Germany, September 2017
Germany, September 2017
Five of us tried to set off from London-Stansted on September 27th, I say tried as it was at a time when the Budget airline Ryanair was experiencing problems with staffing levels. We were due to leave Stansted at 07:50; we’d been queuing at the gate since just after 07:00 even though we’d got priority boarding. By 07:45 there was no sign of Gate staff, nor sight of our plane, we found a little later that our plane was inbound from Hamburg (HAM) and due to land at 08:15.
Eventually at 09:30 our plane a Boeing 737-8AS registration EI-ENT lifted off the runway at Stansted and we were on our way to Hamburg. Landing at 11:27 local time had put all our arrangements for that day at least one and half hours behind schedule; we were scheduled to be at Airbus Industries at Hamburg-Finkenwerder by 12:30, we were not going to make it!!
Having got the rental vehicle I made a phone call to the tour company organising the visit to Airbus, we were in luck a new time of 16:10. For the next two hours we sat at a Coffee shop which is located on the public side of the airfield adjacent to runway 15/33 at Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttle. From this vantage point we could see the Lufthansa Technik Hangars outside of which was parked an Airbus A.340 bearing Luftwaffe markings. Also on the airfield was a Luftwaffe Bombardier Global Express, we later found out that the serial for this was 1401.
Leaving an hour to do the 40 minute journey from Fuhlsbüttle to Finkenwerder we set off; how were we to know that the autobahn between the two airports was undergoing major restoration and that there was a lengthy and thus time consuming detour? Still we made it and we were greeted by the English speaking tour guide. For the next two and half hours we visited many of the production hangars where we witnessed Airbus A320, A321’s and A380’s being manufactured. Alas we were not permitted to take any photographs and mobile phones are prohibited while on the tours lest anyone be tempted to try and take a photo on their phones.
Our group within the tour comprised of 15 English speaking people, we had an English speaking guide (he was actually English and had worked for the forefathers of Airbus and lived in Germany since 1963). Each party was accompanied by a ‘Security’ official from Airbus; one foot wrong over any of the lines on the floor of the production hangar and s/he was there in an instant.
All the component parts for the aircraft are manufactured at various sites in and around Hamburg and other parts of Europe and the United Kingdom. The wings for the Airbuses are manufactured by a British company at the plant in Broughton in North East Wales close to the English border. Most of the wing sets are then flown from there to Hamburg in one of five Airbus Beluga aircraft which are based on the Airbus A300. The components then enter the production hangars where they are assembled, fitted out and ready for painting within a six week period. At present they are producing approximately 60 airbus variants a month but such is the demand for Airbus A320/321 aircraft this is going to be increased.
Airbus are slowing the production of the A380 to just six a year, this is the only Airbus that is not selling as well as the smaller varieties. In fact during our tour there were at least four A380’s that had been put into ‘open storage’ on the airfield. One half of the A380 assembly hangar has been given over to the assembly of the A320/321.
Our thanks to the guide Nigel Roche and to the tour organisers Globetrotter Travel agency GmBH at Finkenwerder. For details of the visits to Airbus click on the link https://werksfuehrung.de/en/english/group-offers/airbus-hamburg/new-tour-from-nov1th/
Airbus / Globetrotter Tours levy a fee of 23€95 (about £21.50) each for the privilege of going on the tours. Even if you are not into civil aviation I guarantee you’ll be interested in the engineering side of putting a plane together and getting it to first flight in just six weeks.
Our guide told us that when the aircraft is ready for flight they do the test flight, if there are no ‘snags’ with it they then contact the customer airline and say it is ready for delivery. If there are snags then they fix them on the ground, test fly once again and if all is okay same procedure as above.
Following the tour of Airbus we then had a 240 kilometre drive to our ibis budget hotel in Broderstorf just 12 Km to the East of Rostock and until reunification was in the GDR.
Dinner was in a restaurant called http://zurmooreiche.de a place that I have used before and have come to love.
September 28th and for me the most important day of the trip; 07:45 a group of ‘Spotters’ arrived at the gate to Fliegerhorst Laage. The Luftwaffe occupy one side of the airfield and the civil side the other, since the fall of the iron curtain the airport / airfield is known as Rostock-Laage. Lufthansa the German National airline have a flight training facility on the civil side; it is not unusual to see a Grob trainer land followed by a EuroFighter or two.
Today was a special day when the Press Office of TLG-73S (Taktisches Luftwaffegeschwarder 73S [Steinhoff]) allows Aviation Enthusiasts from around Europe and the U.K. to visit their base. The English translation of TLG is Tactical Air Force Wing which was until a few years ago called the Jagdgeschwader (JG) (Fighter Wing).
TLG-73 are the northern QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) for Germany, the southern QRA being their sister unit TLG-74 who are based at Neuburg-an-der-Donau in Bavaria. TLG-73 is also a training unit for the Luftwaffe they use the EuroFighter 2000 for single seat operations (QRA) and the EuroFighter 2000T in the training role.
In the U.K. the EuroFighter is called the Typhoon and is built by BAeS at their Warton, Lancashire facility. Germany builds the EuroFighter for the Luftwaffe and the Austrian Luftwaffe at the Ingolstadt-Manching facility in Bavaria.
Our tour kicked off with and immediate coach ride to an area close to the ‘last chance’ point at the one zero (010) end of the airfields runway. The group of visitors were no more than 300 metres from the closest EuroFighter and at most less than 400 metres from the furthest.
This is a single seat EuroFighter 2000
On the morning of our visit the flight comprise of two EF2000’s and two EF2000T’s, the noise form the aircraft was amazing as well the smell of burnt Jet A1 fuel from them. After their departure we were all back on the bus and ready for our next look at different aircraft which were the majority of the extant airframes preserved on base. However just as we were about to leave the area of the ‘last chance’ one of the group saw a propeller driven aircraft approaching the runway, we were in luck!
This was a C-160 Transall of the Luftwaffe returning with equipment from RAF Coningsby, in England where six aircraft from TLG-73S had been deployed for the previous couple of weeks.
There was one extant airframe that was of particular interest to one in my Group, the Sukhoi Su-22 M-4K which when I was at Laage a year ago was under restoration. Eventually this aircraft was located in one of the former East German Hardened Aircraft Shelters (Nr. 10). BUT the Press Officers couldn’t open the sliding doors to the front so we all had to use the back door entrance. As we ventured to the rear of this shelter we went a bit deeper into the forest that surrounds the entire airfield / airport, a certain throw-back to the days of the GDR.
Suitably pleased that he had seen the Sukhoi Su-22 it was bordering on time for lunch. We were driven to the Senior NCO’s Mess lunch was a varied choice which included a vegetarian option which pleased at least one person on the tour.
After lunch it was time to go back towards the threshold of the active runway as the EuroFighters were due back from their sorties. We were ‘treated’ to at least one of the aircraft making missed approaches to the airfield although they did not go into full military power (afterburners) to execute the missed approach.
Our tour concluded with seeing and stopping to photograph all the static aircraft dotted about the airfield. The day had been slightly curtailed due to a ceremony that was going to be held later that afternoon. Everything was as far as the flying was concerned finished for the day.
We bade our farewell to the Public Affairs people and to the others from all over Europe and in particular The Netherlands that had come for this day.
A very happy Andrew London at Fliegerhorst Laage
My (our) thanks must go to Leutnant (Lieutenant) Christoph TROST and members of the Press Office of TLG-73S for his tenacity in locating the Sukhoi Su-22 and for arranging yet another great day at Fliegerhorst Laage.
Finishing early as we did the five of us decided that we needed to do more to fill our day, a quick consult of the information available and we set of for Neuenkirchen. A couple of hours later we arrived and located the museum there with ease. We were busy taking photographs over the fence when a vehicle marked as a runway control vehicle arrived. The driver of said vehicle started to unlock the gates to the museum and beckoned us in. Unfortunately he spoke no English and our German was very limited. But despite that he invited us in and left us wandering around taking our pictures to our hearts content. Then he beckoned us in to the workshop.
What an Aladdin’s cave this was; sticking out from the wall at one end was a nose section of a MiG-21 marked as ‘438’. In the middle of the workshop there was an F-4F forward section (3862) and hanging from the roof a couple of D- Gliders as well as a drone! Using the limited amount of German that I / we knew we found out that this man owned all of the exhibits. He had been sold (given) some of the exhibits after the end of the Cold War. We also established that this man was a technician on the MiG-21 when he served in the East German Air Force.
This photo shows an OMF-100 (yellow) the rotors of a former Hungarian AF Kamov Ka-26, Sukhoi Su-22 and the forward end of a Mil Mi-2 as well as the mobile home thing!
We made a small donation to this gentleman and bade him farewell; maybe he went to the local pub that evening and then maybe he didn’t.
