Yesterday saw a milestone as a plane owner. We decided to spend a weekend away somewhere, and decided to use the Robin to get us there. It was a daunting prospect given that it's Malinka's first time flying in the Robin with me. Malinka's flown before; when we flew in Florida in 2008 and on a few jaunts to Texel and back) but she preferred to sit in the back where she could sleep. Given that the Robin is a cosy cockpit and that she has no "back seat" to fall asleep on, I was a little worried she'd hate it straight away.
The destination choice? It had to be somewhere close (about an hour's flight away), somewhere fun, and somewhere we knew we'd really enjoy. So we decided on Koln. We bought love the beers, food and atmosphere in Koln. So it was settled....Koln.
I also had a plan B up my sleeve. Our friends Andrew and Angelina decided to come to Koln also. Only they were taking the car. Which meant if Malinka really hated flying in the Robin, she could get a lift back with A&A in the car.
I filed the flightplan Friday evening and we were up early to get to Lelystad. When we arrived, we quickly pushed the Robin out of the hanger, fueled up and headed off into the wild blue yonder.
The planned routing was as straight a line as was possible down through Dusseldorf and into Koln Leverkusen airfield. Leverkusen is a grass field, extremely busy with glider activity from the filed, both in the form of glider towing and winch launching. The transit through Dutch airspace was uneventful. But when we approached Dusseldorf's Class C airspace, I contacted Langen Information and explained to them that I would like to transit overhead Dusseldorf (as filed) and to ask them if it was possible. This was a good 10-15 mins before I would even reach Dusseldorf's Control Zone (CTR). The response?? NEGATIVE. I was pretty pissed off because I was at a height that would not conflict with their approaches, and a deviation around the airfield would add another 15-20 mins to the flight. SO I turned left 30 degrees to avoid Dusseldorf.
But then our luck changed. Langen called back, gave me a heading to steer and told me that I was approved to cross the airfield. NICE!! As we got closer, I called Dusseldorf tower who gave me a Squawk code and asked me to transition from reporting point "November", which is at Duisberg, north of Dusseldorf airport. Now, here's the thing. There was a NOTAM closing airspace over Duisberg (which the Controller should have been aware of), so rather than overflying the closed airspace, I flew abeam November. The result??? A piss ant controller whinging at me. I decided to ignore his pissy comments and carried on as cleared. When I cleared his airspace I called to inform him and got a "Hmmmm, well I suppose you are" Seems he wasn't as bothered about me crossing afterall if he wasn't paying attention to where I was. Anyway, bygones.
Malinka was by now getting twitchy and asking "Are we there yet?". With the turbulence from the clouds above she started to feel a little queasy. But we were only 15 mins away after crossing Dusseldorf.
I told Langen I was switching to Koln Leverkusen and set-up for the descent. With the airfield in sight, Leverkusen was keen to let me know about the traffic in the pattern and gliders in the area. I had traffic pass underneath me and slowed down to follow him into the pattern. I was number three for landing, behind a glider being towed and the plane that had passed below me. Malinka perked up a bit when she saw the airfield and I stabilised us for a long final behind the landing traffic ahead of us. When we landed, we rang the guys who were trying to find the hotel in their car. The fun bit was the teasing we had when we met up about who was quicker. Given we left an hour and a half late than they did, and check into the hotel 15 minutes behind them, I think we were quickest on the day :-)
It was so much fun to travel together for a weekend away. And with the landing/overnight fees of only €5.50, we'll be back again soon.