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THF = 75!

Long time readers and friends already know that I have more than my fair share of geekiness.

Those of you who find my airport, aircraft, and airline list endearing, will take heart in the fact that Friday afternoon I added a new airport, a new aircraft, and a new airline.

Berlin TempelhofIn order: Tempelhof, DC-3, and Air Service Berlin.

Back in February whilst having dinner with Snooker, I was bemoaning the fact that it was difficult to fly through Berlin Tempelhof and that I was going to have to find some excuse to take a flight through the airport and that I had missed an opportunity back last fall to fly on Brussels Airlines from Brussels to Berlin Tempelhof.

Tempelhof is an interesting airport for a number of reasons, including the fact that it is substantially a Nazi designed and built facility, it received the goods during the Berlin Airlift, and that it is going to close (in all likelihood) in the near future—although there is a referendum in Berlin on whether or not the airport should be closed later this month—posters are all over town urging people to vote for keeping it open or closing it.

Rosinenbomber ZeitreiseAnyhow, Snooker revealed an interesting, albeit expensive, solution to my Tempelhof desire: the Rosinenbomber. The Rosinenbomber (Literal Translation: Raisin Bomber; or, more loosely, the Candy Bomber) is a restored DC-3 Aircraft that one can fly around Berlin and Potsdam for a mere 159€.

“Ha!,” I thought: I get my 75th airport (Tempelhof = THF), the DC-3, and a new airline, Air Service Berlin. What more could I want?!

After my aborted March trip, I finally took flight Friday afternoon—and, although 2008 promises to be an exciting year, I think my trip on the Rosinenbomber is a definite highlight. It will be hard for Istanbul to top the thrill feeling the engines of a DC-3 accelerate. As excellent an experience as Fado was, it cannot match the thrill seeing Berlin from 900 meters.

For those of you who are really dedicated, you can read a complete “trip report” that is being cross posted to the FlyerTalk Trip Reports section. This version is better because the photos will be incorporated, but if you want to see what other people think of the trip report, additional comments will be on FlyerTalk. Of course, maybe nobody will leave any comments at all. (FlyerTalk Version Here.)

If you want to see the complete set of photos, you can see my Flickr slideshow, or look at the Flickr Set.

Templehof DeparturesTrip Report (THF-THF)
ASB 005
DC-3 (D-CXXX): Rosinenbomber
Rosienenbomber’s literal translation is Raisin Bomber; or, more loosely, the Candy Bomber
Frequent Flier Miles Earned: Zero.
Ticket price: 159€

Check-in for the 16:30 flight began at about 15:15. After turning over my ticket and showing my new passport, I was assigned seat 5A and given a red tear-away armband—the kind that one would normally associate with proof of payment for getting into a club, or proving that you’re old enough to drink at a mixed ages event venue in the States. Applied to my right wrist, the armband was my key for getting into the Officer’s Lounge.

Before I headed into the lounge, I snapped a picture of the departures board which was cute because it listed the flights from Berlin Tempelhof to Berlin Tempelhof. Despite listing the flights on the departure boards, they were not listed on the arrivals board.

Officers LoungeFrequent Travelers, the kind that inhabit FlyerTalk, will be unhappy to know that the lounge was not airside, it was landside. The fantastic view of the apron offset this pre-security club. All 28 passengers for the flight gathered in the small lounge, as well as non-traveling partners of the passengers. There were unlimited free beverages—including sparkling wine, Coke, beer, and water. Additionally, free pastries from Dunkin’ Donuts were available. The lounge-staff were quite attentive, using a drink cart to bring drinks to everybody, regardless of where they were in the lounge. Later they also brought the pastries around. There were several chairs and it was decorate with a Berlin-Airlift motif.

The view of the tarmac was fascinating. Tempelhof, despite being the best located airport in Berlin, is very quiet with only a handful of airlines and routes. During my time in the lounge I watched an InterSky flight arrive and depart, as well as one from Cirrus Airlines. The lounge is located under the canopy and is in the shade, which made taking pictures a bit challenging.

Rosinenbomber ZeitreiseWe could also see our DC-3/C47 parked and the passengers for an earlier flight boarding. The crowd gathered around the windows to watch it taxi off and then take off from the distant runway.

