Aviation enthusiast at heart and soul | Interview

As a boy, Rien Moerland did not dream of it, but when he worked in aircraft scaffolding, he became fascinated by the technology of machines. When he built a DC-10 for KLM due to maintenance and painting work, he was sold.

Rien’s house testifies to his interest in aviation. In the hall an impressive photo of a docket DC-10. In the living room no sofa but business class seats from a KLM-Boeing 747 and 737. Two carriages as side tables. The walls are covered with pictures of planes and places he has flown to. An airplane model appears pretty much everywhere anything can stand. While Rien first saved for everything aviation-related, in recent years he has mainly focused on everything that is KLM blue. A selection of the gadgets available: stickers, advertising brochures, record covers, books, strings, pens, T-shirts, KLM suitcases, a yoke from a Fokker 100 and various cabin items from the 747 dismantled in Twente. Because the collection has gradually become too large for the living room, the top floor is also filled with aviation curiosities. Rien even has tattoos on the arms of the famous KLM swan, Boeing 747 and his above all beloved MD-11.


When asked why the MD-11 is his favorite, Rien is the first to mention the tail motor. ‘The location in the tail is unique. As a result, the MD-11 has a somewhat aggressive appearance, like its predecessor the DC-10. In all other three-engine aircraft, the third engine is integrated with the fuselage. It looks less impressive. The large cockpit windows on the three-engine Douglas machines are also unique. And then the winglets! With the split-tip winglets, the MD-11 was far ahead of its time. Many 737s are now flying around with a variant of it. ‘


Rien considers the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which has taken over the services of the MD-11, as a worthy successor. Nevertheless, he thinks it’s a shame that now that the Boeing 747-400 and Fokker 70 have also been removed from the blue fleet, all characteristic aircraft have disappeared from the scene. ‘I still want to go to Schiphol, but it is now uniformity in appearance and sound. The screaming from the Fokkers, the growling from the 747s and the whistling kettles from the MD-11: I miss it. Although I still get goosebumps from the sound of the huge engines hanging under the 777. It just gets a lot of goosebumps. ‘

It must be blue

Rien previously flew with all kinds of airlines, but in recent years exclusively with KLM. “It must be blue that belongs in the sky.” The flying freak has been on all types that the national airline has had in the fleet since the jet era. ‘On October 25, 2014, I boarded the MD-11 in Montreal, which was then embarking on its very last commercial flight,’ says Rien with great pleasure. He was also present on 28 October 2017 during the farewell flight with the Fokker 70 from Heathrow. “Unfortunately, there were no farewell flights when the 747 was phased out. What a disappointment! Fortunately, KLM has managed to survive the corona-related aviation crisis so far. ‘ He likes to be there when there is opening flight. The collector was on board during opening flights to Miami, Salt Lake City and Mauritius, among others. Every time Rien goes up in the air, he takes a photo book he has made with him of the type of plane he travels in. He also wears a T-shirt with a picture of that box on it. ‘The crew thinks it’s great,’ says the mileage eater with a laugh. ‘At the end of a flight that always opens a door, a cockpit door!’

Fokker 70 and Boeing 747-400 © Rien Moerland

Around the world

In the 1990s, it was still possible to make day flights with KLM at a reduced price. The flying fanatic made frequent use of these so-called day flights. He now likes to stay a little longer at a destination to see a little of the world. ‘The most important thing for me is to fly. I’d rather get in than out. I once traveled 40,000 miles in fourteen days with a friend. In about 43 flight hours, we flew around the world, from Amsterdam to Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Auckland, Sydney, Dubai and back to Amsterdam. That’s why I can now also say that I was sitting in an Airbus A380. ‘

Airbus A380 Emirates © Rien Moerland

Hundreds of clippings

He would never be a pilot, he prefers to sit at the very back so he can oversee everything. His car even has a sticker that says “I wish I was on a plane!” The air lover goes to a shelf full of yellow ring binders. Each backside has a different type of aircraft. He opens a copy entitled Boeing 747. It contains hundreds of clippings from newspapers and magazines, placed in plastic inserts. He points to some other folders. On the spine it says in nice letters: Tenerife, MH 370, MH17. “Do not think I like this. But it’s aviation related. I’ve also collected everything about the Icelandic ash cloud that paralyzed all air traffic in 2009. And about the brand new KLM jumbo, PH-BFC, which ended up in the ashes after the volcanic eruption on Mount Redoubt in 1989. ‘

Docked PH-BFC © Rien Moerland

MD-11 van

From the ground up, Rien can also enjoy airplanes immensely. ‘You can find me at Schiphol at least twice a month. Sometimes I will be along the trail already at. 05.00 to photograph the oncoming machines at dawn. I do this from a kitchen staircase, because then I get over the fences, and it gives better records. Those stairs are always in my car. I sometimes drive on to Frankfurt or Brussels’. For many years, the aircraft was recognizable to other enthusiasts in his MD-11 van due to the large stickers on the three-engine jet on both sides. ‘The MD-11 is out, the Fokker 70 is out, the Boeing 747 is out, so now also the van’, he laughs. “Now I’m more incognito.” It is not yet known if that will continue to be the case.

