Teutonic Treasure Trove
Opening in 1991, Germany’s Technik Museum Speyer has been branded ‘a must’ for aviation enthusiasts. Assistant editor Jamie Ewan went to find out why
Imagine being able to walk out onto the wing of a Boeing 747, then to climb into the world’s biggest turboprop transport aircraft, before peering into the cockpit of Soviet Buran spacecraft! It sounds like a dream – but it’s all possible at Speyer.
Although just 28 years old, the Technik Museum Speyer, located around 55 miles (88km) south of Frankfurt in Germany’s Rheinland Pfalz, can trace its roots back to northern France in 1913 – as bizarre as that sounds. The building that is known as ‘Liller Halle’ houses most of the collection and was in fact built for the Thomson-Houston Electric Company in Lesquin, near Lille. Following occupation of the French town, German forces dismantled the structure in 1917 and moved it 250 miles (402km) southeast to provide the Pfalz Flugzeugwerke with a factory. Rebuilt by late 1918, the next 70 years included long periods under both German and French control, demands from the latter for the building to be returned and being used to dismantle Imperial German Air Service aircraft in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles. Falling into a state of disrepair during the 1980s, Liller Halle was bought by prominent entrepreneur Eberhard Layher in 1989 as a sister-ship site for his Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim. With a huge renovation effort beginning in August 1990, which included 26 tons of paint, replacing 1,500 panes of glass and installing around 22,900ft (6,705m) of electrical cables, the site was opened to the public on April 11, 1991. Since then, the attraction has become home to around 70 aeroplanes and associated items such as ejection seats, flying helmets and engines across the span of flight – helping to keep Speyer’s aviation tradition alive.
Arriving at the museum, you are greeted by a F-84 Thunderstreak mounted vertically on a pole, the weathered colours of the Italian Aerobatic Team Getti Tonanti visible – just one of many nods here to the world’s display teams. But before you can take it in, your eyes are drawn to a trio of aeroplanes welcoming you to the carpark, a French Air Force Nord N2501 Noratlas, an Air Inter Douglas C-53 and a VFW-Fokker 614 of Danish carrier Cimber Air. In the distance, the tell-tale shape of an all-black Hawker Hunter, German Navy F-104 Starfighter and MiG-21 Fishbed – the latter sporting the colours of the Indian Air Force ‘Red Archers’ – can be spied through a web of rotor blades belonging to various Russian military helicopters. Passing through the site’s reception, café and shop – where a replica Wright Flyer, Swiss-built Pilatus P-3 and patriotically painted French Fouga Magister hang from the rafters – you enter the Liller Halle. Pushing through the door, the phrase ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ springs to mind – examples of each, plus other technological marvels, are everywhere you look.
Within this hall you find a fantastic array of 25 flying machines – all but one of which are suspended in the air. Notable exhibits include the substantial remains of a Messerschmitt Bf 110D (Werk Nummer 3154) salvaged from Sweden’s lake Upmasjaure in 1995; the second prototype Potez-Heinkel CM.191 four-seat jet; a rare RAAB Krahe II motorglider and Messerschmitt Bf 109G-4 ‘White 3’ Nesthäckchen (Werk Nummer 19310) – the latter the sole surviving G-4 with wartime history….
The rest of this feature can be read in the current FlyPast, in UK shops now, or available at www.flypast.com