Fly­ing Ad­ven­ture: To Poland by Sea­plane

To Poland and back by am­phib­ian, with history ex­plored along the way

Pilot - - CONTENTS - Words & pho­tos: John Rus­sell

A bit of history, cul­ture, and dip­ping into lakes on the way

Our an­nual in­vi­ta­tion from Jakub Fa­jfer to the Mazury Air Show promised a spe­cial event. 2018 marked the twen­ti­eth air­show and was both the cen­te­nary of the found­ing of Poland as a sep­a­rate coun­try and of the Pol­ish Air Force. The or­gan­is­ers hoped for a large sea­plane pres­ence−a rel­a­tively new di­men­sion to the show−and the air dis­play would be off the beach of Lake Niegocin at the re­sort town of Gizy­cko. The air­show is or­gan­ised solely by vol­un­teers, many pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port, along with spon­sor­ship from other Pol­ish avi­a­tion as­sets, local busi­nesses and the Gizy­cko Coun­cil. It’s the re­gion’s so­cial event of the year, at­tract­ing many thou­sands of vis­i­tors. My wife Liz and I im­me­di­ately ac­cepted.

The Mazurian re­gion is in the north-east of Poland, not far south of the Rus­sian en­clave of Kalen­ingrad and only eighty

miles west of the bor­ders of Lithua­nia and Be­larus. The area has hun­dreds of lakes−a sea­plane pi­lot’s dream−and sea­planes are wel­come on al­most all of them! The sea­planes would pro­vide ‘eye-candy’ on the wa­ter in front of the crowd dur­ing the Au­gust fly­ing dis­plays, the star be­ing the Dux­ford-based ‘Plane Sail­ing’ Catalina, for the first time in­clud­ing Poland as part of its tour of Euro­pean air­shows. Air­craft would be based ten min­utes’ fly­ing time from the lake at Ketrzyn Wil­am­owa (EPKE), a two-run­way grass air­field opened in 1935 that later be­came fa­mous as Hitler’s air­field for fly­ing into the ad­ja­cent Wolf’s Lair HQ dur­ing WWII.

As Ketrzyn is some 1,000nm from our Black­bushe base, it re­quired a lot of plan­ning to find suit­able stopover air­fields within our Cessna 182 am­phib­ian’s nor­mal op­er­at­ing ra­dius of around two hours. We usu­ally avoided route­ing via Bel­gium as the com­pli­cated airspace looks quite daunt­ing but closer in­spec­tion proved it was pos­si­ble to weave around the Mil­i­tary and Re­stricted Ar­eas and get clear­ance through civil­ian con­trolled airspace by talk­ing nicely to the rel­e­vant ATC. We like to leave plenty of time to get to air­show des­ti­na­tions and build in ad­di­tional buf­fers; An­twerp was to be our first port of call to clear Cus­toms, and the plan was to spend a cou­ple of nights there to see the city.

Af­ter weeks of hot, dry weather in the UK, low cloud and rain came in, de­lay­ing our planned de­par­ture by two days, so An­twerp be­came just a wa­ter­hole en route to Poland. The cold front had gone through dur­ing the night but, as we pre­pared to de­part at 0800, the west­erly breeze was rapidly whip­ping up some tur­bu­lent cloud that threat­ened to spoil our de­par­ture. We main­tained VFR be­low the 1,900ft cloud­base head­ing east

to­wards Sevenoaks, be­tween LHR and LGW zones. For­tu­nately this some­what con­strained bit of airspace was de­void of other traf­fic−no other id­iots were fly­ing at that hour in those bumpy con­di­tions!

Coast­ing out at Dover, the cu­mu­lus clouds even­tu­ally gave up, leav­ing the game to their Bel­gian coun­ter­parts. By the time we reached that coast, they were rapidly be­com­ing tow­er­ing Cu as the cool sea air blew over the warm land. We were talk­ing to Koksyde Ap­proach, who main­tained sep­a­ra­tion from their ac­tive mil­i­tary traf­fic ar­eas by clear­ing us through at 2,500ft. Un­for­tu­nately that level and above was now the do­main of the clouds. Main­tain­ing VMC just off the coast, we ex­plained our predica­ment and im­me­di­ately re­ceived clear­ance through their airspace be­low 1,500ft. Eas­ing the am­phib­ian into a gen­tle spiral de­scent to avoid shock cool­ing the en­gine, we were able to route low level through the Bel­gian coastal re­gion in dap­pled sun­shine and su­perb vis­i­bil­ity.

