The Journal of the Friends of Sywell Aerodrome
No. 14 Summer 2007
The Third AT3 Ferry Flight
A call from Poland in early September and off I flew again to Warsaw Airport to meet Tomasz and Trevor. The third aircraft was to be collected from Krosno where it had been built, some six hours away by car. So off we set in Tomasz's car down the rough Polish roads towards Krosno.
En route we stopped at Mielec which is around half way to see Tomasz's small factory where the aircraft are built and where his new factory will be built. His small workforce proudly showed us how they make the parts and assemble them. Mielec is where PZL had a huge factory building MiG jets, Antonovs and Wilgas for the Russians. The scale of the factory is just staggering, built like Milton Keynes with a crisscross of long straight roads. The factory hospital gives you an idea of the scale, it once employed over 100 doctors and 1,500 nurses, it's huge! PZL have long gone and the site is now occupied by a mass of new companies building all sorts of things. I ventured into one factory and my eyes nearly popped out of my head to see 30 or more AC Cobras in various stages of production. All with hand-beaten alloy body shells and stainless steel chassis. The workmanship was of the highest standard, but then they are all ex-aviation engineers so it would be. There were thousands employed in this factory in its heyday. Now they have had to find alternative employment and anyone looking for a highly skilled manufacturing base could do no better than visit Mielec.
After driving for some way through the factory we came out on to the old airfield from where the MiGs were test flown. After driving around the peri-track we came to a piece of land which Tomasz explained he had an option on where he hoped to build his new factory. It will be ideal for him, a huge pool of highly skilled people to draw on and an airfield from where the aircraft he builds can be test flown from. Absolutely perfect, all he needs to do now is secure the funds to build his factory, which he explained was at an advanced stage and he expected to start building very soon.
Anyway back on the road to Krosno. The further you get from Warsaw, the worse the roads get. There are no motorways just main roads full with heavy lorries that have worn great grooves in the road either side of a raised crown. So every time you overtake the car lurches out the tramlines over the crown and wobbles into the tramlines on the other side and the same back again. Not to be recommended after a big meal. As we approached Krosno it was getting dark. The Polish walk down the main roads at night wearing traditional black clothing, it is very difficult to see them and on a number of occasions we swerved to miss them. Tomasz explained that many get knocked over mainly because they wander out from the side of the road having drunk too much Chopin vodka!
The next morning we went to Krosno airfield to look at G-SYEL which was parked outside a hangar gleaming in the sunshine. After a quick look around at the new features on the aircraft as a result of feedback from Brooklands, I was very pleased to take delivery. After lunch and a look at the weather we decided to leave for Wroclaw on the Polish border where we would do our Customs clearance. So Tomasz and I shook hands on the official handover, we climbed aboard and taxied for takeoff. After a 30 minute precautionary circle over the airfield we tracked off towards Wroclaw 2½ hours away.
On approach the daylight was fading and so we were pleased to see the runway lights for guidance. After parking up we caught a taxi for the centre of town. The old communist built outer areas of Wroclaw are pretty desperate but when you reach the centre you find a very pretty and charming central square surrounded by some very impressive stone buildings. The square is lined with pavement restaurants and bars which were all very busy as we found it difficult to get a table. However, we spent a very pleasant evening in Wroclaw, which is well worth a visit or weekend stay. The next morning having done customs and refuelled we took-off for Erfurt in Germany, which took 2¾ hours.
After refuelling we took off for Koblenz airfield which is perched high above the Mosel river. You have to circle a mountain on approach to the runway which has 500 foot drop off the end. We landed safely and parked up for the evening and enjoyed a beer in the Greek restaurant while watching the pre-war Lufthansa Junkers come in before climbing in a taxi to find a hotel. That evening we ended up in a fairly rowdy beer garden full of elderly Germans who had obviously enjoyed rather too much Mosel wine. So had we by the time we staggered back to the hotel.
The next morning we refuelled and took off for Calais where we were to meet the French AT3 dealer. After a brief chat and coffee, we refuelled and took off for North Weald. This time the Channel was clear. After dropping Trevor off, I took off for Sywell, landing at 19.05 hours after ll½ hours flying over a total of 1,100 miles.
During this ferry trip the weather was much kinder than the last with clear visibility all the way. G-SYEL is a delight to fly, she never missed a beat. I hope our club members will enjoy many hours touring in G-SYEL which has an inbuilt GPS making navigation so much easier.
The Lufthansa Junkers JU52 landing at Koblenz.
The AT3 refuels at Calais.
Final arrival at Sywell from Poland.