London/Isle of Man 2015
(by David Kromka)
It is a standard procedure for EMPOA trips: the days before departure are spent watching the latest weather developments and hoping that everybody will be able to fly.
This was especially true for this year's trip to the UK. Great Britain is not known for having incredibly long periods of sun but rather for quick changes between rain and wind and clouds. But it was all different at the end.
On Thursday afternoon we already had quite an impressive flightline on the little aerodrome of Denham EGLD – sunny skies made it easy for Mooniacs to arrive and discuss latest developments in the garden of the airfield's restaurant. Big cheers were given to every Mooney and its arriving crew. Only the supply with drinks was not up to standard so that Britta and Birgit had to be sent to the nearest supermarket to get some more beer, wine and – yes – water.
Later in the afternoon we ordered some taxis to takes us to nearby South Ruislip where we checked into our Ramada hotel. But we didn't have much time to relax since the Indian dinner was waiting for us at „Regal Spice“ restaurant. The venue was up to its promise: little but very very tasty: after some fabulous starters we got impressive platters with mouthwatering delicacies that turned out to be a feast for hungry Mooniacs. Fine wines and Indian Cobra beer accompanied this authentic meal. After dessert some of us went back to the hotel, the not-so-tired-ones continued with beer and whisky at nearby „Middlesex Arms“ pub.
Friday was another day with blue skies and Mooniacs took the 20 minute-only trainride to London's Marylebone station in the heart of the British capital. There we met the guides for our „London Underground“ tour. The group had grown to final size in the meantime, the McEwan family had successfully landed coming straight from Augsburg. For more than two hours and along various lines we discovered the history of this longest-running underground of the world. The two groups had tours in totally different style and at the end we reunited at Houses of Parliament where the most interesting stories were exchanged.
Afternoon and evening were at everybody's own liking: some undertook quality shopping in the fine and famous streets of London, others did pique-nique, went to musicals or had dinner in specialty restaurants. Most convened later at the Middlesex Arms to brief themselves on the weather forecast for the day to come.
Our flying day to Isle of Man brought best weather again, it was the ATC imposed separation that held IFR-planned Mooneys longer on the ground than planned. Around noontime the presidential airplane N252CG took off and landed 1:40 hours later on Ronaldsway: strong headwind all the way made the flight significantly longer than planned. And once again we had an impressive flightline of 17 speedmachines that were all lined-up next to each other in the eastern side of the airport.
The airport is served by public transport all day long, so it was no problem to get to Douglas, the island's capital. Due to limited capacities the crews were lodged in three different bed-and-breakfasts in the same street. Almost everybody gathered later in the evening in a cozy restaurant by the port where we partied quite a bit and danced the night away.
On Sunday morning we nevertheless had to get up early since a chartered bus drove us to the north of the island to the famous Laxey wheel. Being the largest water-driven wheel of the world it is a magnificient example of the mining times on Isle of Man: it served to pump out water from the different mines. Mooniacs climbed up to its highest platform and ventured off through the little park surrounding the wheel and mine. By the time the sun had reappeared and our journey back on the Manx Electric Railway offered breathtaking views along the coastline. The train is sort of a tramway that follows an old line from the north of Isle of Man to the island's capital Douglas.
After a short lunchbreak crews met at Douglas Steam Railways station: the narrow-gauge railway served as model for the famous cartoons Thomas The Tank Engine and the 100 year-old engines continue to impress railway addicts from around the world. In cosy compartments we rode through beautiful nature to Port Erin: there we undertook some walks along the harbor, enjoyed ice cream or had a first aperitif in the sun.
We finished off with a dinner in Port St. Mary's Railways Station Hotel. Regional delicacies provided the setting for this evening during which we discussed the moments of the past days. New and old friendships were being forged and fastened and new plans made. One attraction will certainly be the EMPOA christmas party at Vesoul in France that is being prepared by the presidency. Back to Douglas we went again in a chartered bus.
As the last plane departed from Ronaldsway on Monday, the Mooney flightline had disappeared again and crews were on their way to homebases or continued on to other destinations. Reports had it that return flight times were quite short due to strong tailwinds and without any major problems.