Tsopelas Anastasios – 28 years a true aviator


Anastasios Tsopelas was born at Kremydia village of Messinia back in 1939. During his adolescence he relocated to Athens where he finished high school and began his studies as a mathematician. Following the completion of his degree, he started working as a teacher in public schools. However, aviation was his undivided interest since childhood.. During the WWII and being a small child, he loved to observe Allied Forces and German flying over the Greek sky. His first close encounter with an aircraft was back in the ‘50s, when a light training aircraft of the Hellenic Air Force made an emergency landing in a field near Peristeri, right in front of his own eyes.
After the end of the civil war and provided the harsh social conditions of that time, it was very difficult for him to be accepted as a student pilot for the Hellenic Air Force. Back at that time, H.A.F. was the only way for anyone to fly an aircraft. Nevertheless, his passion for flying remained alive and was revived, years later, during the ‘80s when his close friend George Adamopoulos, an instructor at Athens Aeroclub gave him his first notes on flight techniques and communications. During the winter of 1987-88 he made his first flight with SX-ALE, a PA38 Piper Tomahawk of Piraeus Aeroclub based at Marathonas airport. For this first flight his instructor/trainer was John Karamichalis.

Winter 1987 introduction flight with SX-ALE - Piraeus Aeroclub

Initial training at Piraeus Aeroclub

Despite the adverse financial conditions, he registers at Piraeus Aeroclub’s flight school as a student pilot and begins his flight training on April 1988 with a PA38 and John Karamichalis as his instructor. In the beginning of 1989, John decides to leave Piraeus Aeroclub, to Tassos great disappointment. He was very attached with his instructor who was the first one to introduce him to General Aviation and trained him on the basic manoeuvring of the aircraft. Nevertheless, he had the luck to continue his training with Flight Instructor Stefanos Zouganelis and resumes once again his flight training at the airport’s traffic pattern. On 31st of March 1989 he flies his first solo with SX-AMH a C152, a flight which was not flawless. A bad landing frustrates him and makes him very disappointed. Tragic irony: The same night, when Tassos returned home, the public television channel had a TV series episode where a T-41D pilot had a rejected (failed) landing at Dekelia airport.
Despite all these, Tassos never quits his dream and resumes flying a week later. With the help and persistence of his instructor, he continues his traffic pattern training and on the 7th of October 1989 he completes a successful second solo flight, with significant crosswind. By the end of 1989, he completes successfully most of his local SOLO flights flying the C152 SX-ALY. He gets familiar with the aircraft and starts to fly solo outside the traffic pattern. Stefanos, as his F.I., gains great confidence in Tassos flying skills and allows him to fly even when the wind is much stronger. The areas where he flies solo are over Rafina, Nea Makri etc. His training syllabus follows with the instrument flying -DUAL, close to the airport navigation-DUAL (up to Kotroni GCA). On the 25th of Nevember 1989 Tassos along with his instructor Stefanos, land at Deleleia airport for the very first time.
In the beginning of 1990, some administrative changes at Piraeus Aeroclub prevent him from continuing his training. To Tassos’ even greater disappointment, his friend Stefanos also decides to leave Piraeus Aeroclub (their last flight was on 21/01/1990 with the SX-ALE). The luck of chemistry with the rest of the training staff, his low morale (after 2-3 DUAL flights) and the general atmosphere in the Aeroclub, force him to transfer to a new flight school.

November 1989 - Solo flight with SX-ALY - Piraeus Aeroclub

Flying at Hellinikon Aeroclub and earning his PPL(A)

On July 1990 he registers at Hellinikon Aeroclub and resumes his training with Athanasios Lekkas as his instructor. His F.I. encourages him significantly and after only two flights he approves his solo Navigation flight with the C172 SX-AMZ. Thanasis’ contribution towards Tassos successful completion of his flight training was tremendous, since Tassos had already changed two instructors before Thanasis. His flying morale is once again boosted as he flies the C172 along with Thanasis. His F.I. was very strict with Tassos’ flying and constantly corrects any mistakes but on the other hand he encourages him and exploits Tassos potential to the fullest. Tassos always said that «if I hadn’t met Mr. Lekkas I would not have taken my flying license». Tassos completes his PPL (A) training on 29/09/1990, flying a skill test with Mr G. Adamopoulos from Marathon airport. The examiner’s recommendation to Tassos is to further improve his forced landing skills. Tassos takes this recommendation very seriously and continues to fly with Thanasis, practicing simulated forced landings (during 1990 and 1991).

December 1990 – Marathon airport, training in simulated engine failures with Athanassios Lekkas with SX-AMZ

Upper: 1990 - Tassos with SX-AMZ
Lower: 1991 – Tassos take offs from RWY 34 of Marathon airport with SX-AMZ

After getting his PPL (A) license his enthusiasm and desire for flying increase more and more. From October 1990 until March 1994 he flies for recreational purposes mainly with Hellinikon Aeroclub’s aircrafts: SX-AMZ, SX-AOV (ex D-EICO), C150 SX-ANS of Ath. Lekkas, SX-APL of Takis Valiotis, SX-APA of Kostas Leventis and many more.

Marathon aiport April 1991. Flight with Ath. Lekkas with SX-AMZ Hellinikon Aeroclub

Marathon airport, January 1992 flight with Christos Stathopoulos

Marathon airport, 1993 running up SX-ANS of Ath. Lekkas

SX-ANS at Marathon airport- Tassos is ready for taxing

1993: Flight over Athens International Airport EL. Venizelos under construction

The Marathon Airport……Era

During that period, Marathon’s airport was the heart of General Aviation in Greece. No other G.A. airport existed like that one. Dekeleia’s A/B at Tatoi was an important centre of General Aviation in terms of an air sport centre but posed significant restrictions compared to Marathon’s airport (Dekeleia was an operational airforce base with limitations in time schedule, approved for Aeroclubs operation only, not for General Aviation use etc). Tassos visits Marathon airport regularly not just to attend classes or fly. He visits the airport in order to listen, see, live near the aircrafts, speak with other pilots, instructors, ATCs, meteorologists, fire fighters, aircraft mechanics, HCAA authorities – with everybody.

