Saturday, June 04, 2011

Club Med in the North Sea

I've never known a Spring like it. Practically no cloud or rain to spoil those plans of getting aloft, and a high pressure system just sitting right over the Netherlands for the last two months straight. Sadly the month of May was a busy one for me, what with family commitments and business travel getting in the way. But today a pilot friend and I decided we'd make the most of the weather. Destination for today's mission was Borkum, a small island off Germany's north-western coast. It's the westernmost island that constitutes the East Frisian Islands, and came highly recommended from some other pilot friends of mine as a place to visit.

I scoped out the route the previous night and filed the flight plan to route us North-east to Emmeloord , then continue towards Heerenveen, slippling between Groningen and Leeuwarden's Class "C" routing overhead Drachten airfield and then out over the coast towards Borkum.

Cruising at FL050 above the clouds
I was PIC for the outbound leg, my friend choosing to fly on the way back. The flight-plan I filed had us set to climb to FL050 (5,000ft). But we departed at around midday, so the heat and the midday sun meant "Nippy" was struggling to get up that high. We eventually levelled off 5NM north of Emmeloord and I leaned out the mixture to conserve fuel. There were a few smalll fluffy cumulus clouds which we had no problem climbing over, but as we got closer to the coastline the clouds had disappeared and it was blue skies all the way. I've noticed that once she gets a little higher, "Nippy" is a very smooth girl.

We heard another aircraft, a Grumman AA-5, on the same frequency as us (Dutch Mil Info) who'd departed Texel and was also enroute to Borkum. Seemed like someone else was in the island hopping mood today. I made a comment about our groundspeed being so slow (only 87 knots) due to the headwinds at our altitude and wondered aloud if he'd get there before us. 

At ten minutes out I told Dutch Mil I was switching to the folks in Borkum, and I started my descent. I called up the folks in Borkum as was asked surprisingly if my intentions were to land there!! To which I was then asked if I had filed a flight plan. Seems he never got it, despite being on the recipients list when I filed it the night before.

Borkum lying off to our left

During the descent we looked at the approach plates to try and figure out which runway they'd have us use. The wind was coming from the North-east, so I guessed they'd have us use runway 05, a grass runway approximately 810m long. But instead we were told runway 31 was in use. It's a long and very narrow asphalt runway. Because it's so narrow, you have this optical illusion that you are too high.

On Final for Rwy 31....a long and narrow runway!

With no "circuit" in place to worry about, I routed us over the isthmus that the ferry terminal sits on and set us up on final. But I soon noticed that it was blowing a hooley out there because I was very left of the centreline and crabbing like crazy. We were being bucked about so much that I decided to only use half flaps and decided to land a little fast so I would have more control of the plane on final. A quick kick of the rudder to the left and we were down, albeit a little firmly, and coming to a stop.

We parked "Nippy" right in front of the tower and had the usual gaggle of photographers snapping away at her. On the way in to the apron we noticed another Robin ATL parked up on the long-term visitors area and heard the Grumman had landed too....crikey he must have been going at full pelt! Not long after paying the landing fee, we accosted ourselves a taxi and were heading off to "downtown" Borkum.

Can you see "Nippy's" sister parked up?

The first interesting thing we found was that Borkum has its own railway!! Apparently this railway is free and shuttles people back and forth between the town centre and the ferry terminal. We took a stroll along the seafront and found a nice little place that had Curry Worst on the menu as today's special. Sounded like a plan to me. Sitting in the sunshine, and protected from the wind, you could almost be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in the Med. Especially with all the Dutch and German accents that surrounded us :-) 

Borkum's railway

Tummies full, we took a short stroll through the small village, then jumped back into a taxi and headed back to the field. It was my turn to play with the camera and help with the navigation. Same runway for take-off, only this time we had to avoid overflying the town. Not a problem....straight out over the beach, left along the coast and head back the way we came. I saw some bloke below us using the winds to his advantage on one of those wind buggy thingies....looked like fun! Must try that myself sometime.

We climbed to FL040 this time, and settled into the cruise. But I had to remind my friend to lean out the mixture and lower the rev's. Once settled into the cruise we chatted about planes and trips we'd made or have yet to make. Soon enough, we were getting closer to the Flevo Polder. I explained how Biddinghuizen has a lot of gliding activity, and the best way to avoid it is to fly along the eastern side of the polder over the water and then turn into "BRAVO". My friend is still new to flying out of Lelystad, so it was also a good opportunity to show him some of the landmarks I use when trying to get my bearings.

Sand flats between the coast and the islands

We dropped lower so as to avoid busting Schiphol's Class "A" TMA and said our goodbyes to Dutch Mil...the radios in Lelystad were surprisingly quiet. Pre-landing checklists done, we were just turning downwind when a pilot came on the radio asking if he could make a straight-in approach as he had two sick passengers....I'm guessing they were suffering from motion sickness. We had no idea how far out he was, so it was decided to do a Spitfire approach....a short downwind, and a continuous turn onto Final.

Drachten Airfield...not sure I'd like to have an engine failure if I was using Rwy 26!!
Flaps were set to full, and the wind was blowing hard again. It was straight down the runway this time, but it was gusting a fair bit. But the wheels kissed the Earth very gently and we exited the runway fairly lively. I think I would like to try the islands of Juist and Nordeney next time. Would be nice to have all the islands in the logbook, don't you think?

1 comment:

D.B. said...

Nippy is a "V-Tail"? Cool!