Local Heart, Global Soul

February 8, 2013

Not What I Expected, …But to be Honest I Didn’t Really Know What to Expect.

Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY,Schipol,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 7, 2013

Quite Literally the Engine Room of the Airport…

Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY,Schipol,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,
(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In this next instalment of our Shipol Airport “behind the Scenes Tour” the bus we are on the far side of the airport taking a look at the many support services that keep a large modern airport functioning.

We see a massive area with high sided walls and learn that these are blast walls were aircraft engines can be tested at full strength.

Schipol houses the world’s biggest aircraft engine workshop (50, 000 square meters full of engines) where aircraft engines are stripped down  for maintenance,  inspected,  dismantle, cleaned and checked. A complete overhaul take about 65 days.

Then we learn about the control tour, and the flight paths that are like  highways in the sky for aircraft to follow.

Little Mr and Kiwi Daughter were rather surprised to hear that these air corridors existed and that the control towers gave instructions as to where everyone in the air should be. Luckily my children are not air traffic controllers because they seemed to think it would be perfectly acceptable for any aircraft to fly wherever and whenever  it wanted to,  so I posed questions to them about how they would successfully land jumbo jets at a rate of 100 per hour during busy times, as is often the case here at Schipol.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Once a little logic kicked in they realised that their hit and miss approach to air traffic control was probably going to result in more catastrophic hits than misses and conceded that maybe pilots doing what they were told in the skies was the safer option after all.

I was surprised to learn that Schipol Airport was a refuge for birds, vast open areas with little or no human interference meant this was actually a resting place for birds: apparently they quickly get used to the noise of aircraft and it doesn’t bother them. However, their presence is not wanted on the runways so the wildlife officers use flares and loudspeakers that transmit recordings of bird alarm calls to keep them away from aircraft.

The bus takes us to the far end of one of the runways where we can see the landing lights stretching back into the distance and a plane coming in to land just above the runway as we watched.

Since Schipol is so close to the sea, wind direction and strength can vary a lot, which is why there are extra runways here, to allow pilots the best direction for landing and taking off. Schipol also gets help from the National Meteorological Institute, with a meteorologist stationed at the airport and a full array of technology both here and at the Institute to produce updated weather reports every half hour.

Then we move on to an area where the Schipol’s fire department practice for emergency situations… this is one point of the tour where it would have been brilliant to have been able to have left he bus for even just 10 minutes.I know for sure it would have made Little. Mr.’s day. Sadly he had to be content with the view from the window and a friendly wave from one of the fireman as he looked up from his task (Thank You for that Sir, my sweet son was delighted that you waved).

The large carcass of the plane body is obviously used in pane fire simulations, and the video tells us that the mock-up of the houses nearby is used not just by the airport fire brigade to train for building fires but also by Amsterdam fire services. The bus turns around and heads back towards the main terminal…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 6, 2013

Air-side: So Much More Than Flight Crew Uniforms & High-Vis Jackets….

Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY,Schipol,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,
(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In this post about our “Behind the Scenes” Schipol Airport tour we are on the far side of the airport and discover a multitude of massive buildings that are an integral part of keeping one of Europe’s busiest airports running smoothly.

I discover for instance that there are 500 employees who work on keeping the schedules of the whole airport on track, making changes  for instance when there are weather delays not just here in The Netherlands but also world-wide at the departure points of the flights too.

This of course means that this area is in 24 hour operation, seven days a week.

Everything needs to be delivered to an aircraft on time for departure, there are tasks to be coordinated from the moment a plane lands, taxis and is bought to the gate for the passengers is disembark and the time when new passengers are seated and ready for take-off to the planes next destination.

I always knew that airport staff were divided between “land-side” and “air-side” and of course the land-side staff are easy to find: they are working at the check-in desks, information counters, parking areas, duty free, shops and cafés, but “air-side” conjures up a picture of pilots, cabin crew, and the people you can actually see out of the airport window: driving tugs push the plane off from the gate, loading the food trolley’s on board, baggage wagon drivers and all the other tasks where people in high-vis jackets are rushing around like ants around the plane.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I never really thought about the fact that there are actually thousands of  other “air-side” people on the other side of the airport that you can’t see from the terminal… they are coordinating all of these goings-on, they are carrying out plane maintenance, security,  tests for airworthiness and a zillion other things that keep us safe in the air.

In one section on this remote side of the airport, is the site of the original Fokker aircraft factory started by Anthony Fokker in 1919.

His first plane was rather a rickety contraption but he went on to build planes that were very successful in passenger transportation. he actually started his company in Germany in 1912 and his designs helped the German war effort when World War one broke out. His Fokker Eindecker became the aircraft to be feared over the western front due to it’s revolutionary armament. In the late 1920’s Fokker was the world’s biggest aircraft manufacturer.

The Fokker company when though a multitude of name changes and ownerships over the years  as it’s fortunes rose and fell, before the aircraft  passenger service filed for bankruptcy in 1996. The Fokker name still exists however in the form of Fokker  Technologies who provide various aircraft services.

