Journey to Austria earlier than expected–July 11, 2011

Well, it’s been a beautiful day in Zell am See, Austria. But why am I here when I had planned to go to Turkey, Greece, Croatia, and Italy from Cyprus prior to Austria? In June, 2011, I had traveled from home in Reno, Nevada back to Cyprus to rejoin my mistress, The Red Rockette at RAF Akrotiri. There was a good deal of work to do on her after sitting for about 5 months or so. I had planned to be there earlier but “life” got in the way. So finally, I was back in Cyprus with old friends and plans to do some local touring this time. And I actually did that. A very pleasant day was spent up north of Paphos in Polis, site of an ancient port which no longer exists. Nearby was a small church overlooking the Med that had quite a collection of walking aids, crutches, and other bits and pieces that folks had discarded due to their being healed during their visits to the chapel.

Naturally, a nice seafood lunch at a seaside cafe was in order along with the requisite bottle of local white wine. Another day was spent going to Nicosia, checking out the old Ledra Palace hotel for a pal in Reno who had honeymooned there with his new wife many years prior. Sadly, the once wonderful old hotel is in a restricted zone on the border with Northern Cyprus and is no longer taking visitors. It houses British troops who are part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission there. The poor chaps deserve better. It’s a mess.

I continued walking past the Ledra Palace, crossing the border into Northern Cyprus. They don’t stamp one’s passport but a piece of paper that is then slipped into your passport. Another stamp upon return. Had a nice lunch, walked about a bit, and found that it’s really much like the south…but there was just a slight hint of tension in the air. Maybe it has something to do with ME…I’ve been leaving a trail of carnage wherever I go these days. The entire Middle East is boiling and some folks are pretty determined to have regime changes. I didn’t think a little red Staggerwing had that much of an impact. Jeepers!

Then a good deal of work on the Staggerwing was in order to get her ready to visit Turkey, Greece, and Italy with a bit of Croatia if time allowed. Loads of help from my friends at RAF Akrotiri where, as you may remember, the old girl had been invited to winter due to her British WWII Royal Navy history. I was requested to give a talk at the RAF Officers Mess one day and did so. It was the first time I sported a necktie for quite some time. The active duty RAF and USAF folks, in addition to the local members of the Aircrew Association seemed to enjoy the presentation. They were impressed that at least a part of the wartime history of the aircraft was known. That is only because of the work of one retired oceanic air traffic controller from Ayr, Scotland, Mr. Peter Berry. He has written a good deal on the history of the entire Staggerwing production effort.

Then came the shocking news of the death of an old friend, Hans Gutmann of Austria. Following is the statement of the FAI:

Submitted by fca on Mon, 20/06/2011 – 13:40

The FAI deeply regrets to announce the sad death of Hans Gutmann, the President of the FAI General Aviation Commission, who died along with two other people in a fatal crash onboard his C 172 near Piacenza, Italy, on Saturday 18 June 2011.

Elected President of the FAI GAC Commission in 2010, Hans Gutmann had been active in the General Aviation and Amateur-build world for many years as a Delegate, Alternate Delegate, Subcommittee Chairman and Technical Adviser, where his knowledge was highly regarded.

Born in 1948 in Stockerau, Austria, Hans Gutmann was well known for the famous tour Around the World that he achieved in 1996 on board a Glasair IIS-RG that he built himself.

The FAI conveys to his wife Elisabeth and daughter Eva the deepest sympathy and extends our sincere condolences.

As many of you know, The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world’s air sports federation, was founded in 1905. It is a non-governmental and non-profit making international organisation with the basic aim of furthering aeronautical and astronautical activities. See if interested.

Hans and I had met many years ago when I attended a meeting of the Earthrounders group. They are a group of folks who either have or want to fly around the world in light aircraft. Their purpose is to share knowledge of such activity. And to teach the rest of us how to enjoy life…which they do very well. Hans and I had wandered South Africa for several days after another Earthrounders meeting there. Hans was one of the founders of that organization as well.

With the knowledge of Hans’ death, I decided to scurry about, get my “stuff” together, and move on to Austria for the funeral…which was delayed by numerous factors. This gave me time to get there. So on Friday, 1 July, the Red Rockette flew 5 flights of thanks to the local military and civilian folks at and around RAF Akrotiri who had been so kind to me. A number of Young Eagles were among the passengers that day as well. Lot’s of big smiles around when one gets a Staggerwing ride. I hesitate in naming individuals for several reasons. With the days flying completed, the old girl was partially packed up and put to bed. It was really wonderful to be “back in the military” for a little while…I loved it. One has to admire deeply the folks who make the military a career these days. I am so proud of them.

Having already checked out of my hotel, I returned to Paphos, some 40 miles away to spend the last days with the old friends. They had been so kind and patient with me. After my last 6pm Mass at the ancient chapel where St. Paul had been tied to a pillar and beaten, it was back up the hill to the Kamares area. Several Campari’s and a fine dinner later, I was exhausted.

Sunday morning it was last minute packing, final goodbyes and off to return the rental car. A ride had been offered back to Akrotiri by the young RAF Officer who had been my “go to guy” at the airbase. A nice dinner with he and a young USAF Officer who had turned the Staggerwing’s prop, etc while I was gone, a short nap, and it was time to go.

Monday, 4 July was another beautiful day in Cyprus. Regulations required that I fly back to a civilian Int’l airport, in this case Paphos, to clear customs, etc., refuel, pay the breathtaking bills, and head away to Corfu for the first night. I knew that no matter how early I got started, and was early, that flying to Paphos, completing all the formalities, refueling, and flying 700+ miles was going to be a full day. Corfu had been highly recommended and that was really good information. It was, indeed, a wonderful place to remain overnight.

To be continued…gotta take a nap.

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4 Responses to Journey to Austria earlier than expected–July 11, 2011

  1. Guy Clapshaw says:

    Dear Bill, This is the first time I’ve logged onto your epic journey and I’m impressed that you’ll soon be hearing Glaswegian in your earphones as you near Glasgow’s Abbottsinch airport. Your journeying inspired me to embark on a similar journey last month – but only about 4% of the distance you’ve travelled ‘though. Yes, I’ve finally brought my Percival Proctor ‘DPP (Der Pheasant Plucker) to Auckland thanks to the help of a lot of people in New Zealand who gave me hot coffee and muffins when I landed for fuel en route. (I’d tried to buy blueberry muffins in Gore for my flight but some darned American had taken the whole country’s supply!). The flight took seven hours block time and I flew from dawn until ten minutes before sunset. Tremendous fun! I’ll be following your flight with interest and respect ’cause it took me eleven years and ten days to get ‘Der Pheasant Plucker’ from Mandeville to Ardmore. Happy flying, Captain Bill. Rgds from the Mandeville Mob ! Guy Clapshaw.

  2. Jules Tapper says:

    Hi Bill
    Glad to hear all goes well. In a remarkable coincidence we spent just over two weeks in Austria just up the Pinzgau Valley from you when you were at Zell. We were staying with son Angus’s mother in law at Mittersill. We loved that area and all the walks and sighteseeing plus the wonderful Red Bull Hangar 7 at Salzburg.
    Later on Charlie and the RNZAF boys down in Aix en P really looked after us when we came by. He is now back here in NZ with the team.
    Love to hear more recent news as it is now in the last week of August and I note your last post was 11 July All the best Jules & Jenny

  3. bob hoff says:

    Bill, Just checked on you, hope all is well. N114H just ventures NA but is with you in
    spirit. Go on VIMEO (staggerwing). Best to your travels, enjoy the updates. Bob

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