International Fly-in in Garray (Soria), Spain

It is probably no surprise to many of you that my husband and I attended a fly-in while on vacation recently. In previous blogs, I have mentioned how we always try to link our vacation with a little bit of aviation and flying to learn how general aviation (GA) works and is treated in other parts of the country and world. And, yes, we also enjoy seeing places and landscapes from a 3D perspective. Who doesn’t, right?

This time… we headed to my home country of Spain for 10 days to visit family, eat some good food, enjoy a little R&R, and experience traditional festivities during Soria’s fire walking festival (paso del fuego) in San Pedro de Manrique and annual festivities, called Fiestas de San Juan.

The map below shows you where Soria is located within Spain. It is about a 2 1/2 hr drive from Madrid (in the center of the country) to Soria.

Map of Spain with Soria's aerodrome

Map of Spain with Soria’s aerodrome

On Saturday, June 21st, Soria’s aerodrome/airport in Garray (only 7 or so km north of Soria) held a fly-in to introduce the newly re-opened and improved airport to the locals (called sorianos) and pilots. While the airport was opened in the early 20th century, the airport has not always been successful. The airport is owned by the province and managed by a private entity. A new management company, Airpull Aviation, took over the management and control of the airport on December 18th, 2013 for the next 10 years. Their goal is to make the airport attractive to pilots and the local community while ensuring its economic viability. My family had been updating me on the improvements made to the airport since the beginning of the year (resurfacing of the main and existing runway, a new runway, a bigger ramp, a restaurant, a fuel farm, a new roadway leading to the airport, etc.) so the fly-in was the perfect opportunity for me to see it for myself.

To be honest…. I was excited about it, but I truly expected a small event with a low turnout. To my pleasant surprise… the fly-in actually reminded me of a lot of fly-ins I attend here on behalf on AOPA and it was one of my highlights of the trip.

One side of the ramp

One side of the ramp, with a good mixture of aircraft

The airport has a restaurant/coffee shop (restaurante/cafeteria) inside the terminal with a couple of patios outside, where several locals where eating and talking while enjoying the sights of aircraft flying.

Airport terminal in Garray

Airport terminal in Garray

Airport terminal

Locals and pilots talking and watching airplanes

The airport also has a flight school that provides training, rental aircraft, skydiving, etc. The prices seem pretty competitive with other parts of Spain and Europe but, not suprisingly, not with those here in the States. To give you an idea… a 1979 Cessna C172 Skyhawk or a 1985 Piper Warrior II goes for 205 euros an hour wet with taxes (with or without a CFI – the charge is the same!). At the current exchange rate of about 1  = $1.36, that would be $279/hr. Flying club members can get them discounted at 160 /hr ($218/hr). Yes, then you have to pay user fees/landing fees separately.

I introduced myself to the guy who looked to be in charge of the event since he was carrying a portable handheld radio and was giving takeoff/landing/low flying permissions/clearances to the pilots flying. He immediately asked if I had any interest in flying. What do you think I said? “Of course! No need to ask! Thank you!” A few minutes later… my High School friend Lorena (who came to visit us from Zaragoza - 2 hrs drive time east of Soria) and I were in a Piper Warrior with CFI Eduardo at the controls heading out to the runway. I took the back seat and let my friend Lorena sit up front. It was her first flight in a small GA aircraft and I wanted her to experience it first hand. We had a fabulous flight and Lorena left the aircraft (and airport) wanting more and thinking about obtaining a private pilot license (or PPL as they call it in Europe). Mission accomplished!

Lorena

Lorena, a happy flyer during her first GA flight

Departing the airport

Departing the airport

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Garray airport in the distance

Low level pass with a C172

Low level pass with a C172

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Passing the C172 as we do the low pass over the airport

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Aerial of the airport

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Town of Garray

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Landing

Landing

CFI Eduardo with Lorena and I in front of the Piper Warrior

CFI Eduardo with Lorena and I in front of the Piper Warrior

It’s funny how all the people who took “first time rides” left with a big grin on their face and nothing but complementary comments. “Amazing!, Wow!, Fantastic!, How fun!” are some of the things I overheard them say. Ahhhh the joys of flying general aviation aircraft…..

While there, I also spoke with Santi Marti, the airport’s general manager, to thank him for the event, his work with the airport, and get a summary of the day’s and year’s (to date) success. Approximately 500 people and 45 aircraft (airplanes, gyrocopters, ultralights, LSAs, etc) attended from around the country (Valencia, Bilbao, Barcelona, Madrid, Valladolid, Navarra, Soria, Toledo…) as well as four from France and one from Germany. Among the aircraft was an Antonov AN II from 1947.

