BALLAST OF A DIFFERENT SORT

Did you know that by 1937 each day almost 90 flights started and landed at the old Flughafen Tempelhof?

By which time the main drawbacks of living in the direct proximity of the airport were noise, pollution and an occasional crash. In short, what we would recognise as adverse circumstances almost a century later today.

However, in the early years of the airport’s operation (just as a reminder, it opened on October 8, 1923) people of Neukölln living near the take-off runway had to deal with a much more unappetizing side-effect of early passenger aviation: nausea.

Not their own, though. Passengers taking those early flights often did so for the first time ever. Being locked up in a loud, trembling machine which then went up in the air only to face occasional turbulences made some of these poor souls quite sick. Enter sick bags. Which until 1949, when inventor Gilmore Schjeldahl created a vomit bag lined with plastic, were either regular paper bags and bags made of waxed paper. And these had to be disposed of fast before the matter inside them penetrated the container. Or before the smell got too oppressive.

That is why the sick bags used by passengers flying to or from Tempelhof Airport to relieve their tormented stomachs were then duly gotten rid of by throwing them out of the (then still opening) aeroplane windows… Also, being able to open the window most certainly helped some of the window-seat passengers circumnavigate the need for a sick bag…

After numerous complaints from curious Neuköllners whose balconies and fresh washing got soiled as a result, the airport authorities introduced a new regulation: the sick bags were to be collected by a member of the crew and stored on board until they could be disposed of elsewhere. Which probably meant, be dumped somewhere over a forest.  Full of unsuspecting hikers and mushroom-gatherers.