Once again, this year we have travelled to Germany to take part in the Akafliegs’ summer meeting, but this time, as official Idaflieg members! Although our role there is not very important yet, we earn more and more experience with every step we make, getting closer to our goal of improving the quality of education via practical projects that put to work all the knowledge acquired during the infinitely long theoretical lessons at our university.
Our expedition was composed of eight members of the club and, regardless of the busy trip, we made it safe and sound to the main train station in Berlin just in time to take the train that would carry us to our new destination: Stendal. In fact, it was not so tight and we had plenty of time to find all the equipment that we needed; however, nobody checked that we had room for such amount of mats…
One hour and hundred kilometres later, our German friends left us before a vast green lawn where we were to rig our camp. One would have said that, for a team of eight almost-ready-to-go, young engineers, such task had to be a piece of cake. A very small one indeed. But nothing could be further from the truth and soon, it was more than evident that the years spent studying did not prepare us for that.
That said, and some time later — a long time would be more precise –, we had the chance to enjoy a great dinner, introducing ourselves before all the guys that had arrived there during the previous days.
Unluckily for us, the weather was not that understanding with us as it was in the previous years, and a long and dull period of three days of awful weather had just started, leaving all the planes inside their respective trailers and hangars. Nevertheless, this small issue would not keep us away from our goals, and we spent our spare time working on our main project: the MAD-1 Rocinante which, hopefully, will soon fly the southern skies of “Lillo” and, maybe someday, Berlin as well. So we distributed the tasks among the different groups and started working. Well, we started working until some of our German friends offered us to spend the afternoon in a kind of Spa somewhat more than an hour away from the airfield and, of course, we could not say no.
And this was one of the biggest surprises of the trip. Some time later we were in a wide and distant place, having the impression of being in a water park and a mall at the same time. Once we got inside, we found out that the decoration was quite impressive and the entrance fee, quite high too, but the place met our expectations and, after overcoming some problems derived from the purchase of the swimsuits, we finally enjoyed four hours of relax in the thermal waters. We tried the fresh and sea water pools, bubbles, saunas–hotter and colder– and the like, but we will not tell you anything else apart from our feeling of empty relaxation:
Time ran faster than our joy and the four hours flew away soon. On our way to the airfield, one of the cars of the convoy took a diversion to cross the Elbe river in a quite unusual way. Apparently, in regions where the river is not too wide one can find small platforms (they could not be considered boats) able to transport a couple of cars each time and propelling themselves thanks to a clever use of the water currents.
The trip from the other side of the river was quite short and–sorry for the stereotype–, as our German friends had foreseen, we arrived to the airfield just in time for dinner. This time we had no alternative and paid a Käschtle for the good time spent in our adventure.
This new day started as badly as the previous ones and, in fact, there is not quite much to say. Each Akaflieg focused on their own projects, and so we did, improving the design of our plane that, by those days, felt a bit reluctant to keep a steady flight. One of our members got to join a project of another Akaflieg and worked with them preparing some flight tests for next day but, in any case, the day was quite short for us.
During the dinner we had some time to reorganise our minds and, eventually, we could accomplish some extra tasks before the end of the day. Assisted by Chilly, we began the review of the English translation of the Zacher protocol that Windy had been working on during the last months. We also got in contact with some DLR employees willing to help us designing the wings of our glider, which made us feel a bit happier after a somewhat blue day.
Bergfest. This could summarise the whole day, but we will try to go a bit further and explain what does this word mean. Irony aside, this wonderful word literally means “mountain party”, which is quite appropriate since it is usually organised on a Saturday towards the middle of August (you will soon know why on Saturday). Unfortunately, after three days of bad weather, we all could contemplate a big, round, shiny Sun going up in the sky just at the beginning of the weekend, when no flights are programmed… Only one of our members could get an acrobatic flight while the rest of us stayed grounded working on our Rocinante.
Later in the afternoon, around 18:00, the preparations for the night started. The briefing room was almost empty–only beer and a loudspeaker remained–and outside, a quite small swimming pool was getting ready for the long night ahead. Dinning time arrived and, after the debriefing and the Käschtle protocol, we had to say farewell to our good friends from AeroDelft. Great people doing a great job at their university, but it was time for them to head back home. Fortunately, we had the chance to talk to Festus before the madness of the party took over, a very kind Airbus employee that wanted to help us in the design and certification stages of our glider.
… and it is really hard to remember what happen after the chat. Beer flowed all over the place, some of the tables where we had been working some hours before were now tiny beer-pong stadiums, the pool filled up with people trying to understand what were they doing there and, even an out-of-this-world, fully-equipped, “night” trailer appeared from nowhere and made a great job as a summer terrace.
The hands of the clock kept turning but the pace of the party did not slow down. A great milestone for our Akaflieg was reached that night, when one of our “rookies” found his new nickname in the depths of a cup of rum: “Mitu” from now on. The rest of the night is hard to explain and, after all, I am not sure that we can…
“Half-day” five indeed. We had a really hard time trying to wake up at a decent hour but, luckily for us, it was Sunday (now you see…) and there were no expected flights; although our willingness recovered soon and, for sure, sooner than that of some Akafliegers lying all around the place.
