German pilots swoop into Lake Placid

August 13, 2009
HEATHER SACKETT, News Staff Writer
   LAKE PLACID — Last weekend Lake Placid played host to international visitors like it always has. But the visitors from Europe that arrived on Saturday, Aug. 1 were a little different. About 32 pilots, plus some family and friends, in 18 small aircraft arrived at the Lake Placid Airport on their way back home from a three-week-long intercontinental journey.

    The trip was organized through a German aviation magazine called Pilot und Flugzeug (Pilot and Aircraft in English). The pilots and their planes were returning from an air show in Oshkosh, Wis. The event is held every year and thousands of pilots and their planes make the pilgrimage to the Midwest to attend.

    The group, mostly Germans and Austrians, made a stop in Lake Placid for a few days of rest and relaxation in between visiting New York City and flying to Quebec City on Monday to begin the return trip home. 

    “It’s a really good place to relax,” said trip organizer and publisher of Pilot und Flugzeug Jan Brill. “After a very exciting location, the crews have some time to relax. It’s very physically demanding to be in the airplane.”

    Brill is an engineer by trade, but bought the company that publishes Pilot und Flugzeug in 2004. He began his pilot’s career flying gliders when he was just 14 years old. Brill used to live in New York City where he worked for an investment bank, but never made the trek north to Lake Placid. He now lives in Vienna, Austria. It was the first visit to the Olympic Village for everyone in the group, he said.

    The magazine organizes an intercontinental trip every other year. Other trips have included China, South America and Australia. The pilots are not trying to do anything special or break any records, Brill said, they are just having fun flying their airplanes.

    “We are just using them in a normal capacity,” he said. “To come here with your own airplane is like personal exploration.”

    Since most of the aircraft are small, they can only fly a few hundred miles before they have to stop for fuel. Ulli Busche, a pilot from Cologne, Germany who has been flying for 20 years, explained that the route over from Germany included stops in Scotland, Iceland, Greenland and Canada before arriving in the states. The way back will be similar. He added that there is a fast lane and a slow lane depending on the type of aircraft. The trip will take about three weeks in the fast lane and three-and-a-half in the slow lane. The pilots reconvene in certain locations and have a group dinner or other get-together.

    Busche said he had been to the U.S before, but on commercial flights. This time, he flew his Swiss-made Pilatus PC-12.

    “This place is very famous in Europe,” he said, referring to Lake Placid. “There are beautiful views of the lakes and the hills.”

    Brill said the North America trip was “like heaven” compared to some of the other international trips. Sometimes getting around once on the ground can be a challenge, he said. But in Lake Placid, airport employees arranged for the group to be picked up and brought into town by the village trolley.

    “The infrastructure of the U.S. and Canada is not comparable to anywhere in the world and the costs are fairly low,” Brill said. “The approach, if you come here in good weather, it’s fantastic.”

Article Photos

Ulli Bushe, far left, and his crew made up of his friends from Cologne, Germany.

Heather Sackett/Lake Placid News



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