July 6, 2016.   Terminal With a View.

Schiphol Observation Deck

I took these pictures in Europe recently. That first one is the observation deck at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport (yet another of Schiphol’s numerous little conveniences). The second is a billboard for a similar deck at the airport in Zurich.

Once upon a time, every big airport had decks like these. Where they still exist, they remain popular. You don’t need to be an airplane geek to appreciate the view and a chance to escape the noise and in-your-face retail onslaught of the terminal. The ones at Schiphol and Zurich are outdoor decks, which is maybe not ideal considering the Dutch or Swiss weather, but in temperate months it’s refreshing to be outside. And, at Schiphol, it allowed them to install that old KLM Fokker 100 as part of the scenery.

The dearth of observation decks these days no doubt ties into our obsession with security — a conversation too aggravating to have at the moment, so let’s not have it.

The greatest observation deck of all was the old 16th-floor platform in the control tower at Boston-Logan. This was my home-away-from-home pretty much every weekend from sixth grade through high school. Sadly, it’s been closed for over two decades now, converted into an operations room for the Massachusetts Port Authority. Back in the day, it featured opposing sides of knee-to-ceiling windows and the best view in town. It’s a scant two miles from Logan’s perimeter seawall to the center of downtown, and you observed the city and its airport in a state of working symbiosis. Passengers relaxed on carpeted benches while kids and families came on the weekends, feeding coins into the mechanical binoculars and picnicking on the floor. It made the airport a destination unto itself, like a park or a museum, and encouraged a kind of civic togetherness rarely seen at airports.

 

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