Amsterdam and Aviodrome Museum

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I had an invitation to try out the CitizenM hotel at Amsterdam Schiphol in the hope that I’d review it on my website and spotting hotels book, so jumped at the chance to use our KLM service from Durham Tees Valley.

I elected for the mid-morning Saturday flight. As I only had a small bag with me it was straight through security an hour before the flight to wait in the departure lounge. The airport felt pretty quiet, and I counted just under 40 passengers for this flight.

The trip to Schiphol was on Fokker 70 PH-WXD, which is soon due for Air Niugini, and took around an hour. Thankfully we didn’t land on the Polderbaan so it was only a short taxi to the commuter parking ramp (landing on the new runway can add 15 minutes to the taxi time!).

Before leaving the terminal I did a quick lap of the piers to log the aircraft present (gates D31 and G8 are the best places, along with the windows between the E & F and F & G piers).

I then decided to head around to the Schiphol Ooste area where the biz jets park, so hopped on bus #199 from the terminal. It costs 5 Euros for a return ticket and takes you around the northern perimeter (also useful for the McDonalds spotting location). It was quiet today, being a weekend, so I wandered the empty car park in front of the original control tower, which is now a restaurant, and logged a few biz jets, then returned on the bus back to the terminal.

The CitizenM hotel is situated a few minutes’ walk from the terminal, adjacent to the G and H piers. I’d requested an airport view room and at the self-check-in computer this request was listed. I had a room on the 5th (top) floor of the hotel with a grandstand view over the long-haul and low cost piers, with the remote parking area off to the left and movements on three runways at least partially in view. Any aircraft at the nearby gates or taxiing past were within easy reach of a 200mm lens and compact binoculars.

CitizenM is a very modern brand of hotel, aimed at a younger crowd. Everything in the room is controlled from an iPad Mini, including the mood lighting and TV. It has a huge bed, complimentary WiFi, books to read, water and chocolate bar; sadly no hot drink facilities, but a hand-written note inviting me for a free drink in the bar was a nice touch. Downstairs there’s a buffet-style café bar which you can use 24 hours a day, aimed at those whose body clocks are in a different time-zone.

I spent the rest of the afternoon on the Panorama Terrace atop the terminal, which has good views over the C, D and E piers, and two of the runways which were in use on my visit. It’s a good place for photography on the afternoon, but you’ll need a long lens. Sadly the size of the terrace is much reduced from days gone by.

On the Sunday I enjoyed my complimentary breakfast in the hotel, checked out, then walked to the train station underneath Schiphol as I planned to visit the Aviodrome museum. The journey requires catching a train to Lelystad Central, which was fairly easy (although it was crowded). It cost 23 Euros for a day return ticket. Once at Lelystad (50 min journey time) there’s a bus station outside the station. On weekdays you can catch bus #7 straight to the airport, but as it was a weekend I needed to catch #148 which is less direct and you need to get off at the stop adjacent to the airport access road (you’ll know when it is as you’ll see the museum aircraft).

Aviodrome is the National Aviation Museum for the Netherlands. As you would expect it is largely devoted to Fokker and KLM heritage, and as it’s a bit out of the way the information is not always available in English. But the collection is superb, starting with some replica WWI aircraft, and then opening up into the main hangar which is crammed with immaculate types such as a DC-3, F-27, Constellation, Dove and a few cockpits. You can go inside some of the aircraft, and some are even airworthy. Then, following signs for the 747 you end up walking along a decommissioned Schiphol jet bridge and before you know it you’re inside PH-BUK, a vintage 747-206M SUD (Stretched Upper Deck) which still has its cabin seating and fittings, and the cavernous rear cargo hold. Upstairs you have access to the cockpit, and can step outside onto a gantry for a view back along the length of the fuselage.

Descending steps onto the ground, you’re now outside among another collection of preserved aircraft, including a C-54, F-27, An-2, Spitfire, Beech 18 and former DTV regular Fokker 100 PH-OFA.

Another hangar is open to inspect, containing the museum’s workshops. Notable aircraft here are Martinair DC-3 PH-DDZ and the very rare KLM DC-2 PH-AJU.

Lelystad Airport itself is next to the museum and very active with light aircraft in the circuit. There’s a small viewing platform at the museum, and it’s apparently common to be allowed airside to wander the hangars if you have a hi-viz vest, but today I didn’t have time and chose to retrace my steps back to Schiphol on the bus and train.

A quick log of aircraft on the Panorama Terrace was done, before heading through departures where I enjoyed a meal and a couple of drinks in between wandering the windows. The clocks had changed today, so it was dark much earlier and I had to resort to light bulb spotting using Flightradar24 on my phone (Schiphol has free WiFi).

My flight home was on PH-KZS and this time jammed full. I arrived back at a misty Durham Tees Valley at 9.35pm.

The trip was kindly sponsored by CitizenM’s marketing people, but I would genuinely recommend the hotel at Schiphol for spotting if you can get a room overlooking the airport. It’s very convenient for the airport, and public transport is really easy for getting around.

Matt Falcus