Michael McCafferty - European Biplane Tour

Wingovers for Nici


Mattias and his wife Nici have a lot in common. They are both dentists, work together, and they love flying. They took flying lessons together on a vacation to California several years ago and on another vacation to Hawaii they took a ride in a Waco biplane, fell in love it, and decided that was the plane they would have for their own. We met at the Waco factory 4 years ago when we were there to take delivery of our new biplanes.

Today was Nici's day off from the office, and Mattias stayed home with their 17 month old son Hendrick so Nici and I could go flying together. It had been about two weeks since Nici had done any flying in their Waco, so she was really looking forward to it. And it had been about two years since Nici and I had gone flying in my Waco, in California, and I gave her a tour of the San Diego coastline. Now it was her turn to show me around her country.

After I took off and got a little bit of altitude, I turned the stick over to Nici and she took me south along Lake Zurich, then east to the tiny little country of Lichtenstein, northeast along the Rhein river valley (overflying pieces of Germany and Austria in the process), then back northwest to Lake Konstanz (Bodensee), and west back to Birrfeld airport, keeping just north of the busy Zurich airspace. It was a great counterclockwise tour of the lowlands of Switzerland.

Alps, even more!

For Nici it was a chance to show me some of her favorite places: Castles and monasteries and lakes and waterfalls, the church where she and Mattias were married, the town where she was born, the town where she went grew up and went to school, an island covered in flowers, a place on a lake where ancient stick houses stand over the water, the town where her mother lives, high up on a hill, and Nici made several turns around her mother's house hoping she would come out to wave, but she must not have been home to hear the sound of the engine.

I enjoyed flying over Lichtenstein. It is such a small country it doesn't have an airport or I would have landed to check it out more closely. On the navigation charts it isn't even identified as a country. Nici pointed out the modest castle where the big guy lives. It's good to be king.

When we got to the little town where Nici grew up, Nici asked me take the stick and to fly out over the lake and do some wingovers. Oh boy, would I! It had been more than an hour that Nici had been flying (and doing a wonderful job of it too!), and I was thoroughly enjoying the tour, but the minute she suggested that I take the stick I realized how much I missed the feel of the controls, and to be asked to do a few wingovers... well, I just jumped at the chance.

A wingover is a very graceful maneuver, and with a little bit of practice it can be a lot of fun. I like to enter a wingover with a little bit of a dive to gain more speed than level flight can provide, then pull back on the stick and climb until the engine starts to slow, then add full power to keep the climb going until the power fades, the plane slows, hanging almost motionless in the air, and then give it some left (or right) stick and rudder and point it downhill again in the opposite direction. And repeat until satisfied. Dives and climbs and turns all combined in a symphony in the sky.

A few wingovers to the left, then the right, and then some tight turns left and right, until I felt so good I flipped into a hard left high speed spiraling dive down to the lake surface and flew past the school were Nici learned about the laws of Physics. Now here she is, high above her old school yard, using the laws of Physics to invent new games that would amaze her classmates, then and now. Life has such interesting turns.

Later that evening we all went to a birthday party for one of Nici's friends. We were all surprised when two guys showed up with some of the biggest horns you've ever seen:

Big horns!

I have not been able to connect to the Internet to send email for the last two days. The modem seems to be faulty. I bought a Swiss phone adapter in Ascona and it worked there, but I can't make it work at Mattias' home. We drove into Zurich to a computer store to get a replacement modem, but it won't work without the software which is on floppy disks, and I didn't pack my floppy disk for this computer because I was trying to save weight and bulk and I had no probable use for it. Until now! Tomorrow the stores are all closed. Maybe Monday we can get this issue resolved.

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