Our route­ing to Nicky VOR was much more re­laxed, pass­ing north of Ghent and cross­ing the im­pres­sive Ghent-terneuzen Canal which con­nects the city to the Scheldt es­tu­ary. An early trans­fer to An­twerp ob­tained our in­bound route­ing via their RUPEL and KONTI Vis­ual Re­port­ing Points (VRP) to a left base for Rwy 29. The strength­en­ing west­erly wind as we flew across Bel­gium pro­duced a tur­bu­lent ap­proach with some low level wind shear which concentrat­ed the mind on short fi­nal. When we parked close to the Cus­toms of­fice, two bright orange-clad Cus­toms ladies came out to ad­mire the am­phib­ian and seemed sat­is­fied af­ter a quick look in the cav­ernous floats. They then es­corted us to the Im­mi­gra­tion of­fice, where the tem­per­a­ture drop in the build­ing was not due to air con­di­tion­ing. Our ap­pear­ance was greeted by a frosty po­lice­man. Why had we not sent a Gen­eral Dec­la­ra­tion be­fore de­par­ture? My flab­ber was some­what gasted, as on­site Cus­toms fa­cil­i­ties were shown in the AIP, and we had never been re­quired to sub­mit a ‘Gen Dec’ be­fore land­ing at any other Euro­pean Cus­toms sta­tion. How­ever, know­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence that ar­gu­ing with Police and/or Cus­toms will never be fruit­ful, af­ter pro­fuse apolo­gies the ter­ri­ble form was duly com­pleted. We even asked for a blank one−to show will­ing­ness to com­ply with proper pro­ce­dures in the fu­ture. This was grudg­ingly pro­vided as if it were the last in the king­dom.

Af­ter pay­ing the land­ing fee we went back through Se­cu­rity, who spot­ted a credit-card knife which had been buried in the depths of my flight bag for the last three years (un­de­tected by nu­mer­ous pre­vi­ous se­cu­rity checks). More pro­fuse apolo­gies, con­fis­ca­tion of­fered and ac­cepted, that seemed to sat­isfy Se­cu­rity but, as we pre­pared to taxi for fuel, our Police friend and his backup turned up claim­ing we had tried to smug­gle a con­cealed weapon through Se­cu­rity! Eat­ing hum­ble pie didn’t work this time; pass­ports were pho­tographed and we were in­formed an of­fi­cial re­port would be filed. The irony was that we later dis­cov­ered my small Swiss knife had been in my pocket all the time, and un­de­tected! Of course, th­ese of­fi­cials were only do­ing their job and, like it or not, air­port se­cu­rity is a vi­tal ne­ces­sity to com­bat ter­ror­ism.

Re­fu­elled, we de­parted for our next gas sta­tion−mün­ster/ Osnabruck (EDDG). As we were cross­ing from Bel­gium into Ger­many, a flight plan was re­quired and had been filed via Sky­de­mon the pre­vi­ous day. If you haven’t tried this sub­scriber fa­cil­ity yet, the tiny cost avoids all the grief nor­mally en­coun­tered try­ing to use the aw­ful NATS flight plan fil­ing sys­tem!

Route­ing south of Eind­hoven, we crossed the River Maas north of Venlo and a minute later en­tered Ger­many. This track kept us north of the Ruhr, be­low Düs­sel­dorf’s busy airspace, and di­rect to Mün­ster’s WHISKY VRP. From there we were cleared for a vis­ual cir­cuit onto their west­erly run­way. Some Ger­man pro­vin­cial air­ports, in­clud­ing Mün­ster, levy nav­i­ga­tion fees ir­re­spec­tive of whether you used any ser­vices like a VOR, in ad­di­tion to the nor­mal han­dling charges and land­ing fee. An in­voice is sent ret­ro­spec­tively although sin­gleengined GA air­craft shouldn’t have to pay more than €15.

