Saturday, 14 April 2012

Their Journey to Bahrain

They had commenced their round-the world flight on July 10, 1985 from Donaueschingen, Germany. They had flown from Germany to Ireland, Greenland, Alaska, USA, Mexico, Central America, and South America down to Puerto Montt, Chile, crossing the Cordilleras to Bariloche, Argentina. Then they flew on to Natal, Brazil and crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Dakar/Senegal. Down to South Africa, up again to Addis Ababa/Ethiopia and across Saudi Arabia and into Bahrain. 
Upon arrival in Bahrain we took them to the Sheraton hotel and Karl Heinz Auhman the General Manager, whom we had a very good working relationship and being German himself, had arranged very good rooms and facilities for them. That evening Bob Grafham, Rob McEwen and I met up with Michael and Hans at their hotel for dinner. I was fascinated by this whole trip and would have just loved to be doing this myself. 
Michael told us that he had already flown a motor glider from Germany to Australia several years earlier and so he had a wealth of experience, which held them in good stead for this trip. Hans was just a big burly German who had made a lot of money in the mail order business and was out for a laugh and a challenge. Hans had only learnt to fly and only received his full license just prior to them leaving Germany, so I could understand the words of Ed Peter, Export Manager of Porsche AG were ringing in my ears as “unofficial support”. 
We had a great meal and the chat went on into the early hours and these two men were the oddest Germans I had ever met. Talk about breaking all the rules; they had eight (8) current German passports each, a bottle of Scotch Whiskey sealed in a Diplomatic Bag in the medical kit in the Mooney, lots of cash in different currencies and a pair of hand guns hidden away in a secret compartment in the plane, to name but a few! 
Their trip had commenced in Germany and they flew north and across the United Kingdom, Iceland and Newfoundland into North America (almost a reciprocal of Charles Lindbergh’s flight). They then flew around North and South America in a figure of eight (8) and then Hans (being the less experienced and heaviest, left Michael to fly the Mooney solo across the Atlantic from South America to West Africa. Hans caught a commercial flight across and met up with Michael shortly after. 
Michael recounted how they had the back seats removed and extra fuel tanks fitted to increase the range of the Mooney for that particular ocean crossing. In practice this four seat Mooney aircraft was in fact a two seat and they had very little room for baggage and comforts. Their plane was additionally equipped with all the latest avionics’ and navigational aids along with the standard ones. 
Michael then told me he had flown the Atlantic without a life raft as this took up too much weight and he needed the additional fuel more than a life raft! Apparently when he took off, the plane exceeded it’s maximum take-off weight by some 25% and it was a bit dicey to handle until he was well established over the Atlantic and had burnt some fuel off. We were sitting in the Sheraton bar talking and I could not wait to get out to the airport the following morning to see the plane myself. We bade them farewell and left to sleep the rest of the night ourselves.

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