2018 marked a pivotal moment in my aviation journey. With a brand-new instrument rating in hand, the skies beckoned, whispering tantalizing challenges to my adventurous spirit. One challenge stood out, audaciously inviting: a flight from Germany to my beloved Israel. Yet, the sprawling, unpredictable Mediterranean presented itself as a formidable barrier. My aircraft for this adventure: Sky Bavaria’s Diamond 40.
Recognizing the sheer audacity of this mission, Alex, a close friend and soon-to-be co-pilot in our pursuit of a Diamond 42, joined me. Together, we assumed the responsibility of ensuring the safety of Christina, Alex’s partner who had inexplicably placed her trust in our hands for this journey.
Our adventure commenced with a sweeping flyover of Croatia, targeting Brac for a leisurely lunch. But, as fate would have it, an unexpected airport closure, coupled with strong headwinds and Alex’s penchant for low coastal flying, had our fuel gauge alarmingly low by the time we approached Split, our backup landing spot. Touching down with hearts racing and shirts sticking, our relief was short-lived as a handling agent accosted us: “You cannot stay here!” Negotiations and Croatian Palatschinken ensued, ensuring our sustenance before we continued our voyage to Yanina, Greece. There, after indulging in a local green BBQ, we sought rest, bracing ourselves for the blue expanse awaiting us.
With Cyprus in our sights the next day, we departed Yanina equipped with life vests and an ever-present raft. Our journey, however, was peppered with relentless check-ins from Greek air traffic control, raising disconcerting doubts about their radar capabilities. It was after Crete that our journey threw its major curveball.
A seemingly trivial error in tuning into the right frequency left us cut off from the Greek control tower and without any responses from the Cypriots. Modern electronics surrounded us, but their benefits remained elusive, mainly due to our unfamiliarity with Garmin’s intricacies. The vast blue of the Mediterranean below and the open skies above became our only constants, as multiple frequency attempts yielded silence.
In the midst of this uncertainty, I managed to tune in a relevant frequency, and Nicosia Radar’s voice finally broke through, reprimanding and relieving simultaneously: “We were looking for you on the guard frequency 121.500. Why didn’t you respond?”
This harrowing experience in the skies imparted invaluable lessons:
- The Guard Frequency is Essential: Always dial it in, and ideally monitor it on COM2.
- Embrace the Unknown: The guard frequency isn’t just an accessory; it’s a lifeline. If lost, or in need of help, it’s your first point of contact.
- Reverence for the Mediterranean: Future voyages over this sea were approached with increased caution, an additional engine, and the indelible wisdom from that day.
Reflecting on this expedition, I realize it wasn’t just about connecting destinations but also about the profound lessons the journey itself imparted—lessons of humility, readiness, and the ever-enchanting enigma of the skies.