Dawn to Dusk: Flying over Andalucia

Imagine if, as an air pilot, you could create an itinerary and fly anywhere you wanted for a day? This year, in the Dawn to Dusk Challenge 2021, one team  - whose media partner is Andalucia.com - will fly spend a day flying over some of the region’s most famous locations.

We’re all used to seeing images taken from the air using drones – most tourism advertisements these days feature swooping shots and sweeping land or cityscapes – so what would it be like to see them from the air, in real life, from a light aircraft?

The Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, the Sierra de Ronda, spectacular cities and towns like Granada, Cordoba, Seville, Ronda, Vejer…

The Dawn to Dusk Challenge, an annual competition for pilots organised by Pooleys Flight Equipment which started in 1963, sees aviators planning a themed itinerary, anywhere in the world. They must be airborne for a minimum of four hours, producing a detailed log of their preparations and flight. They can also raise money for charity.

The late HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was a former Chairman oft the panel of judges for the competition, which chooses the winning team each year using criteria of “an original and praiseworthy objective”.

Themes might include historical events (civil or military), geographical or environmental, or even old flying routes.

Al Andalus route Dawn to Dusk 2021
Al Andalus route Dawn to Dusk 2021

The Al-Andalus team consists of two pilots and a photographer. All are involved in the aerospace industry in their day jobs: Pedro de Melo Raposo is a Portuguese aerospace engineer-turned-airline-consultant and pilot; Feliciano Illama Opez is a Spanish professional pilot who has been flying since 1979, was Pedro’s instructor, and is based in Jerez; and Nelson Vaz, an aircraft marketing director also from Portugal, will have the enviable job of documenting the journey, both on the ground before and after, and while the plane is in the air.

Their chosen charity is the Associacion Española Contra el Cancer (AECC), and they will be flying in a Cessna C172.

“Years ago, with the pioneers of aviation, there used to be many flying competitions, to cross Atlantic or Africa – Charles Lindbergh was part of one,“ explains Pedro.

“You don’t see those kinds of competitions any more. So I saw this one and said ‘Wow, this in interesting, there are still people organising flying competitions.’ Then I looked at it, and it’s not anything like crossing the Atlantic, but it’s still cool.”

“You come up with your theme, make it original – find an excuse for flying, and that’s what we did.”

“We’re going to do pictures and video – we might even broadcast it live, if we manage to put up a camera or iphone.  We may broadcast some parts of the flight using a GoPro.  We haven’t figured out how to do it technically.“

The two possible routes, Jerez - Jerez

The team have two possible routes of around 750km, depending on the weather on the day. They don’t need to be continuously in the air for 4 hours.

The first option is about 4.5 hours in single flight: departing from Jerez north-east towards Moron, then Ronda, to Vejer , maybe low pass over Gibraltar, Estepona, then north to Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla, and back to Jerez – (the Cessna has 5 hours’ fuel).

The second options has two legs: Jerez to Estepona, then east to Malaga, on to Almeria (stop to refuel), then about 2 more hours: back on north side of the Alpujarra, through the valley to Granada, Cordoba, Almodovar del Rio, over the castle and the river, to Seville, and then back to Jerez.

So why did they decide to do their Dawn to Dusk flight in Andalucia?

Pedro did most of training in Jerez –  he flew from Jerez to Seville and Cordoba, and has been pretty much everywhere in  Andalucia.

“It’s a beautiful place to fly, full of history. It’s my passion for flying, combined with the opportunity to go back to where learned to fly,” explains Pedro. “Also competitive aspect was interesting.”

The Jury wants to see all criteria – how thorough each team is in terms of safety, flight plan, preparations etc – all crew have to file flight log (what you encountered) – and the winner is chosen based on originality of log,

“In our case, it’s a combination of narrative, the history of Andalucia, and we want our proceeds to go to charity – it’s a pretty good combination and we hope we have a shot at winning it.”

“We’re aiming for the first weekend in July, which gives us enough time to put together the report, and send it to the organiser.”

Another differentiating factor is the photographer. “We’ll do an album, a special edition, and our sponsors will get a copy, and it will also be for sale to try to generate more funds for the charity.”

We await with interest the spectacular visuals from this unusual flight, and wish the team a safe flight, and the best of luck with the competition!

Dawn to Dusk Flying Competition
Dawn to Dusk Flying Competition

Sucessful flight - message from Pedro

Dear Dawn to Dusk “Al Andalus” flight supporters,

We did it! On Saturday 3rd July we took off from Jerez (LEJR) to Almeria (LEAM) and back, totaling 6 hours block time and 564 NM at an average speed close to 100 kts.

We did a touch and go at Sevilla, then to Cordoba, passed by Granada and north of Sierra Nevada to Almeria.

On the way back we flew the coast line and of course, a low pass at Gibraltar 😊 then around the coast again and back to Jerez. We were very lucky with the weather, with clear skies and high 20s/low 30s C.

We will now focus on writing our report for the organizers and put together a photo album of our trip.

I can only say we had a great time planning, flying and enjoying the views. More updates on our website soon!

Wishing you all the best and sincerely thanking you for your support and donations.

Pedro, Feliciano and Nelson

Blog published on 2 June 2021