Flying to the End of the World

Flying their own plane across the Atlantic was a dream come true for SAP employees Tina and Gunter Haug.

“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes
turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”

Leonardo da Vinci’s words on reaching for the skies certainly ring true for Tina and Gunter: Flying has become part of their lives.

Crossing the Atlantic

The couple bought their single-engine Mooney 252 aircraft seven years ago and in August 2017, the two set off on the adventure of a lifetime: flying across the Atlantic. Their destination? South America. “It was something we had always dreamed of,” says Tina.

Gunter adds, “Flying your own plane across the Atlantic is a real adventure in a small aircraft. It is a vast expanse of water. You’d be naive if you didn’t feel any fear at all. It’s a serious challenge. And that is what makes touching down on the other side so special.”

Their route led them from Germany’s Mannheim airport to Greenland and the U.S., and on to Tierra del Fuego, a group of islands off the southern coast of South America. Its capital, Ushuaia, known as El Fin del Mundo or the end of the world, is the world’s southernmost city.

The journey took them to 62 airports and 20 countries. On March 16, 2018, after six months away and a total of 168 hours in the air, the couple arrived back on German soil.

Planning the journey was an accomplishment in itself: Each country they wanted to fly over or land in had its own approval process. The easy option would have been to ask an agency to obtain all the approvals for them. But, as Tina explains: “Doing everything ourselves was part of the adventure.”

Being able to speak Spanish helped when planning the South American leg. As with any journey of this kind, no matter how meticulous the preparation, the unexpected always happens. For instance, when they were heading back home via the Azores, the couple had to wait for nine days in Newfoundland for the February weather to improve.

Tina is a product owner in the Intelligent Enterprise Group; Gunter a development architect in Technology and Innovation. Their German employment contracts enabled them to convert salary to free time, offering flexibility to take a longer time off. “I realized at some point that the world wouldn’t end if I took a six-month career break. Work is not everything. We always knew that there is more to life than our careers,” says Tina.

Giving Back

To learn more about aircraft maintenance, Gunter is currently taking a six-month sabbatical for an internship with the maintenance team at an airplane hangar at Mannheim airport. He is also one of the flight instructors at a local flight club, where Tina also teaches radio communications.

For Gunter, training as a mechanic is a refreshing change from his work at SAP. Getting used to life as a trainee mechanic was not easy, especially because it is physically demanding. “I wouldn’t want to do it forever,” he says. “I’m really happy at SAP. But doing something completely different for a while is a great experience.”

Good Communication Is Everything

In the cockpit, Tina and Gunter have distinct roles when it comes to demanding flights like the Atlantic crossing. Gunter is the “pilot flying,” the person in control of aircraft, while Tina is the “pilot not flying,” and handles the radio communications, for instance.

Clearly defined roles and team work are essential when flying a plane: “You are relying on that other person, and you have to have complete trust in one another. As a couple and cockpit crew, we try to have a highly professional approach to flying. That means you can’t just do your own thing.”

Their shared hobby has taught Tina and Gunter valuable lessons for their careers. “Good communication is everything. Tell it like it is,” says Gunter. Tina agrees: “As a product owner, I have a great deal of contact with other teams and with people outside the company. I’ve always been very direct, but actually that’s a good thing. It’s not about offending people but simply about not skirting the issues.”

Having flown the Atlantic, there are no plans for any more long trips right now, but there are dreams. “The ultimate adventure would be to fly around the world. We’ve no plans to do thatyet,” says Gunter.

Click each thumbnail for a view into their journey!

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