Germany May–June 2012

A week in Germany was planned around the final ‘Spotters Day’ at German AF Phantom base Wittmund, with three days to be spent there to hopefully catch plenty of flying. While in the North of Germany, Hamburg and Bremen would also be visited, with the trip kicking off with three days to the South in the Frankfurt area, for the three excellent museums, as well as a day at Ramstein.


Flying with Emirates, first flight was EK836 from Bahrain to Dubai, operated by an A330-200. Take off was at 0405, not far behind schedule, but there was concern after an announcement that a Fly Dubai flight, departing at a similar time for Dubai, was being delayed due to weather (?). The reason was thick fog at Dubai, with our flight then eventually holding, just off the coast for 1.20 hours, before landing at 0725L. Thankfully the (already tight) connection was made, with the delays also affecting the departure of EK045 to Frankfurt. Operated by B777-300ER A6-ECG, departure was 40 minutes late at 0905, landing 6.10 hours later at 1315L. Nearly a bad start to the trip was followed by some good news, after arrival at Frankfurt, with Hertz providing a free upgrade on the hire car. To my amazement they handed over the ‘keys’ to a Jaguar XK! The black 5 Litre V8 with cream interior is of course keyless, as i just sat there trying to figure it out and wondering if i could stay out of trouble and get it back in one piece! The gas-guzzler was going to be expensive, but a blast!

Day One’s plan was to do the first of the three museums, at Hermeskeil, to the South West of Frankfurt, before heading on to Ramstein, where the first two nights hotel were. To cut a long story short though, day one had turned into a travel day, with the first of several really grimey days in Germany (or ‘schizer’ as the Eric’s would say), as the weather gradually got worse. Getting to Hermeskeil, i thought there was no point in photographing everything in the low cloud and drizzle, and would find time to go back later, when hopefully the weather would be better. This unseasonal weather, similar to the UK at the time, was to blight this trip somewhat, but thankfully not ruin. So, heading on to Ramstein, i checked out the airfield and sat at the take-off end photospot for a while, with a couple of C-17A’s departing, before calling it a day and heading to the hotel. The Hotel Atlantis couldn’t be much closer to the base, being right on the perimeter road, under the final approach to runway 08, and is popular with enthusiasts, especially Cloggies. I’m sure many guests have been woken here though, especially by C-5’s ‘screaming’ overhead!


A full day at Ramstein, with the weather thankfully much improved by the afternoon. This place has become ‘C-17 City’ and has the one runway in use (26/08), running roughly East-West, with the photospots North of the runway good up until around 10am, and then again after 6pm (in the Summer), with most of the day spent at the South side photospots. Runway 26 was in use all day today, with easy photospots at the Eastern end for landing shots, at either side of the landing lights. The best South side spot though, is along a bike track, so its either park and walk, or take a chance and drive down (not advised). The opposite end of the runway, for ‘26 take off shots (or if landing on ‘08), also has good, easy photospots.

Nothing really out of the ordinary today, there was still plenty of movements, with a lot of circuit bashing by some based aircraft, aswell as the nice FAA Challenger. The following movements photographed, in arrival order (with other C-17A’s departing, not being noted), were USAF C-17A’s 09-9205 ‘Charleston’, 00-0174/AK ‘Elmendorf’ (high-viz markings), 02-1101 ‘Charleston’, 07-7170 and 07-7177 ‘Dover’. Other visiting USAF was C-5B 84-0062 ‘Travis’, while based aircraft returning were: C-130J-30 07-8608/RS (crew training), C-20H 92-0375 (‘discreet scheme’, crew training), C-21A’s 84-0109, 84-0085, 84-0082 & 84-0081 (all ‘USAFE’) and C-130J-30 07-8613/RS. Other visitors were French AF TBM-700 103/XI, FAA CL604 N88 (calibrating as ‘Flightcheck 88’), US Army medevac UH-60Q 0-24552, Atlas Air B747-400 N429MC (‘Atlas 8900’ from Baltimore BWI), World MD-11 N271WA, US Navy C-26D 910528 (marked only as ‘528’) and US Army C-20E 87-00140 (named ‘Lexington’, detached here, in similar colours as 92-0375).


