Airliner Classics is a fixed appointment for aviation lovers in Germany and around Europe. The event brings to the small town of Speyer, in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz, a number of old airliners kept in perfect shape and often even carrying crews dressed in the original uniforms of the time. I won’t be telling too many technical details, because these you can find on all the specialised magazines that every year follow the event and on the website of the organiser (http://airliner-classics.de/).
What I would like to transmit is the special atmosphere that you can enjoy at these event, because it says a lot about the value that aviation has for the Germans.
Let’s start from the location. The airport of Speyer-Ludwigshafen (ICAO code: EDRY) is located around 90 km south of Frankfurt am Main and is one of the most beautiful airports I can think of thanks to its proximity to the Rhine river and the incredible view that pilots enjoy landing on runway 16 or taking of on runway 34. In facts, next door to the airport, the Technik Museum Speyer has its seat and one of its most prominent features, a decommissioned 747 by Lufthansa, stands at 30m of height greeting all air traffic.
Despite a thunderstorm in the early morning, hundreds of aviation fans were already on the apron when I arrived and, with their cameras, they were already violating all secret details of Antonov, a Yak and a MH1521 Broussard.
The crowd was mostly German, but with a few Americans here and there, due to the vicinity of a couple of US Army basis. There were people of any age. Then, a sudden buzz preceded the DC3 of Swissair, which made her appearance escorted by two Beechcraft 18. It is glorious view to see the DC3 gently touching down on the wet runway. The shiny body of the plane and the water on the asphalt fill the eye with light. Right after her, the two Beech 18 also touched down.
In matter of minutes the sky opened up completely, and war birds and passenger planes intensified the pace of arrivals. The variety of planes and the numerous crowd tells a lot about how much Germans love aviation and how well they manage to preserve its most historical treasures.
But the beauty of this event, is not only linked to the historical value of the aircrafts present. I love the familiar atmosphere, the way everybody smiles and welcome warmly the pilots descending the ladders from their machines. I exchanged a few words with a young man of around 30 and I promised to send him the pictures of him standing close to the DC3, but he doesn’t have a facebook account. He said he works as flight instructor during the week ends and at the regional aviation authorities during the week. I concluded that he is probably one of the most connected persons I know anyway. Indeed, he seemed to know most of the pilots in the area. He showed me pictures of him crossing Frankfurt International on board of a L39 commanded by a famous aerobatic pilot and then pictures of him piloting a PC-6 while carrying skydivers. There was always someone passing by who greeted him while we were talking. While we exchange the email details, I think that coming from a very different place and also a different culture, something took me off-guard. I was indeed somehow, stupidly, surprised by how the aviation crowd here seems more like an open and welcoming family.