who the passengers were? :secret:

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13 hours ago, hlminx said:

Thanks guys

I've got to say that this is such a lovely region I can see me flying it often.

Sorry about that Matt.. I was itching to get it on as soon as I read you were going on holiday.

Ps. Did anyone figure out who the passengers were? :secret:


I really appreciate it Steph...as much as I denied it, leaving the baton dangling while I vacay'd would have niggled at me a bit. Glad to have it done and off my plate, even if in a bit of no nonsense rush rush style. The ultralight would have been an enjoyable trip if I had less to do...the scenery was terrific, it was kind of a shame to have to zoom past it so quickly. Yeah..gonna open an AH company around that general area...def want to fly around there more.


ATWC, not just hauling a blue stick around, but introducing us to new places to explore.

Great thing this rally.

Cheers all.


Sean Connery and that short Top Gun idiot?

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Great shots and story Steph...

A very scenic route..

I must confess I was a tad worried when I saw the inclusion of Interlaken in your flight plan.. others on this forum have had some bad experiences there in the past.. right Joe!! ;)

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On 26/04/2016 at 10:12, stu7708 said:

Great shots and story Steph...

A very scenic route..

I must confess I was a tad worried when I saw the inclusion of Interlaken in your flight plan.. others on this forum have had some bad experiences there in the past.. right Joe!! ;)

Worried? Do tell... ! 

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I'll just point you in the right direction and let Joe do the telling


(didn't realize that post was THAT old, sometimes my memory clings on to the darnedest things)

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I'm trying to remember what that awful photoscenery was, it was in thing back then :D


You may have noticed I have moved on to parachutes with engines now rather tan the other way around. (Love the paramotor)  

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1 hour ago, mutley said:

I'm trying to remember what that awful photoscenery was, it was in thing back then :D


This might be a hint...


So I loaded up FSX and TileProxy


Wasn't TileProxy some sort of project that injected "scenery" from google earth or other online photo sources??

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