Historic survey

From a small airfield to an international airport

Over three-quarters of a century ago Groningen Airport Eelde was no more than a small airfield on which the aircraft was sometimes parked among sheep. Nowadays Groningen Airport Eelde is an international airport where many holidaymakers and business travellers are happy to start their flight. Below is a survey of the main milestones in the history of the airport.


A former councilman (Hayo Hindriks) of the town of Eelde approaches KLM without the knowledge of the town council. He knew that KLM wanted to set up a flight connection between Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Groningen.


13 July: The town council of Eelde agrees to a proposal to create an airfield out of an area called ‘Hakenkampsveld’ – pasture land of approximately 12 hectares.


23 May: The official opening of the airfield. 40,000 visitors attend an air show given in honour of the opening.

15 August: The first return flight for passengers from Eelde to Schiphol.


11 August: The first international flight, to Borkum in Germany.

November: The North-Netherlands flight club is established.


20 July: A business partnership called NV Luchtvaartterein voor Noord-Nederland (Aviation Fields for the North Netherlands) is established. The partners are: the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe, the Cities  and Towns of Groningen, Eelde and Assen, and the Chambers of Commerce for Groningen, Drenthe and the Veenkoloniën. Now, funds are available to develop the airfield and to put in place flight connections between Eelde and Schiphol.


Spring: The National Aviation School (Nationale Luchtvaartschool) establishes itself in Eelde.

18 March: The first flying lesson at Eelde.


13 July: The opening of a modified station building, which houses a hotel, café, and restaurant. Local radio and weather services establish themselves in this building.


Night-time lighting is first used.


Regularly scheduled flights to Schiphol are cancelled.

22 August: Eelde Airport operated by the German military.

1939- 1945

The war and the occupation deal a hard blow to optimistic expectations for the future at Eelde. The airport plays no significant role during wartime.


The Germans leave their “Fliegerhorst” (the name they gave to the Eelde airfield) and Canadian troops take their place. W.W. Krijthe, a member of the resistance group in Eelde, cuts through all the wires before the Germans leave so the Germans can’t blow up the airfield as they depart. The Canadians use the airfield as a distribution centre for land vehicles that are being transported to other locations. The distribution centre is called “Finitocamp.”


The airfield returns to the hands of the NV Luchtvaartterrein Noord-Nederland. The national government shoulders most of the cost of restoring the damaged drainage system in the airfield. In addition, the government subsidizes further developments at the airport so that it can meet international standards and remain registered for aviation.


The airfield is designated as an alternative airport to Schiphol. Thereafter, new plans are made to level and drain lands to build more runways, driving lanes and loading areas. The primary landing strip will be 1800 metres long, with a second runway of 1500 metres.


18 May: It is decided that the National Aviation Academy (Rijksluchtvaartschool) will be moved from Gilze-Rijen to Eelde once the construction of the training centre in Eelde is completed.


The new roads and runways have been completed successfully. The airfield now meets all requirements of an official airport.

The building of a training centre for the National Aviation Academy starts.


16 August: The National Aviation Academy officially moves from Gilze-Rijen to Eelde.


Various other training functions are transferred to Eelde, including a school for theory and the advanced and final flight training programmes.


A new name for the airport: Airport Eelde (NV Luchthaven Eelde)


15 May: The official opening of the airport building complex by His Royal Highness, Prince Bernard.


13 July: The first landing at Eelde by a European airplane. Twelve passengers board the plane and fly to Mallorca for a two-week holiday.

Introduction of a completely renewed control tower, necessary because of new and stricter requirements put in place through national and international air traffic law.


The fire department of Groningen takes over the official fire protection responsibilities for the National Aviation Academy. They are better able to meet the increasingly strict requirements.

The 1960’s

In the sixties, the regularly scheduled flight services are revived. Already a great deal has been said about the potential function of the airfield as the regional airport within the infrastructure of the North-Netherlands. A report concludes that the North should have air connections within a few years, because the airfield is so conveniently and centrally located. The “Study Committee for the Development of Eelde Airport” is established. It suggests that regional airfields in other countries ought to be studied as well in order to see how they have developed. The presence of the Eelde airfield appears to be a necessary condition for the development of the entire region. However, just an airfield would not be sufficient, according to the report. Nevertheless, it is an important part of a larger package. Another conclusion from the report is that aircraft noise is a larger problem at Eelde than at similar airfields. At this time a noise pollution committee is established and the Eelde ’Bulderbaan’ is discussed for the first time.


A new passenger terminal is opened, parking lots are constructed and a bus connection to Groningen is established.

The airport begins the expansion of the boarding areas and the construction of a hangar. The buildings for aviation security and meteorological services are renewed and modernised.


The airport begins work on a new air traffic control tower and associated buildings to house the National Flight Academy.

Publication of “A Structural Plan for Civilian Aviation Sites” by the Ministry of transport and Public Works. This report states that Airport Eelde should extend its runway in south-westerly direction by an extra 500 metres. This extension would make it possible for all airplane types to use Eelde, including flights to distant locations.


Official introduction of the building for aviation security and meteorological services.

The building of the new air traffic control tower completed. This new tower is a first in aviation history: it has twelve corners instead of the usual eight.

In recognition of the fact that the international significance of the airport has steadily increased through the years, it is decided to rename the airport. N.V. Luchthaven Eelde to Groningen Airport Eelde N.V.


21 June: KLM buys the National Flight Academy for the symbolic price of 1 guilder. From this time, the school is called the KLM Flight Academy.


The completion of a renovation project involving the runway lighting: the main 1800 m landing strip and the approach route are equipped with new lighting. Now planes can also land in the dark and on their instruments at Eelde.


Because of the higher volume of holiday traffic, two halls are merged, resulting in one departure hall that can hold a maximum of 200 passengers, and one arrivals hall with a conveyor belt. A completely new parking lot is added as well.


Decision from the Council of State concerning the site in front of Groningen Airport Eelde: it may be used for the development of airport-related activities.


Regrettably, Ryanair cancels its regular service again as of May 2004. A main reason in the decision was the limited length of the runway.


After a long wait, Groningen Airport Eelde finally puts on another Airshow. On 27 August 30,000 people visited the International Show.


Groningen Airport Eelde celebrate its 75th anniversary! The year starts well. There are more summer flights and travellers can choose from more destinations.


On May 23, the airport is 80 years! The airport is in full preparation for the planned runway extension.


On February 15 2012, the Council of State gives the airport green light for the runway extension! The runway extension was completed on 24 april 2013.