A Pleasant Trip to Germany – Part II
After the talkative cab ride to the Leipzig-Halle airport as mentioned in my previous … epic, I wrapped up my last half hour in the former DDR with the Besondere Frühstuck, the special breakfast, at what I would modestly insist is the best airport restaurant in the world. It’s called Ilyushin 18, and is named for one of the prettiest Soviet-era airliners, known more simply as the Il-18. The airplane, once the backbone of the DDR’s state-run airline Interflug, looks like the prettiest bits of a DC-6 and a Lockheed Electra (the 188), with just a hint of the bomber-style greenhouse cockpit that lends a slightly sinister air to most East-bloc civil aircraft of the day. The breakfast, meanwhile, the backbone of my assertion about the quality of the restaurant, was made from the tastiest bits of eggs and pigs, with hints of potatoes and cheese, and there was nothing sinister about it. Except, perhaps, its stubborn refusal to be available elsewhere.
The breakfast was delicious, and I left for my departure gate sated and well-prepared to enjoy the smug, comfortable decadence of another day in the soft life.
An Opportunist Knocks
When I went to Leipzig last year, my return flight was routed through München (Munich), which sparked an idea for this year’s trip: If I was going to pass through the city anyway, why not pay a visit to my contact Matthias Knopp, one of the curators of the world-renowned Deutsches Museum. I met Matthias two years ago when he attended a presentation I gave at a gathering of Air & Space Museums hosted by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. He’d expressed some interest in using Flight Simulator in the museum, and I’d promised to arrange a stopover at some point. Emails were exchanged, and, though Matthias himself was unavailable during the time I’d allotted, he arranged for me to meet with chief curators (titles) of the aviation collection of the main Deutsches Museum in downtown Munich, as well as the aviation-only satellite facility at Uber Schleißheim, the oldest continuously operating airport in Germany. The perfect chance to do a pleasurable bit of opportunistic business while I was in the neighborhood, as it were.
The flight from Leipzig to Munich takes about an hour and twenty minutes. Or at least I assume it still does, even if I wasn’t on it. Given the fact that every single person on the planet flocks to Leipzig for Game Convention, it only stands to reason that, when it is over, they all leave. And so it was that flights from Leipzig on the day after the show were booked nearly solid, and my hour-and-twenty-minute hop to Munich turned into a seven hour excursion, half of which was spent in the Vienna airport. If you know your Geographie, or can find your way around a map, this routing is thoroughly non-obvious to anyone not versed in the dark arts of airline scheduling.
Coincidentally, seven hours is the amount of time it would have taken me to travel directly to Munich by train, and an hour and twenty minutes is precisely the amount of time by which my flight to Vienna was delayed, thanks to a mechanical in Dresden.
Waiting at the gate, every quarter-hour or so the agent would make a lengthy and exceedingly detailed announcement in German that came across so fast I was lucky to catch one or two words per sentence: "Ladies and gentlemen … flight … furniture … Vienna … apple juice … minutes … thank you." Then, thankfully, she’d paraphrase the announcement in English, which was always the same: "There is not news about the flight. We will tell you later. Thank you."
Eventually the airplane arrived, and it was impressed upon us that we needed to board as quickly as possible. There was something over the PA about an apology for the hasty turnaround, alluding, I thought, to the fact that there wouldn’t be time to do a normal clean and prep of the cabin between flights because of the already lengthy delay. Again, when it came in English, it was a bit lacking in detail: "Here is the airplane. Board quickly, now. Thank you."
A Fool and His Luggage are Soon Parted
The flight, operated by Austrian Air under contract to Lufthansa, was short and pleasant, the thankfully-enjoyable-and-evocative-but-literally-non-stop strains of Strauss waltzes punctuated by a periodic series of apologies for the delay. It was the final apology, the one delivered as we were standing to deplane, that included a piece of information, tossed aside a near-afterthought, that really caught my attention. This apology, it turned out, was the one in which Austrian Air was not only still sorry for the delay, they were now sorry that they made us all board so quickly that they didn’t actually have time to take on any of our luggage. Of course, we were assured, it would catch up to us eventually, but would we please make sure to speak to the airline representative who would be waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs as we disembarked?
