| Sandra Kathe |
Frankfurt (dpa) – Travellers from every corner of the earth rush through the terminals of Frankfurt International Airport as they head out for their next trips.
Most of them have no idea that underfoot – beneath check-in counter 861 in Terminal 2 – there is a huge collection of items devoted to aviation history, and all of them, 230,000 items in total, belong to one man – Hector Cabezas.
The items are the result collecting that Cabezas has carried out for over 70 years – virtually an entire lifetime for the 79-year-old former pilot.
With loving, exacting care, he has filed his collection alphabetically and geographically.
If one passes through the door of the seven basement rooms where Cabezas keeps the artefacts, then one enters a labyrinth of cardboard figures, cartons, machines and model airplanes.
Cabezas is the only one who knows exactly where everything is. So when visitors come, Cabezas has to guide them.
One of his favourite pieces is the pilot’s insignia from the film Air America that actor Mel Gibson personally sent him.
The item is contained in a clear plastic folder right in the front of a black carton with a “USA” label.
In 1987, airport operator Fraport made the rooms available to Cabezas and his wife Paula for their collection.
The tiny museum is 350 square metres, and Cabezas needs every last centimetre of it.
Even the walls are completely covered with mementos, photographs and newspaper articles, and the couple has a story for each and every one of them.
This postcard was sent by a pilot friend of theirs, that cap was acquired in a trade with another collector, they tell visitors.
The couple never invested much in the museum, except of course their time.
And they have a tonne of stories to tell. For example, the day that actor John Travolta, a licenced pilot, landed his own plane at Frankfurt airport in 2002.
At a press conference with Travolta, it was Hector Cabezas who caused a stir because he could name the year that the pilot jacket that the actor was wearing dated from.
“I asked him if he had a few minutes’ time,” Cabezas said about his encounter with Travolta.
“We then simply drove across the airport grounds in my old clunker of a car to the archive. The entire time I was trying to figure out how I could make it clear to the security people that I needed a day pass for John Travolta,” Cabezas added.
Everything began in 1934, when Cabezas was an eight-year-old discovering a passion for collecting stamps.
“But only those with airplane themes, because flying had always been my passion,” he says.
At 17, he got his pilot’s licence in Argentina, and then went to the Netherlands with his father, soon flying large cargo planes for a living.
However, his flying days were cut short by diabetes, and Cabezas, now grounded, became head of air cargo operations at Germany’s largest airport in Frankfurt.
Cabezas experienced the history of the airport himself, and documented it all the while.
This is what makes his collection so special for the airport.
“We may not have our own museum, but since Cabezas’ collection above all is comprised of artefacts of the airlines, we can provide a special customer service with his treasures,” says Markus Grossbach, head of the airport’s central archives.
For example, when an airline celebrates some special occasion, it can avail itself of display items from the Cabezas collection.
Last summer, the 79-year-old handed his collection over to the airport, while assuming the position of curator.
“It’s a lifetime appointment,” he says proudly.