While I love doing fun weekend trips to the beach in Italy or elsewhere, there is one thing that gives me at least as much satisfaction, and that is when GA allows me to really get a “mission” done. In other words, when one can use the aircraft as a means of transportation, on a (more or less necessary) trip which would otherwise have to be done by car, train, or airliner. Or at least where it makes visits possible that one would simply otherwise not be able to do.
These flights give a sense of achievement and “utility”, which IMHO is necessary every now and then to keep going, with all the known costs and the hassles of GA.
Of course, in SEPs, sometimes this does not work out; mainly due to weather, but sometimes also due to restricted airport operating hours, or due to needing the ultimate flexibility of having your car along with you.
But often enough, it does work out. Over the last few years, an occasional run of mine has become the trip from Mainz (EDFZ) to Luebeck (EDHL), to visit my family. This is a flight across a big chunk of Germany, a little over 250 miles. Depending on the aircraft used, it takes between 1:40h and 2:30h. In the car, it would take 5.5 hours, making it impractical for a visit of just two days.
It was in the middle of September and a visit to my family was due. During the week, the weather forecast for the entire weekend ahead looked too good to miss up on the occasion. Unfortunately, the weather being good, all of the club’s aircraft were booked. Only the lowly C172F (featured previously, here for example) was available. I have previously done this trip in the SR22, the Bonanza, the Debonair, and the PA28. The 172 would be at the very low end of the scale as far as speed is concerned: about 105 KTAS. And no autopilot. Should I do it? Heck, let’s do it!
This trip and and short trip report is of course nothing too special, but maybe it can serve as an encouragement, even for “club pilots”, to occasionally just do these longer trips, even if they do cost a lot of money of course. As usual, I also managed to take a few photos.
The two airports involved in this trip are my two “homebase” airports and they are very easy and useful for GA:
Mainz (EDFZ) is a “Verkehrslandeplatz”, i.e. an uncontrolled field, but with 1000 meters of tarmac, 7 days a week operations, lights, and lot of mixed traffic. Downsides: no instrument approaches and it regularly closes a 20:00h local in summer and at sunset (not even ECET!) in the other seasons. SEP landings cost between 10 and 30 Euros.
Luebeck (EDHL) is a small regional airport which has recently become an “airline airport” again. Opening hours are very good. Of course it has lights, and all sorts of approaches. Still, the fees are acceptable (about 40-60 Euros for an SEP including 2 nights parking).
Timingwise, my usual schedule is to leave Mainz in the early evening of Friday, after work,
and to be back in the late afternoon on Sunday. Luebeck allows it to arrive late in the evening, but if at all possible, I try to avoid flying at night, at least in aircraft other than the Cirrus. In this case (mid September), it meant departing Mainz at 17:45h local time in order to land in Luebeck by about 20:00h local time (there was a bit of tailwind going up).
None of the two airports require any PPR for such flight (as is “standard” in Germany) and, of course, for VFR, no flightplan is required either. A nice thing about these regular trips is that one knows the route and the used airports by heart, and therefore, not a lot of preparation is needed, It’s merely a case of making sure the weather is OK, quickly checking the NOTAMs, making sure you have enough fuel, and that’s it.
Speaking of fuel: this C172 has 39 gallons of useful load in the main tanks, but in addition, this one has an 18-gallon aux tank in the baggage compartment. Very useful for longer trips, especially when you can fuel up at home base with very cheap mogas.
Luckily, the airspace structure in most of Germany is very simple and GA-friendly. On this route, one merely has to pay attention to the Frankfurt TMA on departure…
… and to the Hamburg TMA on arrival.
Plus, about in the middle of the flight, there is the Hannover TMA, but the airport is not too busy (not even in non-Corona times), so it usually is not a problem at all getting a clearance to cross it at the altitude and course of one‘s liking.
Once these things are taken into consideration, there is very little to worry about. One can fly this route essentially as a straight line, at any altitude up to FL95, without having to speak a word with anybody (very much like in the US). One caveat: if flying really low, one should of course make sure to avoid the circuits and overheads of the various small airfields located on the courseline, but this can be done by adjusting the course a bit to the left or right before approaching these airfields. Paradrop areas should be thus avoided even up to higher altitudes.
I had the aircraft refuelled (i.e. both wing tanks and the aux tank full) and taken out of the hangar the day before, so I was able to depart very quickly once I arrived at the airfield.
As mentioned, when departing Mainz, one always has to mind and avoid Frankfurt’s class Charlie airspace, with its varying lower limits. In practice, a good solution is often to climb at way above Vy, as this assures remaining under it, without requiring intermediate level-offs. But it needs careful monitoring of course. (In theory, one could call the ATC for a clearance to enter this airspace, and in these times, one would also likely receive it. But in practice, it’s a busy time just after takeoff, but a) getting a word in and b) receiving such clearance will likely take a few minutes. By that time, most the TMA is usually already behind me, so I usually prefer to just make a more shallow climb and be done with it).