After an hour or so back at the runway 26 photospot, following breakfast, only C-17A 06-6156 ‘Travis’ was photographed arriving before i headed off, back to Hermeskeil, in time for the place opening at 10am. Unfortunately, the schizer weather was back, though slightly better than Thursday, so decided to shoot the best stuff anyway, before moving on to the other two museums.

First thing seen on arrival at Hermeskeil is Concorde replica ‘F-WTSA/G-SST’, placed next to the car park and entrance, in use as ‘Café Concorde’ (fitted with 150 ex Lufthansa B747 seats!). As good as this place is, they still couldn’t obtain a real Concorde, but this certainly is a good effort, with a lot of work gone into it. Opened in 1973, most of the aircraft here arrived in the eighties and early nineties, with the ‘big stuff’ landing at nearby Saarbrucken before being roaded in. Most impressive and certainly my highlight here is classic VC-10 G-ARVF of the UAE Royal Flight. As with Lufthansa Super Connie D-ALIN here, the cabin and cockpit of the Victor Charles can be seen through perspex from inside the doorway, so at least giving some view of the interiors. Other classic British airliners here are Dan Air Comet 4C G-BDIW and Lufthansa Viscount 814 D-ANAM, while Soviet-built airliners are Interflug Tu-134A DDR-SCK and IL-18W DDR-STH, Polish AF IL-14P 3076, and unmarked An-26T ex 52+08 & DDR-SBB in a Aero Carribean-style colourscheme. Other transports present are Noratlas D-ACUT (ex German AF, in Elbeflug colours), C-47A painted back into RJAF markings as 111 (ex N62443), Royal Navy Sea Devon C20 XJ348/37 (G-NAVY), German AF Pembroke C54’s 54+21 & 54+24 (with the latter in ‘RAF’ colours with no serial) and DFVLR Dornier 28D-1 D-IFMP. Also, a recent arrival is Royal Navy Jetstream T2 XX476/CU-561 (marked with ‘Fly Navy, 100 Years of Naval Aviation’), with the fuselage still on the transport trailer in the storage compound on the Thursday, then out in the museum grounds being readied for display by today. Finally, a couple of transports inside are An-2R HA-ANA and Casa 352L D-CIAD.

Of the other stuff here, in addition to huge Aeroflot Mil-6A RA-21133, which is the only aircraft to have flown in (after a 19 hour flight from Russia), a few of the many fighters include… RAF Harrier GR3 XZ998 (special tail marks), 54Sq Jaguar GR3A XX955/GK, Tornado GR1 prototype XX948/P (P06) and Lightning F2A XN782/H. This is restored in 92Sq markings (from Gutersloh) and strangely fitted with a F6 belly tank with cannons. In addition, the USAF have provided three Phantoms here, with F-4C’s 63-7421/SA of 182TFS TX ANG ‘Texas’ and 63-7583 of 171FIS MI ANG ‘Michigan’, and RF-4C 68-0587/SW of 16TRS from Shaw, while a nice ‘Euro fighter’ is Swedish AF recce Viggen 37974/64 of F21.

From Hermeskeil, it was straight on to the first of the two Auto & Technik museums, at Speyer. These two places certainly have some amazing aircraft present, but are a very different ‘experience’ when it comes to aircraft museums. Being very family orientated, with most aircraft mounted high on poles (and some like playgrounds with slides coming out of them), they present a different ‘challenge’ to aircraft photographers. Infact, especially with Speyer, a lot of the aircraft are best photographed from outside the museum, as being mounted so high, you can end up being too close and underneath the aircraft for decent shots. For those interested in getting inside, most of the larger aircraft are open, with cockpits protected behind perspex, and some cabins having complete or representative seating sections displayed. In addition to the aircraft, as the name suggests, there are also many rare and unusual vehicles etc to see at the two museums, aswell as an Imax 3D theatre.

Getting to Speyer, the weather had thankfully cleared, with the rest of the day being very nice and warm. Highlight here has to be the ADB An-22 UR-64460, which landed at the Speyer airfield right next to the museum, at the end of 1999. Other classics here include Air Inter DC-3C F-BFGX, French AF Noratlas 154, Cimber Air VFW-614 OY-TOR, Air Inter Mercure 100 F-BTTB (02), An-26 ex 52+04 German AF (painted in a civil-style colourscheme) and Lufthansa B747-200 D-ABYM (from which you can walk out onto the wing). Quite recent arrival, German AF C-160D 50+99 is parked outside of the main museum area, presumably to be moved inside later. Finally, highlight indoors is no doubt the Russian ‘Space Shuttle’ copy. Prototype Buran ‘CCCP3501002’ was an atmospheric test vehicle, which lead to one unmaned spaceflight in 1988, before the program was cancelled in 1993. Another ‘proud achievement’ comrades!

