UPL-AOPA Fly-out to Bihać
15th-18th of August 2019
Official report by participants of LX-AIR
The Pilot’s union of Luxembourg and the AOPA Luxembourg organizes every year several fly-out’s to some destinations in and outside Europe to promote recreational flying in small airplanes and to discover new places.
So was the 2019 summer fly-out event to Bihać – a hidden gem -located in the north-western part of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the vicinity of the Croatian border.
The high-lights of the region, around the small town of Bihać (±15’000 inhabitants), are the Una-national park, as well as, the Željava Air Base and the well-known Plitvice lakes in Croatia.
The program included also a flight excursion to Prjiedor (LQPD) with the visit of the Kozara National park and the Monument to the Revolution.
Wednesday 14th of August 2019 we flew from Luxembourg (ELLX) to Wels (LOLW) in Austria, near the city of Linz (338NM).
We over flew Donauwörth (famous for the airbus helicopters factories), identified the huge Fliegerhorst’s of Neuburg and Ingolstadt-Manching, and payed attention to stay well outside of their restricted areas and descended below the clouds to avoid the TMA of Munich. Admiring the sunset and the enlightened city skyline of Linz, from the bridge over the Danube, was breath taking and finally the day ended after visiting the city center with a light but yummi dinner in a cosy, with trees fitted, inner courtyard called “Klosterhof Linz”.
Linz is the capital of the state Upper Autria (Oberösterreich) and counts ± 205’000 inhabitants.
Thursday morning we started early to visit the Solar-city a new designed city district located in Linz-Pichling around 6 km away of the city center.
Solar-city is an energy-saving living neighborhood, which was designed in 1992, and provides living space for about 4,000 people. The urban form, based on the principle of the “city of short distances”, is setup on a central place with a public transport station of the light railway and where all the shops, services and public institutions are located.
The dwellings are circularly arranged around this main place and every quarter circle has one specific public use, like kindergarten, primary school, secondary school or sports and leisure base. The houses were built using a low-energy design.
The idea and motivation for providing energy efficient living arrangements based on a car-poor urbanism stems from the fact that fossil fuels contribute to global warming and that their use should therefore be avoided.
Proceeding to Bihać – customs in Maribor
The second leg started from Wels and brought us to Maribor (LJMB) in east Slovenia (146NM).
As the weather was fine, we could shorten our route via Mariazell (LOGM) over the eastern part of the Alps instead of proceeding to Wiener-Neustadt. Passing easterly of Graz, we started our descend to MUREG, a compulsory entry point of the Slovenian airspace. Maribor was chosen for leaving the EU, as this international airport disposes of permanent customs services.
Maribor has a nice ancient city center which we could admire while turning on final. The airport has a quite recent built terminal. The apron was empty so we had a quick turnaround for refueling and customs control.
Proceeding to Bihać – Croatian airspace
At 15pm, we took-off for leg three, a one hour flight to our final destination in Bosnia Herzegovina (118NM).
We got a direct to Karlovac and left so already the Slovenian airspace. Like this we flew to the south along the Slovenian-Croatian border.
On the horizon appeared the vast agglomeration area of Zagreb, capital of a 1.2 million population, ± a quarter of the total population of Croatia.
The landscape was composed of some quite high medium-mountain chains, and we observed a straight- lined railway track for over 21 km which leads directly to the capital.
Rizo, one of my father’s friends, who, during childhood escaped Montenegro with his family because of the war, explains us that these infrastructures were ordered by Tito and young people were proud to help building them during holidays.-I hardly can believe that!
He gave us a lots of information about living in former Yugoslavia and the deterioration of the system.
We were quite happy to have him with us as he speaks the Slavic languages.
Arrival at Bihać (LQBI)
A hoppy landing was performed and LX-AIR shut down on the grass apron next to SP-INN from Lublin (PL)) and TC-DPR from Istanbul (TR). Both Cirrus aircrafts were participating in the fly-out event, so unfortunately the group was already complete.
After a well-doing stretch, fresh air was blowing toward us, everything was in vigorously green, the grass, the surrounding woods. In distance, we saw the skyline of a small city, on the mountain, ruins of an ancient castle and beneath a slim minaret with a black colored top. It was so beautiful like as if someone had put all these things together on a picture.
