An Alternative Rally – By Jabiru and ARV to Jihlava

By  Clive James and Phil Snowden

How three inexperienced aerial tourists ventured to the Czech Republic.

The Jabiru and the ARV were old pals, having covered 1400 miles on a UK tour the year before which included the Isle of Skye, the Lake District and South West Wales. This, however, is an International tale about what is easily achievable by inexperienced touring pilots, in homebuilt aircraft, provided that all is well planned.

“We had decided that this year we wanted to cross the channel and, with the demise of the PFA Rally, attend one of the many European amateur homebuilders rallies instead. The Jihlava Aerosalon in the Czech Republic was the only event we could find that coincided with the time when leave was available and we were to be rewarded with an epic adventure and a wealth of new flying experiences”.

The maps - pens show stops


Long nights of Internet searching and e-mail contacts gave us the information we needed on the Aerosalon. It is amazing how helpful fellow aviators are and nothing seemed too much trouble once we’d made contact.

An added complication with Permit aircraft is that without an internationally accepted Certificate of Airworthiness, permission had to be sought to fly in each country. This administrative process is simple enough - once you have found the right person to fax the paperwork to. Our main source of information was the Popular Flying article by Ken Craigie a year or so earlier outlining the situation for most European countries. Finally getting to the right person though, did take a little more digging but we got there in the end.

Each country has its different quirks, Germany for instance needs to see all the usual documents for the aircraft but also wants proof of 7,500,000 Dm worth of third party insurance cover. Fortunately your insurer can arrange this for a nominal fee but if you negotiate the possibility of short visits to Germany when you renew your premium you may be able to get the additional cover for no extra charge. Some countries want to see your licence, others proof of registration. One bright spot is France who have now dropped the requirement for any prior arrangement but the villain of the piece is Belgium, who want nearly £50 to process an application for permission that lasts only 30 days. This had helped us decide our route, we were going around Belgium on principle!

Peter Hayward

Myself - Clive James

The ease of flying in France is well known and we were assured that Germany was almost as easy. The Czech republic has a great flying heritage but most folk travel near to Prague, we were heading to the South-West over the Bavarian mountains through the old “Iron Curtain”. There were three of us in two aircraft, the ARV with 914 Rotax Turbo power and the Jabiru. We were almost channel crossing virgins with only two crossings between us so this trip through three foreign countries was a daunting prospect.


. The carefully co-ordinated expedition commenced at 0650 hours on Friday 29th June when flight planned Jabiru G-JBSP escaped from Ludham in North Norfolk, crewed by German speaking co-pilot Peter Hayward and myself, the owner and builder, fully adorned with life vests. My aircraft is a Group “A” example and was built over the winter of 99/00, it was the first long fuselage short winged Jabiru in the UK and is often called upon to be the UK demonstrator. Even heavily laden it cruised nicely at 92kt.

The second wave, G-ZARV an ARV Super 2 with Phil Snowden at the helm, was released at 0700 hours from Cambridge and, after some general squabbling on the pre arranged chat radio frequency, took up it’s familiar 8 o’clock formation position somewhere over Clacton. At 4500 ft. and talking to ‘London Information’, we took the direct sea crossing of 80 miles to Calais. Unfortunately, just 10 miles from our destination we were forced over an ever increasing low cloud layer and the correct, if rather belated decision was made to turn back to Margate and then track under it at 800 ft.


After a pylon racing style circuit of Calais we landed and cleared our first set of customs. Unable to sign off with London due to the low level crossing or to raise ‘Lille Information’ on a recently changed frequency, Calais kindly informed London of our arrival and closed our flight plan.

Having spent most of the winter planning the trip, I handed over the numerous marked up maps and route plans to Phil and while at a major airfield we took the opportunity of filing our next flight plan from France into Germany. This has the advantage that after a further quick stop for fuel at Charleville we would not have to wait for our clearance, how wrong we were!