Let’s take a look around…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 5, 2013

Growing, Spreading it’s Wings and Getting Off the Ground…

Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY,Schipol,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following yesterday’s post I’m taking you on a “behind the scenes” tour of Schipol Airport, located  just outside Amsterdam and one of Europe’s largest and busiest airports.

The first photograph in today’s post is of the airport as it was in the 1950’s  and in a time when air travel was only within the reach of the rich and famous.

Note the presence of a large canal in front of the airport in those days, in typical Dutch fashion they reclaimed that land when more space for the rapidly expanding airport was needed later and I think it got turned into the motorway in the top right corner of the second photograph.

These days various departments that keep the airport functioning are located such a distance from  the passenger terminal building, that we need to take an internal perimeter road to get to them.  One of the first areas of interest is the helicopter base where various law enforcement and air ambulance rescue helicopters are based, and close by is a massive area where private jets come in with their V.I.P. passengers.

The private jets I managed to photograph were just the little ones, I was too late to swing the camera around when I spied the other ones to the far left, and since my knowledge of aircraft types is rather limited I can only describe them as being  less “one size up from a Lear Jet” and more “one size down from a Boeing”.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Yikes, they probably burned my yearly wage worth in fuel just getting onto the main runway and into the air.

Realistically, the video clip of the cockpit is about as close as I am ever going to get to one of these.

In 1919 Albert Plasman founded KLM (Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij) which translates literally as “Royal Aviation Company” but which has also become more familiarly known as “Royal Dutch Airlines”.

In 1920 the first scheduled flight arrived from London, carrying two passengers and a letter for the Mayor of Amsterdam.

By 1928 an access road, the first control tower and a train station were built and the airport continued to grow. World War Two however saw the almost complete destruction of Schipol, but reconstruction began as soon as possible after the war and the airport grew so much that by 1952 another control tower was added.

By the late Sixties and early Seventies air travel became accessible to people from all walks of life, and as air travel went from being a once in a lifetime experience to a commonplace event, airport expansion has been a necessity ever since.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 4, 2013

Taking a Look Behind the Scenes…

Filed under: Schipol,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Our Canadian friends have a relative visiting from Germany (the same teenage boy who came with us to the Space Museum last summer)  and since they have a one year old baby who’s not really into doing the same things for entertainment as a young teenager, we decided to combine some activities with our two families so make an interesting weekend.

This is why we ended up driving to Schiphol airport,  just outside Amsterdam.

No, we were not going to be flying anywhere… we were going on a “behind the scenes” tour of the airport.

Now, we are very used to airports, but usually it’s the classic case of rushing to one tired from all the chaos of packing and tying up loose ends at home and at work,  looking forward to having a holiday but stressful because you don’t want to miss your flight.

Then there are the queues and long walks to gates and waiting, waiting , waiting before you finally get into the air.

Or the other side of the coin, where you have stepped off the aircraft,  taken half an hour to get from the gate to the baggage retrieval area,  have jet-lag something awful and you just want to get back to your own home and your own bed but you know you have a mountain of dirty laundry stashed in your suitcases, a pile of unopened mail, 20 pages of unanswered emails and you need to call your Mother in Law so she doesn’t fret that if she doesn’t hear from us within 2 hours of arrival time that the plane must have crashed.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The airport in these cases becomes a place to be negotiated as swiftly as possible with hopefully few queues and nothing going missing or getting left behind on the way. Coming to the airport just to look around is certainly a first for us so this should be a very interesting experience, we have no idea what  to expect.

We can tell when we are getting close to the airport…  the runway they are using today for landings has a flight path over fields roughly parallel to the main motorway, so we end up dragging off a few planes on the way in (naturally we loose).

After Himself’s navigation: “I know where we are, it should be here” (but  opps,  it’s not, so we do several circuits of all the roads in the immediate vicinity before finding it more by good luck than good management) we alight and go and sort out the reservation our Canadian friends made earlier.

The cars can be parked with a pre-booked special ticket that cost  Euro 10,– per day (a bargain compared to usual airport parking prices) and we discover that this is actually a bus tour instead of the walking tour we imagined it might be.

This turns out to be logical because the airport is huge…  so all aboard the bus,where TV screens, complete with a TV guide called Jurjen  give a commentary as we go.

Since the video is in Dutch but not everyone present speaks Dutch, English is chosen as the language of choice for the subtitles, therefore many of the photos I took from the TV screen come conviently with their own captions. Fasten your seatbelts Ladies and Gentlemen… we are off…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There are five main flight paths and several smaller ones… the white and yellow planes move in real time and we  hear the interaction between the pilots and the control tower…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The viaduct can support 400,000 kilograms. (881 849 pounds)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

At 4.5m below sea level it’s second lowest International airport, second only to Mezzada (Massada) airfield next to the Dead Sea. Here in the Netherlands, Rotterdam (regional) airport is 1.5 meters lower  than Schipol.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Some people think that’s where the name comes from: “Ships Hell”…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

… and “Holl” means “low-lying land”. The first flights took place in 1916…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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