Taking my breath away

Honeybuns, J, and I decided it was time to go see what the Air Force Museum looks like after the recent renovation, so I booked (with some effort) tickets to Linköping and then we got on the early morning train. Coincidentally an erstwhile colleague turned up on the same train. He dissed the “murder machine museum” in no uncertain terms, but we decided to go anyway and take up his more wholesome alternatives at a later point in time.

Paint peeling off the radome of a Tp 82.
Linköping was sunny as we rode the bus out to the museum (they have SMS tickets in Linköping, too, these days). We got there a bit before opening time, and had a look at the outdoors exhibits. The Tp 79, Tp 80, Tp 82, and Tp 83 were looking rather the worse for wear. Apparently, being lowly SIGINT aircraft (and rather large) they weren’t allowed indoors. It was all rather sad.

A freshly restored Thulin G right inside the entrance to Hall 2.

Eventually we got indoors. Even while Hall 2 was generally recognisable in its layout, the exhibits had been much improved: There were screens with pictures, video material and text on the exhibits and the walls carried huge paintings of what a Swedish military airbase would have looked like in the different time periods depicted, coupled with descriptions of the technical development in that time. Showcases along the walls showed various smaller paraphernalia, such as uniform details, instruments, etc. Unfortunately these were mostly not labelled, so one had to guess at much of what was shown. A feature which I particularly liked was that several aircraft had ramps up to the side, making it possible to peer down into the cockpits.

From the exhibition on the museum’s patron saint, Carl Cederström, a satirical play on his exploits. Note ”Flygberg”, a reference to Carl Richard Nyberg, the original inventor from Sundbyberg.
After a while IPMS Östergötland turned up for their last-Sunday-in-the-month modelling meeting, right in the middle of the big hall. Very inspiring, but there was much to see, so I, rather impolitely, exchanged just a few words with my southern colleagues, and then continued through the exhibits.

Eventually we felt rather hungry, and found that the food facilites had been much improved since last as well, the museum now had a pleasant little restaurant with perfectly good food.

We skipped the Flight lab with the simulators and instead entered the new Cold War hall, which turned out to be high point of the visit. While Hall 2 was very pedagogical, it was still mainly an exhibition of aircraft qua aircraft, the Cold War hall was designed to demonstrate a historical process. This was done in four stations from the 1950s to the 1980s. Each station was in the form of a contemporary home, with news clips playing on the radios (later in the tv sets), poster stations etc. The aircraft were placed on top of the stations, but they became relegated to the background as we were hard hit by nostalgia. Just seeing the Salomon backpack on the coat hanger in the 80s flat brought back so many memories, even though I never had one myself. I visited the Britain at war experience several years ago and was a bit disappointed by it, but suspected that Brits with more personal memories would feel differently about it, and this would confirm that, it was a very strong experience to suddenly be brought back 30–40 years in time.

Then, in the cellar, the exhibition Acts of Secrecy, with the retrieved and preserved remains of the Tp 79 shot down in 1952, still an aching ulcer. The setting was very solemn as befits a war grave. The facts were laid out dispassionately, but there was clearly much still unsaid, partly because much information has been destroyed over time, but also because there are still living persons affected. So, while the Vasa museum can display detailed reconstructions of the dead in the wreck, such would not have been acceptable here, we are not even told whose remains have been found (their identities are known, they are just not mentioned). Four crew members are still missing, leaving their fate open. That well-preserved items of clothing were exhibited in a show-case added to the feeling of unease.

Mats Johansson had prepared a large-scale cutaway model of the aircraft, based on the best available knowledge and guesses. It brought home how tense the atmosphere must have been with the five SIGINT officers, each by a rack of listening equipment, trying to extract as much information as they could out of all signals from different sources crossing the air, busily jotting down notes as the plane flew back and forth, sniffing out the most interesting scents, all so secret that the truth couldn’t even be hinted at for fifty years.

In one of the show-cases I found an antenna mast, identical to the one I have as a trophy in my living room, though mine is said to originate from the one B 3 that was modified for SIGINT purposes.

Before we were all done, the museum closed. We will have to go back.


Martin said...

I saw a briefcase and, I believe, a shoe or two from the DC3 up close when they were undergoing conservation in Gothenburg a few years back.

And about those Tp codes -- I thought you meant "Tupolev"!

kai said...

No, that would be “Tu”—or «Тү». In high school I had my mother knit me a sweater with a Tupolev Tu-144. The Cyrillic legend confused many.