We taxied out and lined up in tandem as a matter of course this ensures that the formation is not broken by an unexpected aircraft arrival, which can lead to hours of “where are you now” chat. though the clearing skies we started a fairly innocuous flight through the rolling open bread bowl of Northern France was only distinguishable from our familiar East Anglian landscape by the occasional huge grain silo complex. Our track took us deliberately one mile into Belgian airspace, just to say we had “been there” but also as a silent protest to the excessive permission fee they wanted to levy against us.

Approach to Charleville

Refuelling at Charleville

Landing at Charleville for our hoped for “splash and dash” just before midday, we were very soon thwarted as the re-fueller had left for his well earned lunch break.
We ‘enjoyed’ an unscheduled 2½ hour stopover which saw an end to our hopes of a visit to the Fascination Aircraft factory at Heubach in Germany, later that afternoon. Once refuelled, a very helpful French controller updated the timing of our flight plan over the phone to Zweibrucken, and we took our leave. The terrain became increasingly more hilly and forested as we headed east through Germany until we suddenly came upon the vast expanse of sun baked concrete that was once a USAF base but is now the GA friendly and very efficient Zweibrucken.

The flight had only been marred by a failure of the ARV’s radio to transmit, which could have been embarrassing on an international tour, especially if one had been alone. The problem was resolved by using the hand held, essential forward provisioning but don’t forget the battery charger.


A quick refuelling stop this time and we were soon headed for our first night stop at Jesenwang, some 20 miles west of Munich.
A quirky but welcoming little German airfield it had aircraft strung up in the hangar roof so they can pack more in beneath. Fuelled up and tied down we left the aircraft and headed off for pizza. Peter’s wife was staying in the nearby village where they’d lived for many years before they moved to the UK and she had arranged the loan of a neighbour’s flat for Phil and myself.

Jesenwang hangar

Vilshoven approach


Saturday morning we paid our landing fee and fuel bill, and passing between Munich Zone and the city, set off for Vilshoven which is on the banks of the picturesque Danube, close to the German / Czech border.

The approach is in the wide but steep sided river gorge, to land next to the river, after weaving through the construction cranes repairing the bridge close to the threshold.

We had by now gone on to a single flightplan for both aircraft, just as we had with the radio. I talked and squawked and Phil listened out and only chirped up when he thought he’d been forgotten.

Phil, Pete and Clive at the Vilshoven airfield restaurant

We had to wait an hour for the customs officials to “not turn up” before we could cross the hills into the Czech Republic en route to our final destination of Jihlava.

Once over the hills, Praha info were very helpful and told us we didn’t need to talk to anyone else before we got to Jihlava.

We arrived there in the early afternoon, and after taxiing all over their exceptionally rough airfield of long grass, we had completely covered our aircraft with grass clippings. We felt like two headed monsters as the locals all milled around staring at us, unfortunately we were unable to communicate. Czech bears little resemblance to most other European languages so even Peter’s German was of no use. Due to this language barrier our arrival transmissions had also been completely ignored so we simply bundled in amongst the traffic and landed - no different to Cranfield really !

View from tower at Jihlava

A strapping, six foot Frau in sixties hot pants demanded to inspect our passports, which we were reluctant to hand over until she displayed her state police weapon. We were eventually rescued by David Tregl, a Czech guy who spoke good English and also a sterling English chap, Ian who spoke great Czech and lived near Prague. Between them they sorted out the arrival formalities and the beer!.

The fly-in was a great success with up to 100 or so aircraft and always something in the air to watch. Due to the language difficulties I’m afraid information on the aircraft in the collection of included photographs is a little thin but you can see the high level of activity and inventiveness that exists in the Czech homebuilt aircraft movement. There were a handful of stalls including the Czech built Eurostar which has just received PFA approval.

Avia BH-1 replica which flew

Gothic town square in Jihlava

After more beer Ian ferried us to our hotel, which was neat but austere, and we spent the hot summer evening sat outside a restaurant in the somewhat dilapidated Gothic town square.


The next day started with about a 300 ft cloud-base above the tops of the rolling hills. While we refuelled (unfortunately this was not as cheap as the beer) Peter spent an hour or so in the control tower with a very helpful Czech controller who had a lot more English and German than he had admitted to the day before.

He established that the weather to the West was better than at Jihlava and helped Peter file the flightplan. We delayed until we had about a 500 ft base and then set off “scud running” in search of the better weather. This did seem especially low bearing in mind that over the previous two days we had been cruising at 5000 ft most of the time. The first half hour was tense, especially when the rain misted the Jab’s windscreen and we had to look out of the side windows. Keeping formation becomes increasingly more demanding as you have to keep closer together, but pretty soon we were 1000 ft above the ground and able to relax enough to enjoy the lovely Czech countryside. With an hour to run we chanced a call to our German destination, Weiden, and got an aircraft overhead to confirm the weather and advise of our impending arrival.

Final at Weiden

Weiden tower

Weiden turned us round within the hour and we set off on the longest leg of the trip back to Zweibrucken on the Western side of Germany, with an added sightseeing tour of the Hockenheim F1 circuit en route.

Two and a half hours later we were very relieved to land and examine how much fuel was left in the ARV’s 50 litre tank, the head wind had added extra time to the trip that we could have done without. Typically, the last 10 miles was over dense forest which seemed to go on and on. We had by now established a steady 15 litres per hour at 92 knots (both aircraft) and the fuel gauge was working OK, but it was still longer than we really wanted to do. This ARV is modified with wing tip fuel tanks to give an additional 40 litres but the modification paperwork was not completed before the trip. An additional pit-stop in Germany would have made it a breeze but we wanted to get to Reims that night to be in easy reach of Blighty on the Monday morning. Peter was flying Buzz back to North East Germany on the Tuesday to look at an aircraft for sale, and Phil had another ARV refurbishment to re-engine with a Rotax 914.

Hockenheim race circuit

For those not conversant, the ARV Super 2 was the first “new generation” all metal, two seat sports/touring/training aircraft designed and built in the 1980’s by a British company led by Richard Noble. As you would expect from a British certificated design it displays crisp, co-ordinated, responsive control with benign stability. The shoulder wing allows unobstructed all-round visibility and when re-engined with the 914 it has exhilarating performance, rugged short field capability and economy. G-ZARV is Phil’s latest company demonstrator and having previously reconfigured six Super 2’s. Higham Aviation Ltd. can supply bespoke kits and completed aircraft in “as new” condition, modified for Rotax engines.
Zweibrucken were as efficient on Sunday tea time as they had been on Friday afternoon and we were soon flight planned fuelled and off over the border to Reims Prunay. Reims is an interesting airfield, once the home of European Cessna production and now a busy GA field with a large number of resident aircraft of all shapes and sizes.

Tied down for the night at Zweibrucken

As we taxied in a private ex military jet took off for his Sunday evening sortie. We fuelled on landing and tied down for the night with the promise of a quick getaway in the morning and headed by taxi into town to find a hotel.


Cosmopolitan city of Rheims

This we did at the aptly named ‘place de l’hotel’. It was reasonably priced and we were soon enjoying French beer and more pizza in the very cosmopolitan main square.


Monday, and the by now the seasoned travellers had only a short trip of two hours to get back to England. We cruise climbed all the way through France to nearly 7000 ft only to find we were trapped above a thin layer of cloud. To let down in formation was beyond our experience so we parted company and then spent the next half hour trying to re-formate below the cloud.

Phil Snowden in his ARV super2

The coast at Lydd

The 35 mile sea crossing to Lydd, our destination, was into a grey horizon-less sky. In retrospect we should have gone low level rather than at 3000 ft as clear sight of the sea below helps avoid that creepy partial disorientation feeling.

After Lydd there was just one more leg home to Norfolk and Cambridge before lunch!

Lydd - Refuelling!

Both aircraft had consumed a total of 300 litres each and covered 1450 nautical miles in some 19 hours of flying over 3 1/2 days. Not bad for a long weekend.

The efficient planning and a bit of luck with the weather made this a most enjoyable though quite demanding trip. However, this type of international adventure is within the capability of any low hours pilot and quite modest aircraft, so go on, find a friend to go with you, start your winter planning and have a go!