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Bringing HA-ANI to Hungary

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  • Bringing HA-ANI to Hungary screener Simon De Rudder joined - for the second time - a special journey across Europe with HA-ANI, a Polish built Antonov-2 from 1972. During the winter it stays in Hungary for maintenance and checks. The trip goes visual (VFR) from Texel International Airport (NL) to Kaposvár (HU).

    Text and photography: Simon De Rudder

    The route flown on this trip, from our GPS device.

    Wednesday October 19th
    When the ferry arrives on the island of Texel it’s almost ten o’clock. From the terminal we grab a taxi to the airport. Today’s weather is stormy and precarious. On the way we even hit a small hail shower. Texel Airport has grass runways so for us it is clear that we’ll have to wait for the field to dry before we can depart.

    On this year’s flight we will be flying with three pilots and five passengers. The pilots will shift during the journey. While the sun breaks through the clouds a flight plan is being made. The plan is to fly via Prague, staying there a day and then fly on to our final destination, Kaposvar in Southern Hungary. Our first stop today will be in Germany, the airfield of Höxter-Holzminden. Here we’ll tank and fly towards Czech Republic. To make sure we’re ready for departure when the field is dry we start bringing our luggage on board and help turning the props. Then we drink a cup of coffee and take a look in the aviation and war museum which is based on the airport. When we walk out of the museum we can board the plane, the field is dry enough.

    Our Antonov at EHTX before departure.

    Our Antonov-2 has been standing still for more than two weeks and we notice that during engine startup. After the third attempt and with a lot of smoke the engine runs. In the back of the cabin is a blueish fog and our right wing is sprayed with oil coming from the exhaust. When the engine temperature is fine we take off in southwestern direction. Right after liftoff we here some loud bangs, but from my seat and window everything seems fine. When someone tells me to look at the cockpit window I can see what is left from a seagull that hit our prop. Suddenly we’re making a bank heading back to the airport, and for a moment I think it is for landing. Instead of that we’re making a low pass over the runway and that’s where we see five seagulls laying, who did not survive the bird strike.

    Passing the Afsluitdijk.

    We leave Texel behind us and on the lefthand side we can overview the Afsluitdijk. On the way we’re flying through several rain showers and soon our cockpit window is clean again. The airfield of Höxter-Holzminden lays in a hilly area. On the right we see the runway, laying on top of a hill. After two-hour flight and despite some crosswind Captain Arjan makes a fine landing. Our Antonov is the only plane on the platform. After we walk off the aircraft we determine the damage made by the seagulls. Apart from a dent in the engine hood there is nothing to discover. The fuel at this airport is rather pricy so we decide to tank only the amount desired until our next fuel stop, about 300 liters. In the airport restaurant we’re drinking a cup of coffee with a curry sausage. Then I ask the manager if we could take a look in one of the hangars, where several small props are parked. We’re taking a few photos and thank the manager for his hospitality.

    The only damage we can discover after the bird strike.

    When Anushka is tanked and cleaned we’re ready for boarding. Today we’ll fly on to Gera, in southeast Germany. Here we’ll stay for a night and fly on to Czech Republic tomorrow. Because our engine is still warm the startup is easy. Then we taxi to the runway and takeoff from runway 32. The sight is great, with the sun shining through the rainclouds. On cruise altitude we’re one by one invited to take place on the copilot seat to fly a bit. The Antonov is heavy to steer and every wind shear has to be corrected. Following the GPS we’ll soon pass an airfield, EDBS (Sommerda) which we should see on the lefthand side. After some searching we’re having it in sight. On the airport are four Russian Mig fighters parked. Captain Arjan banks the plane left so we can take some shots.

    It’s a quarter to five when we reach the airport of Gera-Leumnitz. On the approach towards runway 24 we fly low over a 6-lane highway. After parking we notice that the plane should be moved several meters to tighten it to the ground. We think that we’re able to move the plane by hand but Arjan prefers to start the engine and park the plane again. During startup we’re standing outside. Standing there makes you realize how much power this engine produces. It’s almost six o’clock when the sun comes shining underneath the clouds and the light is gorgeous. While everyone is busy to make Ani ready for the night I’m using this fiery light for a few photos.

    With a bus and a tram we’re traveling to our hotel in city centre. On our hotelroom we drop our luggage and then go look for a suitable restaurant. There’s plenty of things to talk about and during our dinner we get to know each other better. Back in the hotel we drink something and don’t make it late today.

    Thursday, October 20th
    After a very diverse breakfast we take a taxi back to the airport. On the way copilot Marcel tells us about another Antonov-2 that is usually parked in one of the hangars at this airport. After bringing our luggage on board Marcel asks one of the guys on the tower if it’s possible for us to take a look inside of the hangar. Indeed there’s one parked there, painted completely blue and the wingtips red, some adjustments have been made to it to make it suitable for parachutists. Back at HA-ANI Captain Jaap, who took a look at the weather says: “If we hurry we could depart exactly between two showers!” We jump in and close the door. Even though we flew some hours yesterday the startup isn’t easy. Just like yesterday it takes three times before the engine runs. For takeoff from runway 24 we have to backtrack the runway. Today our first fuel stop will be on the airport of the Czech city Karlovy Vary. After a short flight of 30 minutes I can see the airport on the righthand side. Jaap takes care for a safe but bumpy touchdown and parks Ani on the platform. Here we’ll tank as much as possible due to the very low fuel price, more than 900 liters. While the pilots stay with the plane we’ll drink a cup of coffee in Karlovy Vary’s brand new terminal. When the flightplan has been made, the landing fees and fuel are paid we can fly on to Prague.

    Tanking at Karlovy Vary.

    After more than a half hour we can see the city on the lefthand side. To avoid the high landing fees we won’t fly to Prague’s international airport Ruzyne, but land on Prague-Letňany, a grass field next to the military airbase Kbely. On approach to the field we can see the military base on the righthand side. One of the governments Airbus A319s is parked on the airport, as well as some Tupolevs and a Yak-40. The landing on Letňany is rough, due to the bumpy grass runway. On this field are several Migs parked and I am surprised by the many golf balls laying all around. Later I found out that the airport is also being used as a golf course. There’s another Antonov-2 parked. It’s looking quite new, because it’s one of the last ones built at the PZL-Mielec plant in Poland in 1993.


    The military airbase Kbely has a aviation museum, just five minutes walking from Letňany. We take a look there, most stuff is hard to photograph because of the fences very close to the aircraft. Also we find out that the most amazing things are on the airport area, where we cannot get onto. From the museum we take two taxi’s to a huge hotel just on the edge of the city. Tonight we’ll dinner in the centre, in a restaurant that has a home-brewery. There’s not much choice for drinks, it’s dark beer or nothing.

    Friday, October 21th
    Today we won’t fly and spend our time in Prague. One of the managers on the field gave us the tip to visit the National Technical Museum. In the hotel we asked how to get there by public transport. The metro and tram bring us there. In the museum we can see several planes, trains and cars from the Czech history. Later that day we’ll take the bus to Prague-Ruzyne for some spotting. The best spotting place for the afternoon light is on top of a parking lot, but the top floor seems to be closed for maintenance. We manage to find another spot next to a fence which is not that good, but we take some shots. In front of the CSA airline office is a Douglas DC-3 parked, still in pretty good shape.

    For dinner we agreed to meet on the old city square at six. On the square we drink something and then find a proper restaurant. We end up in a place with local food and live musicians. When we arrive at the hotel that night it’s very foggy. Tomorrow when we want to fly on to Hungary we surely can’t use that! The forecasts say that we should have enough visibility at 9 am tomorrow.

    Saturday, October 22th
    At breakfast our pilots are already studying the maps for today’s flight. For some reason Austria’s map is missing, but we assume that we left it in the Antonov. The plan for today is to fly to northern Hungary and fuel up on Fertőszentmiklós and then move on to our final destination Kaposvár. A taxi gets us to Letňany. When we arrive at half past 10 the temperature is still around freezing point and the fog is still there. Forecasts now say the visibility is good around twelve o’clock. To leave quickly we’re making Anushka ready for departure and bring our luggage on board. Also there’s being searched for the Austria map, but it’s nowhere. Now we just have to wait for the fog to clear up. In the meantime we speak to some people who are working around the airport. One of the guys tells us proudly that they flew their An-2 last winter on skis when the airport was covered in snow. In the meantime Captain Arjan takes care for the Austria map, on the tower they have the map we need and photos on the tablet should be fine for today. In the little office we can drink coffee, alcohol free beers and use the internet. At half past two we should decide what to do: fly, or come back tomorrow. Owner Bob says that he would know it, but prefers staying out of the discussion.

