With an exceptional aircraft christening, Lufthansa is making a gesture of gratitude: following the terrorist attacks on 11 September, Lufthansa passengers and crews experienced a wave of exemplary helpfulness.
Seven long-haul aircraft with around 1,500 passengers on board were immediately redirected to the Canadian airports of Gander and Halifax as soon as US airspace was closed down. Lufthansa`s passengers, alongside thousands of travelers with other airlines, spent up to a week in the two towns. Support and assistance was provided from all sides - from the mayors and the citizens right through to the Salvation Army, everyone did their utmost to ensure the wellbeing of the passengers and crews.
“We were witnesses to how the citizens provided the many thousands of people from the most varied origins, the most varied cultures and with sheer endless worries, with a little consolation and comfort”, said Stefan Lauer, Director of Human Resources at Deutsche Lufthansa AG on Thursday at this special aircraft christening in Frankfurt. He went on to say: “Due to the uniqueness of what we have experienced, we have decided to request two Canadian communities to act as godparents. Thus, today we can all be witnesses at the christening of our new ambassador, this Airbus A340, with the names of Gander and Halifax.” Also present at the christening were Petra Roth, Lady Mayoress of the City of Frankfurt, who was aboard one of the aircraft that were redirected to Gander in September, as well as Marie Bernard-Meunier, the Canadian Ambassador in Germany. The Mayors of Gander, Claude Elliott, and Halifax, Peter J. Kelly, each traveled to the christening ceremony in Frankfurt accompanied by a delegation of 20 members.
The godparents of the Airbus A340, Claude Elliott and Nancy Kelly, the wife of the Mayor of Halifax, solemnly declared: “I name you in the name of the towns of Gander and Halifax and I wish you, your passengers and your crew always happy landings.” In doing so, they wet the radar nose of their “Flying Ambassador” with Sekt.
The names of the two communities will be borne by a modern Airbus all over the world. The A340-300 with marking D-AIFC is 63.66 meters long, 16.91 meters high and has a wingspan of 60.30 meters. It machine can carry up to 247 passengers. The four-engined jet aircraft can fly with a maximum take-off weight of 271,000 kilograms and has a cruising speed of 870 kilometers/hour. With a maximum range of 13,000 kilometers, the aircraft will undoubtedly at some point in its life fly to the land of its godparents, to Canada.
Aircraft christenings already have a long tradition at Lufthansa: in September 1960, the first long-haul jet in the Lufthansa fleet, a Boeing 707, was named after the City of Berlin. God parent was the then Mayor of Berlin, Willy Brandt. In the meantime, all Lufthansa aircraft bear the names of towns/cities or German federal states. Apart from the great sense of attachment to the residents, the “Gander and Halifax” aircraft will always enjoy a special significance for the airline: it is the first and only aircraft in the Lufthansa fleet to be named after towns outside Germany.