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100 year celebrations of the first airliner airport in Europe Devau in Kaliningrad

In March 2019 the German aviation magazine “Aerokurier” published an advance announcement to visit the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the airfield Devau near Kaliningrad and a member of my flying club noticed and set up a plan.
So in April the first preparations and contacts began. The Kieler Luftsportverein was the 1st contact point for us. This was where all threads for the west European participants ran together. From July on the plans became more concrete and we started to look for the necessary documents of man and machine. At the same time the communication with the Hanseoffice in Kaliningrad took place, through which the organisation provided translation and local contacts. Also the necessary visas for the participants were easy to organize in the meantime, as visas for the Kaliningrad region can be applied for online since July 1, 2019.
We were provided with exact entry times and routes for Russian airspace, as well as waypoints for planned local excursions over Russian territory. All this was only possible thanks to the active support of the representative of the Russian AOPA, Mr. Evgeny Kabanov. He was also the one who organized the necessary permissions for the individual aircraft. We had also expressed concerns that there might be a considerable delay in the handling of the arriving 70-80 aircraft in Kaliningrad, as the entry formalities and the associated bureaucracy were already foreseeable.
The festival was to take place from 16-18 August 2019 at the former Devau commercial airport in Kaliningrad. On Monday, 12 August, the 6 pilots met in Lucerne over a beer and discussed the route to be flown and how to proceed. It was also to be decided whether the trip would actually start or not, because the weather forecasts for the weekend, both in Kaliningrad and on the way home to Switzerland, were anything but sunny. Finally we postponed the decision until Wednesday morning. What was in any case clear was that we wanted to fly off on Wednesday, as the flying weather on Thursday would probably have made it impossible to leave Switzerland. Our route should be Kägiswil-Dresden-Gdansk-Kaliningrad. The return flight would be planned by Kaliningrad-Olsztyn/Mazury-Prague-Kägsiwil. Due to different working hours the 3 crews had to start their travels separately. Our first meeting place was the evening of Wednesday in Dresden. The crew of HB-PNG announced their departure on Wednesday morning. In the early afternoon we took off in HB-PEW and in the late afternoon the HB-CZV. After departing LSZC we discovered the door hadn’t been locked properly so due to the wind the upper part would be sucked outwards and we had a very nice cold breeze and anyone trying to secure a open door in a PA28 in flight will report the same as it is impossible. So we continued with the door open a gap but as weather was nice it was ok. We tried to seal it with cleaning cloths which worked but every power setting change resulted it one getting sucked out and lost over Germany :-( Sorry for the pollution!

After 2 hours I recalled having stowed the drinks just aft the right front seat so I grabbed there and found two very nicely cool alcohol free beers which we enjoyed very much.


Last Edited by Neal at 29 Aug 21:20
LSPG, LSZC, Switzerland

On that wednesday evening we arrived in Dresden and the friendly guy in the tower was even allowing a foto session over the old town.

After landing we got refueled

And as we got there first, we booked a hotel for the 6 of us and went to visit the city and the famous Frauenkirche

to be continued…..

Last Edited by Neal at 29 Aug 21:20
LSPG, LSZC, Switzerland

The next morning the route to Gdansk (EPGD) was planned during breakfast. Due to the weather forecast for Friday, a flight from Gdansk to Kaliningrad would only be possible in good visual flight conditions so we decided to fly to Kaliningrad already on Thursday. However, our permission from the Russian aviation authority was only valid for Friday, August 16th. So we informed the Hanseoffice in Kaliningrad with the request for understanding and bringing forward the entry data. In fact, a short time later we received the modified permission with validity from 15.8. from 0700 UTC for 48 hours for the flight from Gdansk to Kaliningrad. We separated easily from the planned sightseeing day in Dresden and made our way to the airport. The route should lead us via Cottbus and West Poland directly to Gdansk. We had to fly around a few active military restricted areas. But otherwise the flight was rather unproblematic, because the weather was nice with a few small clouds on the way. In the approach the HB-PEW could overtake the HB-CZV nevertheless still again by inquiring a short cut at the air traffic control which got approved. At the same time we heard on the radio how a formation flight of a D registered party didn’t really work out, because the leader was reluctant to be the leader of the formation. Landed in Gdansk, we were not the first and only planes to go to Kaliningrad. There was already a small armada of ultralight planes lined up. However, only we planned to fly on from UMKK to XMKI the same day. The handling in Gdansk was fast and uncomplicated. After a short refreshment in the terminal we started at 14 o’clock to Kaliningrad. On the radio the controller of Gdansk was busy with a German pilot to get her on the right way outside the controlled airspace by constantly giving her magnetic courses and headings, but obviously she was a little overwhelmed ("is your compass working? – “…no!” or “is my track all right?”). We flew along the fresh spit, a narrow headland that separates the fresh lagoon from the Baltic Sea, to the border point GOMED when we called for Kaliningrad Approach.