The am­phib­ian’s lim­ited range of­ten dic­tates suit­able air­fields. We’d un­der­stood that there was no need to file a flight plan for flights within Ger­many, which was con­firmed by the Tower, but the con­troller’s tone in­di­cated that this was un­usual. Hav­ing bought more Sky­de­mon flight plan cred­its than we could pos­si­bly use in a year, fil­ing a plan on fu­ture sec­tors would be nil cost and kept Alles in Ord­nung.

Our route plan­ning had de­lib­er­ately avoided any high ground such as the Hartz

Our ap­pear­ance was greeted by a frosty po­lice­man

Moun­tains and so far we’d flown at around 2,500ft. It was ob­vi­ous that the same drought con­di­tions in south­ern Eng­land had spread across most of northern Europe, judg­ing from the half-empty reser­voirs and rivers. It was also no­tice­able that the ex-mil­i­tary air­fields we passed re­tained their long tar­mac run­ways, even if only part was used for fly­ing. This preser­va­tion of es­sen­tial na­tional as­sets seems lost on suc­ces­sive UK Gov­ern­ments in their con­tin­ued ‘sell­ing-off of the family sil­ver’ by per­mit­ting hous­ing devel­op­ment on ir­re­place­able air­field sites.

For a quiet life, we skirted just north of Han­nover’s airspace and thence on a di­rect track east to Eber­swalde-fi­now (EDAV), north-east of Ber­lin and our first night­stop of the trip. This air­field was prob­a­bly the most in­ter­est­ing place we had vis­ited for years! From a dis­tance the field ap­pears to be sur­rounded by wa­ter. Closer in­spec­tion re­vealed a 315 hectare ‘sea’ of photo-voltaic pan­els. Threat­ened with clo­sure, a small group of local en­thu­si­asts man­aged to per­suade the own­ers of this for­mer East Ger­man fighter field to utilise most of the area for power gen­er­a­tion and thus en­able the re­main­der to op­er­ate vi­ably. The whole sys­tem, gen­er­at­ing 84.7 gi­gawatts of power and cost­ing €170m, was com­pleted in the in­cred­i­bly short time of six weeks! One of th­ese local guys, Martin Knoll, met us on ar­rival hav­ing pro­vided us with in­bound ATC ser­vice. He gave us some back­ground on the air­field, say­ing there were forty to fifty air­craft based there, along with am­bu­lance and other med­i­cal flight op­er­a­tions. With vis­it­ing cor­po­rate air­craft, this re­sulted in around 10,000 move­ments each year. Martin picked us up from our ho­tel in the morn­ing and took us on an air­field tour.

The air­field was built for Hitler’s per­sonal use in the 1930s, with paved run­ways added in 1940/41. It was used for flight train­ing, per­son­nel trans­port, and as a night fighter base when Bomber Com­mand started to take a pro­fes­sional in­ter­est in Ber­lin. From Septem­ber 1944 a de­tach­ment of the se­cret KG200 op­er­ated cap­tured B17 Fly­ing Fortresses from Eber­swalde to drop agents into Poland and Rus­sia. Dur­ing the Cold War the Soviet Air Force built 62 hard shel­ters for fighter in­ter­cep­tors on the base; 32 are still used to­day. Th­ese had mas­sive con­crete doors, each weigh­ing up to fifty tonnes, and the elec­tric mo­tors that pow­ered the doors still work. Each hard hangar can eas­ily ac­com­mo­date three light air­craft. At the back of each hangar were large tie-down ring-bolts set into the con­crete floor. The MIG-23 and 25 fight­ers could run up their en­gines whilst in­side the shel­ters, with the jet ef­flux be­ing vented through ninety de­grees out the side of the hangar.

At the west­ern end of the air­field is the Fi­now­furt Avi­a­tion Mu­seum, which con­tains a wealth of WWII ar­ti­facts and Cold War air­craft and equip­ment. We could have spent sev­eral hours there, but had to set­tle for a quick drive around as we were head­ing to Poland that af­ter­noon.

Now we placed our nav­i­ga­tion trust in Sky­de­mon, as we had been un­able to source any Pol­ish charts in the UK. The Bel­gian and Ger­man charts plus an up­grade for our Garmin panel-mounted GPS cost more than £150, ex­pen­sive com­pared to an an­nual Sky­de­mon sub­scrip­tion which cov­ers any route and is con­stantly up­dated, whereas the charts are out of date by the time they ar­rive.

