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Day 3 - The Aviation Museum

sunny

Rhami was good intelligent company but to be honest I felt the guy was slowing me down and I needed some time by myself. I already had the Anoraks Anonymous Aviation Museum on my must do list so I took a day out by myself in search of it. And search I had to. There was scant information available and all I had to go by were driving directions and the knowledge that it was somewhere near the Ataturk Airport. The starting point then was to take the airport bus and then just hoof it from there, hopefully I would spot it on the way or get directions. I thought we had passed it some way before the terminal but it being an airport express service I would just have to ride it to the end. I walked back for ages along a busy motorway until the planes were almost landing on my head but still the road had forever to go. Finally making it to a suicidal junction I headed out to what I had taken to be the museum due to the aircraft parked outside, but it turned out to be an Airforce Academy instead. I resorted at this point to asking a local as best I could, who pointed me in the opposite direction with the one word universal command "Direct!". Back to the small township of Yesilyurt I had just passed through and in a fit of bravery I thought I'd better further clarify just exactly what "Direct" meant. Another boy sorted me out with hand gestures and then it suddenly dawned on me. Of course, a bloody aeroplane museum is going to be on the airfield! I found it eventually down another suicidal expressway opposite the airport complex. Doh! And all for the want of a decent website or explanatory leaflet, it was a common discrepancy of museums all over Turkey I would discover. And it was experiences like this which really sometimes made me wonder what the hell I was doing, but then we've all got to be autistic somehow, right?

The museum was pretty good. The only bugbear was the fact that though the entry fee was something reasonable, the levy payable for photography was a total rip off. There was an easy solution of course. When prompted with the word "Camera" I answered in the negative, but of course with the greatest of care later proceeded to snap happily away anyway. There was no accountability beyond the boy on the gate I reckoned, and he struck me as being just one more arbitrary conscript who wouldnt care anyhow, he hadnt even bothered to flip over the Closed sign. It was like something out of The Great Escape though as I merrily clicked away every time the lone sentry dipped behind the handily parked Viscount, what a farce!

Now if we are to believe the Turks the first man ever to take to the skies was Turkish. Through a dodgy translation I learned that a boy named Hezarfen (meaning "of supreme knowledge") Ahmet Chelebi, a scientist under Sultan Murat IV (1623-1640) lept from the prominent Galata Tower with contrived wings and glided on the wind across the Bosphorous to the Asian side. Yeah right, and pigs might fly. At nearly a mile, the world hang-gliding champ wouldnt come close. Whatever he managed though it didnt do him much good, the Sultan freaked at this smartarse and promptly banished him to Algeria. Another guy of the same era, a certain Lagari Hasan Chelebi was also allegedly the first to fly using rocket power. He strapped himself to 7 cartridges loaded with 64Kgs of gunpowder and launched himself before gliding down into the sea. Seemingly the Sultan was in a more appreciative mood on this occasion, perhaps because they didnt get blown to smithereens. Who knows. The boy Hezarfen was actually referred to in an interesting early work of 1638 by the Lord Bishop of Chester. Entitled "Discovery of a New World - Moon" it postulated that it is "probable there may be another habitable world in the Moon" and the means to reach it had been "attempted by divers, particularly by a Turk in Constantinople". Certainly the first powered flight in Turkey took place in 1909 with Louis Bleriot kicking around and the first pilots of the very early Turkish Air Force (June 1911) were trained at his school in Paris. They were not ready however to see action in the late 1911 Turco-Italian War, the attempted Eyetie land grab of Libya from a weak Ottoman Empire. It was the worlds first experiment with aerial warfare and so many innovations occured. Attacking Tripoli, the Italians made the first reconnaisance flight, took the first recce photo, made the first leaflet drop, the first night bombing, suffered the first aircrew wounded in battle and lost the first air war victim. The Turks in turn made the first anti-aircraft bombardments using field guns and rifles.

After pushing the boundaries with a few long distance flights, most notably Istanbul to Alexandria via Beirut over the 4000 metre Taurus Mountains in 1914, the Turks flew against the RAF in World War I. The Brits bombed Istanbul, the last air action of the war. I'd especially wanted to investigate the extent of the air war during the Cyprus "Peace Operation" as they put it. There was scant information other than that they flew over 300 sorties, there were also some of the effects of the Super Sabre pilot lost. I think it was just a technical malfunction but I couldnt be sure, the guy was played up as a martyr anyhow. I had seen his outlandish memorial near Girne along with bits of the plane. Turkey had also tried to demonstrate modernity by training their first female fighter pilot, nice chick.

The aircraft outside were pretty interesting for me, T-33, Thunderjet, Thunderstreak, Thunderflash, Sabre, Super Sabre, Starfighter, Freedom Fighter, even a Phantom. Transall, Viscount, DC-3, DC-6 and others. Most were a rarity in the UK at least. And having had a border with the Ruskies, the Yanks made sure that Turkey got good kit. Most interesting of all was an F-102 Delta Dagger, a type I never even knew had been exported and a rare bird indeed. As its name suggests it was all pointy bits and straight lines, the aerodynamics were primitive. They obviously hadnt discovered Area Rule yet and the forward visibility was shocking with a razor edged pillar down the centreline of the windscreen.

From my new found local bus stop at Yesilyurt I caught a view of the Sea of Marmara with many ships anchored just outside the Bosphorous entrance. From there I sat in gridlock for over an hour until towards the city centre the traffic surprisingly eased and I was back in Sultanahmet. Phew!

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Turkey

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