Grenchen airport is located in the Three Lakes Region, at the foot of the Jura mountain range, an area offering a lot for opportunities if you want to wander in beautiful Swiss landscapes. It is a controlled airport and homebase of several flight scools. The main concrete runway is used by engined aircraft and gliders use the grass runway. On nice VFR day the traffic can be dense and go-arounds caused by blocked runway are not unusual.
Some of the airport neighboors are quite active in their fight against aircraft noise so it is important to follow the published procedures as strictly as possible. The VRPs are easy to find, and the nearby river offers a lot of reference points. Note that there are two circuits, both to the south. Depending the type of aircraft you fly with you’ll have to use the inner or the outer circuit.
Grenchen has a VOR-DME approach to runway 25. It is probably the longest approach in Switzerland. It starts at the WIL VOR. Bern approach will clear you for the approach which consists of leaving WIL on a north-west radial, flying towards the Jura mountain, partly below the tops. At this very moment, you’ll be flying directly at the mountain, waiting for intercepting a radial of the Grenchen VOR to fly parallel to the mountain, to the field. You’d better not miss it, as terrain is only a few miles away. A wrong radial setting could have very negative consequences. And at this very moment, Bern approach will tell you “Radar Service Terminated, contact Grenchen Tower on Frequency …”. On your own, possibly IMC, flying to a mountain.
The interception is a rather slow one as it occurs at a DME distance of 17.5 nautical miles. Lot of time to stabilize the approach. Note that the radial is not exactly lined-up with the runway so when the time comes to look outside for landing, don’t expect the runway exactly in front of the aircraft’s nose. The ruwnay is long enough for light jets to operate there and there are no notable obstructions in the axis. The IFR departure is interesting beause it partly makes use of Bern ILS. The climb performance required to remain in controlled airspace is higher than usual, so be sure you can do it.
You can reach the train station with a 20 minutes walk, check www.sbb.ch for the timetables. From there you ride to Bienne (en francais) / Biel (in German) and enjoy a walk along the shores of the lake. You can also get a bit more to the south-west and stroll along the “Ile St-Pierre” on the Bielersee (lac de Bienne, en francais).