Cyprus, the birthplace of Greek Goddess of love and beauty Aphrodite, is the third largest island in the Mediterranean. Rich in history, the earliest known human activity on the island dates back to around the 10th millennium BC. Archaeological remains from this period include the well-preserved Neolithic village of Choirokoitia which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, along with the Tombs of the Kings. Over its history, Cyprus has been invaded and occupied by several major powers, including the empires of the Hittites, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Rashiduns, Umayyads, Lusignans, Venetians and Ottomans. Today, however, during the summer months it tends to be occupied by large numbers of British, German and Russian tourists seeking some summer sun. That being said, in many places Cyprus shuts down for winter as other destinations are more popular for winter sun. I am sure this will change in a few years time when the economy recovers and people have more disposable incomes to second holidays. Although the average high in summer can top 35 degrees Celsius, in winter most days reach a high of 20 degrees but it can, and does, suffer from the odd rain shower. For a country that enjoys such hot, warm summers, it's a surprisingly green island.
Since Cyprus joined the EU in 2004 the number of flights and tourists visiting the island has increased dramatically. I used to holiday in Cyprus nearly ever summer with my parents when I was a child and it's a country that I hold very dear to my heart.
Flights from London to Paphos (PFO/LCPH) have a block time of 4 hours 30 minutes on the outbound leg and 4 hours 45 minutes for the return sector. The usual outbound route starts with a Standard Instrument Departure towards Dover, across the North Sea towards Brussels, into Germany towards BOMBI intersection located almost directly above Frankfurt Main airport, then the route takes a more southerly track towards Munich, Salzburg, some spectacular views across the Alps into the Balkans with a routing near to Ljubliana, Zagreb, Sarajevo and Belgrade and then into Greek airspace before reaching TOMBI intersection, the boundary between Turkish airspace and Cypriot airspace. Because a conflict in 1974 Turkish-Cypriot relations are, to cut a long story short, not great. The ATC units do not coordinate with each other so the workload begins to ramp up just before we start our descent towards Paphos.
10 minutes prior to reaching TOMBI intersection, the P2, or pilot-monitoring (PM) will call Nicosia on the second radio box to inform them of our estimated arrival time at TOMBI together with our requested flight level. Nicosia in return give us a squawk code to set when overhead TOMBI. Not long after, Istanbul will hand us over to Ercan who seem to serve merely as an intemediary between Turkey and Cyprus. They offer no clearances, or at least if they try to we are to recommended to refuse them by our Route Information Manual. Overhead TOMBI, Ercan hand us over to Nicosia and after changing our squawk code we check in with Nicosia stating our callsign, position, flight level and squawk code. Only a few minutes pass before the FMC lets us know that it's time to descend. Nicosia usually give a clearance to descend to FL110.
There are a few quirks about operating into Paphos, but it is still a relatively straight forward destination to operate into. When I began to flying to Paphos the departure was late in the evening and arrived into Paphos shortly after midnight. The runway lighting is, to put it politely, appalling. There are only threshold lights and edge lights and the approach lighting is almost non-existant. There is a big feeling of descending towards a big black hole. Fortunately, the flights have been retimed and now arrive into Paphos mid-afternoon. The airport is located very close to the coastline and experiences a steady sea breeze during the daytime that's just about strong enough to preclude a landing with a tailwind onto runway 11. If the weather is good enough, a visual circuit to runway 29 is a good chance to practice your handling skills and it gives some great views of Paphos on the left-hand side just before turning downwind. If the weather is not good enough for a visual circuit, Paphos airport does not have radar and therefore the ILS approach to runway 29 must be flown procedurally.
The procedural ILS approach requires being overhead the airfield at 5,000ft for an 8nm outbound leg. The platform altitude of the approach is just 2,100ft. The maximum speed during the procedure turn is 200 knots for a good reason. Terrain rises steeply from the coast on the extended centreline to just above 1,400ft. Less than 5nm to the north of the extended centreline the terrain rises up to 2,500ft. With a low platform altitude, forgetting to arm VOR/LOC or flying through the extended centreline could be disasterous. The ILS has a regular 3 degree glideslope to a runway with a landing distance of 2699 metres.
Slowing the aircraft down sufficiently after landing by taxiway Hotel is difficult unless you're very light as from the beginning of the touchdown zone to taxiway Hotel is actually shorter than the runway in Jersey or Santa Ana, which is short for a medium-sized jet! ATC are usually very pro-active at Paphos though and will offer a backtrack to vacate via Hotel, or if preferred you can roll to the end of the runway and vacate at taxiway Alpha and taxi along the parallel before crossing the runway to get to the Apron. Taxiway Hotel is perhaps the bumpiest taxiway I have ever used, it is a good time to remind the passengers that they should remain seated until the seat belt signs are switched off, it is uncomfortable sitting down, standing up without stumbling would be quite an achievement! Fortunately the apron was extended within the last decade and is of a good quality with newly painted centreline and stand markings. There are no on-pier stands at Paphos and parking positions can vary depending upon local levels of traffic but typically it is only a short bus ride from the aircraft to the Terminal building.
If you've never visited Paphos, I'd thoroughly recommend it. Make it the destination for your next vacation. The cuisine is fantastic, the people are warm and welcoming, the weather is great and the history is fascinating. There's something in Paphos for everyone.