Two days, two pilots, two Taifuns, one island
(or two)

A short trip of D-KFDI and D-KKGG to Helgoland, May 2009

Helgoland main island (front) and Düne (back), source: wikipedia o.s.

text: webmaster Leo
images: Henk Dumont (unless indicated otherwise)

May 7th 2009
Yes, Big Brother is still watching you as you can see for yourself in the animation on the right (approximately 220 kB, so please be patient to load the animation).
Apparently Henk (D-KFDI) and a second Taifun (maybe D-KKGG flown by Manfred?) have landed just after 1700 hrs local time at Flughafen Helgoland EDXH in northern Germany. Watch how first D-KFDI and then the other Taifun are being parked, towed and the cockpits are being covered for the night in this 5 minute interval animation.

Webcam Helgoland airfield (EDXH)
Time loop animation May 7th 2009
17.00 - 18.10 in 5 minute intervals


The above text, written by your "always spying webmaster", could be seen for several days on the website early May 2009, but after reading a bit more on Helgoland and a bit of talking to Henk your webmaster's curiousity was raised about this short trip.
Since we know many of our website's vistors like reading and watching pictures of these kind of trips too, we decided to write this article about the Helgoland flight.

Helgoland (eng: Heligoland) is located 70 km off the German coastline and actually consists of two islands: the populated triangular 1 km² main island (Hauptinsel) to the west and the Düne ("dune," Heligolandic: de Halem) to the east. While the former is what the place name "Heligoland" normally is used to refer to, the latter is somewhat smaller (0.7 km²), lower, surrounded by sand beaches and not permanently inhabited.

Henk and Manfred have visited many islands in the German coastal region (Juist, Borkum, Langeroog, Spiekeroog etc.) but never have been to Helgoland before. Since now is the start of the season and weather is quite fine, they decided to fly to Osnabrück-Atterheide airfield (EDWO) in northern Germany and meet one another over there. Osnabrück is some 200 NM west of Oehna (Manfred's home base) and some 110 NM northeast of Geilenkirchen (Henk's home base) so an ideal location for meeting eachother and fly to Helgoland together. D-KFDI departed from Geilenkirchen NATO airbase (ETNG) at about 12.15 local time, D-KKGG departed from Oehna (EDBO) at the same time. D-KKGG flew from Oehne via Magdeburg, Salzgitter, Porta Westfalica towards Osnabrück-Atterheide geflogen, anda landed at about 14.30 h (local time). Weather was quite fine at that time: views of well over 10 Km, clouds scattered during partrly very strong thermals, ceiling about 2500 feet, headwinds (WSW) reaching 20-25 knots.
After enjoying dinner they learned that Helgoland airfield was closing earlier than expected (19.00 local time), so they decided to file a flightplan at Osnabrück right away, put on their rescue suits for over sea and departed at Osnabrück for the final 114 NM towards Helgoland at about 16.00 local.

Helgoland Düne EDXH, approach for Runway 33

At 17.05 local time, little over one hour later, after enjoying fairly strong tailwinds enabling an average speed of well above 110 knots, both Taifuns landed as webmaster Leo noticed later that evening when watching the webcam archives of Helgoland airfield. During the flight from Osnabrück to Helgoland weather deteriorated quickly: closed cloud deck after passing Bremen (SW of the German coastal line), ceilings coming as low as 1000-1200 feet, view (some brief moments excepted) from 8 - 10 km.
As Henk informed us later they landed on EDXH at runway 33 (480x30 metres) with cross winds reaching 20 knots and only the last 5 minutes above the island the sky was remarkably clear, this in sharp contrast to some minutes before when both Taifuns had to fly at very low altitudes because of very low ceilings (300 feet) over sea.

approaching Helgoland EDXH (chart source :

The history of the small airfield goes back to WWII, when a first (military) airfield on Düne was constructed on the fortified island Helgoland (Eng: Heligoland). In 1962, the airport was rebuilt into the form it still has today. From 2005 to 2006, the main runway (direction 15/33) was extended from 400 m to 480 m for compliance with EU regulations on commercial air traffic. Because of the difficult local circumstances a pilot in command is required to have at least 100 hrs of flight experience in order to be allowed to land at Helgoland airfield.

