Red Baron Rally - Germany 2008
The Berlin tour in June 2008 was named “The Red Baron Rally” following the tradition of previous microlight rallys to France, Germany and Poland. The original plan was to overfly the Ruhr dams bombed by 617 Sqn then to fly to Berlin, Colditz and Nuremburg with a quick stop over at Lake Constance returning through France.
Before leaving the route was amended to cut our Nuremburg due to airfield problems and Rothenburg O T was substitute. Anita and I both had tours of duty in Germany and had both been to Berlin on the military train. In addition I had flown in along the old corridor and Anita had driven in along the autobahn. Rothenburg is also probably our favourite town in Germany so the chance to visit again coupled with flying in to Templehof was a dream come true. Neither of us had been to Berlin since the wall came down.
We had planned to overnight at Headcorn on the Saturaday to meet up with others on Sunday. A mainwheel puncture delayed our departure but we met up with Ian Harban in his flexwing as planned, if a little late.
Day one saw a Rans,Skyranger,Jabiru,GT450 and Quik depart Headcorn. The channel crossing went well but we had to descend approaching France. The group 20 minutes ahead reported large Cumulus clouds and seeing a funnel cloud touch down to the ground. We all met up at Valenciennes for lunch joining another 2 Skyrangers and a CT. After a leisurely lunch we set off towards Germany. We went round the southern end of Belgium, across Luxembourg and on to Bad Neuenahr in the Ahr Valley. Most camped on the airfield but we Kevin and Sheila Tuck had booked a hotel in the town. A steep walk down into the town was followed by a large meal and an excellent bottle of German red wine, the Ahr Valley producing a great red wines.
Day two we took a taxi to the airfield, those hills are steep. We all took the opportunity to fill up with Mogas and then on to the dams. First we flew down the Sorpe, an earth dam which was not breached, then on to the Mohre. The spot of land the Lancasters flew over was seen and after over flying over the dam on to the Eder. The Eder was a long twisted lake with a complicated route to the dam. We then flew into Kassel for lunch.
En route for Berlin cloud kept us lower than we would have liked as we approached the Hartz mountains, but not as low as the Luftwaffe Tornado that went under us! We then crossed the old inner German border which is still visible from the air and started to see abandoned Soviet dispersal airfields. We went into Schonhagen south of Berlin to regroup with non transponder equipped aircraft formating with an aircraft with transponder. The flight into Templehof was interesting, following a canal then flying over a built up area and finally flying over flats built right up to the airfield boundary before diving at the runway. A “follow me” wagon led us to the parking area and chocks that would have held an airliner were provided. The 2 flexwings were parked under cover.
Day three was spent sightseeing in Berlin, the wall has nearly all gone and a huge amount of building was going on in the old East Berlin.
On day four we planned for an early start as we had been warned that getting through security could be slow. In the event production of a pilots licence got us through and soon eight aircraft taxied out. Whilst waiting for take off clearance a business jet landing on the parallel runway was ordered to expedite crossing our runway as there were eight aircraft waiting to get airborne.
The weather down to Colditz was good and after taking lots of photos we all joined up at Gera Leumnitz for fuel and a comfort break then on to Rothenburg. Rothenburg is a walled city which was used for filming “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” where the child catcher sets up his wagon. It also has 2 shops selling Christmas decorations all year round. As the weather was starting to break down we decided to cut out Lake Constance and start heading for home.
Day 5 we set out for Langenlosheim, a small strip set on the Rhine flood plain. The flying conditions were not good and so final approach the flexwing ahead of us appeared to be side slipping due to the turbulence. We managed to get fuel after pushing the aircraft over a flood bank and most of us set off for Traben Trabach . The turbulence in the Rhine and Mosel Valleys was the worst we have ever experienced and we were told to land uphill whatever the wind direction. Landing with a 15-20 knot tailwind was definitely interesting. Ian Harban in his flexwing sensibly stayed at Langenlosheim for the night and became an item of curiosity for the locals, although they did transport him to a pizza restaurant for dinner.
Day 6 showed that the weather was definitely getting worse. We all met up at Charleville which had a met suite that would not have disgraced Heathrow. It showed bad weather moving up the channel. We all thought that the radio traffic was quiet into Charleville and after landing found that they had changed frequency. The only drawback to Charleville is that you cannot pay cash for fuel, a bill has to be sent and paid from a euro account.
We all set off for Calais where we cleared customs and set off for home. By now we were down to a Rans, 2 Skyrangers and a Quik, the others having gone their own way. We crossed the Channel at 4000ft and then gradually let down to 700ft over Kent as we met the oncoming front. Once over the Thames the weather cleared and we had a lovely run back to Priory Farm over a very flat East Anglia. The next day we had horizontal rain and the weather did not clear for several days.
Total flying time was 26.20, 1725 statute miles and 10 new airfields, all in 6 days.