Flight sharing tested. This year, i have had a special treat waiting for me, after I have officially passed my Aviation Management bachelor’s degree. What would be a better present to me than to fly over my home town? I certainly cannot think of one either!
There is just one problem. As a student that is not sponsored by Daddy corp., a private pilot’s license is damn expensive. And even if you own a PPL, you still have another problem to solve. A common Cessna 172 is very thirsty. It consumes roughly 30 litres of fuel an hour if you fly economically. So. Bad luck? Surely not! Not a long time ago, a flight sharing platform has been founded. Wingly!
Wingly – The AirBnB of the skies!
You can imagine Wingly as some kind of car-sharing agency you might know. But for planes! With this application’s aid, private pilots can offer empty seats in their planes to potential passengers (e.g. fresh graduates like myself). This is useful for both sides. Pilots can safe on the rather high cost of fuel and airport fees and passengers pay less for normally more expensive sightseeing flights. A classic win-win situation!
This is exactly what I took advantage of! After a quick search on the flight sharing portal, I found my flight of desire. From Bonn Hangelar, a small general aviation airport in Western-Germany, we would fly to Düsseldorf via Cologne and back to Hangelar. So: Fasten your seatbelts. Take-off!
We were lucky, since the weather in Bonn that was near perfection. Golden sunshine. Clear skies, a calm wind: Excellent ingredients for a tasty chunk of flying, don’t you think? I reached the airfield quite quickly since it’s situated not far away from my former university.
As I arrived at the airport, I meet “my” pilot Thomas, as well as my fellow passenger Christian. Thomas is a very nice guy, who earns his bucks in a leading position at the German “Bundeswehr”. Throughout the years, he gathered countless flight hours on general aviation planes. Christian makes a living as a self-employed aviation photographer. He is really talented, check out his Instagram!
Let’s get to the bone! Flight sharing captain Thomas quickly showed us the planned flying route for today and tells us, what he has planned for the day.
Flight sharing – A solid preparation is essential!
A thorough pre-planning of the flight is vital. Espaciylly in general aviation! What you can see in the picture above is a simple VFR map. VFR is short for Visual Flight Rules
Visual Flight Rules are a set of rules under which the pilot operates a plane in weather conditions clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going.
So: NO clear visibilty – No VFR! This VFR map is very similar to a road map. Of course, with some differences. On this VFR map, air spaces and landmarks are drawen in. The red areas are so called “controll zones”, also known as CTR.
To enter such a CTR, the pilot requires the prior permission of the air traffic controller. The CTR you can see on the right of the map is the control zone of Cologne/Bonn airport (CGN/EDDK). On the left, you can see the CTR of the German military airbase Nörvenich. Our plan now is to sneak right between those two CTRs.
After that, we head directly to the DUS VOR, which is right next to Düsseldorf International Airport (DUS/EDDL). Feel free to read more about the concept of VORs here! The flight’s preparation is, of course, not only about route planning. The plane has to be in an excellent condition, too! That is why captain Thomas performed an outside check of our Cessna 172 before the flight. During this outside check, the pilot controls some predefined points on the aircraft. Everything’s fine – Off into the flying machine!
Off to the flight deck of our Cessna 172!
Lets’s have a seat in the C172s flight deck! Glass cockpit? Boring! Our ride, “Tango Sierra” had nice and classic gauges, as well as a tiny GPS to facilitate navigation by a bit. For safety reasons, we also have a transponder on board, so that our aircraft would appear on the air traffic controller’s screen and on the colosion-warning systems of surrounding aircraft.
Enough talking, since we want to go flying today, don’t we? Thomas turned on the Cessna’s motor and we comfortably chugged towards the runway to soar into Bonn’s afternoon skies. For noise abatement reasons, we immediately banked to the left. Quite rapidly we accelerated to our cruising speed of 110 knots (203 km/h).
We left Bonn behind and flew next to Leverkusen to reach our first goal of the day. The state capital Düsseldorf.
Flight sharing at its best: Düsseldorf aerials!
Time flies (…) and quickly we reached Düsseldorf. Our position offered an amazing view on the Flehe Bridge and the south of my home town, Neuss!
A little bit later, we explored Düsseldorf’s city centre from above. The media and fashion city became breathtakingly beautiful as the sun slowly set. From our plane, the town appeared like one giant model city. We enjoyed the view for some time and flew some circles above Düsseldorf and the river Rhine.
My hometown Neuss from above!
Before we continued to Cologne, something very special waited for me. Our route lead directly above my place of birth and hometown, Neuss. This city is located right next to Düsseldorf on the opposite side of the Rhine. I could even spot the house where I have spent my childhood!
But enough sentimentalities. Off to Cologne! We were offered an amazing view of the depot of the German railway company “Deutsche Bahn” and the high-speed trains that were stored there. Also, we flew right over the Cologne Cathedral!
Low approach at Cologne/Bonn
As if those amazing views were not enogh, another highlight followed straight away, which made this flight sharing unforgettable. Pilot Thomas radioed to the air traffic controller of CGN to request a “low approach”, namely a low flyover above the airport’s runway 14L.
The answer made my heart beat faster because the low-approach was approved! A few minutes later, we clattered over the runway at a breakneck speed! I was able to shoot some interesting pictures.
Back to Bonn!
Unfortunately, everything comes to an end at some point. Slow, but steadily, we flew back to Bonn Hangelar. This flight was just an outstanding experience. Having sais that, I explicitely want to thank the great team of Wingly, that made this flight happen. If you became curious, feel free to check their portal for flights in your area! 🙂
If you want to learn more all about aviation, I also recommend you the following articles I have written:
- An article on how the instrument landing system works
- A post about the blacklist of dangerous airlines
- Here, a Lufthansa pilot talks about a typical working day as a first officer
More aviation know-how will come every week on pilotstories, but in the meantime, feel free to subscribe my email newsletter and to follow me on Facebook and Instagram. My free aircraft wallpapers are available here!