"I want to go to the parade," says my wife Rita. She means the carnival procession in our district. This is one of the small clubs that decorate their floats and parade through the streets of their district of Cologne with little money but all the more attention to detail.
We have been avoiding the carnival procession of the well-funded large clubs for years. Why? Because we are disgusted by idiots in military uniform who push their inferiority complexes disguised as customs through the center of Cologne past television cameras to marching music.
Even more so when they consume massive amounts of thin beer substitutes, as is also the custom in Cologne. In addition, on our very last visit to the Shrove Monday procession, my wife deliberately had a box of chocolates thrown at her head by a float passenger. Such jokes amuse some of these uniform wearers very much - just typical Cologne humor - no thanks! The only exception are some young women who openly show their cleavage down to the navel and bare legs up to the ears.
As I said, we prefer the district carnival processions. It's family-like, without arrogance and showing off. But in 2013 it's cold outside, not to say freezing cold. And standing in the cold for hours is getting on my nerves. How now to fulfill my wife's desire to watch without freezing? Stop - I know!
"What do you think if we look at a few moves from a different perspective"? I ask.
She looks thoughtful. "What, a different perspective"?
"Well, from the air".
"By plane"? ask her.
"Of course, I can't fly without it either."
"Funny idea. Is there a machine free? Today is Sunday."
"We'll see," I say, sit down at the computer and call up the website of the aircraft charter company where we rent machines. “A Cessna is free and so is the ultralight. You are free to choose. The weather page of the German air traffic control shows the best flight visibility for some time".
"Cessna," says Rita. “The heating is better there. Hmm, crazy idea. But funny".
Flight planning, preparation and self-briefing by computer are quickly completed and we are soon on our way to Aachen Merzbrück airfield (international license plate EDKA). Their machines are very well maintained and very reasonably priced.
We carry out the pre-flight check meticulously, because if something is wrong with the car, you pull over – that's not possible with an airplane. After boarding, all systems are checked and I register at the control tower.
"Aachen Merzbrück Info from the Delta, Echo ..." In the international alphabet, Delta stands for the letter 'D' (in this case Germany) and Echo for 'E' (single engine up to two tons take-off weight). Everything is carefully regulated. "Cessna 150, two people VFR (Visual Flight Rules) to Cologne, request takeoff information".
The air traffic control in the tower tells us the starting runway as well as the wind direction and strength. The big headsets are important equipment.
Then take off at full throttle and fix the course towards Cologne. GPS navigation makes this very easy. After a few minutes we can already see the Cologne Cathedral in the silhouette of the city.
After about twenty minutes we turn via Leverkusen in the direction of Cologne city centre. Cologne is located in the control zone of Cologne-Bonn Airport (EDDK). We are only allowed to fly at an altitude of 1,500 feet (500 meters) because of the approach path of the 'big' colleagues.
I register with the EDDK air traffic control and ask for permission to fly into the control zone and do a few full circles over parts of the city on the right bank of the Rhine to take photos.
"Hold this altitude and stay east of the Rhine," radioed the pilot. That's exactly what I wanted.
"There's the Dünnwalder train down there," Rita calls, and I put the machine into a middle right-hand bend so that she can observe the train well. I'm busy observing the airspace and checking the flight attitude, so I hardly have time to watch the great activity on the ground. After a few full circles, I head for the next district and fly the same manoeuvre. So we rattle off two more moves and the time literally flies by.
"Would you also like to see what's going on around the cathedral"? I ask.
"Yes why not".
"Delta, Echo...we'd like to go around the dome and then head south out of the control zone," I report to the tower.
"That's understood, report Sierra".
›Sierra‹ is a mandatory reporting point south of Cologne, where the Sieg flows into the Rhine. Once you've passed it, you can switch gears and do whatever you want - within the framework of the regulations.
The cathedral is quickly reached and I think again that Cologne is actually just an extension of the cathedral.
After flying over Sierra we turn west, back to Aachen. There is a huge cloud wall on the horizon. After we have climbed to cruising altitude (3,000 feet), it is clear that we will hardly make it to Aachen. I've lingered too long on the full circles - the short window of ideal visibility is almost closed. What now? I don't like going back to Cologne-Bonn because the landing fees there are too expensive. On our way to EDKA is the Nörvenich military airfield. I turn the frequency on the radio and ask if I can land there to wait for the bad weather front.
"Yes, we are not active today, nothing is going on with us," reported the air traffic controller. "Besides, we have something delicious today."
Who is faster now? Us or the weather front? During the landing approach there was a serious rumble and as soon as we switched off the machine, the bump (wind), which announced the approaching thunderstorm, roared over the field. We park the Cessna right next to the runway, as private planes are not allowed to taxi on the taxiways. We scurry into the air control area and are immediately offered a bowl of pea soup from the giant pot.
"They're not even half as military here as the uniformed idiots at the Cologne carnival," says Rita, and I have to agree with her.
"Would you like a beer"? asks a man in a blue uniform, heaven knows what rank he holds.
"I still have to fly home, no thanks."
He pats me on the shoulder. "Correct answer".
After a while there is a call from the air traffic control that the weather front has passed and we can continue. Finally, dawn is announced.
We get our Cessna ready again, taxi to take off and take off towards Aachen. "Thank you for the kind support," I radio down.
"Many happy landings," comes back.
We report back via Eschweiler to land in EDKA. Just kept the traffic pattern for the landing approach and we hover on the runway.
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