I have one piece of advice for anyone in my vast readership of several who might one day find themselves in a situation like this one: do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to be the last one off of the airplane. If you do, you will see the aforementioned airline representative ushering anyone who had checked baggage to report missing on to a bus, a bus that then will drive off (presumably to some magic Information Haus) without you, just a few steps before the soles of your shoes first touch the tarmacadam. Wilkommen im Die Österreich.
I spent the first half of my layover turning slowly in a circle, trying to figure out exactly who I should talk to, wondering if I’d even properly understood that last apology. I’ve lost bags on tight connections before, but I’ve never actually encountered an airline that consciously decided not to load the bags that were neatly assembled and waiting for the flight, just to save a few minutes on a schedule that had already been blown to bits. Eventually, the prudent thing to do seemed to be simply to deny the problem and worry about it when I got to Munich. My bag has traveled as much as I have, and I had every reasonable confidence that it was mature enough to find its way there on its own. I poked through the airport shops, and, in a spasm of non-jingoistic-self-deprecation, couldn’t resist buying a mug emblazoned with a yellow road sign, the silhouette of an animal, and the inscription in English (the only language in which the joke makes sense): "There Are No Kangaroos in Austria".
Once I got to Munich, I reported to the Lufthansa customer-service area, and took a number, happy to see that there was only one customer ahead of me at each of the two service desks. I would have been even happier had I seen that my number was already being called at a third service desk, hidden on the other side of a partial wall behind me, but I ended up there soon enough. I explained my situation and described the lost bag, the Lufthansa agent’s eyebrow arching slightly when I noted the color as "two-tone, black and plum". The eyebrow went the rest of the way up when I explained that the flight had left without any bags, not just mine.
"I should like to point out" he pointed out, in crisp English, "that this flight was not operated by Lufthansa directly. There are some situations that might arise when we subcontract a route that simply wouldn’t happen if you had chosen an actual Lufthansa flight. However, we are, of course, pleased" – his expression was anything but – "to take full responsibility to see to it that your luggage is delivered to you as quickly as possible." On the bright side, his incredulity at the situation helped him forget his contempt for the high-visibility color scheme that adorns my suitcase.
He gave me a copy of my report, and a tracking number for a website that would enable me to repeatedly verify throughout the evening that there was absolutely no new information with respect to my bag. Then he handed me a large black-zippered pouch that looked it might need to be delivered to an embassy, and said "With our apologies for the inconvenience, we hope the amenities in this kit will help minimize the difficulties you encounter in the absence of your luggage." I thanked him and stated to leave, but he gestured for me to wait a moment, and he had a quick exchange with one of his coworkers. He then turned back to me and said "A small number of people – perhaps one in a thousand – have reported a bad … allergy to the" he interrupted himself with another exchange with his coworker "toothpaste or deodoriser or hand lotion or something in there. I am certain that you will suffer no such weakness, but consider that carefully before you use the conditioner or the gel for your hair."
As it happened, his warning was entirely unnecessary, since it was the shampoo to which I had the impertinence to be allergic. I gleaned this not by actually using it, but by simply opening the amenity kit to find that the shampoo had leaked, and soaked nearly everything else inside. Everything, that is, except the plastic-wrapped emergency mu-mu disguised as a double-extra-large T-shirt, and a maddeningly clever hairbrush with a built in mirror that folds in on itself in a way that doesn’t actually defy the laws of physics, but does seem to snicker at them under its breath. The bag and the rest of its contents, along with the 60 Euros I spent on the cab from the airport, were disposed of with equal haste.
After several seconds of unpacking, which consisted of setting my carry-on down on a chair in my hotel room, I took a walk into the city.
Eins, Zwei, G’Suffa!
Yes, for those of you that know Munich and are wondering, I went straight to Die Hofbrauhaus. For those that don’t know, you should assume, incorrectly, that this is not the most obligatorily touristesque thing I could have done. In my defense, I had a long-standing reason: those of you that found your way through my first report from Germany know that I studied the language for a year in high school. In that class, one of the things that we found ourselves … well, forced to do was to learn to sing two German songs. One, Bude Jacke, was set without irony to the tune "Frere Jacques" (or, if you prefer, as I do, it was set to the tune of the backup vocal line in the Beatles’ Paperback Writer.) This was the song that taught me that church bells in Germany don’t make a "ding" or "dong" sort of sound – rather, they say "bim" and "bam". I didn’t believe it in 1986, but I do now.