Our first Pol­ish des­ti­na­tion was an­other ex-mil­i­tary, now a pro­vin­cial civil air­port called By­d­goszcz (scores 36 in Scrab­ble!), pro­nounced “Bid­gosht”. We’d been told there was no need to file an on­ward flight plan for in­te­rior flights but dis­cov­ered this doesn’t ap­ply if your flight will en­ter or leave Con­trolled Airspace. Our ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion of Ketrzyn was only just over an hour away, so we still had plenty of time be­fore the lateJuly sun­set.

Five miles out from Ketrzyn there was no re­ply to our ra­dio calls, not un­ex­pected as the main vis­it­ing air­show traf­fic wasn’t due for a day or two. Over­fly­ing the field showed no sign of life and no parked air­craft. Curious, but all our doc­u­men­ta­tion and tech­nol­ogy said it was def­i­nitely the right place. Af­ter mak­ing stan­dard blind trans­mis­sions we landed on Rwy 31 and a re­cep­tion com­mit­tee emerged to

The fight­ers could run up their en­gines in­side

greet us. The lack of aero­planes was be­cause some were al­ready tucked in­side the hangars, whilst others were yet to re­turn from play­ing on one of the lakes. A lit­tle later, ev­ery­thing stopped to watch the ar­rival of our English col­leagues in the Dux­ford Catalina, ar­riv­ing af­ter an en route di­ver­sion to Gdansk due to thundersto­rms.

Af­ter a long day of fly­ing in thirty de­gree tem­per­a­tures, and it be­ing well af­ter ‘half-past beer o’clock’, we were look­ing for­ward to cool­ing down. Un­for­tu­nately, this had to wait un­til we had driven the fif­teen kilo­me­tres in our hire car to the Cas­tle Ho­tel in the town of Ryn: Pol­ish drinkdrive lim­its are four times stricter than those in the UK!

With a day in hand we did some sight­see­ing, learn­ing that Hitler’s ‘Wolf’s Lair’ was only a cou­ple of miles away. As men­tioned ear­lier, this was Hitler’s cho­sen air­field for his vis­its to Ras­ten­berg (now Ketrzyn) and the other ar­moured head­quar­ters in the local area. It cov­ered an enor­mous ex­panse with eighty build­ings, oc­cu­pied by 2,000 staff, and was clev­erly cam­ou­flaged with trees grow­ing on top of the var­i­ous bunkers. Con­structed with slave labour, it was the lo­ca­tion of Claus von Stauf­fen­berg’s failed as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt on Hitler on 20 July 1944. The Nazis de­mol­ished the bunkers in Jan­uary 1945 as the Rus­sian army ap­proached, leav­ing be­hind 50,000 land­mines in the sur­round­ing forests, which took more than fif­teen years to clear.

Next morn­ing, a mi­nor cri­sis. A stock of avi­a­tion fuel had been de­liv­ered but the pump that ex­tracted it from the tank had failed so we had to fly back west to Ol­sz­tyn Mazury (EPSY) air­field and ef­fec­tively tanker-in suf­fi­cient fuel. On the way back we splashed into sev­eral lakes, only cur­tail­ing the fun to pre­serve the fuel! That evening we were priv­i­leged to at­tend a cer­e­mony cel­e­brat­ing the two cen­te­nar­ies, the as­sem­bled dig­ni­taries also recog­nis­ing the air­show’s twen­ti­eth an­niver­sary and local fallen avi­a­tion he­roes, of which there seemed quite a few.

On day one of the air­show the sea­planes land­ing on the lake were towed to buoys off the beach. Un­for­tu­nately the wa­ter police who had vol­un­teered to lay the buoys and man­han­dle

the sea­planes had lit­tle idea of sea­man­ship and even less of ba­sic physics. Our Cessna 182, be­ing the largest and heav­i­est float­plane, was af­fected more by wind and wakes than the smaller craft and had al­ready had its rud­der dinked by swing­ing into the wingtip of a moored Piper Cub, due to the in­com­pe­tence of the afore­said wa­ter­plods. For­tu­nately the Dux­ford Catalina was moored well off­shore on a sen­si­bly-sized buoy, although they had sim­i­lar prob­lems when the moor­ing lines that they had laid ear­lier were found to have been cut! The prob­lems were ex­ac­er­bated by the con­stant stream of sight­see­ing boats pass­ing close to the sea­planes, their wakes in­duc­ing the puny buoys to drag and, in our case, caus­ing the air­craft to drift dan­ger­ously close to a con­crete pier. As soon as we could set our­selves free we de­parted the show area early and re­turned to the air­field to lick our wounds. As a re­sult of th­ese prob­lems, on day two it was de­cided to moor some of the float­planes at suit­able piers and beach the remaining ones. This was a much safer op­tion and our air­craft proved an un­usual back­drop for hun­dreds of ‘self­ies’.