Flight on to the point URAMA. There the first aircraft (HB-CZV) was asked “are you able to fly visual approach RWY 24?”, especially as we were on our way with a VFR flight plan. “Affirm, able to fly visual approach RWY 24” and a close flyby of the naval air base Chkalovsk northwest of Kaliningrad approaching Kaliningrad-Khrabrovo (UMKK). Our request for a deviation from the direct route for a short photo flight over the city of Kaliningrad was unfortunately rejected after a short break on the radio. The TWR Kaliningrad immediately asked the crew of the HB-CZV "Are you able for a direct approach RWY 06? The crew confirmed this and went into the longfinal RWY 06 for landing. So we made it, and came with our planes to Russia. After the landing we were besieged by officials and customs officers only so.


For our 3 airplanes 10 customs officers and 3 male officials were called up. Beside the passport control the airplanes were thoroughly inspected (mirrors with extensions, opening of the cowling, luggage controls). The customs officers photographed themselves and were accompanied also by a press officer and plentifully posed photos with coworkers and pilots were made, which were to testify the thorough work. We were forbidden to photograph the ladies and gentlemen with hats. The funniest thing was opening the cowling as the customer officers wanted to see my black box. When it was open they asked “where is black box?” and I answered “I have no black box” and they pointed in the direction of an Airbus 320 from Ural Airlines and said “They have black box”. Again I replied “I don’t have a black box”. The lady then took a inspectional view into the section front of the firewall and saw the oil filter and asked “is this black box?”. I replied quietly as before that I don’t have a black box on board so my oil filter is not going to be an electronic data recorder ;-) . The communication took place in English and partly also in Russian as my Copilot speaks some russian. We were supported by the young lady Xenia of the handling agency “Avia-Partner”. At her place, all threads came together at the airfield. We expressed our wish to continue the flight to Devau airport on the same day but reported problems with the flight plan task. 3 planes that had already landed before us had not managed to bring the flight plans into the Russian air traffic control system. We were taken to an office where we had a computer. The crews of the other aircraft were already waiting there. The difficulty of the flight plan task consisted in indicating the not officially registered airfield Devau (XMKI) as the destination airfield. But filing it in coordinates worked. After having filed the Flightplan the Tower got it immediately but had to send it to Moscow for approval which only took 3 hours to get approved for the final 6 minutes flight. What a waste of time.

update with continuation will follow ASAP……

Last Edited by Neal at 29 Aug 22:20
LSPG, LSZC, Switzerland

Neal wrote:

anyone trying to secure a open door in a PA28 in flight will report the same as it is impossible

Isn’t the PA28 POH emergency procedure for open door something along the lines of slow the aircraft with reduced power and flaps, open the pilot’s window to reduce the vacuum and slip into the door (right) and attempt to close the door?

tmo
EPKP - Kraków, Poland

tmo wrote:

Isn’t the PA28 POH emergency procedure for open door something along the lines of slow the aircraft with reduced power and flaps, open the pilot’s window to reduce the vacuum and slip into the door (right) and attempt to close the door?

For the Archer II:

  • Slow the airplane to 87 KIAS
  • Cabin vents — CLOSED
  • Storm window — OPEN

No mention of slip, but it could help.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

Meanwhile the daylight became scarce and we had to decide if we wanted to fly over to the unknown, freshly prepared runway, because we saw that it took about 30 minutes from the confirmation of the flight plan to paying the (peppered) landing taxes (about 200 $ per plane) to take off to Devau. Our deadline was shortly before 8 pm to be able to land in light. Around 19:35 the confirmation for the HB-PNG came in. We decided that HB-PNG should fly, the other two follow by taxi and fly over the next day. In the middle of the discussion came also the confirmation for HB-PEW, while for HB-CZV was rejected (apparently we did not write the aircraft type correctly in the flight plan, which was reason enough to give a rejection – but DFS had let this flight plan through without any problems). So the crews immediately made their way to the aircraft, while the HB-CZV crew paid the landing taxes of both aircraft. So we saved some time, but had to convince the officials that we really would pay the landing taxes for the other planes. Both crews were quickly ready and were sent from Tower Chrabrovo into the air to fly with a maximum of 200m AGL towards Devau.