The other song was a traditional Bavarian drinking-hall song, and, for reasons that elude me, I couldn’t forget the first line even if I tried to manually cauterize that part of my brain with a soldering iron: "In München steht ein Hofbrauhaus, Eins, Zwei, G’Suffa!". Unfortunately, I not only remember the song, I can also hear it sung by a room full of disaffected teenagers, mumbling their way phonetically through it. Dear Mary "Van" Whalen might have generated a tad more enthusiasm in the class had she more fervently emphasized the fact that this is a song that celebrates beer. Regardless, she clearly did something right, since I’m stuck with it for life.
So … the Hofbrauhaus it was. By this point, my palate had become well enough attuned to the fine points of assorted wursts that I could tell that the food was a bit bland, but the beer … well, it had no business being anything but excellent, and it was. Or wasn’t … help, I’m trapped in a turn of phrase! Anyway, beer = good. The entire liter that constitutes one serving. (Note for my fellow metrically-challenged Americans: For some reason, we all know how big a two liter bottle of Coke is – this, then, was precisely half of that.)
From die Hofbrauhaus, I did a bit of exploring around the city, but, unfortunately, this stopover didn’t permit much in the way of the sort of self-taught history that I love to digest, muddle up, then share with self-important ignorance. Which turned out to be fine, actually, since there was considerable history in my immediate future.
Eventually, my luggage found its way to my hotel, and I was able to unpack and use the energy I’d spent wondering about my bag to start wondering just why it was that the hair dryer was under the television.
Hier ist mein Visitenkarte
The Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik, or, well, anything other than that for short, is the largest museum of science (Naturwissenschaft) and technology (you can guess) in the world. And it is terribly impressive, even before you walk in. There is a large cobblestone courtyard in front of the main entrance that features a gigantic sundial, while the museum’s prominent tower sports a gargantuan barometer and hygrometer. This sets the tone for the exhibits inside, many of which are large, intricate, and and infused with efficient analog complexity.
My host, however, Ludwig Dorn, the curator for aviation (Luftfahrt), was infused with good-natured hospitality, patience with my efforts with the language, and an even greater enthusiasm and depth of knowledge of the subject matter than I’d have guessed.
When I arrived at the museum, I presented my business card (Visitenkarte) to the employee at the information desk and said, with the confidence that comes from having practiced for twenty minutes, "Grüß Gott. Ich heiße Hal Bryan, von Microsoft, und Ich bin für ein Meeting mit Herr-Doktor Ludwig Dorn gekommen. Hier ist mein Visitenkarte."
The "Grüß Gott" bit is worth calling out briefly. On second thought, it really isn’t – it’s just a bit of the sort of tangential trivia that I enjoy obsessing over to destroy any inadvertent sense of flow and order in my writing. So, I’ll call it out anyway. My adventures with speaking German had thus far been confined to the area in and around Leipzig, where they use a dialect called Mitteldeutsch, or Central German (I could also legitimately refer to it as Thuringian-Upper-Saxony, but then I’d just be showing off). Munich, however, is in Bavaria, where Oberdeutsch, or Upper German is the dialect of choice. Apparently, my usual and well-worn Mitteldeutsch greeting of Guten Tag, or "Good Day" is considered prim and distant to someone who speaks Oberdeutsch, and can often lead to misunderstandings. While I don’t seem to be comfortable traveling unless I’m actively doing things that lead to misunderstandings, the last thing I wanted the good Bayern Volk to attribute to me was any sort of prim distance. So, "Grüß Gott", literally, "God bless you", it was.
(Speaking of (here we go again) … a number of my German friends initially found it impossible to believe that we sometimes use their word for good health, gesundheit, after someone sneezes. Once I explained that A) most of us don’t know exactly what it means, and 2) we giggle like idiots when we see the word in giant letters in a pharmacy (Apotheke) window, they began to accept it.)