Once the fly­ing show was com­plete, there were pre­sen­ta­tions on the out­door theatre stage on the beach. Whilst we love the Poles, they do love speeches−many and long. The pre­sen­ta­tions were made by a lady who was the equiv­a­lent of the Town Coun­cil CEO. We were the first crew called for­ward and, with no guid­ance, caused a bit of a sen­sa­tion by giv­ing her the Euro­pean dou­ble-kiss greet­ing. Fol­low­ing pi­lots sim­ply shook hands and bowed... quel cock-up! For­tu­nately the lo­cals found our faux-pas quite amus­ing, so our blushes were spared although quite vis­i­ble. That evening, remaining pi­lots and crew were in­vited to din­ner with Stanis­law Tol­win­ski, the busi­ness­man, pi­lot and orig­i­na­tor of the air­show, at his his­toric home.

The fol­low­ing day we were the last vis­i­tors to leave Ketrzyn, head­ing south-west back to Ol­sz­tyn to uplift fuel. Our next des­ti­na­tion was Schön­hagen

(EDAZ), 20nm south of Ber­lin. We crossed the Pol­ish bor­der near Frank­furt-an-der-oder, the city lay­out clearly show­ing its Eastern Ger­man ori­gin and quite dif­fer­ent from its name­sake on the River Main. Some miles fur­ther west we passed the Aerium, the world’s big­gest sin­gle hall with­out in­ter­nal pil­lars. Built on the Brand-brieson mil­i­tary air­field site in 1992, at a cost of €78 mil­lion, to house a cargo-lift­ing air­ship, the com­pany went bust in 2002 with­out ever build­ing a di­ri­gi­ble. A year later a re­sort com­pany snapped up the site for only €17.5m, which in­cluded a €10m sub­sidy from the local state government. It now houses the im­pres­sive Trop­i­cal Is­lands re­sort, Ber­lin’s an­swer to Dis­ney­land.

Twenty miles fur­ther on, we joined right base for Schön­hagen’s east­erly run­way. The area had been used for glider fly­ing from the 1930s and con­tin­ued as a glider school right through WWII. In 1952 work started on a new fly­ing school and hangars. Af­ter Ger­man re­uni­fi­ca­tion the site was pur­chased by the local coun­cil which pro­vided in­vest­ment for fur­ther ex­pan­sion and a new 1,200m tar­mac run­way, sub­se­quently ex­tended to 1,550m. Nowa­days, the mod­ern FBO and Tower over­look an im­pres­sive ex­ec­u­tive and train­ing air­field, home to 170 air­craft and 28 com­pa­nies. Its prox­im­ity to the cen­tre of Ber­lin makes it an at­trac­tive des­ti­na­tion for busi­ness jets and vis­i­tors.

As Liz had not vis­ited Ber­lin be­fore, we took a day off to visit the cap­i­tal, less than sixty min­utes by rail into the im­pres­sive three-level Cen­tral Sta­tion. We strolled past the Chan­cellery and through the city to the river and on to the Bran­den­burg Gate. The re­de­vel­op­ment of the river area was im­pres­sive with mod­ern government build­ings, con­cert halls and con­fer­ence cen­tres. We chose just one to visit and spent an en­grossed cou­ple of hours in the Es­pi­onage Mu­seum.

