German Pilot Makes a Round the World Trip in Memory of his Friend. VIA RUSSIA
Stefan Mommertz is a pilot in command of Airbus A350-900 with a large airline. And every time he gets opportunity he continues his own round the world voyage. Obviously that requires a lot of preparation and coordination. Such approach is very different to most other Earthrounders. Stefan is very focused on the task and plans to complete his round the world journey this year.
The right way to do it was to divide the trip into parts. The first leg happened in August 2018, Germany – Borneo. For the last part Stefan plans to land in Switzerland and take his mother aboard. «She will accompany me on my last flight to Germany. I owe her all. Mother always drove me to the local airfield when I was a boy. I flew gliders before I was allowed to ride small motorcycles», he says.
Stefan dedicated his round the world voyage to his friend – John T. Kounis, who died in June 2015. He was an outstanding pilot, one of the founders of Pilot Getaways Magazine. NASA engineer, world traveler, private pilot and a great enthusiast of general aviation. International AOPA web site gives a detailed story of John T. Kounis.
Stefan came up with an idea to do round the world trip dedicated to his friend while resting between flights. He started thinking of a great adventure he lives through. An adventure that became real due to efforts of many people. The point is in the people, not money. Stefan flies his round the world voyage on a Cessna A185, N6275E, that John T. Kounis found, modified and ferried over the ocean for him. Stefan Mommertz: “We put a lot of mods into it: E.g. Wing tip tanks to increase the range. So called skylights, which are windows in the roof. And many many more modifications to make it - what we called it: a mission plane. A plane that can go almost everywhere. All these modifications required a lot of research and work which was done by him and his brother in the US.”
John T. Kounis wanted this aircraft to see the most remote parts of the world. Here’s a short excerpt from Stefan’s interview to Klipp TV about his journey.
Proper planning is the key to a successful journey, says German pilot. Stefan tried to plan his voyage in such a way as to pass above the Polar Circle during the warmest period with longest daylight. This however created weather problems elsewhere - in the tropics. He took a decision though to fly the cold part of the route in summer months with better chances to avoid trouble in case of emergency or incidents.
The route included Russian territory too. MAK General Aviation Services assisted Stefan with all paperwork, permits, fueling and scheduling.
Anadyr – Magadan – Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
Bureaucracy? What bureaucracy? – Stefan asked surprised when we wondered how difficult it was to get all the paperwork required to fly over Russia. Stefan says the only problem with the documents is that you need to have the guts to sign papers you really do not understand, e.g. in Сyrillic.
He got his visa easy and a set of papers awaited him at every stop along the route.
"Of course airport employees should be doing their job. But in my case everything was done in a friendly and efficient (what can I do, I am german after all!) manner.” Stefan recalls that he saw a Bering Air aircraft and disembarking tourists from Alaska. “This curious expression on their faces was telling me: wow this is Russia! Tourism across the Bering Sea. Nothing more natural than this.”
Stefan crossed the border in Anadyr (UHMA) and refueled. Thanks to good planning and organization he managed to leave the same day for Magadan (UHMM). This was important as the weather was rapidly changing for worse.
After spending the night in Magadan UHMM the following morning was very beautiful. The early morning light was mystically veiled by haze and smoke caused by forest fires. Next stop was Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (UHSS). All stops were very brief but Stefan managed to collect a lot of impressions. He’s not just a private pilot, but his whole life is about flying, so he manages to capture a lot in a short lapse of time. Because of his work Stefan is a connoisseur of hotel breakfasts. He says breakfast in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk was excellent – a fusion of Western and Eastern tastes.
At all points where Stefan refueled everything went smooth. In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk fuel pump broke, but the fuel guy promptly found another one and helped him to get underway.
Stefan thinks that foreign pilots are indeed a bit afraid of flying into Russia. A lot of papers required, language problems, no clear understanding of procedures. But he insists that coming to Russia was a wonderful experience and our country has a lot to offer to travelers.
At MAK General Aviation Services we continuously work on demystifying flights to Russia. We assist and support foreign pilots with flights to Russia or Russian leg of their round-the-world trip.
Stefan Mommertz has flown from Nome PAOM to Anadyr UHMA, Magadan UHMM, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk UHSS to Sapporo RJCC.