Things are moving here on the edge of time. A store doesn’t open at 9:59, it opens at 10:00 exactly. People still have wrist watches not as an accessory, not as a nod to the 90s, but actually use them for their intended purpose. The train / subway / HochBahn is rarely, if ever, late. Only once in six whole months did I see a train come startlingly late (I would consider “startling late” ten minutes), and it caused panic to ripple throughout the crowd. Where is the train? How could this happen? When the HochBahn comes, it opens and closes its mouth within ten seconds and you better already be there to jump in. One time I made it, but my bag got caught. The doors do not wait for anyone or anything. Every four minutes it arrives and leaves. Time is important here, efficiency is important. Hamburg people cannot live on borrowed time, and there is something to respect in this efficiency.
In Hamburg, people stare at you.
Truly, stoically, painfully, everlastingly look at you. Never have a cold sore in Hamburg. Make sure you brush your hair. The staring, the (perceived but often not real) judgement, and the curiosity only increases between the elderly and the children. You feel 15 and awkward again in Hamburg. Why is everyone looking at me? They are not, in fact; everyone is looking at everyone else. Over the months, the stares don’t feel so strange or threatening. You begin to realize that the staring, the looking-for-longer-than-necessary-look is how people interact with each other here. It is different, it is uncomfortable, it can be unbearable and then… it isn’t. Eventually you will stare back.
In Hamburg, fashion is function over form. There are not a lot of bright colors or varieties of clothing here. Sensible black shoes, a Fjällräven backpack, a jacket that hits your knees that is both waterproof and windproof for the unpredictable dark winter. In some cases, this is a relief. You don’t have to fuss much about your wardrobe in Hamburg. It is easy to wear greys and blacks and the occasional pop of color scarf. You bundle up here. The extreme humidity in the summer means you sweat, but in the winter it means there is a sharper cold. Looking put together, clean, sharp, business ready is very important, but fashion in itself is not. Maybe it is the climate or maybe it is the culture… I can’t tell the difference.
The maintenance area for the Miniatur Wunderland airport – Photo: David Parker Brown | AirlineReporter
Over the years, I have had many people email me, tag me, and in other ways share with me videos of the Miniatur Wunderland airport, which is located in Hamburg, Germany. I enjoyed watching each one and was quite impressed with the videos. That said, no words, no video, no photos, not even this story can come close to convey just how freak’n awesome this place is!
When I was preparing for my recent trip to Hamburg, Lee Zerrilla, was telling me I needed to go to Miniatur Wunderland. I think my initial reaction was, “dude, this where a bunch of old people go to look at train sets?” No. He pointed out that not only was it way beyond just train sets, but this is also the location where all those videos had been taken… I was now very interested and made it my mission to check this place out.
I was set to arrive in Hamburg at about 11:00am local time and didn’t have any media events planned until the next morning. That almost never happens — most media trips are packed full of (mostly) good stuff. I always appreciate having some of my own time to explore the area — and Miniatur Wunderland was #1 on my list. I asked Jason Rabinowitz to tag along, who was also scheduled to arrive somewhat early, and we penciled in to head to downtown. He stated that he had been before, but he was totally down to going again — score!
Not an angle that one sees often of a Boeing 747-400
“We actually don’t do that work here. For that kind of thing, we have to ship it out to Lufthansa Technik in Germany.” If you talk to a great number of airline maintenance employees around the world, you’ll probably hear that line a few times. Many airlines are capable of doing their own aircraft maintenance, but few locations in the world take MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) to the level Lufthansa Technik does.
Airlines around the world send their aircraft to Technik for jobs ranging from a mandatory C check to a nose-to-tail cabin refurbishment. Recently, I was invited to tour Technik’s facilities in Hamburg, Germany, which is just one of their multiple full-service locations around the world.
One of the black light inspection areas in Lufthansa Technik Engine Shop – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
Our first stop on the Engine Services center. Engines are, by far, some of the most expensive parts on any aircraft. Most airlines perform only minor maintenance on their engines, but in the Engine Services center, several engines were completely torn down for a total rebuild.
Living in Seattle, I get to see the Boeing Dreamlifter quite often. It is an odd-looking plane with an attitude that I just love. I had never been able to see its counterpart, the Airbus Beluga, and when I heard it was going to be attending Hamburg Airport Days, I was excited to get my first look.
When entering the event, I looked around and couldn’t find it, but I was assured that the plane was there — somewhere. I figured that it is not exactly the type of aircraft that can easily hide.
Sure enough, as I turned a corner… there it was. One big, bold, and beautiful plane. Not like supermodel beautiful, but a sort of beauty that… well, only an AvGeek could love.
The view from the main cargo deck, into the crown at Hamburg
As I walked around and took photos, I was asked by my Lufthansa hosts if I had any questions. “Yes, can I tour the inside?” Being the gracious folks that they were, they said that they would see what they could do. Knowing that it might be challenging to find an Airbus representative and arrange a media tour at the last minute, I kept my expectations in check. Of course I was hoping for the best.
Shortly after, I was told that we could tour the plane, but it had to be quick (like five minutes-quick). I was asked if I was still interested, all I could do was grow a big grin and say, “heck yes, let’s do it!”