We had hand-drawn approach charts and copies from the Russian AIP, but the place was almost in the middle of the city and the two parallel runways (grass – 500m, 20m wide, gravel – 900m, 10m wide) had been freshly laid out for us. So it was decided to make a deep overflight over the terrain. The round trip should be flown to the west of the runway, but to the east was the city with its sights. So we took the opportunity to fly over the city under the radar. From this low height one could at least still see something, even if it was already very dawning. While the pilot flew, the copilot took the radio and the photos over the city and videos of the approach. At the radio a broken German voice answered “do you want to land?”, which we confirmed. HB-PNG flew over the airfield while HB-PEW announced a low-pass RWY 008. The runway looked good without any obstacles.

Meanwhile also terms known by radio came in good German. Later we learned that 2 pilots of one of the machines of Chrabrovo were at the place, and had kindly taken over the radio. After the low overflight followed then again the left round course over the city with following clean landing on the gravel way. HB-PNG followed immediately with the landing. Meanwhile it was quite dark, but we arrived safely at our destination. Since we arrived one day earlier than expected, not much was prepared, but the “airfield boss” Sergej and also Talgat (a former military parachutist pilot) and the security chief (broken German speaking) welcomed us friendly. The Follow-Me-Car (civil registered Ford Fiesta) was driven by Sergej`s wife Julia. We were parked on the former apron of the first German civil airport Devau (XMKI). The head of security personally guarded the airplanes at night by placing his caravan directly next to our airplanes and staying overnight there. We were officially welcomed by handing each crew a bottle of ice cold vodka (Staraya Marka) and of course we had to try it right away ;-).

We were driven from Talgat to our hotel “Kaiserhof” and expected there by the crew of the HB-CZV. Our wish for a typical Russian dinner (Borschtsch (beetroot soup), Pelmeni, Königsberger Klopse) was granted and we were taken to the restaurant “Borschtsch & Salo”. Because the car from Talgat had only 5 seats, but we were 7 people, 2 of us had to drive in the trunk of the SUV. The other pilots were already waiting in the restaurant and we had a nice evening and started our stay in Kaliningrad. Exhausted we went to the hotel for a night’s rest.

The next day was planned to enjoy a city tour together with the other pilots. The Hanseoffice organized an excursion with a german speaking guide. The city guide Elena showed us her city with a lot of background information. We saw the for decades vacant “House of the Councillors” at the site of the former Kaliningrad Castle, some of the former 6 city gates, the playhouse, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour at the Place of Victory with its golden domes, the Museum of the World Ocean and stood at the end on the Kantinsel (Kneiphof) in front of the Kaliningrad Cathedral and the tomb of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant.







Unfortunately, the planned organ concert was cancelled due to technical problems. Instead we went for a walk through the reconstructed fishing village with German half-timbered houses directly on the river Pregel. Afterwards we visited one of the shops with real and valuable amber. Afterwards the crew of the HB-CZV went to the airport Chrabrovo to finally fly over the HB-CZV to Devau. We gave up the flight plan at breakfast, hoping not to have to wait so long for the Russian permit again. Apparently the people in charge at Chrabrovo airport had learnt from yesterday, because it took less than 10 minutes to get to the plane. Accordingly, the notification by SMS that the crew was on its way came at short notice. The others jumped into a taxi and naturally wanted to be there when the plane landed. Still in the taxi we saw a Cessna flying very low over the city, which could only be our HB-CZV. With the handheld radio we asked for a delay of the landing, because our cameras were not ready yet and because of the usual afternoon traffic in Kaliningrad we just reached the airport Devau. In spite of the sprint to the runway we only saw the rolling out of the Cessna, but we could see the other planes of the meanwhile landed participants. Thus all our pilots had arrived in Devau (XMKI) at the actual goal.


