The Caps

A330 LTU
A330 LTU

At Karlsruhe, with Rhein Control, there also was a monkeys rock, which was a galery for visitors covering the whole faceside of our Controlroom. Because the co-owner of the control center, Eurocontrol, was very proud of this facility, at least one time of the day there were guided tours of visitors on this galery.
As time goes by, we as the control personel got used to these cattle boost and just ignored them, there were more important things to do.
Some of these groups made it after the monkey rock, in smaler portions, into the control room and were, only because of their physical existence, very unpopular. They gathered very near behind us, set up very interested faces and came closer not to miss something.
For us, the personel, it became interesting from the time on, when the herd-leader from Eurocontrol started his lecture. He, normally, started with a description of the work, our work, an pointed out the continuous decision between life and death!
Our question about the adequate payment was always ignored.

These groups appeared, without us knowing about them before.
One day, there was a leak in the “belle etage”, which informed us about an upcomming group, the police of Karlsruhe.

This was finally a group, we were able to handle.
In the assumption, these ladies and gentlemen of the Karlsruhe police had a sense of humor, we had prepared a little joke for them.

It all started with the cops passing the access control.
Check of the Id-cards, handing out of the visitor passes and then passing through the claustrophobia lock.
In short, now they were on the side of the checked persons, a new experience for this ladies and gentlemen.
Then, they went upstairs to the wardrobe and placed their coats and caps.
Our plan started right here.
They had to pass the access control in the basement, which was monitored by a guard. For the save conduction of our plan this man had to go, we sure did not want him to get any knowledge of what was going on here.
So we descided to get rid of him.
We called him, in a very official sound, to move immediately to his control office at the car entrance.
As we were sure, he arrived at his office, we collected all the police caps and transported them to a save place.

“At this point I have to be a little cautious, because I don’t know when the stealing of
police caps is barred and will not be prosecuted anymore.” Some mentioned it will be 30 years?
As we had no use for such an amount of police caps, we thought of, depending on the situation, a couple of ways to send them back. If they had a sense of humor, at the beer in our canteen, called also “dirty spoon”, after their visit is complete, there would be a box in the corner with all these caps and we all would have something to laugh about.
If they had no humor at all, we would send the box with the caps to a police office in the city to be transferred to their owners.
This was our way to stay in good memory by the Karlsruhe police.

But everything turned out different…

The visit of the “green group” was relaxed, until they reached the wardrobe. Even for police, they very fast recognized the loss of the caps.
First, they showed helplessness, then wild confusion.
After a while, the leader of the group of visitors asked the “belle etage” for help.
There were hot discussions which came to the conclusion: All doors should be closed and all entrances and exits should be guarded.
This turned out very handy, the police was already in the house.

Naturally our administrators blamed us, the control personal, and saw us trapped.
After a while of embarrassing silence, guarding all doors, they recognized, no caps are showing this way.
The new plan was to search the whole building.
“What we did not knew was, a policeman without a cap was not able to show up in public. This was forbidden and he could be punished doing it. So these poor people were not able to leave the building.”

Such a search of a big building is not simple and so they ordered reinforcement from their police colleges outside.
It took 15 minutes and twenty new policemen, with caps, made their way through the claustrophobia lock.
Of course we got the search efforts and friendly asked them to show us the warrant for this.
No answer, maybe it was not nescessary because of the immediate danger situation.

The seriousness and the effort which was shown now was very astonishing to us, nobody had thought of that a little joke can have such big effect.
But now, there was no way back.

