Kevin Crumplin sold me one of his Tigers. It was because he believed she would be in good hands even though I raised a question whether I could fly her home across Europe in January. I kind of hoped he would discourage me from doing that but he said “I don’t see any reason why not in January”. At that time, I expected a mild winter as usual.
The Journey started in Henstridge on Thursday 19th of January 2017. Outside temperature that morning was just about 0°C. Sunny, wind calm. I sneaked between Bournemouth and Southampton airspace at 1000’ and then followed the coastline towards Dover. The plane was gurgling cheerfully while the human inside was feeling colder than anticipated. My GPS showed low battery 40 minutes before estimated landing. It was cold too. I was keeping it in the breast pocket of my Sidcot for the rest of the whole trip to preserve the battery. No wonder I was oscillating around my track a little.
Landing at Lydd airport after 2:25 flying I though it simply could not be done. Although there was a sunny weather forecasted for many days in Europe due to a massive high pressure I had to consider a headwind all the way down and face (literally) temperatures dropping to -15°C. And I was chilled to the bone in England already. However, I did warm up and took off again to cross the Channel and land in Ostende Belgium.
Next morning a very helpful and enthusiastic Ramp Man said to me that I had his respect and that I had to be a good pilot. “You don’t have to be a good pilot” I replied. “Bold is just enough.” He helped me warm up the engine with hot air and waved goodbye.
The plan was to reach Monchengladbach nonstop. Due to the continued headwind decreasing my ground speed to as low as 45 kts I rather decided to make an intermediate landing in Antwerp. It took me an hour only to defreeze and prepare the plane for another go. Germany. Handling agent in Monchengladbach said he had no category for a 1939 made aircraft so he could not collect funds for landing fees and let me go after a self-service fuelling.
The landscape changed a big time 20 minutes after departure out of Monchengladbach. From now on snow and way more cold shall be my close companions. Eventually I could turn off the radio for lack of airspaces in the middle of Germany and my loneliness had become absolute. 10NM before Allendorf I established a voice contact with other humans and I couldn’t wait to land the plane. I prayed for a straight in approach.
The bunch at the airport was marvellous. They lodged my Tiger in a heated hangar and they drove me to a cosy hotel with a delicious meal (after pouring some not-any-warming weissenbier in me). Martin Knebel, a local Moth owner, helped me out next morning. He rolled his eyes seeing the thermometer reading at -12°C. I didn’t want to know.
But I did learn the effect of a wind chill cruising at 3000 feet above highlands where the skiers underneath thought it couldn’t be any colder. Every head-stick outside my shelter would surely reduce my life expectancy so I’d rather navigate on a pass-by basis. I made it to Hof just before “mahlzeit” so I spent whole lunch time wrapped around the heating in the briefing room. The headwind weakened to almost zero so I could plan a direct flight to my place, some 145NM eastwards.
Again, I expected tough times after an hour of flying but, somehow, they did not strike too badly. Either it was because of graduating euphoria or I simply got used to it. “One can get along with everything! You are just too delicate here in Europe!” I screamed out of the cockpit so that everybody knew. I was so speeded up that I had afforded a fly-by and a circle or two above our house. The club members and my wife cleaned some 400x15m of grass from snow. They did so only when they heard the rumours 2 hours beforehand. Until then they though any landing announcement was a hoax. I was a happy survivor when the engine stopped in front of our hangar while the Tiger would have flown even more and further to the East asking some fuel and oil only.
In order to upgrade my journey to an expedition I was using the original and replicated WWII gear, including the RAF battledress and a Sidcot Suit, helmet and goggles. Flying Boots were original WWII Luftwaffe with electrical heating that would have worked if I wasn’t too lazy to take the battery pack from home. With the boots electrically heated and better gloves I would do that again (if I had to).
Podhorany Airfield (LKPN) is the first remote base for the Tiger Moth Training to open a branch. Furthermore, G-ANFP is the first Tiger Moth in the Czech Republic where vintage aircraft collections are on growth lately. Apart from pilot training the Tiger will be flown mostly for pleasure and air displays from time to time.
Day 1: EGHS-EGMD-EBOS. Day 2: EBOS-EBAW-EDLN-EDFQ. Day 3: EDFQ-EDQM-LKPN. Total flight time 12:29 hrs
A professional pilot and RAF enthusiast and re-enactor. He runs Aeropartner, a private charter company from Prague International Airport with a fleet of 7 Citation jets. His pilots wear WWII RAF Service Dress inspired uniforms with British and Czechoslovak insignia of that time. Aeropartner’s three letter ICAO designator is DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) to commemorate Czechoslovak aviators fighting in RAF during the WWII. He is married and he has three daughters.