The Journal of the Friends of Sywell Aerodrome

No. 13 Summer 2006

Despatches from Poland - The AT3 Ferry Flight

Tomasz and his team welcome us to Kon Orby.
Tomasz and his team welcome us to Kon Orby.

After a five month wait finally our AT3s were ready for collection. So Gareth and I jumped onto Sky Europe to Warsaw to meet Trevor Archer, the aircraft's agent, who took us straight to a very smart private strip at Kon Orby for our first sight of the aircraft.

Tomasz, the Managing Director and designer, was there to meet us with his team and they were very obviously pleased with our comments of approval. Tomasz then said: "Well, it is time to fly" and I jumped into SP-KAC with Tomasz and Gareth in SP-KOT with their CFI, and Trevor hitched a lift in the company aircraft. After a few steep turns etc we flew in formation over Warsaw to Babice, a huge military airfield left by the Russians, on the city outskirts, where the aircraft would be based until we left for the UK.

Flying in formation on the way to Babice.
Flying in formation on the way to Babice.

After some lunch Tomasz suggested we did some flying to get used to them. We flew to a small airfield called Modin. The first time I took-off I remember the torque of the AT3 veering the aircraft left, not to the right as usual, due to the propeller rotating in the opposite direction. We started circuits as it was getting dark but this did not seem to worry the Polish instructors. Then it was really dark when they decided we would fly back to Babice. I took-off first asking which way. My instructor replied: "Follow the car head lights" pointing across Warsaw! On landing it was so dark we could not find the hangar without the assistance of car headlights.

Tomasz insisted on entertaining us that evening and took us to a restaurant near the centre of town for some typical Polish food. He told us: "In Poland drink the beer, not the wine" The beer was very good and slid down nicely. We left the restaurant we thought for the hotel, but no, Tomasz suggested we went to a club for some more beers and some Shopin vodka. Trevor by this time was really in the swing and egged us on. The Polish drink Shopin vodka at 5°C by the bottle not the glass. After a gallon of beer and a bottle of vodka each Gareth was flagging, Trevor was flying and I guess the Polish are just used to it. Anyhow they have a theory, start on a weak drink, finish on a strong one to avoid a hangover. Not sure it altogether worked! The next morning, on enquiring from Gareth if he made breakfast, he replied "No, I failed completely."

The weather was worse than the day before and quite cold so we spent the day at Babice looking around and studying the weather after purchasing a Polish map. There are two choices, the civilian map, which is not accurate, or the military map but that is 30 years old! As the airfield was built by the Russians there is no owner, all the occupiers of the huge hangars are squatters and pay no rent! Because of this there is no investment and as a result there are signs of dilapidation. There were approximately 12 AN2s based there flying in and out regularly. I enquired what they were doing. "Oh they're feeding the foxes." "What?" I said. "Yes, all the foxes in Poland are fed twice a year" with meat impregnated with vaccine to keep rabies at bay.

AT3s lined up at Babice airfield, Warsaw.
AT3s lined up at Babice airfield, Warsaw.

Parked for the night at Poznan Airport.
Parked for the night at Poznan Airport.

Guess what, that evening Tomasz and his mates took us out again. I found the Polish people very friendly and I was amazed by the amount of development going on there, but then I guess they have a lot of catching up to do having been occupied for so many years.

Arrival at Madeburg to refuel enroute to Koblenz.
Arrival at Madeburg to refuel enroute to Koblenz.

On our third day in Warsaw the weather was still bad and Gareth was not optimistic of our chances of getting away, until I reminded him that meant another evening out with Tomasz and his mates! Needless to say he found a small window in the weather late in the day giving us just 2.5 hours for a two hour flight to Poznan on the Polish border. We knew the further West we flew the better the weather, so we decided to go for it. Gareth flew SP-KAC (in Polish this means hungover, quite appropriate I thought!) and I flew SP-KOT with Trevor on board. We could not see much for the first hour and we relied on our GPS for guidance not the Polish map, but then the skies slowly cleared and we could look around at the flat scenery and the architecture, which reminded me a little of Holland.

On base leg into Poznan, air traffic advised we were No. 2 and 3, yet I could not see an aircraft in front of me until I looked to the right and there was a ruddy great airliner on finals. We circled over Poznan to avoid his turbulence. We landed safely, parked up and ventured off to find a hotel.

Parking for the night at Koblenz.
Parking for the night at Koblenz.

The next morning we refuelled, cleared Polish Customs and took-off mid-morning, after our night-out in Poznan, quite a smart city, for Madeburg in Germany via Slubice and Klasdorf. The scenery changed to rolling countryside with a wind farm on every hill it seemed. After 2.25 hours we touched down, refuelled, had a cup of coffee and took-off for Koblenz, via Warburg, Schnalzenberg and Cola, which took just over two hours.

Now which way is it? Getting ready to leave St<br>Ghislain for North Weald for re-registering.
Now which way is it? Getting ready to leave St
Ghislain for North Weald for re-registering.

Koblenz airfield is perched on high ground above the town and you have to circle a mountain to approach the runway which has a 500 ft drop off the end, but we made it and parked for the night opposite the Greek restaurant where we enjoyed another beer or two.

The next morning we re-fuelled for our next two hour leg to St. Ghislain in Belgium, via Dusseldorf, Liege and Charlerol. We arrived just in time for lunch of steak and chips in the airfield restaurant, very good it was too. The next leg was via Lille, St Omer in France, over the water and into North Weald.

As we approached the Channel there was a wall of mist. We could only just see the water but nothing in front of us, it wasn't much better the other side and we flew lower and lower to sneak in and land at North Weald. The aircraft were then taken off the Polish register, reregistered in the UK and the aircraft markings changed before we continued our journey to Sywell. Our total flying time was just under 11 hours, through five different countries and over 1,000 miles. The AT3s never missed a beat, they performed faultlessly, we were both very impressed and I hope our students will find them just as safe and fun to fly.

Michael Bletsoe-Brown

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