The serious search also happend to our very upset technicians, it lasted two hours and there was no evidence of hats which were green.
This was also not possible, because these green caps left the area well before all this and stayed at a save place. “I can’t say more, nobody knows.”
Now they ordered by an “order de Mufti”, as we called it, interviews to all personal.
For us, the whole story lasted about three hours, it turned out to be a bumerang, there was no relief from colleges to be expected, nobody was allowed to enter the building.
Our “belle etage” had turned the leadership of this case to the police and they made the descision to form interview teams and take one after another to an interrogation.
Some of us were asked to proceed to the interview room, but we all argued that without a relief we would not leave our position.
The police went in and tryed to rise the pressure on us to be interviewed, but we replied, that we do not let us force by the police to do something criminal. Leaving our controlposition may be a thread to air traffic.
This argumentation was well axaggerated but they stepped back.
Therefore our shyster from the “belle etage” were forced to make a list of all persons which are counted as suspects. After the list was complete the police guided our relief personal, in small groups, from the entrance at the basement to the control room and then to our working positions. Well done.

The interview was like this: First question was: “Who did it?”
My answer: “Who did what?”
They had no choice, they had to explain the whole facts, which naturally was known by me and therefore was very funny. My laughing was not accepted and they looked angry and got more formally.
They threatend me with the involvement of the prosecuting attorney which did not freightend me, because I had no idea what happens then.
Also the hint of no punishment for the one, who tells the name of the offender, did not impress me nor my colleges.
All these efforts showed no success and so the next day the case was given to the prosecuting attorney and our police department.
The Bundesanstalt für Flugsicherung send two attorneys from Frankfurt.

We were very excited about an article in our newspaper next days, saying something like:
Severe robbery at the air traffic control center Karlsruhe.
All the next weeks, every possible newspaper, nothing to read about.
What a coward police, this was not expected by us.

As all the humor we invested was gone, also the sending back of all this nice green caps was not possible anymore. Absolutely too dangerous.

Short and good, this case was never solved. The caps are gone and stay gone, until today.
As I know, the police of Karlsruhe never again visited us. What a pity.

Attn: Every member of the police, wearing a cap, should be aware of his cap at all times, if he is around with air traffic control personal!

Hummel 7

(translated by Juergen Matthes)

At most airports the police is present with a helicopter-squadron, this was also the case at our location. The police “resides” in Hangar 8, the LTU hangar, at the eastern edge of the airport. All helicopters carry the callsign “Hummel” (Bumble-Bee), followed by a number.

Since missions of the Bumble-Bees were not foreseeable, cooperation with us had to be somewhat special, as it was the case. We, the personnel of the tower, especially liked their canteen. Actually it was quite a cozy casino with superb food at reasonable prices.

One day, during a chat with the “cops” (this is meant affectionately and respectfully) at their casino, I asked them naively if it would be possible to ride along in a Hummel. To my astonishment the answer was: “Well, sure!”

All this was quite forgotten when at a nice, sunny Sunday morning the “cops” called on the radio and asked whether I was on duty. Yes, I was, and how I was on duty! Saturday had been a party, and I wasn’t quite awake yet! Besides, the midnight-snack consisting of goulash-soup was still milling about heavily in my belly!

Over my head our tower-chief arranged with the watch-supervisor of radar-control that I should fly Hummel today. Principally great, a flight with a helicopter something different and interesting, but my stomach didn’t seem to agree, he felt somewhat unsure.

“Cleared to hover in front of the tower” some time later the radio blared. This finished the discussion with my stomach, I had to move down. Hummel 7 was an Alouette 3, quite tiny as seen from the tower cab, but as closer I got, as bigger it got, and above all, as louder! The crew, 2 guys, were quite nice.

What I absolutely didn’t realize was the reversal of the relation between controllers and pilots of the squadron. Normally we gave them orders and the guys had to follow them. Now they had one from “the other side” on board and therefore the legitimation to show him what “bigshots” they were. Besides, they knew that everyone at the tower knew that I was on board and thus they would get any clearance they would request.

So they shamelessly took advantage of this and requested a special area for “training maneuvres”. Latest then I should have suspected what was to come, but I was busy talking to my stomach during climb, so I missed that.

Very friendly the pilot asked me whether I had heard of something like “autorotation” before. I hadn’t, thank heavens, since just the thought of that would have killed my stomach.