A briefing was announced for the evening at the DOSAAF training center. Before we were looking for a restaurant, which had Königsberger Klopse on offer (apparently this is more of a German dish now, because in Kaliningrad tourists are offered this only rarely. We found only 1 restaurant and also this one had only 1 portion left. So not everyone could try the Königsberger Klopse. At the following briefing in the DOSAAF center the program of the festival was discussed. Among other things, some DOSAAF activities were presented to the spectators, but it was also possible to register sightseeing flights over the Kaliningrad region with one’s own aircraft. Short overflights to the small airfield Waldau would also be possible to refuel AvGas or the Russian equivalent B91/115. The DOSAAF is a paramilitary organization with the aim of increasing the population’s defence readiness. The DOSAAF most closely corresponds to the GST (Gesellschaft für Sport und Technik) in the former GDR. We from Switzerland expressed our thanks to the organization, the airfield representatives, the representatives of AOPA and all those present and unfortunately had to announce our early departure, as the weather for the flight home on Monday and Tuesday looked very bad. A long front with thunderstorms should come from France to Poland. Therefore we could not participate in the festival itself. But we had the opportunity to meet many other pilots, mostly from Germany, but also from Poland and Russia. Among others we met the Polish pilot of a Cirrus SR22 G3, who was the first Western European with a small airplane (after Mathias Rust) to officially fly VFR in Russia and made it to Rostow am Don. After a nightcap beer in the hotel bar we went to bed.

The following morning, the first flight movement at Devau airfield was scheduled for 11 o’clock local time. We had to go to Chrabrovo (UMKK) to fly from there to Olszyn-Mazury (EPSY). After a hearty farewell the HB-PEW and HB-PNG left Devau in the direction of Chrabrovo. HB-CZV was supposed to follow, but then the propeller touched the ground while rolling on the grass runway. Flight incapacity had occurred. Plan changes had to be made immediately in order not to endanger the return home. The responsible persons in Devau reacted quickly and immediately, and pulled the machine into a hangar locally. HB-PEW and HB-PNG were informed in Chrabrovo. After the provisional damage assessment on site, we decided to split the crew between the two other aircraft and fly off with 2 aircraft towards Switzerland. Fortunately the handling agent Xenia in Chrabrovo was still well disposed towards us and organized the changed plans with the tower and expected the crew at the taxi stand and helped to pass the security controls in the public terminal. Surprisingly, we passed the passport controls without any complications and were back at our planes around 2 pm. Again the customs officers went into action and checked the planes again (again with engine and trunk inspections) – as if we wanted to smuggle vodka out of the country (which of course we would never do). After no smuggled goods were found, we also had a hearty farewell with a personal handshake with all the officials and customs officers present. The departure clearance was correctly read back by us and we were again on our way to “Western Europe”. The overflight of the Masurian Lake District impressed everyone.

In Olsztyn-Mazury (EPSY) we were met again by customs officers who took their job even more seriously and really did a baggage check. In any case, the desired technical stop in Mazury was really no longer than necessary, thanks to handling agents Jakub and Krystian. Besides, we learned that many tourists came to the airport, with a brand new terminal building, to visit either the wonderful nature or also historical places (Wolfsschanze, American bases for the interrogation of Taliban) in the immediate vicinity. Because the direct flight to Prague would be a bit too long due to the strong headwind, we wanted to make a stopover in Wrozlaw. About 1 hour longer than without wind we needed from EPSY to EPWS (Szymanow). The approach to the grass court with 3 runways was a bit tricky, especially as the two parallel runways were not so clearly distinguishable from each other. The local parachutists were very friendly. On the spot we got to know by phone that Prague-Letnany will only be open until 19 o’clock local time.

It already dawned slightly and we had a short discussion whether we should fly on or spend the night in Wrozlaw. Because of the weather situation forecast for the next day (thunderstorm in the late afternoon in Switzerland and strong headwind from west with 25-35 kt) we decided to continue our flight in order to keep the way as short as possible on the following day. Bautzen (EDAB) offered itself as an alternative landing site. The tower would have wanted to close the airfield at about 8 pm, but we politely asked for a landing opportunity – so he wanted to wait until we landed. After the start in Wrozlaw-Szymanow, the headwind made it difficult for us again, which was reflected in ground speeds of sometimes only 70 knots. Accordingly our arrival shifted into the evening twilight. Completely legal, but already at dusk we asked the Tower Bautzen for a full power of the runway lighting and could already see the place from a distance of more than 10 miles. Approach and landing on the over 2km long runway were unspectacular. Bureaucracy was postponed until the following day, when the towerman wanted to have a birthday party. We got a big room taxi, whose driver was cool and had great Saturday evening music going. In the hotel in the city center we looked for a possibility for dinner, because the day had all pretty exhausted.