30 miles to the East of Speyer is Sinsheim, the other Auto & Technik museum. Again, all aircraft are mounted high on poles, and it’s a case of quality not quantity, with more real classics present. Highlight has to be another Russian copy, with Aeroflot Tu-144 CCCP-77112 of course the only example preserved in the West. Not using the name ‘Russian Concorde’ (as its not worthy), this failed copy is still no doubt an impressive aircraft, and probably the only chance to ever get inside one, following its arrival here in October 2000. Also mounted on the main roof in ‘take off’ position, is Air France Concorde F-BVFB. This is the second Air France example displayed outside of France (the other being F-BVFA at the Smithsonian Dulles), and arrived here after landing at nearby Baden-Baden in June 2003.

Others present outside are Malev Tu-134A HA-LBH (which operated the last Malev 134 service in July 88), CSA IL-18E OK-PAI, ex Polish AF IL-14P 0833 (painted in ‘Bulgarian Air Transport’ colours), Air France Viscount 708 F-BGNU, C-47A painted as ‘Lufthansa D-CADE’ (the Spanish writing in the cockpit gives a clue to the real identity, being last operated by the Spanish AF as T.3-62 from 1966-1977), Securite Civile CL-215 F-ZBBH, Pembroke C54 D-CAKE (ex German AF 54+02) and German AF Canberra B2 99+36. BTW, the Lufthansa B747-200 tail fin on the roof here marked as ‘YM’ is thought to be from D-ABYQ (scrapped at Hahn), with the real D-ABYM at Speyer.

Also outside is ex German AF Mig-21SPS 2233, which was previously pole-mounted and painted in a camo scheme. Now, its tucked out the way at the back of a car park, painted in an Indian AF-style scheme?! Similarly, ex German AF Mig-23ML 2027 was previously pole-mounted in a camo scheme. It was then taken down, stripped to bare metal, before being pole mounted again in a vertical position next to the road outside the museum (certainly different!). Nearby, over the same road in the museum storage compound is the nose section of RAF Nimrod R1 XW665. This former 51Sq Waddington aircraft arrived here last September and hasn’t moved since, though will of course be set up for display somewhere in the museum eventualy. Finally, of the aircraft inside, mostly hung from the ceiling, highlights for me are unmarked Dove 7 D-IKER (ex G-ARUE and 194 Irish Air Corps), An-2T HA-ANB (painted as ‘Soviet AF 03 red’) and Aeroflot Ka-26D CCCP-26001.

After seeing some nice night shots taken here, i decided to stay at the Hotel-Sinsheim located right next to the museum. This is a hotel of very high standard and certainly not cheap, but it does offer a great view of the Concorde & 144 at night, well light by floodlights. From the top floor doorway, leading out onto the external staircase, a great night shot can be taken (despite the 747 fin). After settling in, i then headed out with the tripod to shoot them from different angles, with the Malev 134 and Mig-23 also great for night shots. Then, aswell as the aircraft, the XK also got some attention with the camera!


Todays plan of going back into the museum first thing, to shoot the aircraft with the sun on the other side, was quickly forgotten, as on waking the schizer weather was back again. Unbelieveable! As the rain fell, i checked out and headed off, straight to Karlsruhe Baden-Baden airport. This would be where i would catch a flight up to Hamburg, after returning the hire car... covering 500 miles in three days had cost 200 Euros in fuel, with the ‘Cats’ legs streched up to 280kmh (unlimited autobahn of course) before my bottle went! Thanks for the memories! Now with a few hours to spare, after arriving i had a quick look around this small regional airport, still with signs of the Canadian AF presence, with the grass-topped shelters. Very different now with low cost carriers making up most traffic. So, after getting a few landing shots, with Ryanair B737-800’s EI-EBK ‘City of Nykoping’ and EI-ENA ‘Costa Daurada’, aswell as parked Challenger 300 OE-HAP, i checked in for Air Berlin flight AB6685 to Hamburg. Operated by Dash 8-400 D-ABQB, departure was at 1430, landing just over an hour later at 1535.