    Fog at Prague-Letňany, stranded... or not?

    Half pas two: The fog is not that dense anymore but still there’s way too less vertical visibility to fly VFR following European laws. We decide to cancel today’s flightplan. Bob and the pilots tell the tower that we won’t hit the skies today. In the meantime we’re unloading the luggage from the Antonov. Halfway our flight attendant Linda calls: “Wait a moment, stop unloading!”. Surprised we stop what we’re doing and a moment later Bob comes down the tower with the good news: “So we’re gonna fly, the air traffic controllers will help us”. We load the luggage back in, turn the props some more and get on board. At the door one of the local controllers tells us to connect Kbely airbase once we’re at the runway and gives us the right frequency. The military controllers are gonna helps us flying through the low visibility, leading us around obstacles such as chimneys. It is like the cold and humidity are good for our engine, it starts easily at the first attempt. It’s three o’clock when we’re at the runway and get radiocontact with Kbely. They ask us to wait 10 minutes because they’re busy helping a small prop through the fog. When it’s landed we can take off. Some the guys working at Letňany are standing at the runway to see and photograph our takeoff. We bump off the runway and climb slowly to 300 feet. At this altitude we fly just under the thick clouds. The terrain ahead of us will raise so after a few kilometers pilots Arjan and Jaap decide to climb through the clouds and trust on our instruments. For a moment there is some confusion because Russian instruments work the opposite way. It’s really awesome to fly above the clouds with this Antonov. Some kilometers further on the route the fog is gone and it’s even sunny.

    Climbing through the clouds

    If we want to tank in Fertőszentmiklós it’s impossible to reach our final destination Kaposvár before sunset. Because tomorrow will be foggy too staying one night in Fertőszentmiklós is not ideal. While one of the passengers takes the copilot seat i’m talking with Arjan, who even doubts if we’ll make it on time for Kaposvár today. It’s gonna be tricky. One advantage we have is that we got to climb to 6000 feet to clear the Alps. If we descent slowly after that we’ll be able to gain some speed. Arjan keeps an eye on the arrival time and has an alternative airport in mind, just in case. While we’re descending slowly after the Alps i’ll sit next to Jaap on the copilot seat to fly for some time. Now it’s not only maintaining the course, but also making sure to descent approximately 100 feet per minute. After 20 minutes I can already feel my arms.

    We decide to fly on to Kaposvár today. It’s gonna be tight but it is possible to land before 1745 today, the official time of sunset. On 1744 Arjan makes a special landing on Kaposvár’s runway. Most of our touchdowns are on three wheels. More comfortable is to land on the maingear first with enough speed to gently bring down the tailwheel. “I wouldn’t have tried a landing like this, if there wasn’t a long strip of grass at the end of this runway!” Arjan says, proudly. In the city of Kaposvár we’ll stay tonight in the Kapos hotel. The hotel has an excellent kitchen so we’ll dine here tonight.

    Sunday, October 23rd
    After breakfast we bring our luggage in the hotel lobby. Today we’ll take the train to Budapest but before that we’ll get back to the airport so the pilots can practice some touch-and-goes with our Antonov. The good thing about this airport is that it’s private and they don’t charge landing fees. We are in time for the 1500 train. With one stop in Dombovár we will arrive a few hours later in Budapest where we will stay one day more. Tuesday morning we’ll fly back to Holland with Wizzair.

    Special thanks to:
    Bob Rienks, Linda Brown, Arjan Kooger, Jaap Backx, Marcel du Bois, Ron Sprong, Alex Fazan, Reinoud Schoon and everyone making this trip possible.
    Last edited by justtosim; 2011-11-01, 17:56.
    Simon De Rudder
    JetPhotos Management Team

  • #2
    Great trip report buddy !!
    We'll fly her together again very soon


    • #3
      Absolutely interesting trip report. Thanks a lot!!
      My photos on Flickr


      • #4
        Thanks, I'm glad you enjoy reading!

        @ Alex: We surely will, you must be missing her even more than I do

        Simon De Rudder
        JetPhotos Management Team