I was being driven to Belgrade's Nicola Tesla international airport to take my flight back home after a couple of fruitful days in Serbia's capital when something caught my eye...right to the side of the main airport terminal there was what looked like a spectacular display of old aircraft types.
Fortunately enough the field in question was within walking distance of the terminal and I had plenty of time before the departure of my flight, so, trolley in hand, I walked towards this open-air museum to have a closer look...the 7min. walk was well worth it!
The place itself has a somewhat derelict look, like a legacy from a bygone era, when other architectural styles were in fashion (somehow the main building reminded me of the Atomium, in Brussels!), but this is possibly the best setting for one of the most amazing displays of communist-era aircraft that I have ever seen.
I am not an expert in military aviation but I think most of the airplanes are old Yugoslav-made Galebs (that curiously enough, happen to be in the news these days because of the conflict in Libya!). However, what I found to be the star of the exhibit, and certainly of much interest to someone like me interested in the history of commercial aviation, is this JAT-Yugoslav Airways Caravelle, an icon of European commercial aviation history.
The SUD-Caravelle was one of the first jet-powered commercial airliners and a big commercial success in its day. This French-made aircraft came to dominate European short and medium haul routes in the pre-Airbus era. It carried around 80 passengers, although the latest version, developed in the early 70s and called Super-Caravelle, could carry up to 140 passengers. I ignore whether there is any Caravelle left flying in some remote corner of the planet, but, in any case, Belgrade's open-air aviation museum is a great opportunity to come face to face with this mythical aircraft!
As per JAT Airways, what used to be the flag carrier of the former Yugoslavia has reinvented itself as the flag carrier of Serbia and it operates under a new logo and a renovated image and fleet. It flies to some 35 scheduled destinations with a fleet of Boeing 737s and ATR-42s.