(by Philippe COFFINET)
After Austria and Croatia, after Troyes and the Île d’Yeu, it was Germany and the Czech Republic to receive our Mooney squadron for the traditional club trip around the Annual General Meeting of EMPOA.
18 aircraft followed the call of our president David Kromka and that of chief treasurer Lothar Lucks and took part on this trip.
On June 14 the weather was pretty fine and the speedmachine were able to touch down without problems on the runway of the nice airfield Aschaffenburg EDFC which is the homebase to our treasurer. After some very moving greetings and a warm reception by Lothar and Anneliese there was a coach ready to bring all of us to their respective hotels.
Aschaffenburg is an especially beautiful little city full of history. Because of its microclimate it has been called the « Nice of Bavaria » and is dotted with several buildings that bear witness to her former being part of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation. Later on Aschaffenburg joined the Federation of the Rhine. Its castle from the 17th century sits majestically on the banks of the river Main. Ludwig 1st of Bavaria has shaped the face of the city with his Antique’s museum, the famous Pompejanum, which is an architectural replica of the House of Dioscure in Pompeji in Italy.
This setting with historic charme formed the backdrop for the Annual General Meeting of our association in a meeting room of « Goldener Ochse » hotel.
President David Kromka held the traditional Welcome speech and explained the main acitivities of the past year, especially travels and procurement of safety equipment. He also described the development of the membership base and asked for EMPOA to become even more European as presently there is still a heavy majority of members from Germany.
Lothar Lucks presented the report of the treasury which was certified by the financial controllers. He also answered questions from the public. All members of the board were exonerated by hand :
- David KROMKA, President,
Philippe COFFINET, Vice President,
Lothar LUCKS, Treasurer,
Lukas STRAUBINGER, Spokesperson.
Another highlight was the picture presentation of our friends Tina and Gunter Haug which took place right before the general assembly. They had been touring South America with their Mooney 252 for six months. Patagonia, Fireland, Ushuaia and the Andes mountain range : names of places that let everyone dream and wake up the spirit of adventure in each and everyone of us. And the fact that you can fly 20.000 miles and 120 hours with not more than the regular maintenance did show that you can rely on the quality of Lo Presti’s airplanes when you need it most.
On Friday morning the pilots met again at the airport to listen to a presentation of Wolfgang Kerkhoff, managing director of « Spessart Air Service ». The tasty catering of Lothar’s daughter with some nice patisserie made this a particular treat. The non-pilots meanwhile had the chance to explore the highlights of Aschaffenburg’s old town during a walking tour of the city.
Shortly after noontime, the groups met again at the beautiful garden of Schönbusch park to have lunch at the beergarden.
The afternoon brought us to the famous Dirker Distillery where we discovered their secrets during a private tour. Especially interesting and tempting was the tasting of more than ten different spirits and liqueurs from their production…
Another pleasant surprise was the arrival of Jacques Callies from « Aviation et Pilote » and together with his friend Alain which we later met at « Hofgut Hörstein » right in the middle of a wine-growing estate. We are talking a lot about the EMPOA and the aircraft but restaurants and wine are important subjects as well.
After a filling breakfast the bus drove us on Saturday, June 16, to the airfield where our Mooneys were already anxiously waiting to get airborne. After preparing our horses with wings we calmly take off, heading east towards Pilsen in the Czech Republic. The airport there is a former Russian airbase from the times of the cold war. Most that remains are 2200 meters of runway and some buildings in a state of ruin.
In the shade of a huge Antonov-2, sandwiches await our hungry stomachs. While some go straight for the pique-nique, others opt for a sight-seeing flight with an old Yak-18 and its radial engine.
David had prepared a dense and varied program, that features aviation and alcohol, in this case beer : visit of the famous brewery « Pilsener Urquell » that was founded in 1750 and has been modernised to highest standards ever since. The touring of the brewery’s underground cellars with their 20 Kilometer long storage room sis impressive and shows the approach to quality and uniqueness of a brand that is today known all over the world. The brewery is the true temple of beer in the Czech Republic and the curing aspects of the liquified hop scan be checked out right away : it helps us to digest a dinner of giant proportions : meat, meat and meat. And in order to keep this remember this memorable evening, there are personally engraved beer mugs with everyone’s names for every participant.
Sunday morning brings us back to the times of the Cisterciense monks while visiting their abby from the 11th century. The whole place has been rebuilt later in baroque style of the 18th century. It remains a very nice chapel for Saint Benedict (his rules and duties were rather strict compared to the pretty hedonistic lifestyle of us Mooniacs) as well as an impressive double staircase and the abby’s pharmacy in a particularly good state of preservation.
After a traditional and tasty lunch in a typical restaurant, we went straight back to aviation again in the afternoon. Our visit to the « Zruc Air Park Museum » was a quite surprising one, to put it mildly. Contrary to the name this is not a real aiviation museum but rather a private open-air collection of objects without apparent relationship : war material of all sorts, once pride or the Red Army, is trying to withstand wind and weather but still faces the tooth of times. Without explanation you wander from a Mig-21 fighter to the famed Mi-24 attack helicopter gunship, from a F-104 Starfighter to a Russian attack tank T-72, all under the watchful eyes of a metal statue of Josef Stalin…
For us and some others this journey ended here on Sunday evening. Despite some raindrops overhead the Black forest, from which our TLS Bravo was not spared, the lake of Vesoul (LFQW), our homebase, appeared finally in the light of a beautiful sunset after four days of almost perfect joy.
Once again, this annual trip of EMPOA was a sign of a strong and sincere friendship between the participants, but also expression of our passion and the human values we share. It is just fair to take it as an opportunity to remember the truth of our Mooney slogan « Life is short, fly fast » and maybe even the more profound and antique « Carpe diem », feel the joy of the moment … especially for us, who are lucky enough to experience those moments not only on earth but in the skies as well.
Doktor Philippe COFFINET