The article pasted below appeared in the August 2007 issue of Budapest magazine
Translated by Julianna Grant
It was due to the efforts of Lajos Jekelfalussy - responsible for military affairs - that Köbánya Airport or more
correctly, the one time Cavalry Exercise Yard of Felsörákos, became an important part of the history of Hungarian
Written by Attila Szabó
The awakening from the bad dream was brought about by the brilliant achievement of Mihály Székely who flew across from Wiener Neustadt to Köbánya on 19th July. In the meantime Count Tibor Teleky got pilot licence no. 2 and Guido Prodam licence no. 3. Only a little bit later, on 15th August 1912, Lili Steinschneider - who at the competition of 1910 looked upon Baroness De la Roche with some envy and sincere admiration - became the happy owner of pilot licence no. 4.
Lili, whenever she could, was out at the airport, after all she had a tender liaison with Antal Lányi, the "dashing" lieutenant who was the "old experimenter of Rákosmező" who was first to cross Lake Balaton in a plane that he designed and built himself, which had its 50 horse power Gnome star engine bought for him by the newspaper 'The Est'. The young couple finally decided to set up house together. They roamed the country, held flying days in country towns which drew tremendous interest, and where they presented - sometimes separately, sometimes together - their considerable flying prowess. It was her wealthy banker father that first got fed up with his daughter's flying glory "in double". What could he do? He surprised Lili with a 100 horse power Etrich Taube flying machine. The young lady pilot's happiness knew no bounds, she spent every day up in the air, practicing and collecting flying hours. In the meantime the last year of peace arrived. There were fevered preparations for the big flying contest to be held on 20th August. The citizens of Budapest were trekking in large numbers to the airfield at Köbánya, where the pilots had to complete a program made up of 6 flights. Lili Steinschneider came second in two of these disciplines and won the speed event outright. Other placings went to Viktor Wittman, István Dobos, Mihály Székely and Antal Lányi, while Lili took home prize money of 2100 crowns, which was the second largest amount awarded that day. The happy, full of life girl who didn't care about formalities spent most evenings drinking beer with the rest of the pilots in a nearby inn at no. 3 Jászberényi Road, under the protective eye of Mother Politzer "the guardian angel of young aviators". We don't know the exact date, but it had to be around this time that the story described in Péter Müller's book The Birdman, based on the legendary life of the pilot András Kvasz, happened: "The rather plump, jovial woman, wearing a white shirt with puffed sleeves, red vest and immaculate starched apron but no shoes busied herself amongst the tables and announced her prize to the aviators: Attention boys and girls! The first one to fly a reasonable circle over my inn gets 2 bottles of French champagne and 100 crowns! Good luck!" (Szépirodalmi Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 1977, 29-30. pp.) After the successes of 20th August it looked as if everything was in order in the vicinity of the hangars at Köbánya (no foreign pilot could get any medals or even places at the competition). That showed how much the world had changed since 1910!
Great plans were laid, new machines and engines were manufactured and the world was taking notice of our flying achievements. Everybody was happy, looking forward to the future with optimism, but there was less than a year of peace left and Europe sunk into the hell of World War I.
|Through her father's contacts Lili Steinschneider knew the Minister of War and offered herself and her machine to the war effort. She wanted to fight for her homeland. Baron Samu Hazay - who in spite of his Jewish origins became Minister of War - rejected her kind offer, insisting that her plane wasn't a weapon, more like a lethal contraption. He was wrong and inconsistent. His son, Lieutenant Baron Béla Hazay, member of the Order of the Golden Spur, pilot of the legendary 74th flying squadron died a hero's death hopelessly outnumbered by Entente planes in the late summer of 1918.||
The airfield today
As far as Lili Steinschneider was concerned her plans were thwarted by her father this time. He could just about
come to terms with her flying and liaison with Lányi but her wish to go to war he drew the line at. With the help
of the entire family he managed convince his daughter that having just passed her 23rd birthday, she is approaching
'old maid' status and should think of getting married soon. A young woman as beautiful as Lili must have had an
extensive camp of suitors. Why did she then decide to turn her back on love and flying and offer her hand to Count
Coudenhove-Kalergi only she could answer. She married him in 1914 and moved with him to his Bohemian estate.
Countess Coudenhove-Kalergi, the first Hungarian female pilot and only the second in the world lived a long life,
she died in 1977 in Nice.
The airport at Köbánya (Rákosmező) had a sad history soon after its early glorious days. During the war the flyers and all their activity moved to Mátyásföld, Aszód and Albertfalva, while in the vicinity of the Fehér Road only the fanatical experimenters remained.
After the fall of the Hungarian Commune of 1919 the occupying Romanian troops took everything away that was not nailed down and in some cases even those. The machines from the workshops, the newly developed engines, the sides of the hangars all disappeared. Anything that was accidentally left was taken by the poor people of Köbánya either to eat or to use as fuel. Nowadays the only memento of those days is the water tower that, standing there "like a lonely frame" is the last remaining witness of the good old days. Another interesting memorial to the fact that the cradle of Hungarian aviation was situated in Köbánya, the Xth district of Budapest, stands in Örs vezér Square, some distance from the airfield.