Rien Moerland at the MD-11 van © Lieneke Koornstra


In addition to a staircase, Rien always has a garbage grabber with him. “It’s unbelievable what nonsense I find.” On his iPad, he shows some pictures of discarded plastic bottles, beer and soda cans, McDonald’s cups, milk cartons, candy bags and more. Visibly dissatisfied, he points to a photo of packed lunches floating in puddles between the sugar beets. Is that the new normal ?! No, this is antisocial! ‘, He says, raising his voice a little. »This is a farmer’s place close to one of the spotting spots on Schiphol. You do not leave that as a thank you, do you? Look at that shit here. Gathered along the bike path when lined up for lane 18-L and on the small field along lane-27-09. I put the garbage I found at the Q rolling track in the trash can that was located there. Even doing so is apparently too much of a task for many people. After spotting, I often come home with a whole garbage bag full. No, it’s usually not the real spotters who go as a thank you. ‘ He points to a photo with black balloons used for laughing gas. “Obviously used to get into higher spheres in a different way than by plane.”

really spotter

Rien was twice at the spotting site par excellence, Sint Maarten, when the 747 was still flying on it. ‘I was on the beach almost non-stop for nine days. It’s really absurd there, those big trash cans coming right over you. ‘ He continues enthusiastically: ‘I once visited seventeen airports in a year. In all, I have now visited 115 of them. This also includes very small fields, such as Kempen Airport and Texel Airport. Recently, I was even at a fake airfield, a phenomenon with which the Germans gave the impression that there was an air base during World War II. In this way, they diverted attention from a field a little further away from where they operated. ‘ The aircraft enthusiast not only photographs aircraft, he also carefully keeps track of all registration numbers. That makes him a real spotter. He takes another file from the shelf. Hundreds of planes are listed there. A tick behind each copy that Rien has taken a picture of.


‘Unfortunately, the days of aircraft scaffolding with traditional aluminum mobile scaffolding are over. Together with my twin brother Adri, I regularly laid machines for KLM as a substitute for 25 years and I did it on the same basis for Fokker for 34 years. ‘ Rien reaches out for another file. He looks up a working drawing of a DC-10 supplied by KLM. “Look, all the dimensions are listed there. That way we knew exactly how to build the racks.” The picture that hangs in the hall of the docked DC-10 has now been reviewed in small format. ‘We needed four days to build it all. And later again to break it all down again. In the long run, however, they worked in increasingly with fixed setups, in the form of tail docks, wingdocks and hull docks, I saw the last few years before my retirement only built scaffolding for building maintenance. ‘

More and more are coming

Rien points to some boxes on the floor. ‘They are crammed with clippings. I can live to be 120 to classify all that. ‘ After a short break: ‘Sometimes I think about what my kids should do with my collection when I’m away. Every now and then I sell something. But there is also more and more. ‘ He is looking at a large model of MD-11. “If I could keep one thing out of everything I own, it would be this one.” Another brief silence. ‘I recently saw a video on YouTube with pictures of one of the blue elves during her very last take-off from Schiphol. Fantastic music with. It would be nice if it was shown at my funeral. ‘ With a laugh, he quickly adds, ‘Hopefully I can still do a lot of flying lessons before that.’

Air traffic © Rien Moerland

Best flight

It’s hard to pick Rien when asked what his best flight was. ‘The very last commercial MD-11 flight from Montreal to Amsterdam was one big party from start to finish, despite the fact that this plane had to be removed from the fleet. Unfortunately, I missed the farewell flights that KLM arranged on November 11 ‘, he sighs. ‘I still miss the fairies at Schiphol. The same goes for the Queen. With that plane, I made a wonderful flight to Curacao on October 7, 2019, when KLM celebrated its centenary. What an experience, before, during and after the flight. And no, I could not yet imagine that this would be my last 747 flight, the corona meant the premature phasing out of the Jumbo. ‘ He also had a wonderful flight with his new favorite plane. ‘On November 23, 2015, I was one of the passengers aboard the then brand new Boeing 787-9, destination Abu Dhabi. It was quite normal, but still it gives a special feeling to experience the first commercial flight of a new type of aircraft. ‘

Last commercial flight MD-11 October 26, 2014 © Archive Rien Moerland

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