Back in the hotel, and after a good night sleep, the weather forecast for Austria (originally our next stop) was, once again, a borderline case. Since we already used our spare day and didn’t want to be stuck in Salzburg, the plan was changed to fly directly home, with a pit stop half way in Germany: Nürnberg. With only a 1 hour margin to arrive in EBGB before sunset, we rushed through our breakfast and headed to the plane. The plane was already refueled the day before, and while we were waiting for our flight plan to be accepted, we visited the Hungarian Pilot shop and bought the long desired “Remove before flight” key chain.
With the souvenir in my pocket, and the time ticking, the plane was taxied to the runway and we took off, headed for Nürnberg. It was the longest flight of this trip (approximately 4 hours) and took us over the hills at the foot of the Austrian alps. Hoping to fly over the real alps one day, we left Austria behind us and headed in to Germany. Germany is a neighbor of Belgium, so we’re almost home, no ?
Nürnberg: to fly or not to fly
Nürnberg was a typical rather big German airfield. A few seconds after we landed, the fuel truck was standing by and with the same efficiency we were transported to the Briefing room. This was the last time we would check the weather on our trip. Good weather at our departing point and marginal weather at our destination, with a 30% chance on really bad weather at our destination. It was at this time we had our first heated pilots-discussion whether to fly or not to fly. We called some airports along our route to verify they would still be open in the evening so we could use them as alternate airports. There were still a lot of other divert-options along our route, so we decided to take the chance and set course for home. 70% chance that we would sleep home that night, 30% chance we would enjoy the German hospitality once more.
To Belgium !
The take-off was sunny into a blue sky. After an hour, the first few clouds appeared at the horizon. We were passing Frankfurt airspace, which forced us to make a small detour. We lost 15 minutes and were hoping this wouldn’t put is in the bad 30% part. Half an hour later these few clouds turned into bigger clouds, but the sun still managed to let the blue sky shine through it. It was during this time we were overhead another airfield, and asked them for an update of the Belgian weather. A cloudy and rainy front with poor visibility was approaching from the west. The situation in Brussels (close to Grimbergen, our destination) was still good enough, but visibility was going down and the wind was increasing. Making a mental note of this airfield as the most suitable alternate airport soo far, we continued over the Belgian border. The blue sky was gone now, and dark rainy clouds started to form. A descend was necessary, and after 20 minutes of rain, a faint sun appeared. Still cloudy, but a little bit more optimistic, we continued to Grimbergen.
15 minutes before the end of the trip, a wall of fog appeared between Antwerp and Brussels. Thanks to the cooperation of the friendly Brussels controller, we could cut a corner and avoid the fog. The visibility in Grimbergen was deteriorating quickly, which explained why we heard “I suggest you make a straight in approach, because the weather is getting worse every minute now” on the frequency. A very rare occasion to hear this thing in the strictly ruled Grimbergen airspace.
Very poor visibility, approaching from an angle we were not used to in an area very close to Brussels airport (read: area to avoid!) we had our first technical problem of the trip: the GPS failed. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but in these conditions it made us a little nervous for the last time. A few minutes later runway 19 was right in front of us.
OO-AWT is coming home
The last landing was a smooth one and while we were taxiing to the hanger, we saw that the airport was closing right behind us. The engine was shut down. We were back. We got out of the airplane to push it back, only to feel the rain pouring down. It was only now, in comparison with the other perfectly clean airplanes, that the “damage” of the mud was visible: the bottom of the wings, the bottom of the fuselage, all covered with a muddy brownish color.
The next day would be spent washing the airplane an restoring it to its clean former glory. And that’s when the dreaming starts again: where to fly to next? Capetown sounds cool. Or what about the North Pole ? Endless possibilities…