A European Aviation Adventure – Part One Southend to Stockholm

Today, we’re looking at General Aviation. I’m going to attempt a trip report of a recent trip undertaken around Europe. However, this will differ from the usual trip report style in that you can’t review cabin service or check in when you’re doing all of that yourself.

Extra 400
We flew to Stockholm in an Extra 400. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Today we’ll look at the first leg of the trip from London to Stockholm. After a bumpy start, we flew to Aarhus to refuel, then nonstop to “Stockholm”. We’ll also cover the aircraft flown in part one of this three-part series.

Bumpy start to proceedings

Today was the day! I was set to join my father on a trip around Europe. Given the long flight time to Stockholm from London, he wanted to leave early. His reasoning was to have dinner at a civilised time. Now, all seemed perfect until I reached the airport.

I arrived at London Southend Airport around 15 minutes early having taken the train from London. That’s when disaster struck. Standing outside of the private aviation terminal panic surged through me as I realised I hadn’t taken my passport. Queue many apologetic texts to my dad and an offer to meet him in Stockholm via Ryanair. Thankfully it was quickly established that these things happen, and after rushing home, I was back at the airport before I knew it, ready to fly. In the end, we departed from Southend at 14:10.

London Southend Airport
Taken right before I realised I’d forgotten my passport. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

The Extra 400

We flew to Stockholm in an Extra 400. Extra only made 27 Extra 400s before falling into financial difficulty. As such, the aircraft is often greeted with phrases such as “What’s that you’re flying?”. The aircraft is pressurised and has a composite fuselage. This means it is able to fly at up to 25,000ft.

Extra 400
The Extra 400’s impressive avionics. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

The six-seater aircraft has a cruise speed of around 190kts. Including our stop at Aarhus, it took us around six hours to fly from London Southend to Stockholm Vasteras.

The first leg

The first leg saw us flying from Southend Airport in the United Kingdom to Aarhus Airport in Denmark. With passport in hand, we finally took off at 14:10BST. We initially climbed in a North Easterly direction until turning right over Clacton. When we turned we hit an almost direct headwind, slightly slowing our progress. Over the North Sea, we reached our cruise altitude of FL200.

London to Stockholm
Our route to Aarhus. Photo: FlightRadar24.com

When we neared Amsterdam we turned back onto a North Easterly direction. We continued our cruise, switching from speaking to ATC in the Netherlands to Bremen Center, and finally to the Danish controllers. The controllers in the Netherlands asked us to climb to FL210.

As we were flying on an IFR flight plan we were truly at the mercy of the air traffic controllers’ instructions. The Autopilot did most of the work, with us only responsible for setting it and the appropriate engine speeds.

Approach to Aarhus

We finally began to descend slowly down to 5,000ft somewhere over mid-Denmark. We were then held at 5,000ft in order to avoid parachute activity below us. As a result, we made an expedited descent in order to make the glide slope of the ILS.

We touched down in Aarhus at 16:10, giving a flight time of three hours. We taxied to the fuel pump and topped off both of the tanks. Following this, we proceeded to park and walk to the airport’s administration office. Here our passports were checked (lucky I’d gone back for it), and we paid our landing fees.

Hop across Sweden

After 50 minutes on the ground in Aarhus, including a well-needed trip to the loo, we took off en-route to Stockholm Vasteras. The flight was quite quiet as we flew almost direct to the destination.  We initially climbed to FL160 before climbing to FL180 around halfway through the flight. The skies above Sweden were fairly quiet, however, we did hear some Ryanair traffic on the radio.

London to Stockholm
The route from Aarhus to Stockholm Vasteras. Photo: FlightRadar24.com

We were in a rush to land at Vasteras before sunset when the airport closes. We managed this with about 20 minutes to spare, landing before lots of the flight instruction training flights. As there was no tower in operation at Vasteras, we had to close our IFR flight plan in the air. This meant that we had to phone the Swedish controllers to close our flight plan. We then had to take a taxi into town, and a train into Stockholm. We opted for Vasteras, as landing fees were far lower than in the city’s airports.

Find out more in Part 2 tomorrow when I cover Stockholm to Amsterdam!