With the next three nights accomodation at Wittmund, this was quite a drive, so not hanging around (i would have time for some photography at HAM on return), i collected the hire car (a Golf Plus… what the heck!) and headed straight off. The drive would take me right past Bremen airport, being around half way to Wittmund, so was going to have a break there, and spend some time on their very nice observation deck on top of the terminal (which features VFW-614 D-ASAX). Two issues though… the weather was schizer, and the deck was closed! Only just closed aswell, apparently for around a month for some work. So, apart from a few shots at Baden-Baden, this had turned into another travel day, as i got back in the car and headed off, straight to Wittmund. Accomodation for the next three nights then, was the Hof-van-Hannover guest house. Certainly cheap and convenient, being probably the closest digs to the airbase, around a mile to the East. Fingers crossed then for a few days of decent weather and plenty of Phantom flying!


Day one at Wittmund was a ‘normal’ flying day, but with an obvious large presence of enthusiasts hanging around the perimeter, despite the typically crap weather. These were boosted by the 50+ Ian Allan group, but thankfully the police had not imposed any restrictions on access to the very good photospots here. All these people were gathering to see the mighty Phantom in action, before tomorrows big event… the final Phantom ‘Spotters Day’, with the resident Jagdgeschwader 71 (JG71) ‘Richthofen’ opening their doors to registered enthusiasts.

Wittmund has the one runway… 26/08, so being pretty much East-West facing, the Southside is the ideal location for photography (especially when the sun is out!). Of the Southside photospots, the obvious best places to go are next to the perimeter fence at the ‘26 line-up/landing end, either up against the fence or about 100 yards back on the long raised mound, which runs parallel to the runway, giving an elevated view over the fence. Similarly, the ‘08 line-up/landing end has a smaller, raised mound next to the perimeter fence, with photo opportunities not quite as good, but still OK. As in the UK though, the ‘twenty end’ is mostly used here.

JG71 moved here in 1961, and on that 43rd anniversary of the death of the Red Baron, Manfred Von Richthofen, was given the honorary title of ‘Richthofen’. Flying the Sabre Mk.6, these were replaced by the F-104 in 1963, before the first F-4F arrived in 1973. Today, its thought there are 16 Phantoms still in service with JG71, with the unit responsible for QRA over the Northern part of German airspace, as well as recent involvement with the NATO Baltic and Icelandic Air Policing missions over the last four years. After 40 years in service here, the Phantom will be retired at the end of June next year, replaced by the Typhoon… sorry, Eurofighter!.. more on this later.

Also based here are BAe Flying Systems Aerial Target Services, with six A-4N Skyhawks. These are operated and maintained by EIS Aircraft, for target towing, air-air firing and fighter controller training for the German AF, naturally being utilized mostly (but not only) by JG71. Of the ‘gear’ carried by the Skyhawks, a noticeable ‘big white pod’ carried under the belly, is the RM-30A1 Reeling Machine-Launcher, which is a two-way reeling system for reuse of tow targets. The former Israeli AF ‘Scooters’ are: N431FS, N432FS, N434FS & N437FS in the white BAe colourscheme with a blue cheatline, and two ‘odd-balls’, with N262WL still in the Israeli camo, and N268WL all grey. Unfortunately, 262 didn’t fly over the three days here, but remained hangared (presumably on maintenance).

So, getting here early, to catch the usual morning launches at around 0800, these began with Skyhawk N434FS and Phantoms 37+22 and 38+64. The latter has some ‘artwork’ on the ‘elephants ear’ in front of the intake, with an ‘Iceland’ drawing (following the recent detachment at Keflavik). Two more Skyhawks then launched, with N431FS and grey N268WL getting airborne along with Phantom 38+33. His wingman, 38+48 had ground-aborted and returned to the shelter with a technical problem. With the first aircraft returning, two more Phantoms, 38+10 and 38+42 got airborne. The former has ‘CFG’ at the top of the fin, which i am (seriously) informed stands for ‘Crazy Fu**ing Germans’ (a joke between the crews)! Not sure where it came from (i’m certain i didn’t miss it taking off!), but the specially marked Phantom 38+28 then arrived, for three rollers before landing. This has the ’45 Jahre In Schortens’ markings, detailing the total different types of service check carried out on the Phantom at nearby Jever between 1967-2012, and the maintenance units involved. This was applied after the last ever depot level inspection, completed at Jever in February.

