Corfu As Experienced By:
Arriving in the small hours, the first thing to strike me was the warm and fragrant night air: fragrant in the unmistakably “abroad” way that speaks of alien cultures and suspect plumbing. Monarch Airways had duly delivered we three, plus our airframes, safely to Corfu’s airport, Kerkyra.
We flew from Manchester and experienced no problems with the transportation. We flew Monarch air. They stipulated that we take one item of hold baggage, so we used our clothes as additional packing around our models in their large boxes. Total weight was less than 20 kilos per box, therefore no additional fees. They seemed quite happy about our boxes being 60 inches long about 20 inches square.
The Greek baggage handlers took a little less care of our boxed aircraft than did their British counterparts, but they arrived intact, nevertheless and a short taxi ride saw us safely delivered at the Hotel Magdalena, a.k.a. rchotel.
Now, it was about 2 a.m. local time, but we really had expected there to be some staff around. But no, a brief search revealed that the place was apparently deserted. So, ever resourceful, we resorted to the simple expedient of scouting for a suitable room and moving ourselves into it. It was a nice room and we were soon fast asleep.
9 a.m saw us showered, shaved and in search of breakfast. Within minutes we were seated and contentedly scoffing away at bacon and eggs, and this was where we met Spiros. Spiros is the hotel’ manager and is a keen flyer and incredibly likeable chap, being enthusiastic and hard-working. He is aided by his charming wife Rula and a small staff, most of whom speak good English...thank God.
By now, the sound of model engines was becoming apparent and we discovered that the runway is about 100 metres from the hotel buildings...nice and handy. Pretty soon, we were at the “patch” and saying hello to some of the other guests, who were exclusively Brits. The runway is metalled and is about 120 metres in length by about 8 metres wide. It is largely bounded by rough grassland with the occasional tree, so you’d better find it if you want a smooth landing. Still, you’d be a pretty poor pilot if you can miss 1000 square metres of tarmac.
Adjacent to the runway is a brick building which houses the workshop facilities, which include tools and electrical supplies. These facilities were made available to us, even though we had brought our own aircraft to fly and had not chosen to hire aircraft from Spiros. We were charged £25-a-head for a week’s flying, which I suppose is pretty reasonable for the unlimited use of all the facilities.
It wasn’t long before we had unpacked our aircraft and were happily exploring the Greek airspace. Flying was off the peg, with 20K spacing mandatory, so, if 78 was out, for instance, you couldn’t fly on 77 or 79. The place had a “club” atmosphere and everyone complied with the few local rules.
Now, we arrived in Corfu on the 8th of May and the weather was, from my point of view, perfect. I can best describe the weather as being akin to a good English summer’s day, warm, bright and dry. Oh, yes, it was consistent, too. Each morning started off windless and remained so until about midday, when it became a little turbulent and thermic. Each evening saw a return to smooth conditions.
Most people packed up flying around 1 p.m or 2 p.m and either crashed out or visited the beach/town.
I wish that I’d taken along a bipe or a light-weight vintage job, ‘cos there was loads of smooth air. Equally, an electric soarer would be a good choice. Indeed, Spiros has a number of these for hire, along with several Ben Buckle types.
Fortunately, myself and Ian each crashed our aircraft after about 4 days and were left with nothing to fly. I say fortunately because, necessity being the mother of invention, there was nothing for it but either hire from Spiros, or get building. Being Yorkshire tight-wads, we chose the latter course. Using components from the two wrecks a slender fence-post and yards of packaging tape, we quickly had a new aeroplane ready for fright (sic). This, we nicknamed the Phoenix; corny, I know.
Said Phoenix had “interesting” ground handling; best described as being like trying to taxy a wild salmon. However, once airborne, she proved to be well-behaved and relaxing to fly. Before long, banner-towing and glider-towing were on the agenda.
Spiros was good enough to provide an old bed-sheet from which we constructed a large banner, bearing the legend “rchotel, corfu”, and this was soon hitched up and dragged around the sky behind a diminutive Piper Cub. Not content, an aged glider was pressed into service and towed aloft behind the Phoenix. Ian, being the most experienced glider pilot, was on the sticks and promptly flew into the nearest tree…...the glider emerged unscathed, which is more than can be said for Ian’s street cred.
Out of sympathy, Spiros gave us free rein to fly the hotel’ models. Nice man. And in return, we didn’t bend them for him.
Now, to a subject which is dear to my heart...feeding. Being a veggie, eating out can be fraught, but I’m pleased to be able to report that the food was great. Loads of fresh fruit and veg were available and Spiros turned up plenty of scrummy veggie meals. Several of us became olive-oil junkies. The carnivores seemed to have a good time of it, too, with substantial portions of meat and fresh fish on demand.
Most evenings comprised a leisurely dinner, plenty of beer and good yarns at the bar or pool-side. Sometimes, we topped up with Metaxa (brandy) whilst sitting on our balcony in the small hours.
So, that’s some of the best points covered. What of the holiday’s weak ones?
Well, the hotel is about 15 minutes’ sedate drive from the nearest beach and from Corfu town. I guess that it does need to be a little isolated owing to the noisy nature of its activities. However, Spiros has a minibus and arranged a trip out each day, either to a beach or into the town. This worked out well from my point of view, since it provided the opportunity to do a bit of sight-seeing and a bit of shopping, whilst concentrating on the main business of flying. A few guys hired vehicles, but not me (tight-wad; and the minibus was free).
There is a model shop in Corfu, but spares are not easy to get and they are pricey, so be prepared if you take your own plane.
Quite a few of the hotel’ visitors were ab initio pilots who had gone out to Corfu with the intention of gaining a measure of competence. I would say that the venue is pretty much ideal for this purpose, but the instructor’ workload is quite high and sometimes the students didn’t get as much practise as they would have liked. If you are a novice pilot and are considering a “learning” holiday, I would suggest that you haul along a tame instructor who can dedicate his time to you…..and of course, you have the benefit of continuity of instruction when you return home.
To sum up, I really enjoyed my time in Corfu. The atmosphere was relaxed, the weather great and the people that we met were...I’m still missing them. I’m hoping to return around Christmas-time. Maybe I’ll see you there.
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