I recently flew on a LFH BN
-2 from the tiny airfield of Harle to the island of Wangerooge in Northern Germany and thought the trip might be an interesting trip report. I might be wrong but I think it is the first trip report on LFH.
I always was interested in the Island services offered in Northern Germany to the East Frisian Islands but never managed to visit the area.
When good friends invited us to their wedding north of Bremen this summer there was finally a very good reason to visit the area and extend the trip a bit to include a flight to an island.
As the topic line already implied I selected a day trip to the island of Wangerooge with LFH - Luftverkehr Friesland Harle in full - from the small airfield in Harle, right next to the sea and the port where the boats depart to Wangerooge.
There are seven large East Frisian Islands and all of them have small airports which have had regular scheduled air services by the 3 carries OLT, FLN
and LFH. However earlier this year Germany followed failed examples from other countries and introduced a new departure tax which adds €10 to each domestic flight. Unfortunately the Island flights weren’t exempt, even though they provide an important lifeline to the island communities especially as ferry timetables are subject to tides and often can’t run for days in adverse weather condition during the winter season. The 3 above mentioned airlines launched a joint complaint with the EU to exclude the essential air services to the Islands from the tax but a final verdict hasn’t been made yet. As €10 are quite a significant increase on average ticket price of €40-€55 for the short hops the tax has had a severe impact on passengers numbers and as a result some islands lost their regular scheduled flights with only ad hoc flights remaining for the time being.
The three scheduled services currently remaining are OLT from Emden to Borkum in the West right next to the Dutch border, FLN
serving Juist from Norden while LFH is serving the easternmost island Wangerooge from Harle. All airlines offer hourly or even more frequent service in the peak season and flight times are as short as 5 minutes.
After informing myself about the flight times on the informative websites of all three airlines we decided to use the day trip option flying from Harle to Wangerooge in the morning and using the afternoon ferry for the way back. The decision for LFH and Wangerooge was mainly made for geographical convenience as Harle is the easternmost departure point and it was easiest to reach from Hamburg and the wedding venue near Bremerhaven after the daytrip. Borkum with OLT on their rare Gripsland Airvan would have been interesting as well but unfortunately too far away this time. Well something left for the next trip.
The LFH website gives detailed information on their operation and prices but there is no online booking facility. So I had to call LFH in Harle to check availability, there aren’t that many seats on an Islander after all, and make a reservation. The reservation process was the easiest I ever encountered. They just wanted my name, no need to give the name for the second passenger as they just would keep two seats under my name. No credit card needed neither to pay nor hold the seats as we will pay on check in, and not even a phone number. Well they like to keep things simple as the friendly lady told me. And they do have trust in their passengers as there wouldn’t have been any way in tracing me if we just wouldn't have turned up. But it must work I suppose. So the whole booking took about a minute and after advising that we should be at the airport around 10-15 minutes before departure I was given a hearty goodbye. Nice to see that flight booking can be so uncomplicated and straightforward these days.
The trip started with an Easyjet flight from LGW
where I met my wife who flew up from Munich with Air Berlin after having spent a few days there. I decided to have a separate report for this here:
LGW-HAM/BRE-STN On EZY&FR + Aeronauticum (by IL62Mdakar Sep 25 2011 in Trip Reports)
From Hamburg we drove over to Carolinensiel and stayed the night before we stayed at a small B&B in nearby, just 2 miles from the airport in Harle.
The historic port of Carolinensiel
On the next day we drove to Harle for 5 minutes and reached the small airport about 10 minutes before departure, we were actually the first passengers to arrive.
Access to the terminal is a bit funny as you need to cross the vast long-term car park where people leave their cars when taking the ferry to Wangerooge drive up the dyke and then finally find a space near the terminal. Parking for the day is €5 by the way and payable when entering the car park.
Of course my name was on the list for 2 tickets and after paying in cash we got a small printed tickets and a chipcard with the “Kurtaxe” (tourist tax) and the ferry tickets for the return journey.
Minutes later the pilot just shouted “ All passengers to Wangerooge please” and without any security or ticket check we entered the apron walking over to our Islander.
Everything was actually that quick that I even forgot to take a picture inside if the Terminal. Unfortunately I only noticed at home.
However I took a few photos of another LFH BN
-2 while walking across the apron. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t too inviting.
The pilot loaded a few parcels into the hold while we climbed aboard. Free seating of course.
The LFH staff park their cars on the apron.
I probably could have asked for the copilot seat which remained empty but I opted to sit in the second row together with my wife. That way we had a better view of the Cockpit anyway.
6 out of 9 seats were taken. Not a bad load.
Without further ado the flight started. No words or safety briefing. Just switching on the engines and off we went. I always like how uncomplicated flights with an Islander are, no matter what continent you are on.
Taxing to the end of the runway in Harle.
Of course the BN
-2 hardly needs a lot of runway and we smoothly lifted into the North German sky.
Immediately after take off we took a sharp turn to the left over the dike and crossed the ferry port…
…before heading straight to Wangerooge across the stormy North Sea. Despite the strong winds the flight actually wasn't bumpy at all.
On the other side you could even see some seals resting on a sand bank.
No other in-flight entertainment
Wangerooge coming into sight.
The uninhabited East of the Island.
The runway was already visibly to the left and we started a deep descent.
Followed by a smooth touchdown on the paved and remarkably long runway (850m) 28 of Wangerooge before taxying down to the Terminal.
So my shortest flight so far was over though it actually felt longer than 5 minutes.
After deboarding some more pics of our Islander in front of the Wangerooge Terminal.
Wangerooge’s small terminal.
D-ILFA heading back to Harle after a few minutes on the ground.
The weather outside wasn’t still too pleasant at but we decided to brave the wind and rain and take the short walk down to the town center.
Once we reached we strolled through every single souvenir shop to find shelter from the rain.
When the rain finally eased a bit we made it to the deserted beach. On a sunny day the typical German beach chairs offer a nice protection from the wind…but not today.
Summer in Northern Germany…
When I planned the day trip I imagined a nice day on the beach but since it was way too cold and windy and there wasn’t really anything else to do, we opted to stay in a Cafe overlooking the beach to enjoy lunch and cake for the next two hours or so.
Of course just when we had to head back to the ferry the sun came out. ;-(
Iconic old lighthouse – the landmark of Wangerooge.
The ferry port is on the other side of the island and linked to the main village by a small train.
The 20 minute ride is quit scenic.
Reaching back to the mainland.
After reaching Harle I walked back a few minutes to the airport to pick up the car. The way leads over the dike where you have a brilliant overview over the airfield.
While D-IEST is coming back. As you can see not in the standard livery. LFH is also trading as “Inselflieger” – literally Island flyers.
While D-ILFH is heading off for another hop to the Islands.
As the dyke is right behind the runway you can nicely see the sharp turn left after take off.
As the sun was out now I had to take a few more photos of LFH’s fleet. After quickly asking for permission in the terminal walking around on the apron to take photos wasn’t any problem.
LFH also has 4 Cessna’s 175 in the fleet which operate on schedule services as well when loads are low.
Afterwards we headed to the wedding venue in a farm North of Bremen and enjoyed brilliant 3 days with our friends.
As always thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this trip about one of the more exotic aspects of aviation in Germany. The Islands are beautiful and flying on an Islander for a 5 minute hop is always great fun. I just can recommend doing it if you happen to be in the area. Questions and comments are always welcome.
[Edited 2011-09-25 12:34:40]