Sunday, September 07, 1997

The Red Baron (Non-Lesson Flight in Germany)

This was a surprise "bonus" flight during my business trip to Oberkochen, Germany, traveling with our German distributor's technical sales guy, Jörg. I saw low-flying Cessnas and other light planes from our hotel in Aalen-Waldhausen and found that there's a general aviation and gliding center at "Flugplatz Elchingen," about 15 minutes away. I had Jörg drive us over and found sightseeing flights for 40 DM a person (about $23 – he paid as I had no DM!). Jörg had never flown in a light plane (a French "Robin," low-wing 4 seat with great visibility), but he was a good sport and gave me the front seat.

The pilot was an even better sport – during a conversation in his broken English and our better French (and my non-German), I told him I was a 5 hour student pilot (BTW, I never would have guessed a few months ago that I'd be a "5 hour student pilot" this soon, so I should remember that this is cool and not be impatient if things take a little time). So he gave me the right seat and stick (after takeoff and initial climb out) and let me fly for about 20 minutes over the lovely German countryside! Very cool – we saw towns, a monastery, a quarry, the Zeiss factories in Oberkochen, etc. I mostly did shallow or moderate banks plus a bit of climbing and gliding (Jörg was a bit greenish in the back seat). I liked flying a stick – the plane was zippy (180 h.p.) and handled nicely, with great visibility from the big bubble windows (sliding canopy). I fancied myself the Red Baron in the clear blue skies over Germany, flying this bright red French "robin." I hope I can con Jörg into one more flight before I go back, maybe Friday, weather and time permitting (doubtful we would get the same cooperative pilot as Sunday – he was not supposed to let a passenger fly the plane on a sightseeing flight, obviously, so I really lucked out in that regard). It was supposed to be 20 minutes but I'm sure we ran long – we covered a lot of ground.

One thing that was notable was how comfortable and relaxed I felt on this fight – flying the plane in a very basic way, enjoying the scenery, turning to where the pilot pointed, it was quite easy. I was reasonably smooth and light-fingered on the stick (performing for Jörg, maybe, but not the "got to master this procedure" pressure I feel with Jason – I really need to work on this, as I think it's me more than Jason).

Time: 0.4 hours, not logged, non-lesson flight

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