A Time Capsule by the Terminal
In October of 2015, I had the chance to visit the Aeropark Museum next to terminal 2B at Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport.
Established in 1988 and at its current location since 1991, Aeropark is a compact museum that focuses on preserving the history of Hungary’s former national airline, Malév. Through a collection of around a dozen aircraft and assorted ground support vehicles representing all eras of that airline’s existence, the museum represents the former airline very well indeed.
In my experience of visiting outdoor aviation museums, I was struck by the cleanliness and overall good condition visible in most of the aircraft on display at Aeropark. only one or two looked extremely faded and weathered and none of them looked like they were on the verge of falling apart, in fact, I saw very little corrosion evident on any of them. This is particularly unusual for aircraft constantly exposed to the elements and testament to the care and passion of Aeropark volunteers.
1946-2012: When Hungary had Wings
The beginnings of a national Hungarian airline began shortly after the end of the Second World War with the establishment of Maszovlet (Hungarian-Soviet Civil Air Transport Joint Stock Company) in 1946. The airline started with a fleet of Lisunov Li-2 airliners and a handful of Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes used as mail planes.
The airline’s name was changed to Malév in 1954 after Hungary acquired all the Soviet stocks and full control over the airline operations. By the late 1950s, the airline was replacing their Li-2 fleet with Ilyushin Il-14 aircraft. By the mid 1960s, Malév had taken on the larger Ilyushin Il-18 turboprop airliner. Before the 1960s were out, the airline had entered the jet transport age with the Tupolev Tu-134.
By the early 1970s, the Tupolev Tu-154 tri-jet had entered the Malév fleet and extended the airline’s reach considerably.
Significantly, in 1988, Malév became the first carrier among the then still Socialist European countries to operate a western designed and built aircraft when they began taking deliveries of the Boeing 737-200. By this time, they had also made progress in retiring several of the Soviet aircraft from their fleet.
Through the 1990s and early 2000s, Malév steadily replaced their remaining Soviet aircraft with western types. With the retirement of their last Tu-154 in 2001, the face of the airline was fully composed of western aircraft.
Privatisation in 2007 marked a change in the fortunes of Malév. Through a succession of owners, the airline found itself renationalised in 2010 and receiving illegal financial aid from the Hungarian government.
In the wake of a European Union investigation and ruling, the airline was ordered to return the money to the Hungarian government; a move which thrust the carrier into financial ruin and heavy debt.
Malév was declared bankrupt and insolvent in February of 2012. At the time of writing, Hungary remains without a national airline.
A Visit to Aeropark
Beyond the good condition of the aircraft on display, there is a good amount of space between them, this makes it easy to isolate a particular aircraft for a photograph with minimal interference from other aircraft. It also allows visitors to space themselves out enough to not get in each others’ way.
One can walk right up to all the aircraft and examine them closely. Exhibits which the museum does not want touched are clearly labeled as such.
On the day I visited, a guide who spoke reasonable English was on hand opening several of the aircraft for visitors to see the cockpits and other interior details. The aircraft cockpits are largely intact and complete if a bit worn in places from their long service lives. The details and transitions in technology between the aircraft is quite absorbing to take in.
For its tight subject focus on Malév and making sure all aircraft in the collection relate to that, Aeropark really is a unique museum that’s very much worth a visit if you’re in Budapest or the near vicinity.
Visiting Aeropark and Learning More
Aeropark is quite straightforward to reach via Budapest’s well organised public transportation system. A bus runs directly to the airport from the Kőbánya-Kispest metro station at regular intervals and the museum is a short walk along a well prepared pedestrian pavement from the terminal building.
The museum visiting hours are variable depending on the season.
This is a link to the Aeropark website. While it is only in Hungarian, I have found that it responds reasonably well to translation into English through online translator functions: