My birthday gift was out of this world this year, or at least 300-400 meter above the ground. That’s how high the plane was flying for most of its 15 minute flight above Budapest. The event got off a stormy start though. The original date for the planned flight was postponed because of unfavorable weather condition. No problem, this way the day of the actual flight was closer to my birthday. Furthermore the conditions and timing was even better: my wife booked the 7 PM flight, out of 3-4 options, which meant that we got to fly right at a splendid sunset. We got lucky in another way: the sky was totally clear so we could see far away any and every direction. It was a truly majestic experience as you can see it on the video and/or the pictures below
The plane we flew on was a LI-2, made in the USSR in 1949. We learned a little bit about its history on the tarmac of the old terminal at the Budapest airport (Ferihegy 1). My favorite tidbit was that in the 1950’s there was a law in Hungary requiring flight tickets not being more more expensive than first class train tickets. This helped the some of the farmers in the countryside who hopped on a flight to Budapest in the morning with their chickens, animals, what or produce; sold it on the markets of the capital and were home in the evening again. I could clearly envision the hatracks above our head filled with loud chickens. In my mind they were dirty and loud, while the airplane we flew on was beautiful(ly restored and) maintained by the Goldtimer foundation.
Other things I learned:
- The old terminal building would not be practical to reopen for regular use because of its limited capacity of letting people through a day. It cannot be changed in any major ways because of its protected monument status. Hence it is used mostly for training purposes. At least that’s what we were told. 🙂
- That building mimics the design of the LI-2 planes with its two towers and wings on both sides.
- Because the Hungarian employees working at the airport all use the less informal language (“tegezodnek”) our tourguide for the evening a former stewardess talk to us the same way. It felt weird because in my experience and association all flight attended were very polite and formal. Not she, who was quite cheerful and way friendlier than on a regular flight.
- We saw the hangar where the US embassy keeps its plane. Also the “military” planes that are (mostly) used by the Hungarian prime minister and his government.
- Renting a covered parking lot for your private plane costs 5 million Forints a month (~17,000 USD), while you can get an open-air one for 2 million/month (~6,700 USD).
If you are thinking of signing up for this flight, here is some info you might find useful:
- A bus took us from Aeropark, aka airport museum, to a gate near the old terminal in an old, but not classy/classic bus.
- We had to go through the same kind of security as one would do at any airport nowadays, except a small bottle of water was allowed.
- The classic bus that is mentioned in the experience’s description took us only from inside the gates to the airplane.
- We couldn’t actually get into the terminal, but could take photos from it from outside, from further away.
- There was time to take photos with the classic bus and the classic airplane after the flight.
And now for the pictures that were mostly shot on the ground because I was too busy videoing while up in the air.