That turned out to be the last regular movement today, with Air Alliance Learjet 35A D-CONE then performing several low, gear-up passes, calibrating the ILS. So, no afternoon Phantom or Skyhawk missions, but i’m sure most enthusiasts present would have been happy with the six Phantoms and three Skyhawks flying in the morning, despite the overcast conditions.


The Spotters Day had arrived, with the advisement of ‘no flying all day’ not quite being correct. Those here early enough would have seen Skyhawks N431FS and N434FS launch, in bright sunshine! Learjet D-CONE then departed, before the Skyhawks returned, along with one arrival… Dornier 27A-1 D-EGFR was visiting for the Spotters Day from nearby Nordholz. Still in German AF colours (ex 55+36), the aircraft is normally used as a glider-tug and for para-drops. Then, apart from an overshoot by AKG51 Tornado IDS 45+64 from Schleswig around mid-afternoon (and the Do27 departing later), those were the only movements today, after everyone had waited for the airbase gates to open at 1300.

Upon entering the base, ID was shown, and checked against a list of registered visitors. A car pass was then given, with directions to parking, outside the JG71 hangars. Around 1,500 visitors were registered for the event, and were allowed to walk along the taxiway, between and around the shelters, with a Phantom parked outside each one. With the good weather holding out, the many photographers present only had the occasional wait for the sun to come out from behind clouds, and for the usual few idiots who never seem to understand ‘photo-etiquette’… the negative side of having no barriers! The dozen F-4F’s present were: 37+01, 38+01, 38+10, 38+24, 38+29, 38+33, 38+42, 38+48, 38+50 and 38+53. Of these, 37+01 was of course the first German AF Phantom (of the 175 ordered), retained in service and still going strong after delivery in 1973, while 38+48 also has ‘Iceland artwork’. Then at the end of the row was a ramp containing 37+92 and the specially marked 38+28, along with the visiting Do27, and some welcome stalls selling hot food, drinks and souvenirs.

So, in addition to the twelve F-4F’s mentioned above, the other four operational Phantoms are: 37+22, 38+02, 38+58 & 38+64. The last aircraft retired, was thought to be 37+96, which was reportedly flown to Jever on 19th April. Finally, a bit of history… Preserved in the ‘JG71 Richthofen’ hangars here is Sabre Mk6 JA-106, which has the personal ‘black tulip’ markings of The Black Devil, the then commander of JG71, and highest-scoring fighter pilot of all time, Erich Hartmann (352 aerial victories and never shot down!). This was his favourite jet fighter, while ironically parked next to it was an aircraft that certainly wasn’t, with RF-104G 24+85 also preserved in JG71 markings. The Starfighter was so opposed to by Hartmann, being a very unsafe aircraft, that it lead to his forced retirement in 1970. Difficult to argue though, as after 282 crashes and 115 German pilots killed in non-combat missions, the ‘widowmaker’ certainly earned that infamous name.

A good effort by JG71, much appreciated by those who made the journey to Wittmund. I’m sure i’ll not be the only one who’ll look back at events like this, and be thankfull that i made the effort to see such classics when operational. Seeing any survivors later, in museums or as ‘wrecks and relics’ just ain’t the same! One such aircraft, which i had been waiting to photograph in nice weather, is the Phantom displayed on the outskirts of Wittmund town. So, with the sun still shining after getting out of the base, i headed straight on past the guest house, to F-4F 38+14. This displays three unit bages on the fin, and has been sat on poles since 2006, outside the Kasserne Barracks, right next to the main B210 road. Completing the Phantoms present around here, there are two more (both specially painted) on display (along with two F-104’s, a Sabre and a Tornado) not seen on this trip, with 37+03 inside the Kasserne Barracks, and 38+49 inside the Aurich Barracks. Another time...


