Flying With 90 Horses, Chart, Compass And A Watch
Text and Images by Malte Höltken — With dependency on electronic devices and gadgets on the rise already in 2016, I decided to “rough it” and fly to the AERO-Expo 2016 and back in a basic VFR manner with nothing but a 90 horsepower chart, a compass and my watch. My ride was a 1960 Scheibe SF23A1 Sperling with a Conti C90 installed and cruising at a dizzying 150 km/h indicated. Although the aircraft was equipped with a mount for some fancy Garmin unit, I didn’t have one and thus the only navigation equipment installed is a magnetic compass and an airspeed indicator, and, of course the pilot.
Being tasked with covering a shift manning our booth at the expo on Wednesday meant that I could only travel on Tuesday. Going on Wednesday would have never worked as even early slots wouldn’t leave enough time to go there and change clothing after landing to be representable at our booth in time. In the end, going on Tuesday saved me a lot of hassle with AERO’s funky slot reservation system. I never quite understood why things have to make you angry and be so confusing, if in fact you could simply call the day before and still get a last minute slot secured.
The Sperling is a bit short on breath with just two 38 liter tanks, consuming a tad more than 20 liters per hour, and it was my first longer tour with the little bird. Being on the conservative side when it comes to fuel and reserve planning, I initially decided for two fuel stops on the trip to Friedrichshafen. Plus, this would give me enough fuel to not refuel at EDNY and instead get some Mogas on the trip home. It’s not quite that easy to find Mogas-serving airfields, that are open on weekdays in Germany! The concept of an airfield that requires someone to “open” it, may sound mighty strange, especially if you don’t have experience with the amazing idiosyncrasies in connection with operating small airfields in Germany.
Many special use airfields are limited to a maximum number of takeoffs and landings and further subject to PPR during the week. I felt, that just to save me ten or twenty Euro’s on fuel, I shouldn’t make someone come out to the field to “open” it for me, or to lower their available amount of free landings. So on the way to AERO, I planned to go to so-called “Verkehrslandeplätze” with defined opening hours and someone capable of selling fuel. My routing would be from Rheine (EDXE) via Marburg (EDFN) and Heubach (EDTN) and finally on to Friedrichshafen (EDNY). My reasoning was, should I not get fuel in Friedrichshafen, the remaining amount of fuel in the tanks would allow me to at least get in the vicinity of Stuttgart for refueling.
Of course, there was enough fuel in Friedrichshafen, so my intended flight back home was planned with only one stop in Mainz, where I would meet my wife and sister-in-law, who were flying the same routing back to Rheine in our Cessna 172.
Flying The Legs
Leg 1: Rheine – Allendorf Eder – Getting out of Rheine and being approved through Münster CTR was, of course, a non-event. There was one Aquilla doing circuits when I crossed the CTR, but that’s enough to be cleared through the CTR even before getting the QNH. Visibility was good and so identifying the route was not very difficult. The rather slow cruise speed is very helpful, since even small becks and railroads can be identified very easily. I mostly stayed between 1000 and 2000 ft AGL for this leg.
I had a considerable amount of crosswind on my route, around 15 km/h crosswind component had been forecast. Entering the area of Sauerland, I began to follow some ridges and slopes, always paying attention to not stray too far off course. This allowed for a slightly increased cruise speed at a bit lower power setting. How big the effect was, I don’t know, probably the detours I took ended up eating up the savings from gained speed. But it was fun to listen to the engine picking up a couple RPM and the airspeed jumping from the already dizzying 150 to a incredible 170 kilometers per hour.
Initially I planned to fly to Marburg-Schönstadt to refuel. Either I have missed the NOTAM between all the newly erected wind turbines and defunct NDBs, or they hadn’t issued one, but Marburg Info told me on the radio that the airfield was out of service due to a much too soft runway. I had to head back to Allendorf-(EDFQ) for fuel.
Until then, I had not had any experience with the fuel consumption of the Sperling in cruise, I always estimated it to the safe side with 24 liters per hour. I was a bit surprised as the amount of fuel I had to fill into the tanks was a whopping 22,8 liters after 66 minutes of flight. There is not much you can do in the Sperling for fuel efficiency, as the Stromberg carburetor is adjusting the mixture automatically, at least at the altitudes I flew.
Leg2: Allendorf – Heubach
One of the most beautiful things when flying low and slow is the sightseeing you get to do in between. Sure, the view from 6500 MSL and above is great, but it’s a bit boring and details can blur. This kind of cross country flying gives a completely different appreciation for the scenery one gets to enjoy.
I had really hoped to make a visit to Heubach, because it is home to German aircraft manufacturer Scheibe Aircraft and I had intended to drop by and say hello. But as usual, I was a bit behind my schedule and the colleagues already waiting for me in Friedrichshafen made me get the refueling done and jump back into flying mode.
Leg 3: Heubach – Friedrichshafen
Passing Donzdorf the weather changed fom CAVOK to severe CAVOK and the last bit of the journey towards the Aero was even easier.
I planned to arrive via Oscar and everything during the approach was quite normal. I was asked though, if I was an exhibitor on the show and if the aircraft would be on display, probably for sorting out my parking position. I already got my landing clearance shortly after passing Oscar and traveling less than lightning fast on the ground, too – I just asked where they wanted me to vacate the runway. This way I could fly there and wouldn’t block the runway longer than necessary.
After nearly 4 hours of flying the “old school” way – the way I had learned it – I really enjoyed not having a GPS or any other electronic gadget to help me get from point A to point B. It is this back to the basics low and slow flying that I enjoy the most and these days, I do my best to to teach my students just that as a flight instructor.
My flight back home got quite a bit more interesting and I hope you’ll travel along with me next Friday!