This first impression was followed by a warm welcome of Dževad Mešić and his son Hamdija, documenting every moment with his camera. We received the Bosnian stamp in our passport from open-minded customs officers and refreshing drinks were offered from the Una-Aeroklub to the participants. Thanks!
Una national park – Štrbačkibuk
created 2009, buk= waterfall
8:30 am on Friday, after a good breakfast, the sight seeing program started, we had to drive for one hour in a small van, following a twisting, stony, dusty and narrow lane. As we got out, you could smell the good humid woody air.
Everything was green, the water was so clear, sometimes you could even see the bottom of the river
”Una”. The waterfall was large and beautiful. We followed a wooden path to get different points of view of the cascades from small platforms.
In fact there were several waterfalls, one of 22 meters then 6 m height and another one of 4 m. Altogether it made a beautiful composition. Everything in this place was magical, accompanied by the loud sounding of burbling water, just wonderful.
The name “Una–river” came from a roman legend, when some roman warriors, after reaching the river banks, they were so profoundly moved by the scenery, they never saw before. They were bedazzled by the emerald-green water, fairy tale waterfalls, its incomparable natural surroundings. One of these warriors fascinated by the scene exclaimed “una” (latin word for “one, “the one and only”).
So all the beauty was described in one simple word.
Lunch on the Una river – Ripaćbuk
Meanwhile, it was time for lunch, at first we thought it would be just in a normal restaurant with a terrace floating on the river, but we were absolutely wrong about that. The thing was, that we had to order lunch, but instead of bringing it to the table, where we were sitting, they served it on a small, electric driven, river boat.
It was for ten people and in the middle it had a long table, on each side were benches and it was equipped with a large sunshade. It looked really cute. But it wasn’t that easy to get on it, because it moved quite a lot under the weight of each embarking person.
It was very wobbly, remember the table with the meal was already set. The knowledge of weight and balance helped us to manage this, without falling into the river nor spooling the food around. Finally, we enjoyed the meal. We navigated to the powerful waterfall of Ripać with has a strong current. The water was not only cold but also fresh and good, because one in our group tasted it. Imagine it’s drinkable!
Afternoon program – ŽeljavaAir Base
This was under Tito the “area 51” of Yugoslavia. It was a huge underground airbase fully operating from 1968 until 1992, then destroyed during the recent war.
The airbase had three runways, and two taxiways, these could also be used as an emergency runway for take-off in case of a threat. The take-off runway begins directly at the entrance of cavern n°1, allowing the MIG-21 to take-off immediately after leaving the tunnel. The two parallel landing runways were oriented along the mountain so that going-around was possible and did not end up with a controlled flight into terrain. Obvious, isn’t it!
The base was so well protected that it could resist an atomic threat, due to several 100 tons concrete sliding doors. Among the three squadrons (± 53 a/c) which were based there, one was for reconnaissance purposes. Mirsad A. Fazlic, a former MIG-21 fighter-pilot who served at the airbase, explained us in detail his fighter equipment, informed us how life was at the airbase and what he experienced during his 10 years of service.
While refreshing drinks where served, Mirsad told some funny stories, like, every day the pilots had to see the doctor before being released for flying. Pretending to have pain in the stomach, the doctor didn’t need to continue, he immediately knew that the pilot had too many drinks the day before. We all laugh out loud.
Volkan- the astronaut, wearing one of Mirsad’s helmets. It was the high pressure helmet for spy or “reconnaissance” missions, which were flown at very high altitudes.
Exploring the complex tunnel system was a lot scarier than the mine fields around, because we penetrated deep into the mountain to the heart of the base. We discovered the fuel depo, the briefing room, where even some chairs and tables were left, the restrooms, the mechanic room, the picture room (to develop the spy pictures) and a lot more. I was surprised to see, that there were still some documents left, like charts, airliner schedules or flight crew planning.
The galleries were so nested and if I would have gone there alone, I think I’d still be there, but fortunately, Dževad knew every corner and showed us the way out again.
Before leaving the base, we made a group photo in front of an old DC-47, sadly covered of bullet holes and pasted with many stickers. What a nice souvenir of this already unforgettable fly-out.
Rafting on the Una river – PREMINGER Summer tour ‘19
When we were at Štrbački buk we saw, a group of 6 people rafting. It looked like fun, so everybody thought that it would be great if we could do that too.
