Impression of a sunday afternoon      by     Thomas Luetzen Johannsen
On Saturday a friend of mine invited me to join him in an aerobatic flight on sunday - of course I said YES ;-)   Beside several flights in these big passenger machines I just sat one time in a small plane - a sail plane, but it was more a sightseeing tour over a beautiful landscape in the south of germany. So I got more and more little aerobatic planes in my stomache every time I was thinking about what will going to happen the next day :) 

On sunday we left Berlin and drove 25 km to the south to a little airfield called Schoenhagen. The field has two runways, a tar-runway and (on demand) a grass-runway. In front of the flightschool I saw the plane, a czecho Robin 2160, a nice little aerobatic- and training-plane with two seats, side by side, with a big, all around glasscanopy. Painted in blue and white it looked very beautifull :)


The weather was quite good, sunny, scattered clouds (sometimes a little rain) with a base at 4000 ft. and a top at 8000 ft., not to warm and wind from east with 5 knots. Martin gave me a headset, a plasticbag and a parachute  - just for the case ... (gulp:). Than a short briefing what to do "in the case": pull the red grip above to release the canopy, turn the knop at the belts to relase me and finaly, after bailing out, pull the handle of the parachute, sounds easy, doesn´t it? (Second gulp...:). Then he tied me into the seat, realy fast and realy important as I should experienced a little bit later :) We connected the headsets to the communication system and made a test - Roger.


Martin started the engine and asked the tower for permission to roll. Agreed. The taxiway in Schoenhagen is a grass-way and bit rough and we get shaked a bit. One plane was in front of us, so we had to wait near the runway and I used the time to listen to the radio chatter, examine the instruments (most of them where looking very familiar ;) and try to forget the little planes in my stomache.

Finaly we got permission to start for runway 25. Martin gave full throttle and I was realy impressed how much power this little bird has. 160 PS where pressing me in my seat and we took of. While I enjoyed the sight over the beautyfull landscape south of Berlin, Martin changed the radio frequence to Schoenefeld Intl. and asked for permission to do aerobatics over an old abandoned airstrip nearby (in times of the GDR Erich Honecker used this airfield for his trips to the USSR). He briefly instructed me in the use of the radio (just for the case that he could loose his consciousness... Did I already mentioning the little airplanes in my...? :) 
The tower gave clearence for the area over the field and closed the airspace for other planes.

We arrived over the strip and gained height up to 4500 ft.


While it was already to late to get out :), I accepted my fate and Martin began with a "simple" looping. Nose down to gain speed ... 230 knots, nose up and wheeehaa, incredible!!! Of course I did this often and often in simulations but this here was a totaly different thing ...
The g-forces where overwhelming (Martin gave me this tip before: If you feel heavy, press into your stomache and if you get light make a deep breath and hold it) and so I pressed while I felt the g-force deform my face. Whooha, than we reached the top and everything was getting light. The sight was unbelievable. He gave a bit rudder and pushed the stick a bit to the front (when I remember right :) to make a good circle and not an egg :). The nose went down again and I saw the earth as I never saw it before - somehow you have a totaly different visual impression in such a moment. Evey sense is active with more then 100%.

We came back to normal flight position and I had my first aerobatic figure behind me. Martin looked in my face to check my condition, but I felt good, very good and we began the way up to 4500 feet again. He asked me for the next figure and I choosed a turn (hammerhead). Nose down, gain speed, nose up (pressing, feeling the cheeks changing position :) and nearly straight up and up, till the plane gets slow and felt "muddy". Incredible. The plane turned over the left side and we felt straight down (good that my stomache was pressed in position:). I was hanging in my belts, nearly without weight and again this terrific sight through the canopy. I addition Martin turned of the machine and we could hear the air streaming along the plane - ssssshhhhhh - and seeing the ground coming closer, faster and faster .... Incredible!!! Hey, what´s a roller coaster? Nothing! :)))
Because my face had still a good color we went up for the next figure - the roll. The first quarter of the roll was a little bit scaring, can´t say exactly why, although I knew this figure in theory the movement was surprisingly. But then it was funny. My sense of time was different too - it felt much longer than it lasts...

The logical step after the roll was an upside down flight. In the head-over position I realy was happy that my belts where tied so fast! A very strange feeling :) The earth "above" my head and the impression to fall out of the plane every second...
Of course Martin told me the story of the guys who didn´t adjust their belts exactly and pressed their noses at the canopy :)))


Next we planed a figure I realy feared: a spin (maybe its not the right word, in german we use "Trudeln"). Martin slowed down the plane near the point to stall and gave full rudder. One of the wings stalled and the other one got a lift up. The plane went upside down VERY fast and tumbled down uncontrolled, down to earth .... Wooooha, THAT was REALY scary!!! And I was really impressed how powerfull this movement was!!!  After two turns we already lost 1500 (!) feet and Martin gave full opposite rudder to get control again. Luckily he did :)

Wow! Later he told me that this can be a big danger while you are about to land. Slow and low a gust from the side could bring you in exactly this situation if you follow your instincts and try to correct with the stick instead with the rudder. No space for a second try... 

After the spin (?) martin made some more combinations I can´t remember exactly, my senses where overloaded :). I only remember a cuban eight in combination with something...

After the 9th figure in total I asked him to finish the "torture" ;-) Martin told the tower that we are finishing the aerobatics and we decided to gain altitude and visit the clouds. At this point I felt my blood circuit went down, I got cold and lost the feeling in my legs and arms - exactly the same feeling I had when I got seasick some years before. But Martin started a conversation and focused my thoughts to different things and after a while I felt better and enjoyed the flight. Because in germany it is not allowed to ride through the clouds without a special trainig and equipment for instrument flight (In fact we have exact prescriptions how near you can fly to a cloud in meters! Okay, I see the danger, there could be some stones inside or something like this :), we flew beside the clouds and it was a very nice ending of this trip !

The landing was, in relation to the flight, unspectacular ;-) We got permission and slowed down. I was a bit surprised how slow we got, but we where quite fast before and so it was just my impression (like leaving the highway with a car...). Martin wished the tower a nice weekend and we left the runway and rumpled over the taxiway. Although I felt better this part of the way gave me the rest and so this little plastic back I mentioned in the beginning finally came to service :)))

But I think thats no reason for shame - it happens to the best and this sport brings you to the border... ;-)  And if he ask me again, I will say YES again !!!

I hope I didn´t bore you, but I will never forget this experience and I had strong feeling to write it down :)  And the wish to become a pilot by myself is growing and growing ...

Thomas "Shoogar" Luetzen Johannsen Copyright 2000

Blankensee = Lake
Flugschule = Flightschool
SchÔnhagen = Village
Turm = Tower
30/12 Gras (Runway)
25/07 Asph (Runway)
Segelflug = Glider
Flugzeug = Plane