Fly to the World Cup in Russia on your helicopter?

Yes it’s possible!

Belgian private pilot Jozef Van Waeyenberge wanted to fly to St. Petersburg by his helicopter to meet friends, to see the city, enjoy the architecture. However, when he found out that the Belgian national team had passed the qualifiers and would take part in the World Cup, the plan became more ambitious. Kaliningrad UMKK was added to the route. Jozef flew with a friend, also a very good pilot. Although making such journey solo was possible doing it with another pilot was a safer option, told us Jozef. The preparation stage now included not only flight planning, but also a great number of permits, papers, approvals and letters.

It seemed to many people that it would not work. Very strict security measures and Russia is still not as open as we would like for private pilots. But we are working on this by helping pilots like Jozef to fulfil their dream.

In planning the main difficulty is to know where and what documents you must submit. Great help was provided by agencies, non-profit organizations, authorities, embassies, consulates, the Chamber of Commerce and the Committee for the organisation of the World Cup.

Lots of paperwork has been done, taking into account all the specifics of the World Cup period. Nobody was sure that everything would work out because the situation and safety rules were changing and becoming tougher. The pilots had tickets for the match in Kaliningrad, where the Belgian national team played, but we managed to get permits to visit St. Petersburg as well. Their R-44 helicopter landed right in Pulkovo International Airport (ULLI).

Belgian travelers had all sorts of adventures and difficulties. But they overcame them with honour and humour!

“As far as security measures are concerned, having finished all planning, - says Jozef, - there came the announcement that there is no AVGAS, gasoline 100LL at the airports where the championship guests arrive. We had to start over our calculations of fuel consumption, taking into account possible heavy headwinds, resulting in our decision to take some extra canisters by adding 60 litres fuel to our reserve adding an extra hour of flight just in case. In fact, there were only two situations when we had to turn to this stock. In one case, we had to change the route and go in a strong headwind, while the second dealt with additional manoeuvres at the airport to finally get the landing site. Some airports rarely work with private helicopters and are not aware that hovering helicopters do consume much more fuel than cruising in flight. ”

Another big problem in traveling through Russia was to know where and how to file the flight plan. Being very familiar with flight plans, because having travelled to so many countries, Jozef and his friend know how important it is to file the flight plan. Airliners have an automated system to file flight plans, but for private pilots not reading Russian it is not available. Pilots could not file it electronically, as they do it at home as indeed for international private pilots the service does not exist. They went to the briefing room at the airport, to get the assistance of the airport staff to file the flight plan. But at the Russian airports where they landed, the staff at the briefing room were not familiar with flight plans to be filed by private pilots, so great was their surprise to assist to do this flight plan filing. After many phone calls, finally pilots got it and done in time.

At one of the legs of the route the helicopter lost radio contact - could not contact the next controller. Controllers did not speak English, and the pilots didn't not speak Russian. Fortunately, as Jozef recalls, the pilot of the plane who was nearby interfered with a situation. He translated all messages and helped find the desired frequency for the helicopter.

The route of football fans turned out to be quite impressive: Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, back through Sweden, Finland, Russia (St. Petersburg ULLI), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia (Kaliningrad UMKK), Poland and back through Germany to Belgium .

Jozef says his intention is to do every other year a journey to a destination to be visited one time. Following journeys were done in the past few years to the destinations: Barcelona & Compostella in Spain, Siena in Italy, Patmos Island in Greece, Istanbul in Turkey, Scotland in UK and many other trips. Now they are planning a trip to Africa.

Jozef Van Waeyenberge has flown from Lappeenranta EFLP to Saint-Petersburg ULLI to Tartu EETU, then from Kaunas EYKA to Kaliningrad UMKK to Gdansk EPGD.

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