In September 2008, I toured the offices and hangar of Tempelhof Aviators shortly before the now legendary airport was closed two months later. This was where proprietor Thomas Schüttoff operated a classic flying school alongside a collection of vintage cars and period memorabilia.
Flughafen Berlin-Tempelhof, following the historic Berlin Airlift, was renown as “the best equipped airport in the whole world with its modern radar installations for routing and approach control.” The terminals and hangars were arranged along a massive arc shaped structure. The roof was one mile long, yet the full plans for its construction were never completed. Soviet forces briefly occupied, and looted, the building following the Battle of Berlin in 1945. A few months later Zentralflughafen (emphasizing the city-center airport location) Berlin-Tempelhof was turned over to the United States Army… and the rest is history.
Tempelhof Aviators once housed a Boeing Stearman, Piper Super Cubs, Cessna 150 and 172, a Fairchild 24, a Ryan STA, a North American Harvard/T-6, a Yakovlev Yak-9, plus Auster and Bücker aircraft. Flying any one of these from the middle of Berlin it’s only natural to fantasize dropping tiny parachutes with candy over the surrounding city’s 2+million residents. Berlin Candy Bomber, Gail Halvorsen, a.k.a. Uncle Wiggly Wings, distributed over 23 tons of sweet confections just so during the Airlift from 1948 to 1949.
I had the unique opportunity to view an An-2 Colt fly—up close—at a ballooning event held in 2007. For two years in a row I crewed with a competition team in Hofkirchen, Austria. The 2008 World Hot Air Balloon Championship was held there in September with over 100 competitors from 33 countries. As balloon teams stood alongside, the previously used launch field was cleared for an aircraft display, the most memorable of these was the Soviet legend, Antonov An-2 biplane.
The turf aerodrome offered a sizable flat runway for both mass balloon launch and benzine-powered aerial display. The field is set among the otherwise rolling terrain of Austria’s Styria region. The An-2, while built for utility and durability, is well-suited to unimproved, and short, runways which made the lush turf at Hofkirchen a milquetoast for practice landings. Styria is also spotted with farm fields world renown for their pumpkin seed (Kürbiskernöl) production. A dark green seed, it is cold-pressed for oil that tenders an intense nutty taste.