My tour of the museum, and my discussions with Ludwig were superlative. The museum boasts an impressive aviation section with an even mix of artifacts and interactive displays showcasing the science of aeronautics, testing and research equipment, etc. The initial entry into the aviation hall shows a 1909 Wright Flyer – like the lesser-known 1908 Flyer in the Smithsonian, this example is entirely original, and, to me, provides a more direct link to the brothers’ achievements in aviation than the partially recreated and restored 1903 Flyer. This area also features a 1910 Etrich-Rumpler Taube, the only airplane I’ve ever thought had a wing that might rival a Spitfire’s in terms of sheer beauty. There is also an original Lilienthal glider on display, and a 1909 Grade monoplane, which looks startlingly like a 1978 Weedhopper ultralight. A Weedhopper, in turn, looks startlingly like something cobbled together from the Garden Center at Fred Meyer – a vinyl awning, a patio chair, some wheels from a garden cart, and a lawnmower engine all lashed together into something with a basic airplane-like shape.
Along the side of this first room is a series of cases that explain the mechanics of flight in nature, something that is often overlooked in aviation museums. If there is a single display that I think highlights the intricate and analog nature of most of the exhibits, it was a case that demonstrated how a maple seed autorotates. There was the expected samples of the seeds, and a diagram showing how the single rotor-like wing spins to help carry the weight of the seed pod, etc. The remarkable bit, however, was the seed that had a small hole drilled in it, mounted on a wire that ran the length of the case vertically. Ludwig pushed the first of many buttons of our tour, and the first of many powerful fans came on, and the seed, kept in the airflow by the wire, spun, and autorotated its way straight up to the top of the case. It was simple, rugged, and an absolutely perfect mechanism to demonstrate exactly how this principle works.
Certainly the standout in this opening hall for me was the nose structure from the original LZ-127, the Graf Zeppelin. This conical collection of aluminum alloy girders was nearly hallowed to me. If I believed in past lives, I’d say for certain that I was a regular voyager on this particular airship’s transatlantic crossings from 1928-1940. There’s always been something amazing to me about the fact that, just one year after Lindbergh fought cold temperatures, fatigue, and stale sandwiches on his groundbreaking flight, one could make a similar trip in opulent comfort, with formal meals, a private stateroom, and someone who would shine your shoes if you left them outside your door when you retired for the night. I hadn’t known that there were any such substantial pieces remaining – I love to be pleasantly surprised.
The remainder of the aviation section of the museum is laid out on multiple floors, and it’s charmingly incongruous to walk into a room full of airplanes, and then look up to see the nose of something as large as a JU-52 peering over the edge from a second floor balcony. This section included notable Messershmitts (misspelled on their website as "Messerschmidt" – tsk, tsk!) including an M17, 108, 109, 163, and 262. There was a V-1 and V-2, and the boldly optimistic but ultimately unsuccessful Ba349A Natter "semi-dispensable rocket interceptor". Unfortunately, the engineers behind this one also considered the test pilot to be semi-dispensable, since he was killed by a windscreen that wasn’t up to the task.
Other notable artifacts included a Junkers F13, the first purpose-built airliner, a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, an American design better utilized by the Luftwaffe than any other air force, and an HFB320 Hansajet, a clean-lined business jet from the mid-60’s that is made strikingly elegant by its forward-swept wings. There was a design that, from across the room, I’d have guessed to be an early protoype from Arado, but, in actuality, was a crude-but-viable homebuilt twin made from cast-off BMW motorcycle bits. Its first flight was intended to be its last, a one-way trip in 1989 from the East over the Wall to the West, but history snuck past it, and, it never flew because it didn’t have to. Located throughout were cockpit displays, mechanical simulators, and all manner of wind tunnels – a celebration of the science of flight.
I could go on and on. In fact, I just did.
And I’ve only just touched on the aviation portion of this, the main branch of the museum. There were equally impressive sections donated to chemistry, optics, and electricity – in this last, there was a demonstration of lightning that defies explanation, and, had it been displayed in the US, would have been challenged to defy litigation. It consisted of a roped-off collection of what looked to be giant Van de Graaf generators, a model of a small town, and a docent pulling levers and terrorizing the city with massive lightning bolts, twisting knobs and turning levers like a modern-day Rotwang. The downtown museum also includes an impressive maritime collection. My enthusiasm, if not my encyclopedic knowledge of German maritime history which consists of about 3 things, got me access to the restored bridge of an original Norddeutscher-Lloyd liner that they have setup as a surprisingly immersive simulator, not to mention close-up looks at pieces of the Tirpitz, and the rare privilege of actually touching the original ship’s bell that is all that remains of the Bremen.