We were in Lusatia, the main settlement area of the Sorbian minority recognized in Germany. One or the other might be confronted with very artfully painted Easter eggs in this context. The particularly artistic and elaborate decoration of the Easter eggs is a firm Easter custom of the Sorbs. Unfortunately, the Sorbian restaurant “Wjelbik” no longer offered a warm cuisine. So we turned to the Mönchshof, a medieval restaurant where the waitresses are dressed as monks. Everyone found a menu according to their preferences and we let the eventful day end. The Habana-Bar directly at the hotel (recommendation of the taxi driver) was visited afterwards only by the hard core of the group for a beer.
The next morning the first signs of the predicted front over the Erzgebirge appeared and in Bautzen it was drizzling. The route was planned as usual at the breakfast table and should contain a stopover in Augsburg, because the requirement of the customs in Bautzen would have cost over 180 euros. In the tower we collected the last weather data and soon after left the field.

Shortly after the start the sky cleared again and over the Erzgebirge we had again good visibility, but quite stubborn conditions with again only scarcely 70 knots Groundspeed. After flying over the Fichtelberg we had to report temporarily to “Karlovy Vary Radar” for the passage of the D-Airspace and at the same time it became much calmer in the air. Back at “Langen Information” we heard about at least 2 airplanes in unpleasant weather situations, which finally had to make a safety landing at Berlin-Schönhagen. Apart from strong headwinds we had good flying weather. Landed in Augsburg (EDMA) we refilled our tanks again to have enough reserves for the flight home. The customs officer didn’t want to know anything from us and so after a short coffee break we went to the final spurt towards Central Switzerland. The flight through the TMZ Memmingen and TMZ Friedrichshafen with a special transponder code when listening was also pleasant and saves a few miles of detours.

And so we arrived around 17 o’clock local time in Buochs (LSZC) and Kägiswil (LSPG) safely again. A short review at an After-Landing-Beer ended this international flight.
According to GPS track we flew 1543 miles on this trip. In total it was 15 hours and 22 minutes flight time.

Last Edited by Neal at 30 Aug 07:34
LSPG, LSZC, Switzerland

Brilliant reports; thank you for posting them Neal and keep them coming

Not many people get as far east as this nowadays.

That inspection was incredible but nothing surprises me in the “airport police” department

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Thanks for this report!

Regarding the fees at Kaliningrad, I think you were lucky. Most stops in Russia are rather in the four digits…

It would be great to find out if what you paid was due to the background organisation and event, or if this is what all regular visitors may expect. For 200$, I might go there as well one day. Also, good to know on the online visas!

I feel sorry about the prop strike. But this has to be exepcted when flying to grass fields in these countries. They really have a different Definition for grass runways and taxyway there.
Is the plane still there? What will happen with it?

Re the food: it doesn’t astonish at all that Königsberger Klopse is not really offered there. After all, it was a German dish, and anything German (also all their architecture from pre-war days) was erased by the Soviets after the war.

My father has flown into Kaliningrad in a Piper Archer in 1998, I believe. He says it was an adventure back then, to put it mildly.

Last Edited by boscomantico at 30 Aug 08:35
Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

boscomantico wrote:

It would be great to find out if what you paid was due to the background organisation and even

I think the fees were reduced as the fly-in was organized by the Hanseoffice in Kaliningrad.

Is the plane still there? What will happen with it?

A mechanic is leaving with two guys in a lorry next week to dismantle the plane and bring it back to Switzerland on the back of the truck so the prop and engine work can be done here. Meanwhile it’s in the hangar in Devau.

LSPG, LSZC, Switzerland

Thanks for the great report, Neal.

And i am envious, especially since i had planned to join (as a late addition to the group) and received an email that the whole thing was called off due to the runway not getting to acceptable form in time (for lack of funds).
That obviously wasnt true , or not the full story.

Pity, sounds like a great adventure !

...
EDM_, Germany
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