Antonov

Antonov AN II

Mr. Martin also gave me some great news. Their goal was to have at least 500 aircraft operations in 2014 but they have already exceeded that in only the first few months of service and that’s with Spain’s current recession. Soria’s airport does have a good future ahead… :) The province and the local media have provided a lot of support to the airport and I hope it continues that way.

The airport is located in a great area (centrally located, with beautiful scenery as you saw from my pictures above, and away from busy airspace), making it ideal for GA operations, to include gliding. Glider pilots say it may be the best area in Spain given its thermals, geology, and meteorological conditions.

Based helicopters, mostly used for firefighting

Based helicopters, mostly used for firefighting

But, if that wasn’t enough, the icing on the cake was to meet Victor Gaspar, an AOPA member who flew in from Bilbao, in northern Spain, in the RANS Coyote II he built seven years ago. He is also currently building a second aircraft, this time an RV-10, and he briefly explained to me some of the issues he is running into with the Agencia Española de Seguridad Aérea (AESA), the “Spanish FAA” and a sub-agency of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), as he chooses an engine for his new aircraft. They don’t allow it to have the engine that the kit aircraft is designed for because it has too many horsepower according to current Spanish regulation.

A past Air Venture attendee, he expressed his gratitude towards AOPA and EAA. Without AOPA, general aviation wouldn’t be what it is, he said.

AOPA member Victor Gaspar, my husband Jared and I

With my husband Jared and Victor Gaspar, proudly wearing his AOPA hat

Did I get you excited about flying to Europe or within Europe? If so, here is a website the airport recommends to obtain weather, notams, flight planning info, etc: http://flyingineurope.be/

The airport in Tudela, Navarra is now on my list to visit during my next trip to Spain. =)

6 thoughts on “International Fly-in in Garray (Soria), Spain

  1. Last year my wife and I had an opportunity to visit Spain and southern Portugal. Our 10 day driving tour took us from Madrid to southern Spain than to southern Portugal. I never once saw a single private airplane. With a hangar in my back yard surrounded by a aviation community, I feel very fortunate.

    • Hello David!

      I hear you… That is normally the case for me as well, which is why I did not expect much to begin with but I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. :) The number of GA airplanes and airports in Europe (and probably in Spain and Portugal in particular) is very, very small compared to that of the States. No other country has the infrastructure and system the U.S. has. Plain and simple. That’s why we have to take care of it. It’s also why I love my job – advocacy. I get to help promote and preserve our treasure because I know what it can be like without much infrastructure and support but with user fees and landing fees.

      Regards,

      Yasmina

  2. Hi, Yasmina,
    I just read your write-up in the July 11 issue of the AOPA ePilot newsletter. What an awesome job you have- getting to go to your home country, do some flying, and come back and write about it. Looks like you were in beautiful country.

    In case you are wondering, I am the guy who mailed you the information about the old Texas City airport and its role in the aftermath of the big explosion in Texas City. I hope you found it interesting. I haven’t been by the location of the old airport in several years but I hope there is still enough signs of it to recognize where it was.

    Keep up all your good work with AOPA to advance the causes of General Aviation.

    Jim Robinson

    • Hello Jim,

      I do have an awesome job but my husband and I went to Spain and attended this fly-in on our own. It’s tough for me not to do some flying or go to GA airports even when I’m “off the record.” It’s my hobby, too.

      I did enjoy what you sent me on the old Texas City airport. Interesting reading. Let me know if you plan on going by the old site sometime and we’ll join you.

      Regards,

      Yasmina

  3. Hi Yasmina
    when flying in Spain you have avoid all AENA (the national ANSP) airports and look for small GA friendly airfields like Requena (west of Valencia), Castellón de la Plana (after landing you cross the road and you are on the beach!), Trebujena (Jerez de la Frontera), Matilla de los Caños (Valladolid), Casarrubios del Monte, Igualada, Rozas and many more (there are listed in the AIP).
    Then you have all the ultralight airfields where you can find everything from the very latest LSA to old Quicksilvers or trikes
    I own a small mountain airfield in the Spanish Pyrenees (www.aviador.net/Castejon de Sos) and if you would like to visit me it is not very far away from Tudela.
    See you next year (who knows!)
    Marlies

    • Wonderful. Thanks for the info. I will send you a message next time we’re in the area. I love the Pyrenees so we may have to visit you sometime :) I was raised in Zaragoza so we often drove up to ski, hike, etc.

      Regards,

      Yasmina

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