Needless to say, a visit to the museum is an absolute must for anyone who finds themselves with some time in Munich. Unfortunately, the train and automobile collections had recently been moved to another building across town and my already straining schedule didn’t accommodate a visit.
Throughout my tour and our ongoing discussion, Ludwig expressed a strong desire to begin updating the museum to take advantage of new technology, and introduce some more digital elements amongst the analog. I’m certainly excited by this, since it means that Flight Sim (and Train Sim 2) can find a place in the museum, and, as we brainstormed, be utilized as an informative and entertaining tool to enhance visitors’ experiences. However, the flying maple seed, the myriad dioramas, wind tunnels, and even mechanical simulators have a tangible richness to them that is extremely effective, and it would be a crime to see any of that lost. My hope is that the Deutsches Museum learns a lesson from George Lucas – right now, the Museum is "A New Hope" … I’d hate to go back in a few years and find that its become "The Phantom Menace", if you catch my meaning.
Il Stravino Armonico
That night, after spending some time in my hotel catching up on some work, I explored the city a bit more. Again, I wasn’t able to delve terribly deep, but the hustle, and certainly some of the bustle, did me a world of good. In a bit of light irony, it was a group of Italians who made the strongest impression on me that night in Germany. I was working my way back to the hotel through the middle of the Marienplatz, a cobblestone plaza in the heart of downtown that is restricted to pedestrians, and a small handful of Mercedes station wagons with special passes that may have been pedestrian hunting permits. Walking along, I saw a crowd slowly coalescing under an eave outside a large department store. Being tired, and generally hating crowds, I made straight for the middle of it, and saw a group of four musicians getting ready to play. There was an accordionist, a cellist, a man playing an upright bass, and the leader, a balding violinist who inspires adjectives like "lean", and, given his chosen instrument, the inevitable "sinewy".
I’ve tried to describe the music I heard that night to friends and family, and have fallen terribly flat. They were the tightest, richest, and fullest sounding … cover band I’ve ever heard. Ripping their way through pieces of gorgeous complexity, they’d lean over to each other and swap inside jokes, all without missing a note. Their repertoire consisted of things like Ave Maria, Pachelbel’s Canon, Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and the Allegro non Molto movement of Vivaldi’s Winter, from his Four Seasons. Listening to them from just a few feet away was something like being inside an orchestra. Not an ordinary orchestra – an orchestra that played simply for their love of the music (and a few euros tossed in a cello case), an orchestra that didn’t follow a conductor’s baton to interpret the piece, but seemed to channel the composer’s passions directly. It was, truly, like nothing I’ve ever heard.
The highlight for me, even more potent than the Vivaldi, a lifelong favorite, was when the violinist got the audience’s attention and said: "Meine Damen und Herren, Ladies and Gentlemen … and now for something completely different: From Giachino Antonio Rossini, Il Barbiere di Siviglia". The piece was somehow at once technically flawless and emotionally raw, all of it beautifully executed. But that wasn’t what struck me. What struck me was the nearly overwhelming urge I had to sing along. Not in the original Italian – I have more than enough trouble mit meine Deutsche, danke schön! No, the words that came to my head were those from the interpretation of man known to the animatoscenti as Carlo Jonzi, as sung in the first opera I ever loved … by a bunny called Bugs. It all came back to me … "Welcome to my shop, let me cut your mop, let me shave your crop …", "Lots of lather, lots of soap, please hold still don’t be a dope", "There, you’re nice and clean, although your face looks like it might have gone through a ma-chine."
I resisted the temptation, and managed to slip through another situation that very nearly exposed the fact that I actually have no culture, whatsoever. I did not, thankfully, resist the temptation to buy a CD to take home. I recommend it, highly, but it doesn’t even begin to capture what it was like to luxuriate in the music as it was performed live. I walked the rest of the way back to the hotel, trying not to feel profoundly affected, and failing miserably.
