Saturday, July 31, 2004

29/7 – 31/7 Klix

The days blur together. Get up, fill the water bottles. Rig the gliders, fill their tanks. Grid the aircraft, catch the briefing if I can. Wait on the grid to launch the glider. Wait at the camp for the glider to get back. Derig. Tea. No bad weather to break the cycle as I had hoped there would be. Little chance of sightseeing, at least not very far from the airfield.

The world is a small place (1). After the briefing, I was walking out to the grid. The others all took the cars and are out there waiting. For some reason I had waited at the camp, but was on my way when a straggler car with two ladies in stops and offers me a lift in German. In my broken German I try to start talking to them. After a while the penny drops with one of them and she turns to me and says “You’re not German are you?”. It turns out they are the Italians. The pilot is Margot. We then drop into a more comfortable English conversation. “Where are you from” etc. When they find out I am from Adelaide Margot says, “say hello to Gabby for me”. I have known Gabby on and off for almost 20 years. Margot has stayed with Gabby and his wife when she was in Australia a few years ago.

30/7/04 Klix Airfield

Another typical day in the life of a Sailplane Crew Union Member. Got up at 0630, a bit later than normal, to have a shower before the crowd starts. Usually I would then fill the water containers for both teams, but Keith did it last night. The facilities for filling the gliders are a bit limited here. There are about 10 taps along the south fence of the club house but it is a tight squeeze to get more than about three gliders in there. Since there are 17 in standard class and 14 in 15m it can become a little conjested. Then I headed back to the Geyer encampment and help with their gliders.
After the Swaantje camp gliders have been assembled, we normally sit down to a good breakfast and wait till the two Lisas turn up around 08:00. Everyone is getting into their routines now and we can usually have both LS4s on the grid by around 10:00. Briefing is at 10:15.
Today some advertising material was handed out by the sponsors. This comp is sponsored by a number of industrial/engineering organisations, some well known like Seimens and others less so.
I was a little slow getting out to the grid after the briefing because I was talking winches with a young chap from the Klix club. Their winches are excellent pieces of machinery, even club built ones like this one. Anyway, because standard class was at the back of the grid I knew it would be an hour after first launch, even with 5 tugs, that the two Lisas would be getting away.
Today is a blue day with no cloud to help with thermal locating. The Germans generally don't like this as it makes the days a little harder and people tend to gaggle more when they see other gliders turning. The standard class had about a 270 km triangle for their task.

In the evening everyone at the comp has been invited to a cook up by the aeromodellers club in the south west corner of the field. Last night we had a barbeque, with the all our German friends and the Australians. Sabine, Ralf and myself did the shopping for it, while the pilots were away and then we rushed back at the expected ETA but the day died earlier than everyone expected. Our pilots were left scratching along the last leg. They got home though they were the last finishers in standard class. To add insult to injury as the two Lisas were debriefing with Cathy over the slow flight, Hanno the comp director appeared. Very apologetic to be the bearer of bad news, the girls had infringed Berlin airspace and had been given a technical outlanding at that point. In truth this didn't really affect the days outcome and it was a salutory lesson. Germany is a high traffic environment and we have to be sure where we are and that it is the right place.
Anyway, back to the cooking, I was thinking about a noodle salad, but do you think the Germans sell Thousand Island Dressing? Not on your life. So I made do with a savoury tomato sauce. Also if you want pork in this part of Germany, no problem, any concievable cut. You want it, you can have it. For poultry there is a pretty fair selection of turkey too. But other meats are either rare, expensive or both. These are the details which really highlight the differences between Australia and here. Ralf did most of the cooking on something which looked like the cross between a round gas barbeque and a wok and we continued to socialise till late. I then took the opportunity to go to the briefing room to send some emails. This kept me up till after midnight They were playing “Pirates of the Caribbean” on the big projector screens used during the briefing with the volume turned up full bore. In German of course.
There are a number of traditions at Klix. One is the presentation of garden gnomes to contestants who almost make it home. I think it signifies the notion of arriving in the garden but not actually getting through the front door! Swaantje won one of these on Thursday morning for her Wednesday flight. She fell short by 3.8km (not 15 as I wrote in some earlier emails). The gnome now sits tied to the top of the caravan annexe underneath Swaantje's pirate flag. Her mascot from previous comps, nothing to do with the movie of last night.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

28/7/04 Klix

This morning I did my washing in the GDR washing machine. And what a unique device it is too. Bloomi, the tug pilot gave me a briefing in its use.
Unfortunately last night the TE probe on Lisa Trotters LS4 got broken off when we put the fuselage away in the trailer without removing it. A stupid slip, and horroe this morning when we opened up the trailer to see the probe bent right down. Ralf helped us run around to drill out the broken bit so we could use it again. At Klix they appear to have an old chap who is a full time mechanic or something. His name is Siefried. The aerodrome has two workshops, a white one for clean work on the gliders and a black one for heavy machinery work. We couldn’t find the right size drill so Siegfried went home and got his good set. They were mounted in a thick perspex block. I was impressed, it was the front windscreen of a Mig15. Anyway, by increasing the drill sizes in steps of 0.1 mm we were able to remove the offending damaged brass tube. This still left enough original material to mount back on the fin. We then got Lisa away for the task.

