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The planning and preparation aside, a downside for me with any MEBAR is that by the time the event goes live, I've been living, breathing, dreaming, and flying the detail for the navigation and weather of each Flight Leg for weeks. I'm sure you can imagine that it somewhat takes the edge off the excitement of flight planning and flying in the actual event. So, what do I do to keep it real! Well, this year, I am flying the MEBAR using Active Sky for active real world weather with live updates whilst en route - that should inject some extra surprises. Join with me, whilst I take you on a journey (embellished a little for the purposes of the pictorial) of An Analysis of a MEBAR Flight Leg from my perspective. LGAT, 18 Apr 19, 0615 hrs, T-45 mins. The daily flight briefing by the organisers has just concluded and I have collected the current METAR for the Flight Leg. Weatherwise, there is nothing terribly concerning from earlier predictions except for possible wind changes at altitudes from 6,000 ft and above which could cause me some concerns for being able to maintain my allocated cruise speed of 165 kts - nothing that a small adjustment to my planned cruise altitudes can't fix. I have decided to depart LGAT with a full load of fuel so that I only have to take on minimal fuel at Kythira (LGKC) for Flight Leg 2. With some additional "comforts of home" packed in, this gives the aircraft a Gross Weight of 7,936 lbs. However, this extra fuel weight will cut into my aircraft's performance and reduces my margin for overcoming stronger adverse winds. Based on the METAR information, I have adjusted my planned cruise altitude for the first two sectors of Flight Leg 1 to be 5,000 ft. The potential for increases in the wind speeds from 6,000 ft and above for the sector to Crete will make Sector 3 a little more tricky because of the flight heading and the application of the Hemispheric Rule. I have decided to get a weather update on the winds as I approach LGML and make my final decision then. My options are, descend to 4,000 ft and then climb to 10,000 ft for Waypoint 3 on Crete, or immediately commence my climb to 10,000 ft at Waypoint 2, LGML - wind will clearly be the deciding factor here. Of course, the former of these options adds in an extra time factor of the additional 1,000 ft climb introduced by having to descend from my initial cruise altitude of 5,000 ft. Who said the MEBAR was easy! T-15 mins. All pre-flight checks complete, the engines rumble into life, and on the Twin Beech, do they rumble - oh, and that beautiful aroma. With a short taxi from my parking spot to RWY 33R and I will soon be on my way on another MEBAR (you wouldn't believe I've been here for all of them). I intend to avail myself of a view of the Acropolis and the Parthenon on departure so I need to factor that extra distance in as another adjustment to the timing on the first sector to Waypoint 1 (KEA VOR). With my allocated Target Speed of 165 kts, my planning has calculated a time on target (ToT) for the turn at Waypoint 1 of 13 mins 57 secs (13.95 mins). Departure & Sector 1. After some final checks, I am cleared for take-off. The majestic antiquity of the Acropolis does not disappoint, but now I must focus on the job ahead. Established at my cruise altitude of 5,000 ft, I leave Athens behind as this latest journey is finally underway. The luxury of viewing the Acropolis on departure has now come back to bite me, putting me further behind than I anticipated for my ToT at Waypoint 1, (KEA VOR). Opting to be more gentle on the twin Pratt and Whitney Wasp Juniors, I will make up the time deficiency on Sector 2. Planned Sector ToT - 13 mins 57 secs (13.95 mins). Actual Sector ToT - 16 mins 04 secs (16.06 mins). Sector 2. So far, so good, and with the island of Kythnos off my port wing, the volcanic island of Milos and Waypoint 2 (LGML) is not far away now. The update on the weather confirmed my expectations for an increase in the wind from 6,000 ft and above. With it now reading 27718KT, it makes the decision for Sector 3 simple, descend to a cruise altitude of 4,000 ft with a last minute climb to 10,000 ft for Waypoint 3. Planned Sector ToT - 19 mins 03 secs (19.05 mins). Actual Sector ToT - 17 mins 02 secs (17.04 mins). Sector 3. Having descended to my new cruise altitude of 4,000 ft, I now have the long over water sector to the island of Crete. Crete finally appears out of the haze on the distant horizon, but I don't need to commence my climb to clear Waypoint 3 until well after I cross the coast. Planned Sector ToT - 33 mins 17 secs (33.28 mins). Actual Sector ToT - 32 mins 35 secs (32.59 mins). Sector 