Sightseeing flights over Budapest - This is how air travel was popularised 70 years ago
Hungarian version of the article: Sétarepülések Budapest felett – Így népszerűsítették a légi közlekedést hetven évvel ezelőtt
March 26, 2023 at 3:00 PM
In the 1950s, civil aviation in Hungary had a completely different meaning than it does today. On the one hand, most of the flights flew on domestic routes, specifically with the aim of reducing the burden on the railways, so the ticket prices were adjusted to first-class railway tickets. So it was relatively cheap to fly from Budapest to Debrecen or Szeged.
However, the then Hungarian airline, MASZOVLET (Hungarian-Soviet Civil Aviation Co.), wanted to bring aviation even closer to the general public 70 years ago, because on 22 March 1953, under the title "Happy Sunday at Ferihegy Airport" organised a so-called family day at the airport that was opened three years earlier.
The Ferihegy Airport was handed over in 1950, so it was relatively new in 1953 (Photo: Fortepan, UVATERV)
In the newspapers of the time, people could come across advertisements from mid-March, from which those interested could learn that on that day, tickets for 15-minute sightseeing flights over Budapest could be exchanged. The ticket was relatively cheap, 25 HUF for adults and 15 HUF for children under 12 (in today's prices 5,600 HUF and 3,360 HUF). Tickets were also available in advance at the MASZOVLET and IBUSZ offices. Fashion shows were also waiting for those interested at the airport.
On that particular Sunday, six Ikarus buses lined up in front of the MASZOVLET office on Vörösmarty Square, waiting for visitors to the airport. However, those arriving by bus were overtaken by many people from the surrounding villages, who arrived at the site early on bicycles and motorcycles (only the privileged could use cars at that time).
The LI–2 was then the basic type of Hungarian air transport (Photo: Fortepan/No.: 222111)
The 14-seater LI-2 planes took the passengers on the quarter-hour flight. The LI–2 was a version of the American DC–3 manufactured in the Soviet Union under a license agreement, and at that time, it was the dominant basic type of domestic airline, although other, much larger aircrafts were already in operation at Western airlines. The 25 March 1953 issue of Magyar Nemzet presented the flights as follows:
"Most people see the inside of an aeroplane for the first time. However, their initial anxiety disappears almost instantly, as soon as the plane smoothly leaves the ground and rises unnoticed into the air. Fifteen minutes later, they exit the plane refreshed and relaxed. They would like to fly one more time, but there are so many applicants that a second ticket is not available."
Four planes transported those wishing to fly that day, including small children and elderly passengers over 80 years old. At the announced fashion show, the latest clothing collection of the State Department Store was paraded, and those waiting were welcomed with beer and sandwiches on the airport terrace.
The cited Magyar Nemzet article noted that the 38th flight had already taken place at one o'clock in the afternoon, but many people were still waiting for the quarter-hour flight.
The LI-2 aircraft at Ferihegy in 1956 (Photo: Fortepan, Magyar Rendőr)
On this day, MASZOVLET not only showed its "big" LI-2 aircraft, which were considered quite small in that era but also announced that it would introduce a new service starting in April, namely the air taxi. They planned to conduct the air taxi flights with PO-2 and AERO-45 machines, the 22 March 1953 issue of Néplap wrote about this:
"The P0-2 air taxi transports two passengers, the kilometre fee is 2 HUF. The AERO-45 type aircraft flies with three passengers for a fee of 4 HUF per kilometre. The air taxis depart from Ferihegy Airport, where passengers are transported by MASZOVLJET bus."
These small machines could therefore be ordered, but in the following years, the masses did not use the air taxi.
As Ludas Matyi's graphic artist imagined the air taxi in the 23 April 1953 issue of the newspaper
The flight day was such a success that it was repeated a week later, the interested people were taken to the airport by buses from Vörösmarty Square, and the tickets cost the same.
It was possible to exchange tickets for sightseeing flights over Budapest later until 1961, when during a sightseeing flight, the DC-3 (the same as the LI-2, but made in the USA) plane, already flying in MALÉV colours, crashed into a house in Zugló due to pilot error, killing 30 people.
Cover photo: Aeroplanes on the Ferihegy concrete in 1956 (Fortepan, Uvaterv)