At one alarming stage the bus is overtaken by a set of aircraft steps travelling at high speed

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The Independent Travel
The most exciting moment in my first six years of life was when my father took me to Gatwick airport to see President Kennedy leave after a state visit to Britain. In the 1960s, there were no significant security controls, so we perched almost on the edge of the runway to watch Air Force One lift magnificently away, destination Washington DC. Decades later, I am abashed to admit, the thrill of airports has not diminished. But for tourists like me it is difficult to get close enough to the heart of the airline business.

Then I stumbled across an "airside tour". On a short stopover in Vienna I followed some mysterious signs promising a Rundfahrt (round-trip). These lead you to a car park, where a bright white bus is waiting to take you a way on a magical demystification tour of Vienna airport.

Victor takes his bus out twice a day at weekends, mostly packed with Viennese wanting to get behind the scenes at an international airport. But transit passengers are welcome too, and even if you can decipher barely a scrap of some heavily accented German you are guaranteed a rewarding hour.

There are a couple of qualities you should know about Victor. One is his extraordinary ability to drive while simultaneously keeping his mobile audience in stitches at his comic presentation and rattling off statistics about the 10,000 parkplatzen that the airport possesses. The other is that if ever there were a Eurovision planespotting contest, he would surely win it. He can spot an Airbus A340 at a distance of five miles, identify the airline and discern whence it is arriving.

So, in the care of the expert's expert, you drive through the security barriers to the airport apron. This is a revelation, like seeing an airport inside-out. You get a close-up of a tiny Tyrolean turbo-prop and a giant Asiana 747, its rear third exposed as cargo is loaded. At one alarming stage the bus is overtaken by a set of aircraft steps travelling at high speed. Almost as worrying are the weird, bulbous passenger transfer buses that are double-ended and when being driven away from you seem, therefore, always to be reversing recklessly.

An Aeroflot Tupolev 134, one of the wonkiest old planes in the sky, causes a flutter as it screams skywards, temporarily drowning out Victor's explanation of the "waves" of flights that depart and arrive together to make connections easy. For example, between 6.10pm and 7.10pm there are no scheduled departures, but in the next hour 10 planes are set to go.

Tours depart from beneath Terminal 2 each Saturday and Sunday at 10.30am and 3pm, and cost AS60 (pounds 3). Try it - you too will be thrilled .

Next time you board a plane, at Vienna or elsewhere, listen to the background music played while the plane is on the ground. Presumably the intention is to soothe passengers' nerves. But on Monarch, the artist chosen is Annie Lennox. Anxious flyers are treated to "I don't want to wait in vain", followed by "Angel", which includes the memorable line "She's gone to meet her maker".

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