Michael McCafferty - European Biplane Tour

McCafferty's First Law of Meteorology

Den Burg, Netherlands

I awoke at 3am and couldn't get back to a sound sleep for the rest of the night, so it was easy for me to beat the other boarders to the community shower. I really do not enjoy getting into a community shower while the floors are still wet from a previous use, and I figured that I would find a fresh dry shower and give the displeasure to my neighbors. I was wrong. It was still wet from their use of it the previous day. Things do not dry out easily by the North Sea. Yuk!

Breakfast was in the minimalist style of this establishment and I figured that I would augment my morning nutrition with a cappuccino at the airport (vliegveld) restaurant. So it was back on the bikes for the 3 mile morning run. My bike performed flawlessly along the slight downhill sections, but slowed dramatically when we came upon a hill. I discovered that if I would make the pedals go around using my feet the machine would continue to move forward, a condition somewhat reminiscent of WORK, a dull and dreary activity I remember from my pre-retirement days. When I mentioned this to the airport manager/bicycle rental agent/...(*) he admitted that this particular model of cycle did indeed operate in accordance with it's manufacturer's intentions. Pause. However, he had other models that would operate fully automatically. It was a bit late for all that right now, having already reached my destination, so I declined the opportunity to evaluate one.

So began a day of on and off flying. Upon arriving at the airport, the weather looked "iffy" to say the least, but the forecast for Borkum, Germany our goal, was better than here. So we would go. And then it started to rain. And we decided not to go. But after a while, it was not a heavy rain, so we decided to fuel the planes (in the light rain), and at least be ready to go if it seemed better later. It did indeed get better, so we decided to go, but by then we needed some lunch first. After a very quick lunch, the weather had gone nasty again, and we decided not to go. Then some people arrived from the direction we wanted to go, told us it was not so bad, and so we decided to go and went back to the tower to re-file the flight plan. The manager immediately replied that we were going nowhere right now, that there was a line of thunderstorms right in our path, having just appeared on his computer screen. So we decided not to go. Finally. Period. We called for a taxi to get out of there, being finished with Dutch-style transportation.

Mattias asked for the manager's assistance in finding lodgings in a different town on the island and was advised that none were available. The island is fully booked. Pause. But he could make a call, and on the first try secured two rooms at a first class hotel. Kinda makes you wonder.

After we loaded the bags into the taxi, we noticed that the sky had gone from bad to really quite flyable, and within an hour the skies were clear! All of this proves conclusively McCafferty's first law of aviation meteorology: "At the moment one is fully committed to a no-go decision, the weather will improve dramatically."

During one of the several periods of waiting for the weather to improve, we were given a private tour of the museum of Texel aviation history by Nico, the assistant manager of the airport ("I am his left hand"), extending all the way back to the first water landings here in 1913. Some of the highlights included scale models of the Dornier DO-X, a gigantic 12-engine seaplane built by a man who actually saw the plane fly more than 60 years ago. The only real plane in the museum was the first homebuilt airplane made in The Netherlands. Until that time, it was actually forbidden to build a plane in this country, so it was done without the approval of the law, and when it flew the law was changed! There was also a Rolls Royce Merlin 12 cylinder engine that was salvaged from an aircraft wrecked on the beaches of Texel during the war. Parts of old warplanes are still being found along the coast! All in all, it was an entertaining and educational experience, and a real treat to find it all in such an out of the way place.

Tomorrow we plan to stay at the airport until the weather clears, no matter how long it takes, then fly to Borkum. If it doesn't clear, we'll take the ferry to the mainland and drive to Amsterdam, where we can get in a lot more trouble than on Texel.

(*) Ed de Bruyn's business card lists his title as "Director Airport-manager" but his duties include bicycle rental, arrangements for lodging, and many etceteras. When I asked him what else he did, he simply said "I am everything", and I although there may not have been much humility in the statement, I got the feeling that there was much truth to it, at least as far as the island of Texel is concerned.

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