We had rather an unusual and exciting Easter Sunday this year: we travelled to Germany and bought an aeroplane! This post is the first of three describing the events of that day and the epic journey home that followed.
First a bit of background. We’ve been on the lookout for our own motorglider for quite some time now, as I’m on the verge of completing my Private Pilot’s Licence and Lee has been after an aircraft he can do some instructing in and that we can fly together. We knew what kind we wanted – an SF25, as these are very cheap to run. There’s been nothing suitable (or more importantly, affordable) for sale in the UK, but Lee had found a few for sale in Germany, and had been corresponding with a small gliding club near Dortmund about one they were thinking of selling. So it was that we came to book a fairly last-minute trip to Germany to view said motorglider, travelling down on Easter Sunday.
We arose at 5am and drove to Stansted for a short flight to Dortmund with Ryanair. We booked a one-way flight, and planned to fly the aircraft home if we decided to buy it, or take a longer route home exploring some of Europe if we didn’t. Here we are bright and early at Stansted:
We were picked up at the airport by the chairman and the treasurer of the gliding club, who drove us straight to the airfield. As we pulled up outside the clubhouse, the first thing we saw was the aircraft we had come to see, gleaming in the sun:
As you can see, the aircraft is named Wilhelm I. A cursory inspection of the aircraft and its cockpit gave a favourable first impression, but the Germans knew exactly what we wanted to do next and didn’t beat about the bush. Within about fifteen minutes of our arrival, Lee was in the cockpit next to the chairman and off they went for a test flight.
I sat on the grass and watched, took photographs, and chatted to club members, who gave me biscuits. When Lee and the chairman came back in they motioned me over and asked if I wanted to fly. I hadn’t been expecting to, but of course I said yes and off I went.
The aircraft was nice to fly – easier than what I’m used to – but I was mainly enjoying the novelty of flying in another country for the first time and noticing how different German houses look from English ones. I don’t have any pics from the air unfortunately, but here we are coming in to land:
The fun bit over, it was time to peruse the vast mountain of aircraft documents, the majority of which were in German, though Lee could get the gist of some of them. It was Easter Sunday and the Germans gave us some Easter egg (the chocolate of which was way thicker than an English Easter egg, I was pleased to note). It felt very surreal to be sitting outside a gliding club in Germany in the blazing sunshine eating Easter egg.
Satisfied with the documents, Lee and I then looked over every inch of the aircraft to check for potential problems. There was nothing major – some bits of paintwork here and there that could do with respraying, stickers of the German flag that could do with being removed and that sort of thing. They also took the engine cowls off:
As he was lying down inspecting underneath the wing Lee said to me, “Well, we can’t leave here without it!” – and it was decided!
Back to the table outside the clubhouse for some negotiation on the price, and then a deal sealed with a handshake. They had cobbled together a sale agreement contract in German and broken English, which Lee signed.
Lee got his laptop out and did a bank transfer and that was that – we were now the owners of our very own aeroplane! We left some of our flying gear in the aircraft ready for later in the week.
Life felt good, and after the Germans dropped us off at our hotel we treated ourselves to a celebratory meal at the restaurant opposite, which turned out to be the most amazing meal we’d ever had. It was so good that I shall write about it in its own post!
Stay tuned for a couple more posts detailing our eventful journey home with Wilhelm…