Covid-19 changed our lives and habits in many ways. Sometimes, however, change is good. This time it gave me the opportunity to discover a most amazing place where to fly seaplanes in Germany, on the Moselle river.
Indeed, I had been checking the constantly-updating travel regulations for many weeks to find a suitable date to go to Lake Como and extend the rating with Aeroclub Como, as usual (check my previous post on the topic).
Sadly, it looked like I was not going to make it to Italy before the expiry of my cherished SEP-SEA rating. So, I looked for alternatives and to my surprise I found a very good one in the beautiful city of Trier, just a few kilometers away from my base.
The “Drive and Fly” flight school is a family owned business that has been around for many years. Thanks to the warm atmosphere and the very high standards it quickly became a reference point for anyone wishing to learn to fly in the region of Rhineland-Palatinate.
I walked into the hangar, on a sunny morning just after observing the take-off of a loud T6 in mimetic livery, and I immediately received a warm welcomed and a good cup of coffee.
The Seaplane PA18 D-EGOR
Drive and Fly owns a beautiful 1953 Piper Super Cub on amphibian floats. It’s a historic plane maintained in perfect operating conditions thanks to the passion and the incredibly hard work of the Klippel family.
It took me some minutes to get acquainted with the different braking system, the gear controls and the controls located on the right and left side of the cockpit. This small initial effort was anyway compensated by a very simple checklist.
I line up on RWY 04 (asphalt 1200x30m) and apply gently full power. D-EGOR needs only a small portion of the generous runway to detach from the ground. The floats modify the aerodynamic profile of the aircraft, and I have the feeling that she prefers to banks slightly left or right, but never fully straight. The engine plays a beautiful melody and soon I find myself astonished by the surrounding landscape of hills cut through by the Moselle river.
I retract the gear into the floats with the small lever and the four blue lights light up to indicate that the plane can now safely land on water.
As soon as we reach the Moselle, Norbert cuts the power to idle to simulate a sudden failure. I calmly align to the river and make some rough calculation of where the contact point will be. A long river tanker slowly moves towards us lifting waves to the sides. I am confident we will land safely behind it.
“Gear up for water landing” repeats the gear advisory connected to the audio system.
The plane glides smoothly a few feet from the water and, at that height, the branches of the trees on the right side play a lively stroboscopic effect with the sun rays. The floats touch the water softly. I receive a strong pat on my back to congratulate me on my first water landing on the Moselle.
Full power again! The Piper hops “on the step” in matter of seconds and detaches from the water soon after. It’s almost noon and the strong sun, the humidity from the river and the hills combine in unexpected thermals here and there.
Seaplanes in Germany
Flying over the river I understand the need to restrict the use of seaplanes to only a few spots and planes. The narrow valley does not allow for much maneuvering. In addition, there are power lines than cross the river, which are not always signaled. To make things worst, rivers in Germany are heavily used for the transport of goods and people. This elements altogether make flying in Germany with seaplanes very complicated.
A few bases exist in Germany apart from the Moselle, in Flensburg, in Boden See and in Welzow (ICAO code: EDUY), but several restrictions apply and this ends up affecting enormously the life of this segment of aviation.
Taking off from under a bridge
I taxi at different speeds on the river. A swan seems to look at us with a certain degree of disdain. We both know that nobody can compete with the grace and mastery of the beautiful bird. Without thinking to much, I line up for take-off again!
This time the take off run happens under a bridge. It’s impossible not to think of the Red Bull Air Race in Budapest, where the entry into the track used to pass right under a bridge. But of course, we are still on the water and the speed is much lower. A few feet into the air and we make first a right turn, to follow a bend of the river. Soon after we make another to the left, over the trees on the river side back to the airport of Trier.
Gear down, full flaps and the Super Cub touches down softly on the asphalt of the runway and then back to hangar.
Contact Drive & Fly
The website of the company is currently being updated, but you can reach the school per email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at +49 6502 9998999.
Video of the flight
Perhaps a video is worth a million words, check here the video account of the flight and if you like it, don’t forget to subscribe to my channel.