G-ASYP Stories - Rhur

The trip 24/25/26 June 2000

Having whetted our foreign appetite last year by touring mid France my long time friend and co-pilot Mark Johnson and I decided to have a bash at Germany. Our syndicate aircraft a C-150E had been based at RAF Laarbruch as a school workhorse and had been back there several times for the Laarbruch competitions. Unfortunately, the station is now closed to aircraft and the promised civilian organisation has not yet materialised. 

So, it was a matter of ‘Where next?’ Why not a Dam Busters Raid? The Dams of the Mohne, Sorpe & Eider are not too far away. They also have the advantage of a semi mountainous and, therefore, picturesque area with small towns and villages all around.

Destination decided we now started the planning stage. I rang several of our club members who had a Cherokee 6 and who had been there, done that. Unfortunately none had been recently and so could not give up to date information but, what they did give was still very useful. Did we know about noise charging? No we did not! Heathrow flight planning might be able to help. They were very nice but did not help too much with light aircraft info, had we tried AOPA UK? I rang them, was I a member? NO? So sorry can’t help! Finally it was down to the old internet, where German AOPA came up. E mail produced all the info I could want including noise regulations and could they help by organising the certificate? We tried but it turned out to be more complicated than we thought. If you have a standard aeroplane with a standard engine and prop, and this is on the German database, no problem. If not you need a noise reading, or an assessment of the likely noise from the details of engine & prop specs, all of which have to be provided to the German authorities before they will issue a certificate for a small fee. 

Once this has been gone through you need to know details of your likely airfields or airports as noise regulations vary from one to another. More movements in a year means more regulation and more need for noise certificate. In the end we didn’t bother.

Finally the day arrived to begin our trip and I was due to fly the aircraft from Henlow (Beds) to Headcorn to pick up Mark but the weather was Cr*p with low cloud and poor visibility. So home to bed and try again next day. Friday turned out better and by about 0930 I was at Headcorn refuelling and filling in the usual flight plans etc. Time passed, the weather improved slightly and taking advantage of the hour’s time difference we finally took of en route to Cap-Gris-Nez and onward to Oostende. Completely uneventful, except for the ‘Goldfish bowl’ effect with visibility poor at all levels and the very stern warning from Calais to contact the military airfield at Koksijde (a military base) before crossing their area.

Scott with 'YP at Arnsberg After landing at Oostende we required fuel for our onward journey and also to file the next bit of the flight plan, across the German border to Arnsberg our destination for the night. The somewhat quirky nature of large airports required us to take the bus (£ 1.00 for the two of us) the four hundred meters to the main terminal where we found the customs desk to book our fuel. Some few minutes later and we were informed ‘OK fuel on way’.

Now time to file the flight plan, an hours delay, time to have food get back to YP pay for fuel and away we go, Oh no not so fast. The waitress in the terminal restaurant had all day to spare so a Croque Monsier & two coffees took the best part of an hour. A few more minutes to get the bus back to the aircraft, fuel, what fuel? The bowser driver has also been to the continental school of leisurely service and was going to take his time. So it was that we took off about an hour late but still with plenty of time to make the flight.

The weather on route across Belgium/Holland was gradually deteriorating and we could see some showers ahead but in compensation the visibility improved and we were able to weave our way round the weather. Eventually crossing into Germany north of Laarbruch the visibility became worse again and we were quite busy with GPS and map. Routing via the North of Antwerp and South of Eindhoven we flew on now through some light drizzle round the North of Dusseldorf and then South to Arnsberg.

This is a lovely little airfield within a few Km’s of the major dams. It is on top of a ridge with trees along the runway and suffers from cross wind turbulence of all sorts. This airfield also has a wonderful little hotel attached, quite plain but very reasonable prices (about £ 15.00 per head B&B). This avoids the taxi to town and a search for accommodation. On arrival we found ourselves in the middle of the local flying club get together & BBQ. We were invited to stay, eat drink and be merry which, in the interests of European harmony, we could hardly refuse. Many of the pilots spoke good English and there was also a lovely lady ex pat (who taught them). This was to be our downfall as we were invited into town to continue the merrymaking. One club member offered a lift in his Subaru Impretza and we spent a somewhat stunned journey through country lanes, not much wider than the car, at 220 KPH (yes that’s right 140 MPH!!). Having arrived stirred AND shaken we disappeared into a local bar which apparently only closed when people stopped drinking. Thus it was that two very tired and VERY happy pilots crawled back into the hotel in the wee small hours.

