Our trip started on Monday 29 Aug. Took off from strip in Dorset and stopped with mist and fog when over Stoney Cross in the New Forest. Delayed trip by one day.
On Tuesday, got away at 07:00 with better visibility aiming for Headcorn. Ten minutes away from Headcorn, they advised that they were closed due to fog so we diverted to Rochester; a pleasant experience as I trained there. Julia was still in the tower and my first instructor, Matt Robbins, flew in from France as we were there and gave us the thumbs up for a crossing.
The crossing was uneventful even if vis not gin-clear and we made it round the South of Calais and Bruges before landing at Midden Zeeland. We were greeted there by two friendly Immigration geezers who looked at our ID and informed us that filing a flight plan was insufficient and we should have completed a customs and immigration form. (Note for later)
We took off from Midden Zeeland at 17:30 and arrived at Hoogeveen well after airport closure. When we check in this morning, I'll take my bollocking like a man.
Hoogeveen airfield is slap bang in the middle of buildings and it's a strange feeling to be turning final over houses and large industrial complexes. Nowhere to go with engine failure on final. In retrospect, I should have approached higher as there is an excellent, flat long runway. Met a couple of coves with drones who were using the airfield when we arrived. Glad I didn't see them :)
Cab to the Hoogeveen Hotel cost us €21 which was a lot but the room price was the cheapest on Bookings.com. A bit run down but a clean, quiet room and a surprisingly good meal in their almost deserted brasserie. Breakfast this morning for €9 each was outstanding with good coffee, nice cold meats and cheese, bacon and boiled or scrambled eggs.
Now waiting for cab to take us back to the airport. No wind and wall-to-wall sunshine :). Apart from light winds our good fortune is to be flying North East with the sun behind us. An inquisitive 360 demonstrated how uncomfortable it would have been to be flying into the sun with very indifferent visibility.
Wed 31 Aug. No bollocking for our late arrival at Hoogeveen last evening. Very friendly and helpful with nice cafe/bar on the airfield. Refuelled, flight plan through Sky Demon. Flew with tail-wind advantage for one hour to Itzehoe/Hungriger Wolf (EDHF). Very little activity but friendly and helpful reception and refuelling.
We decided to miss out one intermediate landing, so another flight plan and into Denmark. Marleen, navigating on this leg, worked out that if we stayed above 3500', we would not have to worry about a number of airspace restrictions; and so it turned out. We spoke only to Bremen Information who passed us on to Copenhagen Information who at one stage asked us whether or not we could maintain 3800' for 15 minutes. If anything amazing passed underneath us, I never saw it :)
After a 1hr50 flight we arrived to a friendly reception at EKGH Grønholt-Hillerød. Similar to EDHF before it, there is very little activity with a (somewhat distressed) tarmac runway. How the hell they do it, I don't know but when I get my landing and overnight parking fees, I might be able to tell you :) They were able to refuel me (all of 40 litres) but, the day before, someone had been in overnight and stolen 2500 litres of Avgas (@ over £2 litre). I offered to pay them in £sterling as I had plenty of them because no-one seemed to want them anymore! It got a laugh. They handle no other cash for airfield services. My PPR number was issued via a form on their website. I check in and check out through my mobile phone and I will be invoiced after final departure.
Weather forecast not good over the weekend, so delayed return until Monday/Tuesday. Additional Danish hospitality means we will be even closer to our MTOW :). Planning to return via same route.
Monday 5 Sept. We started our return home with clear, sunny conditions over Denmark. We'd not gone far before we had a polite lecture on the radio from Roskilde for climbing beyond 1500' before getting clearance to do so. Not sure about that as we had been in the clutches of Copenhagen Info prior to that. My apology was abject and creepy. However we were untroubled by anyone whilst flying at 4000' and the view of all those Danish islands was great. Not so over Bremerhaven and into Holland and we found ourselves below 1200' on occasion to get below dark cloud. No rain, though.
Now staying in a fabulous B&B which is directly under Final Approach for 27 Hoogeveen. Info available if anyone coming this way. We received another very friendly welcome at the Airfield and the tower waived our landing fee because they said we were over-charged when we came through the first time. Thanks Freer for giving us a lift to the B&B.
Today, aiming for Midden Zeeland, across to Lydd and back to Dorset.
Picture of the Storebælt bridge, Denmark from 4000'
Tue 6 Sep. I think I'll just write about the B&B we stayed at. In the room were 2 kinds of tea, a special coffee-making machine, a bowl of mixed nuts and a complimentary bottle of wine. Dinner (€12 Euro each) was soup, schnitzel with small roast potatoes and complimentary wine. Pudding was sliced strawberries and a custard base. Coffee followed. Breakfast (included in the room price) was enormous! Boiled eggs, omelettes, bacon, 5 different breads and rolls, sliced strawberries on a yoghurt base, bowl of blackberries, bowl of blueberries, nuts and other stuff I can't even remember. Our hostess was smiling and laughing the whole time and was great company. We were given lifts to and from the airfield (about 2km away) but she would have picked us up from there. So no taxi fares :). Can't remember what I paid but it was around €95? So I recommend Hoogeveen airfield if you are travelling up through Holland. I should add that I met someone there whose wife is, I understand, President of the European Microlight Association (?) and they operate from a very large microlight community close to Hoogeveen called Stadskanaal (EHST) and he was very eager to welcome UK microlight flyers there as well.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, about flying. Tuesday we had three flights. Hoogeveen - Midden Zeeland, Midden Zeeland - Lydd and Lydd to Dorset. Total flying time was 5hr50 in, not difficult, but trying conditions with low cloud conditions requiring us to make continual changes to altitude (2000' - 900') and direction (with the occasional, judicious use of the artificial horizon :). Glad to say that probably the easiest bit was crossing the channel into Lydd.
We were advised by NOTAM that Dutch Mil would not be offering VFR service yesterday due to lack of personnel which was disappointing for us. The Belgian and Dutch airspace does appear complicated on the chart but we found that if we went to Dutch Mil (who seem to look after the airspace about 3500ft) we could sit up there confident that if we should be somewhere else, they would tell us as they had given us a dedicated squark. Similarly with Belgium we used Belga Radar going out and, mainly, Ostend on our return.
Much thought goes into the planning about who I will be talking to and the heights I will have to fly at. The reality always seems to be easier when one is 'adopted' by a control and given a dedicated squawk. There is a reassurance that someone is looking out for me both in terms of other aircraft and the danger of airspace incursion. On a couple of occasions we were asked to call the approach frequencies of nearby airports which resulted in us receiving authority to continue our journey with no change in altitude. It all felt very straightforward.
Now home, body aching from the time and type of flying yesterday but a bath will sort that out and Marleen and I are pleased to have completed a long planned-for flight to visit my brother and his wife in Denmark :)