The next morn­ing we con­tin­ued west­wards, care­fully skirt­ing the bird sanc­tu­ary west of the air­field on the ex­tended run­way cen­tre­line, our des­ti­na­tion this time Pader­born/ Lipp­stadt (EDLP). We routed south of Magde­burg and over the Harz moun­tains−quar­ried for their lime­stone−which pro­vided a vis­ual respite from the monotony of the Ger­man plain. Away to the south was the Brocken, the high­est point in northern Ger­many at 3,747 feet. Sur­rounded by cloud and fog for up to 300 days of the year, it was the ori­gin of the Brocken Spec­tre phe­nom­e­non of­ten seen by pi­lots when fly­ing just above sun­lit cloud tops. Pader­born was wel­com­ing, switch­ing on the run­way lights to help us find the air­field through the oc­ca­sional rain show­ers, and

for the first time in the whole trip the turn­round was pain­less and rapid.

We wanted to visit Am­s­ter­dam, so our next des­ti­na­tion was Deven­ter Teuge (EHTE), near Ap­pel­doorn. It was a straight­for­ward flight of less than one hour, cross­ing into Hol­land south of Rekken VOR. The air­field was quite busy with train­ing air­craft, so a dead­side join gave us easy en­try into the cir­cuit traf­fic for the 1,199m long Rwy 26. We told the Tower we wanted to stay for two nights, and by the time we walked into the very mod­ern and slightly quirk­ily-de­signed Tower build­ing, the ket­tle was on and tea and bis­cuits were soon pre­sented. Den­nis Mein­ders and An­dre Al­tena, the con­trollers re­spon­si­ble for this hos­pi­tal­ity, proved to be a mine of local in­for­ma­tion. Opened in the 1930s, the air­port was re­ju­ve­nated in 2007 with the run­way ex­ten­sion and new Con­trol/ter­mi­nal build­ing which at­tracted more busi­nesses to the site. Every facet of a GA air­port can be found here: three fly­ing schools, two ex­ten­sive main­te­nance or­gan­i­sa­tions (one a Cessna Ser­vice Cen­tre), private hangars with apart­ments above, a sky­div­ing op­er­a­tion with three Cessna Car­a­vans, and two restau­rants! Fi­nally,

Every facet of a GA air­port can be found at Deven­ter Teuge

on a his­tor­i­cal note, there is an Ilyushin Il-18 con­verted into a ho­tel and a small avi­a­tion mu­seum at the far end of the apron. Judg­ing from the ac­tiv­ity, this place is thriv­ing and a busi­ness example which some of our UK GA air­fields would love to em­u­late.

We for­got to leave a mo­bile num­ber, how­ever, and re­turned to our ho­tel in the evening to find that they had been try­ing to con­tact us. They were ex­pect­ing strong winds and won­dered how best to pro­tect the air­craft. By the time we got the mes­sage it was too late to do any­thing, but we were not wor­ried be­cause the am­phib­ian was parked into wind and well chocked. The high pro­file and spindly nose­legs give the im­pres­sion that she’d be sus­cep­ti­ble in high winds, but the height of the wing off the ground re­duces any ground ef­fect that might lift the wing of a nor­mal land­plane.

The rea­son for the long day was our trip to Am­s­ter­dam. Nei­ther of us had been there for years, so we were in­ter­ested to see how it had changed. The main dif­fer­ence we found was the in­crease in the num­ber of tourists and traf­fic− both two- and four-wheeled−so one needed to be re­ally care­ful be­fore step­ping off a pave­ment. Away from the cen­tre, much of the city is es­sen­tially un­changed, just much cleaner.

By the next morn­ing the storm had blown it­self out and our An­gry Bird was where we left it. Af­ter re­fu­elling and pay­ing the fees we left for Os­tend. We had hoped to make Calais Dunkerque air­field, but a thirty knot head­wind put paid to that.

To avoid con­trolled airspace we flew at 1,200ft al­most all the way, only climb­ing to 1,500 to com­ply with the Os­tend ar­rival pro­ce­dures and were cleared along the coast for a vis­ual fi­nal onto their west­erly run­way. By now the wind­speed on the ground was 25 gust­ing 35 knots which blew away the brain cob­webs. Af­ter go­ing through Se­cu­rity and pay­ing our dues, we visit the al­most aban­doned Met Of­fice where the even­tu­ally-lo­cated Met man’s prog­no­sis was that the wind was only go­ing to get worse, so we de­cided to gird our loins, empty our blad­ders and de­part post-haste.