'YP Outside the Control Tower at Dinslaken After a late breakfast with sausage, egg, bread, coffee etc. we looked at the weather forecast, not good. Fronts all over the place and getting worse. So, obtain some local knowledge, plan the flight to cover all three dams but with get outs back to Arnsberg or to our night’s destination of Dinslaken. As we didn’t have a noise certificate we had to pay the equivalent of £ 4.00 fine on top of the landing & overnight fees which were very reasonable.

After take off the weather over the mountains looked worse than forecast and fearful of being trapped in a cloud filled valley we opted to do the Moehne Dam only and shorten the trip to just over an hour and a half. This turned out to be a good decision as the dam was in lovely clear air and we took many photographs to prove our trip. Onwards now towards Dinslaken through some very poor visibility caused by the industrial might of the Rhur and the original reason for the Dambusters raid. Rain was never very far away and it looked very threatening as we approached the airfield. Shortly after landing the skies opened and rain fell so heavily that it was bouncing off the tarmac and back as high as the underneath of YP. We sat it out in the cockpit.

After about fifteen minutes the rain eased off and we sought a cup of coffee and a lift to town. The club here were very helpful and after free coffee and biscuits we were introduced to the club 'gofer'. He turned out to be a refugee from Kosovo who did odd jobs for next to nothing. He advised that the local hotels and Gasthaus were miles from anywhere and not very good so for 10.00 GBP he drove us the hour into central Oberhausen (part of West Duisberg). Here we stayed at a very decent Sol Hotel. After the usual shower and a quick drink in the bar we set off on foot to the nearby shopping area. This is a huge indoor/outdoor mall with shops, bars and restaurants. After some promenading with the locals we settled down to a very nice Mexican meal. All this time the cloud had been lowering from its already poor state and rain fell in sheets most of the night. We found it difficult to get useful met information so far from the airfield and in the end resorted to ringing Marks wife in the UK and getting her to fax all the TAF's & Metar's we needed to the hotel fax service. This worked a treat and showed the front clearing slowly from the West during the following day, followed by a short period of fine weather before more fronts came across the region. We did not fancy getting stuck in Germany so decided to make an early start, leave Dinslaken as soon as the weather allowed and cross the Channel in the fine slot. 

So it was we filed our flight plan with the German authorities, who rang back to clarify anything we had not made clear, (I forgot to put ETA at the German Border and we had filed extra alternate airfields in case of poor weather at the coast). We departed slightly too soon, as it turned out, and found ourselves flying towards the lowest part of the cloud base.

 spent much of my time as navigator calculating routes to the nearest airfield back along track and keeping frequencies up to date, but soon we could see the line of bright sunshine in the clear behind the front, the visibility was improving all the time and soon we were climbing in clear air. The wind was a bit stronger than forecast so we asked for a routing direct to Calais and then straight to Headcorn non stop. The Brussels controller was very obliging and took us straight through under an information service.

I The rest of the trip back was completely uneventful. If you have a mind to do some exploring why not check out Arnsberg you won't be disappointed.

Useful facts

Oostende Landing fees 760 Belgian Francs

Fuel 57 B/F per Ltr

Arnsberg Landing 20.75 DM

Accommodation 114.40 DM (for 2 inc B/Fast)

Fuel 2.92 DM/Ltr

Dinslaken Landing 29.26 DM

Sol Hotel 178 DM (for 2 inc B/Fast)

Dinner @ Santa Fe 66.10 DM

Fuel 2.95 DM/Ltr

Also useful 3 ISO Maps of area & 2 Jeppesen Maps 36.00 GBP and 25.00 GBP

2 Jeppesen airfield travel packs @ 56.90 GBP (from any good pilot shop)


Last Updated: 07 October 2005 09:06:45