Because both islands are not connected via road or bridge in any way, there's a ferry that during daytime is shuttling from Düne to main island and back again at 20 minute intervals. The situation has not always been this way. Until 1720 the two islands were connected, but that year their natural connection was destroyed by a storm flood.  
As you can see on the webcam animation above it took Manfred and Henk almost 50 minutes to safely park and anchor both motorgliders, so about 18.05 local time they were ready to take the shuttle ferry to the main island.

Arriving at Helgoland harbour on the main island, seen from the shuttle ferry

After arriving at main island our two Taifun pilots with a little help from a local pilot managed to find a nice hotel to stay the night and decided to go "downtown" and watch the football match Werder Bremen - HSV in a local pub.

May 8th 2009
Next morning (Friday, May 8th) the plan was to fly to Denmark, but since weather circumstances over there didn't guarantee a swift flight back on Saturday, Manfred and Henk decided to stay at Helgoland and have a sightseeing tour on the island.

Cliffs on the edge of the Oberland

Helgoland main island can be divided into three very recognisable parts; the Unterland ("Lower Land," Heligolandic: deät Deelerlun) at sea level (where a.o. the harbour is), the Oberland ("Upper Land," Heligolandic: deät Boperlun) consisting of a plateau and the Mittelland ("Middle Land") between them on one side of the island.
The main island also features small beaches in the north and the south and drops to the sea 50 metres (about 160 feet) in the north, west and southwest. In the latter, the ground continues to drop underwater to a depth of 56 metres below sea level. With 61.3 metres above sea level the Pinneberg is the highest (natural) point on the island, only to be topped by several manmade constructions
like the 113 metres high "Richtfunkturm Helgoland" that was constructed in 2000 by communications company Deutsche Telekom AG.

Long Anna, Helgolands touristic landmark

Northwest of the island proper Heligoland's famous landmark is found: The Lange Anna ("Long Anna" or "Tall Anna") which is a free standing rock column (or stack), 47 metres high and weighing about 25,000 tons. Like the rest of the cliffs near it Tall Anna is made of red Early Triassic, also known as Buntsandstein or Scythian.

The complete column is standing on a base area of only 18 m², can be watched from the nearby Oberland-cliffs and like the cliffs is inhabited by hundreds of Herring Gulls and Northern Gannets.

In a certain amount of time Tall Anna will be destroyed because of strong tidal wave forces during the many storm floods the island is suffering.

From 1904 untill 1906 a 5 metres thick mole called the "Preußenwall" was erected to protect Tall Anna from the incoming waves, but nowadays this wall is already suffering severe erosion problems.

Northern Gannets, Common Guilemots and Seagulls on the "Lummenfelsen" near Tall Anna

During their sightseeing walk across the island Henk and Manfred a.o. visited the cliffs near Tall Anna where several birdwatchers with large tele lenses where making pictures and videos of many Northern Gannets, breeding on Helgoland. Lots of birds were plunging into the ocean at high speed, searching for small fish which gather in groups near the surface. The Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus, formerly Sula bassana) is the largest member of the gannet family, Sulidae, adults sometimes reaching 110 cm in length and 180 cm wingspan. The birds have beautiful colours; light bluish bill, white plumage with black wing tips, light blue eyes surrounded by bare black skin and during breeding time head and neck are coloured in a delicate yellow. Their breeding range is the North Atlantic, where they normally nest in large colonies, on cliffs overlooking the ocean or on small rocky islands. Helgoland absolutely suits these conditions, but yet it is only since 1991 that the Northern Gannet can be found breeding on the island. The largest colony of this bird, with over 60,000 of them, is found on Bonaventure Island, Quebec, but 68% of the world population breeds around the coasts of Great Britain, with the largest colonies on the Bass Rock (hence the species' Latin name) and Boreray, St Kilda.
During winter all birds head southward in the Atlantic, some have even been spotted near the equator.


Since 1991 the Northern Gannet can be found breeding on Helgoland

Another well known animal to be found on Helgoland, is the Grey Seal. This reamarkable animal is frequently visited by tourist groups and can mainly be seen on the smaller Düne island. Of course our two Taifun pilots also visited the seals on Düne and were deeply impressed by the sights.

The Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus, meaning "hooked-nosed sea pig") is found on both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. After the Common Seal the Grey Seal is the second largest population of seals to be found on the shores of Germany, from a physical point of view it's the country's largest predator (up to 300 kg). Main differences between both species are the greater weight of the Grey Seal and the pointier head.
Momentarily there are three large colonies were young grey seals are being born: one near the Dutch Wadden Sea island of Terschelling, one near the German Wadden Sea island of Amrum and the third one (since 2001) near Helgoland/Düne.
Nowadays Grey Seals are far less spotted in the Wadden Sea than Common Seals, while archeological finds have proven that during the middle ages both populations were 50/50 in appearance. Because of human hunting the percentage of Grey Seals has diminuished during the last centuries.


Warning sign at Düne beach.


Shortly after being born the young cups have a weight of merely 10 kilograms. During their first week they are constantly being guarded by there mothers on the beach. But after a while they will be left alone for several hours. It may look as if they have been abandoned by their mothers, but this is definitely not the case. Hence the warning signs on Düne beach not to come close to the animals and certainly not closer than 30 meters to young animals or in between of mother and cups even though it may appear they have been left alone helplessly.
After 4 weeks the mammalian period comes to an end when underneath their skin there's a thick layer of fat so they can survive their first swim into the sea on their own.



Another animal that can be seen often on the Oberland plateau: the long haired Heligoland sheep


After two days most of the 1.7 km² of both Helgoland main island and Düne had been examined by Henk and Manfred so on the evening of May 8th they decided the time had come to fly back home next morning.


D-KFDI and D-KKGG still standing firmly on Helgoland ground after two days

May 9th 2009, 8.45 local time
Lleolama's wife get's a phonecall from Henk, they're on the boat to Helgoland Düne, will make a flight plan and depart from the island this morning.

And yes indeed, several minutes later first activities commence at both motorgliders still standing firmly on the ground at EDXH.
At 9.55 finally your webmaster got Henk on the phone, saying they will depart within several minutes, fly to Flugplatz Wangerooge (EDWG), make a short fuel-stop en after that they will fly to Nordhorn-Lingen (EDWN) and split up for Berlin resp. Geilenkirchen.
Since the winds had changed direction, we later learned they had to take off from runway 21, which with its 371 x 20 meter is a bit shorter and smaller than runway 33 (480 x 30 m).

D-KFDI, just before take-off

At the moment there was a large cruiseship near Helgoland, and much much traffic going on, because of the yearly Helgoland marathon that was taking place right that Saturday.
As you can see below Henk managed to take a picture of the cruiseship while flying overhead.


"Mein Schiff", the cruiseship in front of the Helgoland coast as pictured by Henk

(Celebrity) Galaxy in its original state in 1996


The rebuilt Mein Schiff during baptise May 2009


(both images source wikipedia o.s.)


Mein Schiff, formerly known as Celebrity Galaxy, has been built in 1995 to make short cruises near Florida and the Carribean, but also made several European cruises in 2001.
In April 2008 the owning company "Royal Carribean ruise Line", announced the ship would end its career in March 2009 and would be handed over to TUI Cruises (a joint venture of TUI and Royal Carribean Cruise Line).
In only 38 days, costing some 50 million Euros, the Celebrity Galaxy was redesigned and partly reconstructed into Mein Schiff (German meaning "My ship") while laying in Lloyd's docks in Bremerhaven. Because of this short period of time, the ship had already partly been deconstructed during the crossing of the Atlantic from Puerto Rico to Germany.
The newly named ship made its maiden voyage on May 8th to Helgoland and has been baptised one week later in Hamburg harbour.

Mein Schiff
Overall length: 263,9 meter
Width: 32,2 meter
Draught: 8,5 meter
Speed: 21,5 knots
Power: 31.500 kilowatts
Number of cabins: 962
Number of passengers: 1924
Number of personnel: about 780


After circling the ship and taking some pictures, D-KFDI and D-KKGG said farewell to Helgoland and set course for Wangerooge and after reaching German mainland they split up and set course for their home bases resp. being ETNG Geilenkirchen NATO airbase (D-KFDI) and Berlin Oehna-Zellendorf EDBO (D-KKGG).

Last farewell to Düne

Last farewell to Helgoland main island


Both Taifun pilots were very pleased having made this short trip to Helgoland, gaining special experience while landing on such a difficult and short landing strip and having much fun during two days on this small island.
Manfred and Henk both think it's very worthwile paying a visit.

More on this beautiful island can be found on the following page (English, German and Danish):

Pilot info (unfortunately only available in German):

Webmaster Leo LLama, July 2009