At that point I missed a trick. Our neigh­bour was go­ing to pick us up at Black­bushe so we phoned him with an ETA. He said he didn’t think we would come that day be­cause of the weather. The cor­rect ques­tion should have been “What weather?” Un­for­tu­nately, pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with the de­par­ture had dulled my senses with re­gard to des­ti­na­tion fore­casts, which had de­te­ri­o­rated quite dra­mat­i­cally since we last looked.

By half­way across the Chan­nel the cloud­base was re­duc­ing and pre­cip­i­ta­tion could be seen in the dis­tance. We fell off to­wards the west while Lon­don In­for­ma­tion asked us our pro­posed route­ing af­ter Dover. We had flight planned via Sevenoaks and back through the gap be­tween LHR and LGW but some kind soul lis­ten­ing out ad­vised us that the cloud­base and rain in that area were worse than we were cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. Route­ing around the south coast to come north from Chich­ester proved a bad move as the worst of the weather was ac­tu­ally aligned with the coast­line. Now fly­ing into a fifty knot head­wind, we de­cided a safer bet was to di­vert into Lydd and pack up fly­ing for the day. ATC was most help­ful, giv­ing us a straight-in ap­proach from twenty miles out, which seemed to take for­ever. The Tower sug­gested we park in the lee of the build­ing, which we did but pointed the air­craft into wind. Apart from good air­man­ship, this al­lowed us−even­tu­ally−to open the doors with­out them de­part­ing the fuse­lage.

One the­o­ret­i­cal ad­van­tage of Lydd was that it was a Cus­toms Aero­drome, so it would be eas­ier to ex­plain why our GAR des­ti­na­tion was dif­fer­ent. In fact the Cus­toms peo­ple had gone home, but the help­ful ground staff gave us a new GAR to fill in and this was faxed to Cus­toms HQ. Af­ter clear­ing, we or­gan­ised lodg­ings for the night and one of the GS ladies kindly drove us into New Rom­ney on her way home. Next morn­ing was calm and clear and the 45-minute flight along the south coast and then via Mid­hurst and the Farn­bor­ough over­head to Black­bushe seemed a bit of an anti-cli­max.

Our to­tal flight dis­tance in­clud­ing local trips was 2,140 nautical miles, with a flight time of 25 hours. Ac­cord­ing to the dip­stick we only burned one litre of oil, but we con­sumed al­most 1,200 litres of av­gas. A lot of ex­pen­di­ture but it was our an­nual hol­i­day and an ex­pe­ri­ence we will never for­get.

LEFT: in Poland, the sea­plane 'eye candy' proved as pop­u­lar as the or­gan­is­ers had hoped

ABOVE: John & Liz Rus­sell aboard their Cessna 182 am­phib­ian

BE­LOW: in­dus­trial sites along the Ghen­tTerneuzen Canal

ABOVE RIGHT: one of the largest so­lar ar­rays in Europe sur­rounds Eber­swalde Air­field

ABOVE LEFT: view of so­lar pan­els on ap­proach to Eber­swalde/fi­now Air­port (EDAV)

BE­LOW LEFT TO RIGHT: on the ramp at Eber­swalde/fi­now, with the Fire Depart­ment, café and Tower in back­ground; par­tially re­stored MIG-23 in the Fi­now Mu­seum; park­ing on the grass at Ketrzyn

John and Liz’s 182 am­phib­ian heads the sea­plane line-up on the grass at Ketrzyn, their des­ti­na­tion in Poland

Mas­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tions bunker at the Wolf's Lair

The cas­tle at Ryn, now the lux­ury Zamek Ho­tel

Beached se­curely, the Cessna 182 proved a pop­u­lar back­ground for many 'self­ies'!

Sea­planes should never work with un­trained sup­port crews!

De­part­ing the lake at the end of the Mazury Air­show

The Catalina takes off to per­form its dis­play

In­ter­na­tional in­ci­dent nar­rowly avoided af­ter con­ti­nen­tal greet­ing!

BE­LOW: the Aerium - built to ac­com­mo­date air­ships but now an in­door plea­sure park

ABOVE: Government Sci­en­tific Cen­tre in the re­vi­talised River Spree area in the heart of Ber­lin, vis­ited on the way home

RIGHT: quirky 2007 de­sign of the Teuge Con­trol Tower

BE­LOW: the tour route, as drawn by Sky­de­mon

ABOVE: typ­i­cal Am­s­ter­dam street trans­port, with pos­si­ble seat up­grade?

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