It started …

The helicopter climbed like crazy, the guys were fiddling with their seat-belts. Then the nice pilot killed the engine!! It got silent.

First, nothing happened. Then the chopper started to rotate around its vertical axis. It was like riding a roundabout.

Then it got faster.

The centrifugal forces nailed my arms to my body at first. Then I started to move up my backrest. When I reached the ceiling, I was completely lost and immovable.

Now I realized why the two guys had fastened their seat-belts so explicitly. I was glued to the ceiling, like a dead bug, completely helpless. The only thing I could comprehend was that the ground was coming closer – fast!

Like a miracle, the engine restarted and I dropped like a sack into my seat. My stomach was history, not even there any more, and I was wide awake.

After some allowedly cynical questions about my condition, the atmosphere relaxed, apparently I had passed, and the flight continued quite pleasant. Now it was time for our assignment, to look for oil pollution on the Rhine river caused by ships. The two pilots took advantage of this assignment to have fun. They hid hovering the helicopter behind a row of poplar trees at the bank of the Rhine and waited until a ship was close. Then, with high speed, hop across the poplar trees towards the ship and hower alongside of the bridge.

Oil polluters: No joy, but the two pilots were up to another situation which amused them quite much. It was funny indeed! During the tumble of the chopper towards the ship we noticed quite a fat woman at the steering wheel. Then a door crashed open and a fat man ran onto the bridge, shoved the woman aside, took the wheel and then sounded the horn. So that was the captain. The scene indicated that the woman was without patent. Offense: Steering a ship without license.

The loudspeaker attached to the chopper proved quite handy too. The phrase working best was: “Fishing is not allowed here!” Completely stunned faces looked upwards and then dropped behind.

Around ten o’ clock the two guys mentioned: “Time for breakfast!” We flew towards Duisburg harbour and landed alongside a cafe with a terrace. Engine off, radio to max-volume, and off to breakfast!

A strange feeling aroused within me, as the other guest eyed us up. They were somehow, not provable, but without doubt, all suspicious as they looked at us! Both pilots were aware of their impression and spoke friendly to the people. Pretty soon the ban was broken, they relaxed and my assumptions all went up in smoke, no criminals, just ordinary people. What the thought of me, the sloppy-dressed civilian, remained a secret.

Shortly after our refreshment the radio blared and we ran to the chopper. No offense, we had payed already right when we had ordered. New assignment, a chase!

From now on I was unnoticed, both pilots were busy talking to different agency on 3 different radio channels.

During a short pause in communication they asked my whether I could fill in and conduct the radio communication with the crime-department of the police. Our task was to find a light-blue Porsche on the freeway and guide the forces on the ground so they could stop the Porsche and arrest the driver. The driver had been identified by a highway patrol as violent criminal and they badly wanted to nail him.

For us this meant: Max speed. After ten minutes we spotted the Porsche, he was driving on the freeway towards Düsseldorf. When he noticed us, he swerved back and forth and then even went faster.

I was busy stating position and direction of the car, it is quite difficult if you don’t have practice doing that. But after a while I got used to the slang and it started to be fun! The Porsche had left the freeway and was speeding into town, our pilot was forced to use all tricks of pilotage. We shot across the houses so low that I was afraid some TV-Antennas would bring us down!

Naturally the driver knew by now that we were after him, he disregarded all traffic regulations. I felt it might be safer to give up the chase, the risk for others seemed to me to be quite high. But the crime-department of the police insisted on continuing, the man seemed important, they wanted him by all means. So we chased on.

From the air you have quite a good overlook and you can distinguish the tactics of the police. They arranged their patrol cars in a big circle which closed in according to our position reports. The possibilities for an escape dwindled more and more. Near a factory building the trap finally snapped close, patrol cars everywhere, he didn’t have a chance.

After five and a half hours the chopper finally dropped me off in front of the tower. After such an adventure you honestly are happy to return to your work at the tower. Hard to believe, but it is so!