Deutsches Museum Flugwerft Schleißheim
The next morning, I spent approximately a billion Euros on a taxi ride to the Flugplatz Oberschleißheim for the second half of my meetings with the Deutsches Museum. I was joined for this meeting by Michael Nagler, the Games for Windows Marketing Product Manager for Microsoft Germany. Michael combines the unstoppable professional enthusiasm of a good marketeer with a remarkable appreciation for and understanding of Flight Simulator – ahh, the joy of competence found.
Unlike the main Museum downtown, the annex at the Schleißheim airport is devoted entirely to aviation. The airport is the oldest one in continuous operation in all of Germany and was the home of a commercial pilot school as far back as 1923. Our host and my primary contact for FS projects in the future was Uwe Froemert. Uwe proved to be a fascinating tour guide, and was extremely patient with my efforts to establish some measure of credibility by identifying aircraft (there were a few that had me stumped, I’m not proud to admit) and bandy about names like Ernst Udet and Gustave Weisskopf.
The collection at Schleißheim is broad, eclectic, and impressive. One of the first aircraft you see after entering is a Luftwaffe C-47, which at first looks glance looks like a bit of sloppy set dressing from a bad war movie – you can imagine James Coburn and George Peppard swaggering out of the airplane in poorly-researched Wehrmacht uniforms before being driven away in an open-top Mercedes with too many flags on it. But, actually, it’s quite legitimate.
Other aircraft in the first hall include a Fieseler Storch, a Bücker 181, a Waco YKS-6 (the only Waco on the German registry), and, staggeringly, an entirely original Fokker D7. Entirely original, even including the fabric and the elastic bands that make up the suspension on the main landing gear. There are very, very few even mostly original German aircraft from WWI still extant. The iconic Fokker DR1 triplane (dreidekker) of "Red Baron" fame, for instance – there isn’t a single one left anywhere in the world. All of those that fly, even all of those on display in museums are replicas. To see an original D7, then, was remarkable. To have the velvet ropes lowered so that I could walk right up to it was humbling.
The next room was devoted to some pioneering efforts from around the turn of the 20th Century. There was more from Lilenthal, and I was glad for the chance to set aside my usual nationalistic diatribes and make it clear that I understood just how significant an impact he’d had on the development of aviation. The Wright brothers themselves referred extensively to his book, Der Vogelflug als Grundlage der Fliegekunst (Birdflight as a Basis for Aviation) when doing their own research, and said that Lilienthal was " … without question, the greatest of the precursors."
A Bag of Rocks
It was then that Uwe pointed us to an interesting looking glider, and again the ropes were cast aside and I was able to walk straight up to a flying machine from 1907. The innovation in this design was so staggering, and its existence so completely unknown to me, that it took the bris right out of my hubris, to coin a phrase. The glider was built by Alois Wolfmüeller, and included some innovations I’d have thought impossible, or at least hopelessly anachronistic, had I not seen it for myself. You might be thinking to yourself: "The Wright brothers flew a powered machine, a real airplane, not just a glider, in 1903, four years earlier – what’s the big deal about a glider?" (In actuality, you’re probably thinking to yourself "this is long though not as long as the last one but there are no booth babes in it and I no longer care … is it time for Grey’s Anatomy yet?") You’d easily be forgiven for thinking either.
However, the Wolfmüeller Gleitflugapparat included: A conventional rear-mounted tail plane with horizontal and vertical stabilizers with elevator and rudder. These controls were manipulated by cables threaded over extended control horns for leverage. It had separate control surfaces off of the the trailing edges of the lower wings for bank control – these controls weren’t hinged, rather they used a warping mechanism, so they weren’t quite ailerons, but they were awfully close. This was over a year before Henri Farman added the first generally recognized ailerons to his biplane, and quite a few years before the Wrights and Glenn Curtiss would get entangled in litigation over the idea.
The aspect of Wolfmüeller’s design that really got me, however, was a bag of rocks. This bag was tied with a loop to a long bamboo pole that extended in front of the glider by probably two meters. The pole had markings on it that Uwe explained corresponded to various wind velocities, and the bag, serving obviously as a counterweight, would be slid fore or aft to the appropriate marking based on the wind at the time of the flight. What this was, then, was the first pitch trim mechanism in history.
