I spent quite a bit of time the previous evening planning out my flight for today. We wanted to visit Oslo for a couple of days and, as with many capital cities, the main airport is inaccessible for light aircraft. Sandefjord/Torp (ENTO), about 50 miles south of Oslo, is the Ryanair option and has regular bus and train connections to the city. It is available to GA and is IFR equipped. The landing fee is around 25 Euros, it has AVGAS, and it all looked quite good. The train ride to the city looked to be quite scenic and reasonably priced (about 25 Euros each way per person).
The first sign of difficulty was a NOTAM of a Danger Area block just off the Danish north coast up to FL50. I reckoned we could climb up to FL55 above it for 10 minutes, so that could be overcome. It was late in the day when I discovered that the parking fee for ENTO was 900 NOK per day plus tax (about 90 Euros). This compares with a weekly landing card from Avinor that offers free landings and parking at any of their airports countrywide for 833 NOK + tax for aircraft under 2 tonnes. Apparently GA parking space is limited at ENTO, but a quick email confirmed that I could have a spot.
Further research suggested that ENJB Jahlsberg (presumably linked to the cheese of the same name), also known as Tonsberg, located a few miles north east and within the ENTO TMA, would happily accommodate us. They responded quickly to my email enquiry, quoting a landing fee of ten Euros and free parking for up to five days, with taxi to the local train station available on demand. With that sorted, I returned to check the weather and found that it was much worse than previously forecast. The few 1,000 and broken 2,500 was now solid IFR. With a freezing level of 5,000 feet and fairly turbulent winds, it seemed to me that heading east would be a much more pleasant alternative. Even then, we might not get too far if the weather deteriorated in that direction too.
We did want to have an enjoyable time in the places that we visited, so avoiding bad weather wasn’t purely based on remaining VFR.
With time now quite short to depart before the bad weather arrived, I quickly planned a route to Visby ESSV in Sweden. It was clear from the chart and NOTAMS that there were a number of Danger Areas enroute, as well as weather considerations, and so I included a plan to divert to Väjxö ESMX which I was confident of achieving. The NOTAMs did not have the reference to a specific AIP Supplementary document, and I quickly scanned the pages listing over 30 active documents to see if I could find more details. The general impression I got was that transits could be granted by ATC on request, which is the typical case in Sweden (and elsewhere), but of course cannot be guaranteed. I couldn’t believe that the entire airspace would be closed for three weeks. I filed a flight plan and we left for the airport.
I got a call from the Swedish flight plan office within an hour, informing me that I could not fly to Visby unless I had a permission number from the Swedish military inserted into my flight plan and I was given a phone number to call. That led to a quick conversation that made it clear Visby was out of bounds until after the 10 May. I later discovered that this was possibly the largest multi-country military exercise in Sweden for 25 years, so perhaps the restrictions are not unreasonable. It was still a surprise to appreciate that this entire airspace block was out of bounds for weeks, making it impossible for any GA aircraft to visit Visby.
My gripe here isn’t that Sweden shouldn’t conduct military exercises or close their airspace, but a plea to include the name/number and perhaps even a weblink to the relevant SUP document.
So we decided to leave the bad weather behind and hop across to Växjö instead.
Plan C for today – Växjö ESMX
It was quite straightforward to pay our landing and parking fee at the Aalborg GA desk, then walk back to the aircraft. I wasn’t quite sure if the fuel station here accepted credit cards – the signs all highlighted Shell. But this worked OK, although it was hard to read the screen in the sunlight.
Once airborne, we got an urgent message to contact Sweden Control who further relayed that we could not continue to our destination, but we had already informed ATC before take-off of our plan to divert to ESMX.
We had taken off just as the bad weather arrived from the west, but were well clear of cloud for almost all of the journey. After the sea crossing and despite the clear skies, the air became quite turbulent and we got bumped around quite a bit. The flight itself was fairly uneventful, but the landing was again quite sporty as it had been at Aalborg, wind direction varying by up to 40 degrees and gusting between 5 and 25 knots. With the long runway ahead, I increased my approach speed and just held it off until it was ready to land. The radio name for the tower is Kronoberg rather than Växjö, perhaps because the latter is quite hard to pronounce correctly.
This was a good airport to choose for a diversion – long runway with no obstructions, towered, not busy, open for long hours, inexpensive, frequent public transport into the town, no major security scans or mixing with commercial passengers.
Once again we had the apron to ourselves. There is a one-way gate to exit, and we found a bus outside conveniently ready to take us to the city centre. Once again, everything is paid contactless using your mobile phone. Sweden isn’t in the Euro, so we had to adapt to a different exchange rate from Denmark, for Swedish Kroner (SEK) to the pound sterling (GBP). In general, prices seemed fairly comparable with the UK.
It was quiet in the town because (unlike Denmark), this was a public holiday for May Day. Most restaurants were closed but we did find a restaurant, where we were almost the only customers – most were closed for the day. Our hotel was also quiet and seemed to be more aimed at the business conference market. This allowed me plenty of time to prepare for our flight to Finland the following day, double-checking that there were no more danger areas or restrictions on our planned route.
PIC today: 1:20
Total PIC: 2028:05
Total time: 2241:15