First – a short local from Wilhelmshaven JadesWeser
On Tuesday, the weather was as forecast beginning to turn for the worse, with a wind of 10-15 knots from the south west. I took our hosts for a short flight around the city and harbour area of Wilhelmshaven, but not as far north as the Friesland islands because of some low dark clouds there. I’d checked with the airport controller beforehand that I could just stay on his frequency throughout. He also confirmed that the Jever control zone nearby was inactive that day.
Sitting in the plane and just before we departed, a local pilot handed me the pitot cover, explaining that it had fallen (or been blown) off during the few days parked there. Being new to the aircraft, I had overlooked the fact it wasn’t fitted during the pre-flight and not thought about where it was. In future, I’ll either not use it when away from base or ensure it is very tightly secured.
We made a few steep turns overhead their house and saw their neighbours waving up at us. After flying up the estuary to the north of the city, I turned back towards the airport. Strangely, I couldn’t pick out the runway until some 2 miles away and seeing it off to the side had to make a short extra base leg.
In best German holiday maker tradition, I was given a round of applause after the landing – I wouldn’t like to say whether that was due to their relief or admiration! They really enjoyed the short flight and it was nice to be able to share the fun. Maybe my landing wasn’t so bad after all.
Flight time: 0:30
Then the main flight – direct Wilhelmshaven to Braunschweig
After a quick lunch at Wilhelmshaven airport café (not actually part of the airport, good value, very friendly), we departed to the southwest away from the dark clouds encroaching from the northwest into more pleasant brighter conditions. The hot air did mean it got a bit turbulent at times, but this was also expected. I kept relatively low at about 2,000 feet to make it easier to remain outside controlled airspace, although in retrospective a higher altitude might have been slightly less turbulent. The airborne flight time to Braunschweig was about 50 minutes, talking with Bremen Information who provided a good service although there really wasn’t much to say. There was the odd bit of German chatter in between English standard phraseology. I did get a discrete squawk code despite having Mode S.
My schoolboy mistake today was to call Bremen Radar first, who quickly and politely redirected me to Bremen Information. As expected, I was handed over to a different colleague on a different frequency when changing sectors. He already had my details, making the process much more seamless and straightforward than we often find in the UK.
Straightforward approach and landing
I was prompted to change to Braunschweig Tower with about 20 miles to go. They were expecting me and told me to join downwind for 26. The large airport was easy to spot from afar, and it was simple to descend to circuit height and make a wide pattern, setting everything up in good time for the approach. On final I was asked to land long because I’d be exiting at the far end of the 2,000m runway. Aiming now for about the half way point, I cautiously touched down with perhaps still 800 or 900 metres to go and taxied past three small aircraft who were waiting at the hold to depart. They needed to backtrack because other taxiways were closed, restricting traffic capacity overall. The controller helpfully guided me to parking on the grass apron.
I can’t see the “C”
Not being exactly sure where the “C” control point/office was, I walked over to another pilot to ask. He explained that I should call on the radio for a car to come and drive us there – apparently it’s not feasible (or encouraged) to walk. I chose to call on my mobile phone after deciding to refuel before leaving the airport. A car quickly came to pickup my family while I then taxied for fuel and returned. The tower then asked me if I needed tie-downs (which I didn’t have), to protect against forecast storms in the following days. Someone came and fitted them while I put on the aircraft cover, then drove me back to the GA terminal building. I have to say the tie-downs were a heck of a lot heavier and more substantial than anything I would be able to fly with onboard. We’d be OK with anything up to about a Hurricane Katrina.
At that time, the airport was undergoing some pretty major construction works, building what seemed to be a new apron and taxiway area. Flights were restricted during the few weeks of intensive building work, requiring 24 PPR notice of movements, no instrument approach practice, no local flights <60 minutes etc. The airport had expanded and serves the nearby Volkswagen HQ at Wolfsburg, with executive jets operating alongside the private GA and flying school. There are no commercial flights. This is also where commercial German pilots sit their theory exams.
Once we’d sorted ourselves out, our friends came to collect us. I’d told them to look for the GA Terminal (GAT) but the entrance is slightly hidden around a corner and it took them a few minutes to find it – they’d never been to their local airport before.
Flight Time: 1:05