It was more than evident that this was not going to be the day when all our projects would reach their end so, appealing to our Spanish roots, we spent a great part of the day playing cards. We played all the games we knew and we even got to play with some guys from other German Akafliegs.
Eventually, the day ended with nothing else to remark and with the hope that the next day would allow us to fly again over Stendal.
Monday at last. Clouds were gone–more or less–and the wind and the rain had found a better place from where to watch us flying. We left our tents and went straight towards the main building, where we could enjoy a breakfast full of sliced meat, sausages, chocolate and a sweet jam made out of what looked like marshmallows.
During the briefing we had the chance to choose the glider that we would fly later in the day and, once everything was set, we headed towards the trailers to help rigging the planes and take them to the runway. However, as it happened many other times along the day, we were absorbed in a kind of Tower of Babel where everybody wanted to work but nobody was willing to speak in English, so we just stayed there, waiting for all the planes to take their places on one side of the runway.
Gliders began to take off. The winch spun tirelessly and the tug planes only stopped when they had already used the last drop of fuel. However, most of us were still waiting on the ground, surrounded by waffeln, biscuits and tons of bottles of Apfelschörle. The flights were quite short and, finally, we all had the chance to go up and carry out some flight tests where we measured the noise in the cockpit at different airspeeds. It might look simple, but the bumpy flight made some guys sick and, believe us, there is no glamour in cleaning the vomit out of a glider cockpit.
The Sun went down soon and the gliders started to shuffle again, this time on their way back to the trailers. In less than an hour they were all in their homes, wings bent, having a well-deserved rest and preparing for the next flying day. We set the tables and started to eat. That was our last day in the airfield and we knew that, 24 hours later, we would be doing the exact same thing somewhere in Berlin, so we have to admit that it was not our happiest day there. After the usual ritual, we paid another Käschtle for the great week that we had enjoyed in Stendal and headed straight into the office to pay for all the beers that we had drunk during our stay.
The Sun rose quite early and, somewhat tired, we started to dismantle our camp. How we did it is one of those unanswered questions that will remain like that forever but, whatever happened and despite the evident inexperience and sleepiness of our group, we were able to clean everything up and arrive only five minutes late to breakfast. Our Presi enjoyed his last waffeln of the summer and, shortly after, we were on our way to the Stendal train station.
The train was quite fast. The seat layout did not specially favour communication, so we decided to spend our time “counting gliders”. Only the ticket inspector could interrupt our dreams and we were almost in Berlin, so we decided to start checking our luggage so that we would not forget anything behind. Thanks to the outstanding punctuality of the train, our plan remained unchanged and we ordered two Uber cars that, with a much more relaxed punctuality, took us to the door of the hostel were we would stay the night. And only the night, because during the day we walked the city of Berlin from end to end, covering around thirty kilometres across its streets and putting together the Wall, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Hitler’s bunker, Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie.
After our tour, the search of a place to have dinner started. In spite of being a big city and, as sometimes stated, with a hectic nightlife, it was not an easy task to find a restaurant where we could catch our breath and keep some money in our pockets at the same time. We finally found a hamburger restaurant a bit far from our initial position, looking extremely familiar to what we had had in the airfield: the tables were made out of wooden boards and the seats, when you could find one, were banks or just a bent metal bar. Nevertheless, it was only decoration and the burgers where just delicious.
The second part of the touristic excursion finished in the hostel but, unfortunately, with a kind of bittersweet outcome. In an attempt to reduce the costs of the trip and enjoy a short adventure, we decided not to take another Uber and try one of the different carsharing options that the German city offers. The plan was to split into two groups and make two short trips to the hostel, so in while the first group was in the car, the second one would walk towards the place and we could save some time as well. Needless to say that the attempt can now be considered as terribly failed. During the first and most chaotic trip the driver missed a couple of exits, drove through some no-entry roads, skipped countless traffic lights…, reaching the hostel when the second group had already covered more than half the distance. In any case, the experience of driving in the Berliner night made up for all the troubles and delays.
12:25 was the target time. In that very instant, if everything had been accurately geared , we would be taking off to arrive, hours later, in our sunny country. We all know that the time tables are not strictly followed, that the gates of the airport open when they should be calling the last, distracted passengers, and that it takes another fifteen minutes until the plane starts to move. However, nobody wants to miss a flight and we would not be putting the punctuality of our airline to test this time.
Breakfast was not bad at all: fruit, toasts, cereals, tomatoes, juice, milk, coffee, tea… After a week of poorly elaborated food, it was pure joy for us to start such a busy day with that delicious breakfast. The arrival at the airport, being the group split again into an Uber and a Car2Go, was more or less smooth and, except for a small incident in the parking, our luggage–all the tents and mats inside–entered the hold and waited there for us to arrive.
If you want to know more about our trip or if you think that you can help us in our projects, do not hesitate and contact us! You may be the ones who write about all these adventures next year…