Like if Dževad could read our minds, he proposed us to change the program – sorry Jängi (our tour organiser)- and he would try to organize us a rafting tour. The group acknowledged – “No risk – no fun”!
We don’t know how, but Dževad once again showed his talent and not only managed to get a boat but also an experienced skipper. In fact on that Saturday 17th took place a big rafting event over 15 km (6 hours), called PREMINGER Summer Tour sponsored by the local brewery, with over 40 boats and 300 participators, and the UPL AOPA fly-out team became part of it.
We were all excited, took the “famous last picture” and got on board, followed by a strict safety briefing and how to hold tight when descending a 6 m high waterfall.
After a catastrophic rowing exercise, the skipper had to put some order in it, an intense crew resource training was performed, consisting in synchronic rowing, like the Egyptian slaves in the Asterix cartoon. The next step was to memorize the captain’s callout’s.
We all survived without injuries, nor upside down like some other did. We finished tired, and were happy to eat a refreshment on the Japod island, another marvelous place.
Let the day / event finish – Bosnian food
In the evenings, we let the day finish at some restaurants in the city center of Bihać on the Una river banks. Ambiance was nice and during a lots of relaxing conversations we introduced ourselves and discovered the local lifestyle and traditions. How could you do this better than eat together and taste typical Bosnian specialties, mainly based on generous served meat dishes. Simply delicious!
All the participants missed the organizer of this AOPA Luxembourg event and were concerned about Jängi’s state of health. Everybody wishes him heart fully a quick and good recovery.
The 3 days passed so quickly and time for thank-you speeches arrived. We did this warmly and profoundly to our untiring new friends Dževad and Hamdija Mešić from the Una-Aeroklub for these unforgettable moments we spend in their company. Best wishes go also to their cross-border project revitalizing Željava for GA. To get a motivation to end up successfully, we offered them already the sparkling wine for the opening ceremony, called the « Spirit of Schengen ». Local gifts were also offered to us as well as a ranking certificate for the landing performed.
Every thing was perfect but the stay was too short!
Return flight – Portoroz and crossing the Alps
After warm loyal handshakes, we took-off on Sunday 18th, had a last look at Željava and localized the Plitvice lakes, before catching in sight the blue Adria, with it’s numerous islands on the Croatian coast near Rijeka. Next LX-AIR was already on final for a quick fuel and customs stop in Portoroz (LJPZ – western strip of Slovenia -110NM)
Weather bulletins were again consulted before climbing slowly to 10’000ft. Passing over Bled, we had a last look on Tito’s former summer villa, followed a GAFOR route around the Grossglockner glacier in the Alps inbound Salzburg and the Chiemsee. While reaching Munich, a strong headwind (30kts) forced us to proceed at 1’000ft over ground but overflying its huge agglomeration became possible.
In the end we had to avoid heavy rain showers in the vicinity of Zweibrücken and the air became very bumpy. Nevertheless, we archived before a bad weather front came in. Special thanks go to Jeanne and Erny for their meteorological assistance before and during this long flight (481NM – 4,3 hours of flight time).
In the end all participating aircrafts returned well to their home bases.
Final comments “Jängi, du has definitiv net ze vill versprach!”
Jängi and his AOPA gang, you did a marvelous job to organize this tour as well as on the Hans Gutmann tour 2019 by promoting Luxembourg so intensive. Here is what Mona notified in her report (extracts were highlighted in italic).I discovered a sticker on the tower building. I had to look twice, it really indicated “Luxembourg-lets make it happen”, our new brand marking ID. I had to smile because it’s weird to see that ID sticker so far away from home in a small place, I would probably never even hear about it, if there was not Jängi, the tireless GA globetrotter.
I would also like to emphasize the respectful behavior of the good-humoured and open minded participants. Absolutely no complaints! It was also nice to have aviation enthusiasts youngsters among us, Antak and Mona (both 15 years old), so GA is not only for elderly people. Feel free to join in! Many thanks to Mona for her passionate, detailed and extensive report of the event.
Bihać is definitively worth a trip, a real hidden gem!
It was a pity that only few pilots and planes participated – we had more non-flying participators than flying crews- Sorry for those who could not come with us.
Finally I have to thank Sebastian for his precious tips about PIPER-flying and we congratulate Volkan for achieving his IR rating, one week after the event.