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The History of EuroHarmony
By Gergely Kosa / EHM0001
Did you ever wonder how our airline was founded and how did it evolve to be what it is today?
I began working on the airline in March 2001. The idea for the name Harmony came from a song of my favorite composer, Mike Oldfield. Our first livery was white and purple, the two colors separated by the logo on the fuselage.
It was quite hard to get good models and also repaint permissions for them - there were much less planes available in early 2001 for Flight Simulator. So I decided to put together our first fleet by checking what aircraft were available instead of first making a fleet plan and then searching for non-existing planes. I remember that the first aircraft I repainted for EuroHarmony was the Saab 340, a Class 2 plane.
Our site was online on 29th April 2001 and this can be considered the official opening of the airline; however the first flight of the airline was done two days before. The pilot was Maarten Pols who flew a Beech 1900D from Zurich to Bern. We started operations with a fleet of seven aircraft (including the Beech 1900D, Saab 340, Jetstream 31, Metro) operating from three hubs (Zurich, Stockholm and Bucharest) and our rosters counted eleven pilots.
The airline was really small when it started, and the website consisted of about four-five html pages that weren't quite very well made (I was never good at graphics and creating pages that look good). Some features and concepts used today were already introduced then, for example the 7-class ranking system.
In the next weeks, more planes were added to our fleet and we slowly expanded our route network. Our first Turboprop Captains were Maarten Pols and Dennis Defterevos. Three days after the opening we had 20 pilots, and we have carried more than 1000 passengers. The next day, we flew our first multiplayer flight, with four pilots participating.
After our first month of operations, we had more than 40 members, a larger fleet including jets, a new site design and a new hub (Amsterdam Schiphol). After two months, we had more than 50 members, more than 18000 passengers carried and more than 410 flight hours in total. Our first pilot to be a flight captain (and so allowed to fly jets) was Thomas Paine.
Until late August, it was me who done almost everything at EuroHarmony (site, fleet, roster updates) and my website making and programming skills were not enough to create and maintain a top virtual airline. But two EuroHarmony members, Marin Licina and Barry van Dijk kindly offered to help me; Marin (who became later Vice President of EuroHarmony) made a much better site for the airline and Barry offered hosting for us on his server and a domain name. He also created a fully searchable timetable and join/pirep forms.
The new site was ready in late August. With the new site, and a new server and URL, we wanted to take EuroHarmony's evolution one step further to it's final goal, being one of the best European VAs.
New Plans and Expansion
In one week after the launch of our new web site, EuroHarmony has grown instantly and we have acquired several new partnerships (FS Worldstar, VA Stock Market and VATSIM). After two weeks of the launch of the new web site, we received 10 new pilots and the web site has been viewed over 1300 times.
In October we became partners of VirtualAirlines.com - known then as the best VA community which only accepts best of the best. We were proud of achieving this and were looking forward to a long partnership with VirtualAirlines.com. Unfortunately they ceased operating in 2003 and they are currently restructuring themselves.
On 29th October we celebrated our 6-month jubilee. Our big surprise was a brand new look - a new web-site and a complete, new livery fleet with new aircraft like the 757-300, 747-400 and the MD-11. The new livery was inspired by the flag of Europe, yellow stars on a dark blue fuselage.
In November we reached new landmarks - more than 1000 pilot reports, 1000 flight hours and more than 50000 passengers carried since EuroHarmony started its operations.
In 2002, our airline continued improving and expanding. Maarten Pols, who was at our airline since the opening, offered to make an automated pilot report processing system and pilot database. This has been a significant improvement as it was a lot of work to update the roster pages manually.
On our first anniversary (29th April 2002) we released a brand new site design (by Marin) and the automated pilot database (by Maarten). We also introduced a new, self-hosted forum and opened two new hubs, London Heathrow and Athens.
The structure of the Management was also changed. Barry and Marin left EuroHarmony, Maarten became our Chief of Development and Magnus Larsson our Chief of Operations. We introduced a clear structure of the management, with people responsible for different areas, like the fleet or a division.
Work on the new fleet and site began in early Autumn. We planned to make a new and much more realistic livery for our aircraft, to introduce new divisions (like cargo, charter) - and of course we had to change the site colors and graphics to match with the new livery.
The new features were released in December 2002. We have a new site and a completely new fleet in a new livery, using the best quality freeware aircraft available. Divisions like Business, Holidays and Cargo were introduced, and there's also a fleet for our Flight Academy (later Harmony Aeroclub). Other features include an award system, tours, an Inflight Magazine (later renamed Library), gallery and occasional contests for our pilots. We also opened the Lisbon hub.
In the next months we focused on online flying (VATSIM and IVAO) and we made a habit of organizing online events and trainings for pilots. In February we re-opened the Athens and closed Bucharest hub.
In May 2003 EuroHarmony won 3 out awards at the 2003 World Virtual Airline Awards organized by virtualairlines.com, one of the most prestigious virtual airline organization. These were: award for Best Website, Best Paint Scheme and Best Leader.
Later that year, Emanuele D'Arrigo joined our team and made many very useful scripts like Pilot, Route and Hub Statistics and a new timetable searching system. In October, we introduced a new route network, much more realistic than our previous one, based on every plane having its own schedule.
In January 2004 a disaster occurred - there was a hard disk failure at our host (including backup disks) and all pilot and pirep data was lost. Although we managed to restore the pages, we couldn't get back the database, and everyone had to start from zero again.
After resuming operations in March, we continued improving the airline - this including, for example, the Flight Logger and ACARS system by Armando Chibante.
Today, we see EuroHarmony reach incredible goals, ones I could never dream of when the small VA was started. I'd like to thank everyone for their commitment and for their work they invested in the airline.