Ater doing that, Ralf helped me get the LS1 out. First off I flew to the south of Klix (to stay away from the competition gliders). There was a big blue hole and I was back on the ground in what seemed no time. The LS1 is more difficult on the tow than the Pirat was. Occasionally I run out of rudder or aileron when bouncing around. The short ropes make it unnecessarily difficult too, I think. They use about 35m ropes here which is just a bit more than half what we are allowed to use in Australia. Also from my seating position and in high tow I lose sight of the Wilga every now and then due to the instrument panel. I got off at 600m and chased some big birds of prey up to cloudbase (1500m). There are a few strands of straw bent over my leading edge still from the airfield. A bit of yawing sees them whipped away. The two birds do some sort of mating flight where the top bird rolls under the lower bird and they clasp claws. They then tumble for a while until they separate. Then they do it again, losing height all the time. I follow them down. The first comp gliders are due to finish at 16:00 so I zip down to land at 15:58. Not a long flight but very unique. LS1 D-3133, 10 and 35 minutes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

27/7 Klix Competition

This morning by around 10:30 all the fleet were gridded, about seventy gliders approximately in the three classes. We sit and wait for thunderstorms to pass.
And wait.
And wait.
The task is called off at 15:30.

Monday, July 26, 2004

26/7 Klix First Official Day

Today is the first official contest day. Briefing is set for 10:15. The organizers explain all the intricacies of the competition like start and finish point procedures rules of the airfield and so forth, all in German. We are given colour codes for gridding the aircraft. Our Standard glass gliders will be blue, so we have to look for the blue signs and basically position the aircraft anywhere along that line of five.

25/7 (Klix) Official Practice Day.

A good day for flying but not a competition day. The grid is 4 gliders wide by about 12 deep. Nearly 50 gliders, all flown by women. The two Lisas got away and Cathy took a flight in Helge’s LS1 to follow them around. While they were away a cadged a flight from Dieter M in the Klix club’s Pirat. I hadn’t flown a Pirat before and Dieter gave me a pretty thorough briefing. I think he is a bit wary of us. I didn’t go out of glide distance but stayed local and did a bit of a circumnavigation of the field about 10 km out. Heights 1000-1500m normally. The last climb was to 1700m to the south east of the field where I out thermalled a motor glider, a Dimona, I think. Not much lift to the south of the field and worked my way back home being wary of the model flyers who sometimes operate on the southern edge of the field. Pirat D-1376, 80 minutes.
During the afternoon Sonia has arrived to be part of Trotts crew. Helge has made a wasp trap. The wasps here are pretty annoying. Like Australian flies when they get bad, except these ones can sting too. The trap is just a plastic bottle with little entry holes. It has a bit of liquid in the bottom. Water, vinegar, apfelschorle and sugar. It seems to work quite well.
There is a get together party going on in the tug hangar, it is now 21:30. Helge has taken Benno’s trailer to another competition and he won’t be back till Friday. It is dusk. There are clouds and I can’t see any stars yet. There are bats in the trees by the airfield.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

24/7 (Klix) Technical Day

Not a flying day but a “technical” day for weighing, registration etc. Trotts water pump didn’t have a decent hose so we went back into Bautzen and spent a while in the hardware shop. Also put my first lot of films in to be processed. Everyone else has digital cameras. While we were away Turns test flew her glider after changing the TE probe and plumbing. She says its OK now. Spent a good part of the afternoon driving around looking at crops for potential landing sites. There is a big mix here, wheat, corn, rye, spuds, canola, clover, lucerne and oats. The Germans land in all sorts of crops generally the green ones, but not the canola and not the yellow ones (a bit opposite to Australia).
They tell me the old East Germany is not as wealthy as the west and I can believe it. Although Bautzen appears to be like any modern town, the small hamlets around Klix are in various states of repair. I also found out that the storage sheds near the airfield and another demolished site near one of the outlanding fields were actually communal farm machinery shed before reunification.