After the final night at the guest house, it was back to the base for the last day here. With really schizer weather though, i ended up calling it a day after the morning missions. At least there was a chance for some different shots, with runway 08 in use today. Heading to the photospot at that end, the Phantom afterburner take off’s certainly cut through the grime, with the following movements…

First off, in formation take off, were Skyhawks N431FS and N434FS. Two hours later, with this pair returning, company N432FS got airborne, along with Phantom 38+33 as ‘Spook 1’. His wingman, 38+48 ‘Spook 2’ had ground-aborted after reaching the last-chance, and limped back to the shelter with a technical problem. 38+01 and 38+29 then launched as ‘Laser 1/2’, followed by ‘Spook 2’ in replacement 38+42. After waiting for all these to return, that was enough, and i was off, straight to Bremen airport. Infact, that was it for the day, as with the viewing deck being closed, and the weather conditions meaning i had no interest in going to the end of the runway for landing shots, i headed straight to the hotel. The Holiday Inn Express here is a very nice, modern hotel, and being literally five minutes walk away from the terminal, is very handy… especially when the viewing deck is open!

Finally for Wittmund, hot news during the spotters day was of a final airshow to be held here at the end of June next year. Apparently this comes from official sources, so hopefully is not just a rumour. Details known so far (with only a year to go!) are for the new JG71 Eurofighters to arrive on Monday 17th June. Then a spotters day will be held on Friday 28th June before an airshow on the Saturday, with the Phantom fly-out on Monday 1st July, with all remaining airworthy F-4F’s going to nearby Jever for storage/scrapping. That’s the ‘word’ anyway… we’ll see what happens. Please note i managed to complete this report without any corny ‘Phantastic’, ‘Phabulous’ or ‘Phantoms Phorever’ references. So lets just hope for one more great Wittmund show in 2013, with glorious weather, to send off those Phu**ing awesome Phantoms!


After an early night, an early start, as with no point in staying at Bremen, it was straight off to Hamburg. With the worst weather of the trip, driving was horrendous, compounded by roadworks, so i was pleased to get to Hamburg, dump the car and spend the day up on the T2 viewing deck. With the weather gradually improving, and sunny by mid-day, the Ian Allan group were also up on the deck, before catching their flights back to the UK. My flight had been changed, with the original Emirates flight to Dubai at 2130 being cancelled! Apparently, the reason for this was a shortage of aircraft due to the A380 groundings, meaning the aircraft allocated for the 2130 Hamburg-Dubai flight was needed more for another flight! I wonder if Emirates had wished they had gone for the B747-8i now, instead of that French rubbish! Anyway, as a result of this, i was re-booked onto the earlier EK060 due out at 1525, so after checking in, had until around 1430 on the deck before going through for the flight.

‘Highlights’ among the modern Western-built types here included… SkyWork Airlines Do328 HB-AEV (now in full colours), CSA ATR-42-500 OK-KFM (totally destroyed by fire 48 hours later in a hangar in Prague), Cimber Air CRJ-100LR OY-RJI (all white with SAS logo on the fin, and ‘Flying for Scandinavian Airlines’ titles), Sun Express B737-800 TC-SNU, Condor B757-300(WL) D-ABOF, Rossiya Airlines A320-200 EI-DZR, Turkish Airlines A320-200 TC-JPF, Iran Air A300-600 EP-IBB, Hamburg Airways A320-200 D-AHHD (delivered three weeks earlier, ex Thomas Cook G-OMYA, in the new ‘white’ scheme with an odd nose cone), TUIfly B737-800(WL) D-AHFH, Brussles Airlines Dash 8-400Q G-ECOI (the second wet-leased from FlyBe, from March), WDL BAe146-200 D-AMGL, Sylt Air P-68B D-GFPG, and BN-2B D-ISLE, Beech B200GT D-ISKY and Cessna 560XLS+ D-CFLY all of Air Hamburg. Also, parked outside the Lufthansa Technik hangars was A319CJ D-ALHT in Evergrande colours. This first VIP A319 for this company will become B-3333, and is the last aircraft to be painted by LHT here (hence the special temporary reg). Finally, Airbus Beluga F-GSTC/3 was a low flyover, on approach to nearby Finkenwerder. And so, after boarding EK060 for Dubai, operated by A340-500 A6-ERH, take off was at 1550, landing 5.40 hours later at 2330L. Connection was onto EK835 to Bahrain operated by an A330-200, off at 0230 landing just over an hour later at 0235L.

Pictures to follow...