From Neuenkirchen we then travelled the few kilometres to the airport at Neubrandenburg in search of three Wrecks & Relics (extant airframes) that were allegedly there. Well if they were there we didn’t see them. We decided to call it a day and made our way back to the restaurant at Broderstorf. Dinner was a lot more relaxed affair than it had been the previous evening, even if we were fifteen minutes later than planned in sitting down.
Our final morning saw a relaxed start to the day and we all had breakfast before setting off for our first port of call en-route back to Hamburg.
We arrived at Rechlin-Lärz just after 09:00. There are only a few exhibits at this museum all bar one of which are on display outside. While we were walking around and photographing the exhibits the owner/curator turned up and said he would open the building for us but at a cost!
It was a well spent 5€00 each to see the rusty remains of what was an Ilyushin IL-2. This had been my third visit to this museum in just two years but as my fellow travelling companions had not been there it seemed rude not to take them via this place.
During the Cold War this base used to be home to many MiG-23 Floggers of the Soviet Air Force. Many pictures adorn the walls of the museum building both in Black & White and colour depicting the aircraft and the personnel.
As we stood outside close to the flying club it was easy to visualise this base during the Cold War. It was another vast area of land where many of the concrete Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS) of that era still remain surrounded by forest in a remote part of the then East Germany. There was an eerie quiet about the place, with very little bird or other creature noise, it was the sort of place that sends a chill down your spine.
The remains of the Ilyushin IL-2
From Rechlin-Lärz we made our way over to the Luftfahrt Technisches Museum Http://Luftfahrttechnisches-museum-rechlin.de at Rechlin.
This is about a 10 minute drive from Rechlin-Lärz, here much to the delight of my friend Graham Bright there was yet another Sukhoi Su-22 (three in two days is not too bad!) There was a whole new hangar since my last visit in September 2016 and this contained amongst others a MiG-21 that had the starboard side cut away in several places to reveal the workings of this aircraft. Also in the hangar were the remnants of yet another Ilyushin IL-2.
The Su-22 at the Luftfahrt Technisches Museum
Alas all too soon it was time to push on for the drive back to Hamburg and our destination of the airport. Before we dropped off the car we did a circumnavigation of the airport; into my log book went the Luftwaffe Airbus A.340 serial 1602 so I’ve now seen 50% of the Luftwaffe Airbus A340 fleet it was also confirmed that this was the same aircraft we’d seen upon our arrival two days earlier. What was elusive to us though was a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Airbus KC-30A; the KC-30A was allegedly in one of the hangars, as I say allegedly.
The RAAF have a number of the Airbus KC-30As’ they are based on the Airbus A.330. This aircraft has the ability to refuel all types of aircraft by having both the US style ‘boom’ and the system preferred and used by the U.K of the drogue basket. The boom operator of the Airbus KC-30A is actually in the cockpit of the aircraft unlike those of the ageing Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker of the US Airforce.
So another trip to Germany was coming to an end; we were bussed out to our waiting Ryanair Boeing 737 which was the same one that we flew in two days before (EI-ENT). Our departure from HAM was delayed by some 20 minutes due to ‘air traffic delays’. Even so we arrived back at Stansted airport just 10 minutes behind schedule; you have to wonder sometimes just how much of the ‘delay’ is due to the schedulers getting things just a bit wrong.
My thanks go to the following, my travel companions, Graham Bright (also known as G1, for driving the whole time) Andrew London, Graham Sex, also known as G5, and Garry Lakin.
We would also like to thank Airbus and in particular Nigel Roche our English speaking guide for a very informative and interesting tour of the Hamburg-Finkenwerder Airbus facility.
Thanks also to the gentleman and his collection of aircraft and artefacts at Neuenkirchen.
Special thanks to Jeanette Gruender the owner-Manager, of the Gasthaus Zur Mooreiche, Broderstorf, for her hospitality. http://zurmooreiche.de
I know I that we have already mentioned the Press Office of TLG-73 Steinhof at Fliegerhorst Laage but our trip was really made through their hospitality, so once again, Gentlemen thank you from us all.
By way of a foot note; a lot of aviation enthusiasts will have you believe that the Iron Cross in between the serial numbers of the aircraft is part of the serial and they show it thus 16+02. I have it on very good authority this is not the case and hence my presentation (1602) which I believe (know) to be the correct manner.
It’s only four months now until I am back in Germany and back at Fliegerhorst Laage with two others that have not been to Germany before. I am already busy putting together an itinerary that will see us flying in to Berlin and exiting through Hamburg. I have no doubt we’ll be visits both places in Rechlin on the way towards Rostock and I already know where I at least will be eating on our arrival evening.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this small blog about our trip to Germany and the places we have been to.