At about 4:30 we were ushered into the cinema where we watched a brief film covering the history of Berlin Airlift. The English language promotional materials suggest that one will see “‘moving’ pictures of ‘moving’ times.” Given that my German is really poor, I missed a lot of the spoken content (although I probably understood 50% of it), which probably caused me to focus on the video more than I should have, since I noticed the same five or six pieces of film being used two or three times each—maybe even four times each. During the film we met our stewardess, who would pause the film and add more to the video.

Rosinenbomber ZeitreiseAfter the video was over, we were escorted into the main hall of the terminal to a mural depicting the history of the Berlin airlift. The German promptly got too complicated for me to easily understand.

Once complete, we were escorted to the security checkpoint and about half of the group was allowed to use the employee security checkpoint, while the other half used the regular passenger checkpoint. I was not surprised when the two people in front of me set off the metal detector: belts and suspenders are going to do that. I had nothing on me: my camera, watch, belt, mobile phone, and wallet were all in the x-ray tray, and I still set off the machine. After a through pat-down, including the guard running his finger around the inside of my blue jeans’ waist, I was allowed to go on—and I suspect that the machine was set to be triggered randomly. I had waltzed right through the US Consulate’s security system with the same clothing in the morning.

After everybody cleared security, we gathered at gate A1 and were escorted out onto the tarmac, to walk to the Rosinenbomber.

Rosinenbomber ZeitreiseThe last time I saw a DC-3 in person, I was a kid and everything seemed big—now as an adult and a regular on DC-9s (at least until Northwest Airlines retires them), as well as widebody planes, I can say that the plane was a lot smaller than I expected. The cabin was, save for the first row, three seats across, one on the left and two on the right. The first row had four seats, and there were 9 rows. The main cabin door was located at the rear of the plane, and behind the door, on the left side of the plane was the stewardess’s seat. The back right side of the plane was, loosely speaking, the galley.

There was no toilet on the plane.

Rosinenbomber ZeitreiseI walked uphill to my seat, seat 5A, which was on the left side of the plane, just at the back edge of the wing, row 4 clearly had problems looking down, or relatively speaking downward. I was able to see behind the wing and downward easily, but the wing tends to be at the right side of most of my photos, and I am too lazy to edit the photos.

There were a plethora of cameras on the plane and they were in full use from boarding to deplaning. Lots of photos were being taken during the boarding process and then through the windows as the plane started and we taxied off to the runway.

Rosinenbomber ZeitreiseIt was here that we heard the cheesiest announcement of the flight: Yes, the plane is old and it requires manual piloting, and Air Service Berlin employs only pilots who have been specially trained to fly these flights. In comparison Lufthansa must hire any old untrained pilots to fly their 737s to Hamburg and obviously any fresh faced pilot who knows how to fly a Cessna, is qualified to fly a 747 across the Pacific!

We quickly lined up on runway 27L, powered up and took off.

Rosinenbomber ZeitreiseFrom Tempelhof we headed west toward Potsdam. My geographic knowledge of Berlin was a bit weak and I lost track of where exactly we were until I spotted Schloß Sanssouci. We flew maybe two or three minutes beyond there, before executing a turn to the left, which was followed shortly there after by a turn to the right: passengers on both sides of the plane got to see the ground and the sky quite clearly. From there we headed east, passing Olympiastadion, the Kasier-Wilhelm Church, Potsdamerplatz, Alexanderplatz, flying a bit past Volkspark Friedrichshain, before making a turn to the right and coming in for a landing, back where we started.

DC3 EngineAfter landing, the plane taxied back to the terminal and when we got near our parking place, the engines were turned off and we coasted to our final resting position. We were then allowed to wander around the plane and take all the photos we wanted—and around the plane we did wander. It’s an incredibly beautiful plane—the propeller engines are art, and the plane looks like a plane ought to look.

Flug ZertificateWe returned to the terminal and exited into the main hall where we collected our flight certificates. As I was meeting a friend for an early dinner at Perlin, a wine bar near the Zionskirche, at 6:30, I left promptly: I walked out the front doors, across the parking lot, around the Platz der Luftbrucke, and into the U-bahn station. It’s not the shortest walk I’ve ever had to public transport from an airport, but it’s amongst the easiest.

Try doing that at Frankfurt or Dulles.

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