We are in the final stage of our “Behind the Scenes” tour of Schipol Airport, Little Mr. has barely recovered from the excitement of seeing real firemen doing training exercises when the squeaks of admiration start again for the heavy machinery that the airport used to clear snow from their runways.
There are giant snow blowers, graders with fold out blades that work in formation to clean snow off runways (each runway takes about one hour to clean) and tractors and various other specialist vehicles or attachments, all of which he would have adored to get out of the bus and have a little sit in the cab.
Sadly once again there is only time for a drive-by viewing. Whilst we take the road back around the perimeter of the airport to head back to the main terminal, the video fills us in on the history of cargo flights, which I’m surprised to learn started here as early as 1920.
They didn’t mention if the calf in the photo was actually part of the cargo of this plane or not, I kind of hope not because I dare-say that travelling conditions for livestock were decidedly less comfortable then than they are today.
These days animals travel in a special hold compartment that’s heated and pressurised the same as the human passenger cabin above and it’s far less stressful for an animal to undergo a seven hour flight than a week on a boat.
Cargo is all pre-packed before being loaded onto the aircraft and the load master has the job of ensuring that it evenly distributed in the hold. Lastly we drive by a yet another massive building that we are told houses the baggage handling department.
It takes up a space of 12 football pitches and baggage handler staff are helped by robots to shift the vast quantities of baggage between the planes and the terminals and visa versa.
Again, it would have been nice to have been able to take a real look inside, but I suppose that if you look at it logically, the security ramifications would be a nightmare: who could ever fly feeling safe ever again knowing that members of “Joe Public” without a ticket on to fly had had access to the baggage area?
It’s totally logical that we are unable to look inside, but even if you could look at the gizmo’s and contraptions sending baggage around from behind a thick pane of perspex that would have been cool. Oh well, we continue back to the terminal where at Arrivals 4 where we are back at our starting point again. The tour hasn’t been quite what I expected but that said I didn’t actually know what to expect.
Yes it would have been nice to maybe leave the bus at the fire department etc but then again the tour takes one hour and the airport is massive, how do you find the balance between what would be nice and what is practical? We all know that once a bus load of tourists get off the bus you are sure to add 15 minutes to round them up and get them back on again. I very much liked the historical aspects of the tour, I love learning how things began and grew and how they evolved over time.
There were so many snippets of information that were really interesting but some raised more questions than they answered: it’s no surprise that there is a jail and a morgue at the airport, but apparently you can get married here… What? One of our friends put it well…”what a strange place to hold your wedding, but on the other hand you quickly tie the knot and then dash off to your flight to get away for the honeymoon”… Pity they didn’t give statistics on how many people have gotten married here… or is it just an offered airport service that no one has ever used?
Our young German visitor did have trouble trying to read subtitles in English on the video fast enough and he was out of his depth in minutes. Luckily Himself sat next to him and translated the main points directly from the Dutch narration. We enjoyed the tour and are very glad we did it but I’m in two minds as to the question of if we would take visitors here again…maybe we would, … if they were Plane Crazy.