History of the airport

From small airfield to international airport

Around 75 years ago Groningen Airport was nothing more than a small airfield where planes stood amongst sheep. Today it is recognised as an international airport where many holiday and business travellers start their journey. Below is an overview of some important dates in the airport's history.

1927

Knowing KLM wanted to start a route between Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Groningen, Hayo Hindriks, a former Eelde town councillor, approached the carrier without the knowledge of the council.

1928

13 July. The local council agrees to the proposition of converting 'Hakenkampsveld', a 30 acre meadow, in Eelde into an airfield.

1931

23 May: Official opening of the airfield which drew 40,000 visitors to an airshow put on to mark the occasion.

15 August: Inaugural return passenger flight Eelde to Schiphol.

1932

11 August: first international flight to Borkum, Germany.
November: Inauguration of the North Netherlands Aeroclub.

1933

20 July: establishment of the North Netherlands  Aerodrome, a limited company. Shareholders were the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe, the councils of Groningen, Eelde and Assen, the Chambers of Commerce for Groningen, Drenthe and the Veencolonies. Funds were made available to establish an Eelde - Schiphol route and to expand the airfield.

1934

Spring: the National Flight Academy is based at Eelde.

18 March: first flying lesson.

1935

13 July: Opening of a modified building containing a hotel, bar and restaurant. Local radio and meteorological services are also located in this building.

1938

Night-time lighting is installed.

1939

The service to Schiphol is suspended.
22 August. The airport is taken over by the military.

1939- 1945

The war and occupation dealt a harsh blow to the optimistic future growth of the airport which played no major role in this period.

1945

The Germans leave 'Fliegerhorst' (the name they gave to Eelde aerodrome), and the Canadian troops take over. W.W. Krijthe, a member of the Eelde Resistance managed to cut all connections to the airport so the Germans could not destroy it before they departed. The Canadians then used the airport, referred to as 'Finitocamp', as a vehicle distribution centre.

1946

The airfield is returned to the hands of the North Netherlands Aerodrome. The state bore most of the cost of repairs to the airfield's damaged drainage. Additional expansion was necessary to comply with international regulations in order to keep the airport operational.

1948

The aerodrome is seen as an alternative to Schiphol. A new plan is drawn up involving runway levelling and drainage (a main 1800 metre runway and a second of 1500 metres), airport roads and an aircraft apron.

1951

18 May: The National Flight Training Acadamy is moved from Gilze-Rijen to Eelde where a new training centre is to be built.

1953

The new runways are completed and Eelde is now an official airport.

Building work starts on the new National Flight Acadamy.

1954

16 August: The National Flight Acadamy is officially transferred from Gilze-Rijen to Eelde.

1955

Schooling, advanced, final flight training and all other departments  are transferred to Eelde.

1956

The airport gets a new name: Eelde Airport.

1957

15 May: Official opening by HRH Prince Bernard.

1958

13 July: The first landing by a European aircraft. 12 passengers boarded the plane and flew to Mallorca for a two-week holiday

Introduction of new control towers due to new, stricter national and international laws.

1960

The Groningen Fire Service takes over duties from the Flight Acadamy, being better equipped to meet the ever increasing regulations.

The 1960’s

In the 1960s there is talk about reviving scheduled services and the potential of using Eelde as the regional airport in the infrastucture of the North-Netherlands. A report came to the conclusion that within a few years there should be a number of established routes from the north due to its central location.

The 'Study Group for the Development of Eelde Airport'  was set up and decided they should look over the border to see how other regional airports have developed. The development of Eelde airport was seen as fundamental to the development of the region needing to be part of a whole package. They also focussed on noise pollution which they considered was going to be greater here at other similar airports. A committee is set up to monitor noise pollution and the Bulder Runway (’Bulderbaan’) is discussed for the first time.

1977

A new passenger terminal is opened, car parks constructed and a bus service set up to Groningen.

Expansion of the apron commences and the construction of a hangar. The buildings housing aviation security and meteorological services are renewed and modernised.

1979

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

The Ministry of Transport and Public Works publish “A Structural Plan for Civil Aviation Sites".  This report states that Eelde Airport must increase the length of its runway in a south-westerly direction by 500 metres. This extension would make it possible for all types of aircraft to use Eelde, including those used for long haul flights.

1982

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

The building of the new air traffic control tower is completed. This tower is the first in Dutch aviation history to have twelve sides instead of the usual eight. In recognition of the fact that the international significance of the airport has steadily increased, it is decided to rename the airport Groningen Eelde Airport.

1991

21 June: KLM buys the National Flight Academy for the symbolic price of 1 guilder, and from then on it is  renamed the KLM Flight Academy.

1992

Improvements are made to the runway lighting on the main 1800 metre runway and approach. After dark planes can now make instrument landings at Eelde.

1994

Due to high volumes of holiday traffic, the two departure halls are merged, resulting in one large departure lounge capable of holding up to 200 passengers. An arrivals hall with a baggage carousel is completed  along with a new car park.

2003

The Council of State reach a decision regarding the site in front of Groningen Airport allowing it  to be developed for airport-related activities.

Ryanair starts a scheduled service to London which attracts many passengers.

2004

May: Regrettably Ryanair withdraw the London service. One of the reasons being the length of the runway

2005

After many years  Groningen Airport puts on an International Airshow which attracts 30,000 visitors.

2006

Groningen Airport Eelde celebrates its 75th anniversary and the year gets off to a good start. There are more summer flights and travellers can choose from more destinations.

2011

23 May: The airport is now 80 years old and preparations are well under way for the planned runway extension.

2012

February 15: The Council of State gives the airport the go-ahead for the runway extension.

2013

April 24: Completion of the runway extension.

2014 Stobart Air, a Flybe Franchise partner, starts a daily scheduled service to London Southend Airport.
2016

With the opening of a new service to the Copenhagen 'hub', many more destinations such as New York, Oslo, Stockholm, Milan, Bankok etc are easier to reach.

2018

13 March: For the first time ever a Boeing 747 landed at Groningen Airport carrying 140 military personnel who were to take part in the 'Frisian Flag' exercise at the Leeuwarden Air Base.