Last month I was joined by my buddy Tim and together we flew 90B south to Hoexter-Holzminden EDVI within the Central German Uplands. The airfield sits on top a hill overlooking the city. Because of the slope it looks like an aircraft carrier during final approach. During most of the flight Tim operated the controls and I did navigation and radio communication.
Actually this was our fist flight having a filed flight plan in Germany. During my time in the US I did it on every Cross Country Flight but because the german Flight Services hotline (AIS-C) is specially charged I don’t like to call them. If you would do something like a standard weather briefing with flight plan with them, you would need to pay about 5€ for that call. In my eyes to much if you do get all needed information from the internet for free. In late summer this year I got told that filing a flight plan became available online, too. So we decided to try this system out and filed VFR from EDVC to EDVH.
Opening the flight plan in mid-air was quite easy. Right after departure I called Celle Tower of the nearby military field (ETHC) for asking if they had operations or if their airspace would be closed. Then I contacted Bremen Information (EDWW_S_FIS) and after a position report my flight plan was opened. Since we have no transponder in the airplane Bremen was not aware how close we actually were to the Hanover class C airspace and both Tim and I were on quite an alert of our position.
The trouble began as we closed in on Hoexter. About 15nm out I requested Bremen Information to close my flight plan and allow me to leave his frequency so that I could switch over to Hoexter AFIS/CTAF. But Bremen asked whether we had the airfield in sight which neither of us didn’t of course. So he I didn’t let me off his hook, yet. At about 10nm out of Hoexter I had enough and simply report visual on the field, in fact being still blind. As reply Bremen called out a time for the flight plan to be closed which was about 5 minutes ahead of that moment. I left his frequency for landing but all the time I had a bad feeling in my stomach about that last call. After landing and parking the aircraft I wanted to go for sure and called the expensive AIS-C hotline. And guess, the lady told my the flight plan was still open. At that time it was about 20 minutes after my last radio chat with Bremen and about half an hour after my scheduled landing.
But lets step back a couple of minutes and look on the approach into Hoexter. The airfield is featuring a paved runway 13/31 approx. 1500×40 feet. As we were 90 degrees to the downwind we got the runway in use by AFIS and to this day I am convinced he said 31! I reported all parts of the following traffic pattern all the time referencing that runway. As I called out to turn final AFIS requested my to slow down my approach because an other aircraft would depart first. Hell, it was quite a shock to look into his landing lights! After very quickly aborting the approach and speeding away from that guy I queried runway in use again and surprise, it was 13! So we flew a new pattern on that one. Even thow I am still convinced that AFIS told me 31 in the first place I might have misunderstood that. But some part I need to blame on the tower guy, too. During the first pattern I transmitted three radio calls referencing 31 and all were acknowledged by him. So why he didn’t correct me or at least ask to clarify? I can understand that you don’t want to interrupt a pilot on final approach if not really, really necessary but at least as I called out downwind and base it would have been saver to correct me instead of letting us fly head on into departing traffic. Also, I don’t know how early I would have recognized that airplane departing in our direction if we weren’t requested to slow down for him. And by the way, after landing Tim was convinced, too, that initially AFIS reported 31 in use.
The way back was much easier. Because of our previous experience we did not file a flight plan and most of the way I let Tim have the control. The strait flight would have gone almost threw the middle of the Hanover class C airspace and because on the way down we chose to pass east of it we now decided to take the westerly route back to Celle. We finally reached our home airport and summarized the over all it was an enjoyable flight and that the cake was good but quite expensive. And as on every flight there were lessons to learn.
Keep your wings aloft…
I apologize for not taking photos.