Baltic Tour 9 of 10: Lübeck, Germany

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Bydgoszcz to Lübeck

The sunshine in Bydgoszcz wasn’t matched by the low cloud IFR reported at our planned destination of Lübeck, so we took full advantage of the 12 noon checkout at our hotel and delayed our departure to 1pm. I’d reviewed the route, checked the weather and NOTAMs, and expected this to be a fairly straightforward VFR flight. I filed my flight plan just before checking out.

Lübeck is near where the M is in Hamburg, so just on the edge of the weather front, but forecast to clear

We took a Bolt taxi to the airport where I phoned the number for the duty handler. She arrived a few minutes later and first asked us to settle our landing and handling fees at the information desk. Quite a welcome change from those other airports who insisted I wait for an invoice in the post. The charges were very reasonable and it was good to know everything was settled.

Thorough security check on departure

The airport departure screens showed four commercial flights per day, although I understand there can be as many as six on busy days. It looked like there is also some training activity, and possibly the occasional GA visitor like us.

Next through to a full security check, with everything through the scanner. I failed the metal detector, and had to shed my shoes, watch etc. before then being thoroughly patted down. I was asked to show my crew ID which I did, but since my wife isn’t a pilot, her passport wasn’t considered sufficient. The security team insisted our handler get a boarding card for her. It’s hard to understand why this needed to be so different from other commercial airports, and you just get the impression that some staff enjoy enforcing rules during quiet periods.

The ground handler escorted us directly to her car, and drove us the short distance to our aircraft, then left us to get on with it. I took my time pre-flighting, cleaning the wings and windscreen, and updating the tech log.

Unexpected delay

I did think about calling for start, but decided this was such a quiet airport that I’d just call for taxi: bad move, because although the ATIS didn’t mention it, the tower told me that the runway was closed until 1130Z (about 20 minutes later) and to call back then. I had checked the NOTAMs earlier in the day and could not see when the closure had been announced. The NOTAM only mentioned the end time. It was hard to understand why any runway closure was needed because we saw no activity or movements during that time.

In the event, the delay was quite fortuitous because it allowed me to make a business call and resolve some issues back home. It also meant we would arrive a little later at Lübeck, giving the weather more time to have improved there. I might have thought differently if we had been under time pressure to depart.

There was no delay when I called for start at 1127Z, and we taxied all the way to the far end of the runway. Our departure clearance was issued at full speed – left turn, climb 1,500 feet, route direct Oscar, squawk 7000, QNH 1020 which I was quite pleased to successfully read back first time. Strange not to get a unique squawk code after having had one for each international flight since Denmark.

Bydgoszcz to Lubeck

After take-off, it was quite bumpy at this low level, so I asked for and was granted a climb to 4,500 initially. We enjoyed a tailwind of 15 knots which increased our groundspeed to over 150 knots.

I would say that having an active VFR flight plan really helped here. Gdansk Information quickly knew who we were and what route we planned, and just asked us what our intended altitude was going to be. Since it was mildly turbulent, I said I was likely to climb to 6,500 feet for smoother air. As had happened the day before, I asked Gdansk for a clearance through controlled airspace ahead and this was relayed without me needing to change frequency – just no higher than 6,500.

I later descended back down to 4,500 feet to avoid cloud and this also kept me clear of the next block of controlled airspace. Gdansk saw I had descended and checked my intentions – nice, proactive and helpful. Approaching the border, we were handed over to Langen Information in Germany; again the flight plan came in handy – no need to say much except identify myself (and altitude). This time a squawk code (the same for everyone using Langen Information), but few others on frequency.

Chojna, Poland, shortly before crossing the border into Germany

The landscape changes slightly. You start to notice more wind turbines and solar panel farms on the ground. There continue to be a number of lakes (large and small) with towns and villages on the lakesides.

Lübeck airport coming into view – the visibility was beginning to deteriorate slightly, as we approached the edge of the bad weather that had not quite moved away from Lübeck, although still quite good – and it cleared completely shortly after landing

Lübeck ATIS confirmed the expected runway 08, with variable winds. The tower told me to enter controlled airspace ontrack Sierra 2, and then join right hand downwind. There was one other training aircraft in the left-hand circuit pattern who wanted the runway for some exercises. The tower gave us priority and asked us to make a shortened circuit. I declined partly because this was an unfamiliar airport and partly due to some low rain cloud on the airfield boundary. The training aircraft delayed slightly by extending downwind to leave me plenty of room. After landing, a short backtrack and taxi into the grass parking area, where it was left up to me to decide exactly where to park.

The ‘C’ office, used for all GA traffic, was busy. A group of US military helicopter pilots were busy planning their next flight. I overheard one pilot asking ‘What’s CAVOK?’ I hadn’t considered that the term wasn’t used worldwide – it’s short for Ceiling and Visibility OK, i.e. no cloud below 5,000 feet, visibility 10km or more and no significant weather near the airport – and this acronym doesn’t appear in US or Canadian weather reports.

Before leaving, the GAT office asked me to enter my details into an iPad, setup for the purpose, and explained I would pay prior to departure. It’s important to take your pilot licence with you and expect to show it when leaving – this was the first time in the tour where I would have to show it rather than just my PPL/IR crew card.

We booked a hotel for a couple of nights, the cloud thinned and we prepared ourselves for another full day of walking around sightseeing in our final destination of the trip. Weather looked promising for the last leg home two days later – we had been very fortunate so far.


Lübeck is a northern German city distinguished by Brick Gothic architecture, which dates back to its time as the medieval capital of the Hanseatic League, a powerful trading confederation. The historic old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As with other cities we had visited, we wore out more boot leather walking the streets and exploring the sights. The port is the nearest on the Baltic coast to Hamburg and so became important for trade.

Rotspon is a Hanseatic red wine

We walked around to the harbour-side where we found an excellent café with outdoor seating for lunch – replete with blankets, indicating it can get quite chilly here. There are regular boat trips up the estuary, as well as harbour tours.

PIC today: 2:05
Total PIC: 2039:40
Total Time: 2252:50

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