Almost every time I cross the river Rhine, I just have to take a photo…
I climbed to 5000 feet for the cruise and then contacted the FIS for flight/traffic information. Their call sign is „Langen“, for all of Germany. It was handflying all the way, which, to be honest, I don‘t do much.
The first bit of this route does not offer all too much in terms of scenery. It’s just a very rural part of Germany, without any particular highlights. Hence, no photos. Anyway, after I had flown for about one hour, I initiated the transfer of some fuel from the aux tank to the main tank. Precisely, the aux tank always dumps into the RH main tank. The rest of the fuel was done a bit later. The transfer process takes about 20 minutes for the full aux tank.
Later on, as planned, I crossed the TMA of Hannover, and got a few shots of the city and the airport just before sunset.
Crossing the river Elbe.
The approach at Luebeck airport. RH downwind…
…and final runway 25. Total flight time was 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Nowadays, the main apron at EDHL is mostly reserved for the local airline and their ATR72. Visiting SEPs are now usually parked on the grass. And all visiting aircraft get marshalled by a bus. Funny though that the bus ride to the terminal is NOT mandatory. As long as you put on a hi-vis vest, you can walk across the apron (the GAT office is on the other side).
Just a few pics taken during the weekend, on the Baltic coast (Niendorf).
The return was on Sunday afternoon. The weather was still of no concern. I would merely have to accept a bit of headwind on the first half of the flight. Without the headwind, and thanks to the additional fuel from the aux tank, I could have made it all the way back home without refuelling. But, given the wind situation, I had to take a little extra fuel. Since Luebeck does not have cheap mogas, and since I actually did appreciate a short stop on this longish flight, I chose to plan a short „splash ‘n dash“ at Hildesheim (EDVM), just south of Hannover.
Preparing for departure at Luebeck.
A quick photo of Ratzeburg, just south of Lübeck, whilst climbing to 4500 feet.
Lueneburg (EDHG) airfield:
After that, I really didn’t take any more photos, as it was a bit hazy and the sun was directly in my 12 o’clock. It didn’t make sense.
Here I am, approaching Hildesheim airfield (EDVM).
This is a very popular place for fuel stops in Germany, as the prices are really good.
After departure, the Wetterberg (potash) at Giesen. This is always a good landmark for aircraft approaching EDVM.
A few more shots of northern Hessia.
Approaching Mainz, I again had to mind and avoid the Frankfurt TMA. This invariably means crossing over the Taunus mountain range at rather low height.
On base for runway 08 at EDFZ.
Home safe. Total flight time for the return was 2 hours and 40 minutes.
As usual, what was left to do was to put the aircraft away, tidy up, clean the bugs off and get home.
Thanks for the nice trip report. Great photos of Hannover, I might be “on” the one with the city
A small remark regarding your stop at my homebase, EDVM: Imho, the “Wetterberg” is the hill on the extended RWY 25 centreline (bottom left of your photo), while the white pottash pile is called the “Kaliberg”. This is relevant insofar as many pilots call out the Kaliberg in the circuit, which is happening when turning downwind in RH circuits or turning base at LH circuits.
Great report as always.
Yes, a trip is not only worth the flight but also its purpose.
105 knots with an O-300 ! That’s a well rigged and cleaned Cessna.
Addendum to my above post: boscomantico has it correct, the pottash hill is indeed called Wetterberg. My apologies. “Kaliberg” is a generic term for these hills, while “Wetterberg” is the name of that specific one. The natural hill I meant is called “Osterberg”, it is in the way of RWY 25 centreline.
Thanks bosco for taking the time of sharing also this “ordinary” trip! It showes well, how relaxed and straightforward VFR flying in Germany is, which echoes also my own experience. ATC – as you wrote – is VERY helpful as well if need be. You normally get, what you request – top service here! For instance when approaching my homebase EDLE Essen-Mülheim from the south, FIS Langen sometimes asks me, if I’d like them to coordinate the Cologne TMA crossing with Radar for me…
@Bosco great advertisement for GA in Germany, and also how practical a simple SEP can be – nicely updated panel.
It still has the smooth 0-300 engine?
These flights with a “mission” are indeed very statisfying, even if the scenery is sometimes boring. It makes GA very powerfull, even with it’s downsides. When almost all German airfields would be useable from BCMT up to ECET, it would be heaven for GA in Europe. Once again, nice report!
ATC – as you wrote – is VERY helpful as well if need be. You normally get, what you request – top service here!Absolutely, that has been improved alot, since the DFS changed their policies on glider sectors. Until 2018, TMA transits where often declinced during the weekends, due “active glider sectors”. That was sometimes quite annoying, as ATCO’s had to deal with these sectors almost like “restricted areas”, but it has been solved now since end of 2018 I guess.
Good detailed report.
I think we will all be doing these, for the foreseeable future
Scilly Isles have never looked so attractive