I realize that this may not be terribly impactful to those of you who maintain a healthy lack of my unhealthy obsession with the arcane details of fly-y trivia. But the discovery of a mod con like pitch trim, something used in contemporary aircraft as a work-saving device for pilots, is a little like discovering an abacus with a USB port. It’s enough to make one wonder if history doesn’t just rearrange itself slightly, having a bit of fun when we’re not looking.
What’s That And Why Did They Name it After Me?
The remainder of the museum yielded some old favorites, like a former Soviet Army AN-2, which was obviously a VIP transport because of the threadbare Berber on the cabin floor, and the curtains in the windows, a Focke Wulfe 44 Stieglitz, a MiG 21, and even a Cessna 195. We were able to walk the floor of the restoration hangar which was dominated by their He-111, which I, as part of my ongoing and misguided campaign to trade trivia for credibility, identified as one built after World War II in Spain by CASA. Then there were some remarkable rarities like a massive Do-24 flying boat with original engines, the VTOL Dornier 31 and Yakovlev 191, the latter known with a certain disrespect as the Harrierski. There was the EADS / Boeing X-31, and the Eurofighter 2000 DA-1 prototype. I saw my first MiG-23, and Saab Draken. Then there was a shiny silver jet fighter that looked a little bit like every shiny silver jet fighter from the late 50’s through the late 60’s. I saw a resemblance to an F-100 and a Sukhoi 15, and more obscure types like a Hawker Hunter or a Supermarine Swift. I was stumped, so I immediately took a bunch of pictures with which to taunt my like-minded brother the second after I knew what it was. As it happens, I, of all people, should have known what to call it; it seems it was a HAL HF24, built in India by Hindustan in 1961.
Uwe had to leave us for about thirty minutes to attend another meeting. While he was away, Michael and I talked and took a number of additional pictures. He asked me what he could do to help me in my ongoing relationships with an organization like the Deutsches Museum, and I explained that one of the best things that we can do is arrange donations of our software to organizations like theirs to help offset some of the costs of upgrading. In the US, however, it is a bit more difficult for me to get German language versions of some Microsoft software, but it is very easy for Michael to obtain. In addition, Marketing has a much larger budget for that sort of thing which helps quite a bit. What it came down to, then, was that Michael, perhaps in an absence of good judgment, agreed to an arrangement in which I make all manner of irrationally exuberant promises of software donation, and he’ll make good.
Michael and I were both very happy to see that Uwe has what looks to be a superb Flight Sim cockpit under construction. They’re fabricating their own airliner-style yokes and utilizing a number of high-end components from existing FS cockpit companies. The cockpit will be largely based on a 737, but they’re leaving it somewhat modular and flexible to recreate other aircraft as well. It’s unquestionably going to be a compelling attraction for anyone who may not immediately find the same level of excitement as I did at the sight of a bag of rocks.
The day wound down far too quickly, and the next morning found me flying from Munich to Copenhagen, then on to Seattle on an SAS A-340. The best part of that part of the story is the fact that the transatlantic trip was every bit as good as every other transatlantic trip I’ve made on an SAS A-340. The SAS 340s standout to me for three reasons. First, there is a self-serve galley in business class where they just leave precious airborne commodities like bottled water just sitting out for the taking. Second, there are two windows in the restroom – I don’t know what it is about a loo with a view, but it feels remarkably decadent. And, finally, there are two aircraft-mounted cameras accessible via the in-seat video monitors. One is pointed straight down, the other is mounted on the nose and points straight ahead, allowing back seat pilots like me innumerable opportunities to critique approaches and landings, among other things.
But, really, I think the story ended in the paragraph before the last one with the bit about the rocks. I just kept writing to make sure nobody thought I was still in Germany. I’m not. In fact, since I got back, I’ve slept at home, at a friends’ house in Olympia, Washington, at a hotel in Toronto, at a hotel in Chicago, and now at a hotel in Reno.
Clearly, I’ve got some catching up to do. In the meantime, here’s a final picture from Schleißheim, a shot of the fantastic Dornier 31: