Back to the Factory

Days 8 to 11: The Evektor factory, Kunovice (Czech Republic)

AT the Evektor factory I get treated to a tour and meet Vlastimil, the Evektor ferry pilot, who has some great stories to tell, and Javic, the Evektor test pilot.

I learn that Javic once had to pull an aircraft parachute during extensive and deliberate spin testing, with the centre of gravity pushed a long way back. He landed with a plop in the middle of a lake near the airfield. Ever since then he’s been known here as the “submarine pilot”.

Javic takes my EV97 for a spin around the block and comes back beaming. He tells me how light my EV97 felt as he climbed 1300 feet per minute, even with a full tank of fuel.

The Evektor team check my brake system and they replace the whole kit: pads, discs and worn calipers. Everything is as good as new. Over a few days, the team do my spar check, which involves drilling out the seats, taking the wings off and disassembling everything to allow inspection.

Days 12 to 16: The Evektor factory, Czech Republic–Spišská Nová Ves, Slovakia

FRIDAY morning arrives, and there is hardly a breath of wind. I get to the airfield at 07:40am to fly G-JG for the first time since the wing strip-down. My next stop is Spiš castle, an enormous 11th-century castle in central Slovakia.

The green electric gates protecting the Kunovice runway slide open majestically as I approach them. After only 30 miles I am over the border into Slovakia. The Low Tatras mountains loom ahead at 4500ft, and as I clear the first range, a broad valley opens up in front of me. Each valley I skip over leads me over another ridge of mountains, and by the end of the leg I am at 8000ft.

The terrain below me is remote. I wish I was higher still, to be well clear of the peaks, but I find myself faced with a double-edged sword. I have the choice of either being a few hundred feet above the broken clouds with the mountains peeking through them, or being sandwiched underneath.Gliders from a NOTAM’d competition could be soaring along ridges. I choose the first option and continue ahead. I am relieved that the cloud doesn’t appear to be getting any thicker to force my decision. Not long after, I pass the last mountain peak and the airfield comes into sight.