December 1990 – Marathon apron, central building
and (on the right) Hellenikon Aeroclub's premises

04/04/1993 Tassos with Spyros Koutsogiannopoulos
Spyros' voice can still be heard on 119.70

1988 - Marathon airport for everyone!
Upper: Ioannis Karamichalis flight instructor with SX-ALE

Tassos visits Marathon airport from dawn till dusk… until the maintenance of SX-AMZ is completed… because the next day the aircraft had to fly again and again and everybody could have the chance to fit in the program and fly. Strong relationships are forged between all aviators flying from Marathon’s airport. The bonds were so strong that they all try to find any possible opportunity to get together and interact, have fun (for example Easter celebrations with all together at the airport). In addition, Tassos visits the control tower (which was an AFIS one) not only to submit the flight plan but to enjoy the view, the construction of the second apron (since the first one was literally full), check the limitless NOTAMS from the TELEX and take the chance to grab the mic. These great relationships between all together led to the development of new cooperations and synergies, both at personaland aeroclubs level, some of which exist until today.

Marathon airport 1990, in front of Aegean hangar

Cooperating with Helias Sofianos – Dekeleia Aeroclub

Tassos understood very early that General Aviation can evolve only through cooperation, which would promote the air sport activities, the flight safety and the true essence of flight training. For this reason, during the summer of 1994, he cooperates with Helias Sofianos and join in a common scheme with him using the PA-28 SX-AGD based at Tatoi. With the help of other well-known aviators, they inspire and co-found the historic Dekeleia Aeroclub, a name inspired from the name of the Air Force base where they were based. At the same time, Tassos participates also in various other clubs and airsport clubs assuming administrative positions (SPA, West Attica Aeroclub etc).

Dekeleia airport, September 1994 together with Ilias Sofianos
19/05/1995 formation flight with Dekeleia Aeroclub airplanes:
SX-AGD (Tsopelas A., Tzavellas A.) and SX-ANT (Sofianos I., Tsopelas I.)


Dekeleia, October 1994 with SX-AGD

Marathon airport, August 1995 with SX-ANR

From 1995 and until the end of 1999 Tassos takes over the management of his beloved C150E SX-ANR operating under Dekeleia Aeroclub and based at Marathon airport. Tassos gained valuable experience from his cooperation all those years with Helias Sofianos.

Founding Mesogeion Aeroclub

Having accumulated over 12 years of experience in the General Aviation, Tassos wants to establish a special aeroclub based on the vision that he always had. Having by his side a few significant members of the General Aviation society, on December 1999, he establishes Mesogeion Aeroclub. By the end of 2000 Mesogeion Aeroclub purchases the C150 SX-ANR and flying operations begin. The very first flight of Mesogeion Aeroclub takes place on 09/12/2000 from Dekeleia airport with Tassos as the PIC of the aircraft.

Dekeleia Airport, spring 2000, SX-ANR just painted.

From the very first moment of establishing Mesogeion Aeroclub, Tassos devoted with passion and consumed all his free time in operating his Aeroclub. Nevertheless, his full devotion towards Mesogeion Aeroclub came upon his retirement. After the decommission of Marathon airport, all operations of Mesogeion Aeroclub are moved to Hellinikon airport (2001) for a couple months but finally settle at Dekeleia airport where he reunites again with a few old friends and pilots from Marathon airport. Mesogeion Aeroclub is getting bigger after the introduction of its flight school in 2004, materializing a dream that Tassos always had. Tassos is always the heart and soul of this big club of aviators and aviation enthusiasts, being always there in difficult times but also in many successes. He always felt a great joy when he saw a new pilot earn his PPL wings, or a student pilot making his first solo, or an air sport crew bring medals from various air races all over Greece.

Hellenikon Airport, Summer 2001, in front of SX-ANR

Hellenikon Airport, September 2001, forest protection flight with SX-ANR and Tsopelas I.

Dekeleia Airport, March 2003, with SX-ANR

Kopaida airport, 21/07/2004, landing with SX-ASG

20/05/2009, Flight from Tatoi to Paros with Rigas I and A. Domeniconi

21/03/2010, flight with Alexis Tzavellas

His optimism, his vision, his ambitions for the future, sometimes considered as over-optimistic, where a pleasant surprise for everybody when his vision was justified (something that happened quite often). In the beginning of 2004 when Mesogeion Aeroclub’s flight school commenced its operations, he predicted the need for a second aircraft, despite the scepticism of all others. For this reason, a C172 (SX-ASG) was purchased from Belgium proving his decision right from the very beginning. SX-ASG flight hours were a record for the facts of Mesogeion Aeroclub, back then. The exact same thing happened by the end of 2009 when the need to replace the C150 with a C172 came forward. He did not hesitated to decide as a President of the club the purchase of a second C172 (SX-ASV) from Holland.

Tassos is always on the club

Anastasios (Tassos) Tsopelas remained president of Mesogeion Aeroclub’s board from its very foundation until February 2012. He then took over the position of Vice President of the Board. Tassos “took off” for his eternal flight on 13/08/2016 leaving a great gap at Mesogeion Aeroclub and in our hearts. His visions, energy, passion, smile and kind heart and his goals for General Aviation and life in general will be a constant inspiration for our future.

Tassos, our beloved friend, have a nice flight!

Video - 13/05/2005

Almyros airport with SX-ANR and Tsopela Stavroula