Today is also the final competition day at an airfield called Neuhausen. It was about 80km away so we (Cathy, Sabine, Swaantje, Helge and I) went there for a late tea. On the way there we got a close look at some lakes. These lakes are all coal open cuts I think. We saw the new power station at Schwarze Pumpe, which the Germans don’t like. It’s too efficient and its cooling towers do not produce worthwhile thermals. Another interesting thing (to me) was the type of construction of some apartment blocks. Helge called it Platten Bolten (panel and bolt?). Neuhausen is a large sport aviation site with very good buildings thanks to the previous government. First time I have seen an AN2 in the flesh. I would really like to have a go in one of these. During the calm of the evening a hot air ballon dropped in. I don’t know where he came from. I met some members of Sabine’s home club, Frankfurt Akaflieg. They were Christoph Maul, Christopher Rogos and Tobias Haas. The guys tried to get me to drink some of the German beer, “best beer in the world”. Tasted like any other beer to me. Tobias tried to point out Ursa Major and Polaris, I think I saw them but even in the “country” the light pollution is really bad. I also met Benno Beesten who was one of the German team at Gawler in 2001 where I was verifier. At the end of the night we took Benno’s trailer back to Klix.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

23/7 (Klix) Early Practice Days

It is light here even a bit longer than in South Australian summer, from about 05:00 till after 22:00, which means the days can be long. My first morning in Klix and the weather is raining and misty till around 09:00. Not a hugely encouraging start for my expectations of summer. I missed the weather briefing but it was forecast to be a flyable day with thunderstorms later. We all sat around and had breakfast with the Germans (Swaantje, Helge and Sabine) till the mist cleared. It was a late breakfast as we had to wait for Helge to get the bread. We rigged the gliders for both of the Lisas and towed them out to the grid. The thermometer in Trott’s car said 26 degrees but it seems a bit hotter, due to the humidity I suppose.

There is a club Bocian and a foreign club K13 being launched by winch for ab initio training. All the lady pilots here for the contest are sitting waiting for an aerotow behind the Wilga, but the twins aren’t staying up so no one wants to spend the money. I think the tug pilot’s name is Bloomi. Eventually it gets the better of Trotts so we push her to the front and she takes a launch. She was able to stay up, then everyone wanted a launch. Keith got a flight in the Wilga, Cathy and I got a promise for one tomorrow. Turns is having vario problems. During the afternoon Cathy manages to get a check flight with the contest director, Dieter Mihelin. He must be sick of the mad Australians as he lets Cathy give me a check. But the day is nearly done and the flights are a lot shorter. I scare her a bit trying to scratch out a longer flight by going down to about 800’ agl before breaking off. 20 minutes in Bocian D-8370.
Cathy, Sabine and I go shopping in Bautzen about 19:00. Apparently the shops in Germany stay open 07:30-20:00 weekdays and a half (or full) day on Saturday.I always forget one thing when I go away, it’s a towel! Bought one in Bautzen. We had a “barby” for tea. The thing they use is a little firepot arrangement with charcoal in it.

Friday, July 23, 2004

22/7 (Klix) Late

Finally got to Klix, I took over the last bit of the driving from Cathy and got a little run on the Autobahn before heading off to the smaller roads. The girls waiting for us were a bit grumpy as we were pretty late and they wanted their tea. We went to a little pub and I had spiegel ei. I am beginning to work out German cuisine. It’s fried.

22/7 (Frankfurt) At airport 08:00

Sabine has picked up Cathy (who just flew in) and me. We drive out of Frankfurt on our way to Poppenhausen and the Wasserkuppe. On the road to Fulda I saw the bare conical mountain that I saw when flying in last night. It looks like a mine tailings or something. Sabine is driving on the wrong side of the road. It all feels really strange.Things are familiar but different. The houses take up a smaller area but are multi stories. This is what is expected, however they aren’t brick veneer and galvanized iron! I don’t know what they are underneath but a large proportion of the house appear to be stuccoed. I saw one house with what looked like horizontal pine planks being resealed. There are lots of wooded areas, more than I had expected to see.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

22/7 (Frankfurt) At hotel 05:00

I have been awake since before 04:00. Across the road is a pine forest, which I didn’t expect to see in a major German city. I am a little bit disorientated by this. I am in room 723 so am on the 7th floor. Looking across the road, I am just under the level of the tree tops. It was warm last night before bed time, but it is cool now and “nearly” raining. Although I can’t see any rain falling on the road, I can hear a hissing from the trees. It is probably rain. Maybe it is wind but there is no movement of the trees. The sun isn’t up yet but I can see the glow in the overcast sky. There have been a couple of lightning flashes too. The hotel is an L shaped building and I can see there are a few other lights on in other rooms. While I have been writing my diary notes the rain has started to drizzle.
My final image of Japan are little pink paper notes stuck all over the place. I had seen them when I was walking about in the evening, on the bus to the airport I could see they were even taped to the tallest grass stems. For a country in full summer I was surprised by how green it was with grass and weeds growing out of just about every crack and fissure in the concrete. The rain has stopped now, I can see Oeser Sr. points down to what I think is the Frankfurt CBD.

