KAINUUN SANOMAT 25.07.11 by Ida Kukkapuro

By bike with an instrument on the back

On the way: a precious instrument needs an own passport and a ticket

Ida Kukkapuro
Schiphol airport, Amsterdam, winter 2010

Niek de Groot is in a security check with a bow made by Jochen Schmidt.

Excuse me sir, it is forbidden to take a golf club into the plane. You have to put it in the hold.
This is absolutely not a golf club
Yes it is, sir.
No it is not, shall I show it to you? Groot opens the tubular case.
It is a golf club!
No, it is a double bass bow.
Well, at least it belongs to the family of golf clubs.

The debate ends and the situation solves itself, when the wise foreman wishes de Groot a good game and lets him go through the security check.

The employee was right: the instruments are classified as sport equipments. The transport instructions of the Norwegian Airlines website are found under the title: Golf and skiing equipment. The biggest instrument, which you can take into the plane, is a cello, and instruments, which are smaller than violins, can be taken to the plane as normal hand luggage.

To fly with a bow is yet simple, but de Groot, who travels with an Amati bass worth millions, ends up often in peculiar situations. From every trip he gets a story with him.

When I flew to Helsinki, the steward of the KLM was making his final exam and he was kept an eye on. He thought I was a part of the exam. The supervisors told him after the flight, that he had acted correctly by letting me go into the plane with by bass. “You always have to improvise, that is the key to the solution”, they said.

De Groot attempts to keep his big instrument near him and refuses to take it to the trunk. –This forces me to negotiate a bit, but usually I succeed. My bass fits barely to the seat of the plane.

The Amati bass, like other instruments, which are worth over 100 000 euros, has its passport of its own. There you can find the picture of the instrument and an official watermark. You also have to buy an own seat from the plane to the instrument, and there it sits with its neck downward fastened with a seatbelt.

Marko Haaksiala from Finnair points out that it is important to announce of peculiar luggage in advance. – We negotiate about bigger wind instruments and other things case by case and we check out exactly the capacity of the parcel shelves. There is no room in the trunks of the smaller planes for a double bass. From Kajaani to Helsinki you fly with an ATR 72 –plane, and there is room for only one double bass.

Finnair does not use Fragile- stick-on-lables any more. – The passengers believe that a lable like that is a promise that the items will remain safe for sure, says Haaksiala. Instead of the Fragile-sticker we use a mark with the text Limited release. It tells about the changed terms of compensation. – Then we obey the international luggage contracts and you do not have to compensate the whole value of the instrument in question, if something happens to the instrument. If something would happen to de Groots instrument, Finnair would not have have to compensate the double bass worth even 3 million. – It seldom happens anything to the big instruments, they are so well protected.

Even though de Groot travels a lot with his incomprehensible valuable instrument, he does not worry about it. – Certainly there is always a small voice in my head, which says not to break my instrument. However I do not let it restrict my life or prevent me to enjoy my wonderful time in Kuhmo. The Dutch bassist believes that the owners of the precious violins have to worry more. – It is good for the bass that it is so huge. It would be difficult to take it. My instrument is also so unique, that it would be recognized at once, if somebody would try to offer it.

More dangerous than these matters is in Kuhmo, where the musicians move by bike. The Art Foundation of the Pohjola Bank, which gives valuable bowed string instruments to the use of young musicians, has determined the instructions for use, for transportation and for keeping in their contracts. Among other things you should avoid riding a bike. If you break the rules of the contract, it can be cancelled.

Atte Kilpeläinen, who plays the Guidantus-viola owned by the Art Foundation, admits that he rides a bike in Kuhmo. – Kuhmo is an exception, even though there can be an accident also there, he says. Kilpeläinen does not have to worry about losing his instrument. – Use your common sense. I have not heard that the contracts have been cancelled. Conscientious musicians understand the value of their instruments, says Tuire Jäkkö, the office of the Foundation.