Monday, September 17, 2012

Spotting Castles and Crossing New Borders

After a couple of weeks of preparation, I was totally ready for my flight in Germany. 

While I had read up on the many nuances of flying here, I didn't really look carefully enough at the map.  I didn't realize how close Baden-Baden was to France.  In fact, my hotel was walking distance to the French border!

This also meant that it would be easily possible to squeeze in quick trip to France as part of the training flight.  My instructor (Trip) suggested a great little airport on the French side near the border that had an unusual point of interest that most americans seem to like ( more on that later).

With Trip in the right seat, pre-flight complete and the fuel tanks topped off, I was finally ready for takeoff for my first European flight!

The weather was beautiful.  But since we would be crossing a border, we had to file a VFR flight plan.  The ATC communications were quite simple (and in English).  So I handled all of the radios and awkwardly tried to remember to say "November" before my call sign each time.  But interestingly, when you are flying VFR, the ATC communications can also be in local language.  It was wild to hear radio chatter from other airplanes in German, French and English all on the same short flight!

I flew the ILS approach  into Colmar, France, which was tough because of the distracting scenery!  The castle below was just a few degrees right of the localizer:
After landing, I was instructed to park on a grass apron (another first for me)
Just a few minute walk from the airport, we saw the statue of liberty!  Apparently, the original designer of the statue was from Colmar.  So in his honor, the town built a scale replica that is 12 meters tall, and perhaps on better condition than the original!
After a quick visit, we were back in the air doing air work at low altitude flying northbound along the Rhine river.

It was an incredibly scenic ride and we seemed to "find" castles everywhere.  My favorite one was near Heidelberg, which you can see below.
After all the training/sightseeing, I got a little bit of excitement on the final landing.

As we were on mid-field right downwind to the 10,000 FT runway in Baden-Baden, there was a Ryan Air jet on 7 mile final and the tower asked me if I could do an "expedited landing".  I immediately said "affirmative". 

At this point, Trip decided to throw one last surprise at me.  He pulled the power to idle and announced "I think we have an engine failure."  So I had to do a power off 180 to a full stop landing!  

I think he really just wanted to remind me that this was a training flight and not just sightseeing!

== T.J.==

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Things Falling Into Place

Sometimes things just have a way of falling into place...  

For me, this has recently been the case as I prepared for my annual recurrent training.

Usually, I accomplish my recurrent training by attending a CPPP.  But this year I decided to do it with a twist.  Instead of attending the course in Lakeland or Atlanta, I decided to attend the European version of the course in Germany.

This may sound a bit crazy... But since finishing the 50 states, I have been striving to become proficient at international flying and I could think of no better way than combining my usual training with some real world flying in Germany.

Since I started planning this adventure, I have been amazed at  how things have just fallen into place at every step! Here is what I mean:

1. I was concerned if I was would legally be allowed to fly in Germany with my FAA US pilot certificate. It turns out that US pilot credentials are honored worldwide IF you fly a US registered plane ( meaning tail # starting with "N").  That didn't seem so hard... So I started planning for flight training @ Baden-Baden Airpark (EDSB), which is just outside of Stuttgart.

2. With the help of a couple of friends from COPA, I located an "N" registered Cirrus in Germany.  As you can see in the pic below, I found one that is quite similar to my own . 
Obviously, I will be flying the little plane in the foreground !
3. The next step was insurance.  With a little help from my friendly US based CSIP, this was nothing more than shuffling a little paper.

4. Now I needed to find a way to get there.  Thanks to my day job, I had a ton of air miles waiting to be redeemed and surprisingly it was even available for the dates I wanted!

So now it looks like the trip is really going to happen and I need to study!  European flying definitely has a few nuances and complexities.  But overall, it seems totally doable!

For example, here is the airspace map that I need to learn.  

Stay tuned for the pirep to find out how it goes...