21/7 (Frankfurt) At hotel. 21:20

Today was only a 21 hour day as I flew from Tokyo to Frankfurt but I have traveled through 24 hours of daylight. When I got to Frankfurt I looked around at the places to stay. At the airport itself it is far too expensive. I finally found the telephone and shuttle bus meeting place where I booked into the Courtyard Marriott in Frankfurt (Frankfurt Messe, Oeser Strasse 180). There was a bit of confusion as I got on the phone directly after a bloke by the name of Quigley, so that’s the name my room was booked in. I rang around and found out Sabine knows there are two (other being Cathy) to pick up tomorrow at the airport.
A long day.

21/7 Leaving Tokyo

Breakfast of miso soup and bean curd. Not too bad. But there was a ginger condiment which was particularly hot, although I usually like ginger I didn't like this one. And an odd blue pickle. The pickle was a little too strong for me and I couldn’t finish it. To waste some time before the aircraft leaves I go up to the hotel shop. I buy some postcards to send back to Australia. 500ml of coke is Y160. The area where the hotel is located appears to be industrial. There aren’t any footpaths to speak of but many carparks. I assume to service the airport.
The bus takes all the transferring passengers back to the airport. I can even check in at the hotel itself, very convenient. Last images are of driving between the concrete buildings in this area. There are little pink paper notes stuck over everything. Even a few stuck on tall grass stems. For a country in the middle of it’s summer, the vegetation is quite green and grows out of almost every conceivable nook and cranny.
We board at about 13:40 local time. There has not been an auspicious start as the aircraft was delayed due to a “water system maintenance”. As we taxi out I can see the airport’s name in a hedge along with a sort of floral clock. Both near the start of runway 16R. There also looks like an aircraft museum or similar off the end of 34L as we take off.
As we climb away, I notice the land around Narita is different to the Australian landscape. There seem to be urban pockets in bright green countryside. Not what I would call rural. I don’t see any patches of clear ground bigger than about 1k long. If the ground is not wooded it is either built on or cultivated. As we leave I can’t see Tokyo. The air is too mucky, even from 6000’ I can only see about 20km. And we enter cloud at 12000’.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

20/7/04 Tokyo, Hotel Nikko Narita

Got up early today and caught the red eye special from Adelaide to Sydney. I had to get a bit of a move on at Sydney to catch the connecting flight as there was only about 1.5 hours between flights, luckily there were no hitches, so all went well.

11 hours to Tokyo, it was not as tedious as I thought it was going to be. To while away the time I kept a log of the flight using the passengers navigation system (a good toy).
Didn’t see Port Moresby as it was slightly off to the left (I was on the RHS). A lot of cloud was over New Guinea (as expected) but I could see the Owen Stanleys sticking through, very impressive and I didnt see the tallest part! I took some pictures but they never turn out as well as the actual view.
There was lots of cloud over the Coral sea/Pacific. We overflew Guam and although very cloudy I had worked out our ETA to within a minute. I couldn’t see anything out the window but there on the entertainment screen we passed smack over the airfield.
On then for about 5 more tedious hours over the water, to make landfall not far from Tokyo. Where we crossed the coast there were a string of wind generators clearly visible (and 2 golf courses). One was located completely on an island in a river.

Then we all got off the plane, after about 40 minutes waiting for a parking spot, into 33 degree 50% humidity. It is very sweaty. So much for being forced to wear a wind cheater this morning. Customs was a bit of a let down:
Customs Man "Where are you from, Sydney?"
SWK "and Adelaide before that"
Customs man "Go through then"
Obviously not much getting smuggled from Australia to Japan at the moment.

Got to the hotel along with about 100 other passengers. After booking in I went for a walk in the very warm and muggy evening. No footpaths to speak of in this part of town (Narita) and I almost fell down a manhole! (well not quite). During the walk I found a storm water manhole (approx 800dia), with a big heavy steel lid, open. So I had a look in. Most unusual to have something like that open. A bit further along found a second one open. Both quite proud of the ground, so really people would have to be very unlucky to fall in. However, further along was a third! open and flush with the ground. Much more of a hazard there.

After that I went to tea in the `cheap` restaurant in the hotel. As well as having their menu out the front they also have a display cabinet with models of their meals. The cabinet in front of the chinese restaurant had five little figurines on display as well. 3 were definitely Monkey, Sandy & Pigsy from Chinese mythology, although it wasn’t really clear who the other 2 were. Anyway, what do you have for tea in Japan. Like the old saying, when in Rome do as the Romans, so I had spaghetti. Well I would have had something a bit more local but they only seemed to have seafood, and I am not a great fan of seafood at the best of times.