A base visit at Wittmund Hafen
13-05-2008. WITTMUND AIRBASE - Spotting group Panoravia had a great offer to attend a base visit at Germany's Phantom Phightertown (though Neuburg was still operating Phantoms at the time aswell). Panoravia and spotting group GRAS had arranged for us to go to hangars, at aprons, along the runway, to see preserved aircraft and to lunch in the mess hall. We should go on our own behalf and the weather forecast looked good.
Since I didn't have a car I asked on the Panoravia forum if I could go with someone as a KDF (a abbreveation of cost lowering factor in Dutch). Erik went on his own anyway and replied I could go with him. We arranged to meet at a truck stop just out of town and I packed my bag. Lacking new material for my 'Mensen zien ze vliegen' (People See Them Fly) photo serie it was a great opartunity to do so was my idea. Next day I got up early, grabbed a bite to eat and went on my bike. Arriving just early gave enough time for a sigaret, clockwork! We where on our way and I was surprised to see how short the drive was. Maybe it was just very sociable. How strainge was it to be at Wittmund airbase outside the fence. We would rendevous at the camp later on so we went outside the base first. This airbase looked so much like Hopsten. This was a Phantom base before it was closed down in 2005. Luckily the fence just as low as Hopsten's. Sadly though we couldn't use it much because some overcast prevented the first flight of the day. I did manage to get some nice pictures of spotters there. Then we had to go to the camp to meet up with averyone.
Some foumiliar faces appeared at the parking just at the other side of a preserved Phantom on a pole. After a short while everybody was present and we went in. A bus was waiting for us.
On the drive towards the base I asked if anyone would have any problems if I'd take pictures of them for my project. Just a bit before a spotter at Florennes in Belgium was giving me glances of dissaprovel and I overheard him later on about what drives a person to spot spotters... Offcource most people think just that of aircraft spotters, witch I try to awnser with my project. So in a way I might do him a favour and he didn't approach me personally. Maybe in the age of internet with its forums and weblogs he didn't want his face everywhere. A thing I try to respect here aswell. Anyway, in the bus one person didn't want himself to prominent in the picture. Otherwise no one had trouble with it. Probable because Sjoerd explained my idea so well to everyone. Kudos! We got on the base and the first thing to do was to go on an apron for the spotters who write down numbers. We had to go to a hangar in time. Here a Phantom and a WO ll Messerschmit propellor aircraft where displayed for us. Everyone crowded around them, took a lot of pictures and got a chance to have a close look at the aitcraft. Just before we had to go there some guys found out a back door to have a piss round back. A good idea since we would go to some other places and prabably won't have such a good chance to go. We all got in the bus again and went on to a preserved Phantom.
This Phantom was the goodbye Hopsten aircraft in special paintsceme. Situated at a taxi strip near a building. Close to it was the hangar where the Skyhawks flown by a civillian company. Sadly for us they wouldn't fly that day but we could take a look inside the hangar. Just recently a new one arrived from the Israelian airforce in a beautiful camo paint sceme. Others where grey or white with a blue line. Very nice aircraft to see since they have a great history going back to the Vietnam war when the US NAVY flew them off carriers, alongside with Phantoms. As if they knew the two aircraft go together well.
It was time to see F-4's taking off! At a small hill at the beginning of the runway was our spot. From here we could see them taxiing and taking off from all sides. One aircraft was doing some touch and go's when a few Phantoms came out of the shelter area. The sun was shining and it couln't get any better. We all had great shots of Phantoms that day.
When one F-4 was still making touch and go's we had to walk to the hangar where we already saw the wonderfully camouflaged Skyhawk was rolled out for us to photograph. A white one was also put next to it. It couldn't get any better really. For a small fee we all got to eat at the mess hall.
As last activety we went halfway the runway where a old F-4 and F-104 where situated. These aircraft are used for battle damage repair so that ment they had a lot of patched up holes on them. While we where there a C-160D Transall came in making a war zone landing. Quite spectacular to see such a large plane diving for the runway. It came in to bring supplies to the base.
Now we went back to the camp to make a group photo and say goodbye again. Since it was still early in the afternoon, sunny and Phantoms where still in the air we went back outside the base again. After the main road we went onto small back roads to the fence and where just in time to photograph the Transall leaving. After it many Phantoms flew out, came back and made touch and go's. A lot of great photo's here aswell.
Because the securety wasn't so keane on all of the spotters along the fence, and the sunlight got to much away, we descided to go to the landing lights. A narrow dirt road went through the line of lightposts and I made some nice pictures of Phantoms coming in to land. A great day at an even greater base!