4 & Arrival. Shortly after establishing on the heading for the final sector, I opt for a long, slow descent back down to a cruise altitude of 4,000 ft. This will provide me a better opportunity to make any speed adjustments as I fine tune for my overall Flight Leg Time. After some time en route, I realise I have lapsed into a false sense of security on this last sector though. Having not paid close enough attention to my speed, I find I have lost time and I now need to quickly rethink my approach and landing. Rule 1 - DON'T PANIC!!! Approaching the island of Kythira, I turn to a heading of 300 which will set me up for a simple left base and expidite my arrival. However, now I have no more fudge factor. I either nail the timing with this short circuit or I don't. Planned Sector ToT - 35 mins 21 secs (35.35 mins). Actual Sector ToT - 36 mins 28 secs (36.46 mins). Planned Total Flight Leg Time - 1 hr 41 mins 38 secs (101.63 mins). Actual Total Flight Leg Time - 1 hr 42 mins 09 secs (102.15 mins). Fuel Used - 122.54 gals Cheers Andrew
After Flight Leg 1, I continued to fly the subsequent Flight Legs using Active Sky for active real world weather with live updates whilst en route. A quick summary. Flight Leg 2 was reasonably uneventful except for some cloud and rain. The landing at Argos Orestiko (LGKA) was uneventful except for more rain. On Flight Leg 3, cloud and rain were more persistent throughout the flight with building thunderstorms as I approached Lesbos. By the time I was over the island the thunderstorm activity was heavy and centred over Mytilene (LGMT).....as if it had nowhere else to be. With an 18 kt crosswind on landing, I was happy to get down on the ground. My time reflected this as I pushed the downwind leg and botched the timing for the turn to base, resulting in coming in under my Planned Total Flight Leg Time. The departure from Mytilene (LGMT) on Flight Leg 4 was uneventful with cloud being consistent for the flight. On arrival at Kasos (LGKS), I was confronted with another strong crosswind on landing. So, here I am for my last flight of the MEBAR in the Beechcraft Model 18 Twin Beech. The weather forecast was near perfect with clear skies ahead. Near perfect, but not quite perfect enough. Wind, yes and a strong headwind component of up to 25 kts it was. This was going to make this Flight Leg a challenge to maintain my allocated cruise speed of 165 kts. Of course, I was presented with a crosswind on departure and after climbing out to the initial cruise altitude of 4,000 ft, it was clear I was going to be behind on my Planned Sector Times on Target, no matter what engine settings I used. The only option was to climb, 6,000 ft was no better, so up to 8,000 ft it was. Finally, and still pushing the engines, I was able maintain 165 kts and also gain the lost time. Flight Leg is, by far, the most picturesque Flight Leg so here are some screenshots as proof. Finally at my adjusted cruise altitude of 8,000 ft with the island of Santorini in the background. Next up, the island of Naxos, the largest island in the Cyclades island group. Slowly but surely I am making up the lost time, but it could still be close. Approaching Waypoint 3 with the beautiful island of Mykonos off my starboard wing. Mykonos is renowned for its vibrant nightlife. Probably a good thing the MEBAR didn't have a rest day on Mykonos. The headwind component has eased to 15 kts, easing my concerns now. The final waypoint ahead, the KRO VOR on the island of Euboea and the turn for Athens (LGAT). I am back on track with my Planned Sector Time on Target and so long as I get the timings for my turns in the circuit right, I should be happy with the result. The "new" Athens international airport, Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (LGAV) below. After 10 days of flying, this long right downwind for RWY 33R seems to take an eternity, but not before too long I am on final approach. On short final, a quick check of the timer and my time is looking spot on against my Planned Total Flight Leg Time. The Acropolis is just visible on the horizon, slightly right of centre. Runway clear for the final time for the Twin Beech on MEBAR 2019. Now to park up, relax and watch the sunset with some Ouzo. All the best and good luck to you all. Cheers Andrew P.S. Now to do it all again because I decided to run a second entry.
Apologies for any confusion. Whilst the total distance is correct, the individual sector distances in the Navigation Instructions for Flight Leg 4 are incorrect. They should read: 58 nm, 38 nm, 37 nm, 80 nm, and 82 nm. The document has been amended and will be available on the MEBAR Downloads page later today. Regards Andrew