The airport was opened on May 23, 1931
Translated by Thomas Ansell
The only International airport in the North opened its doors 90 years ago last weekend, with the idea for an airport to serve Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe having been floated a few years earlier. “KLM took up contact with the gemeente Groningen, to see if there was the possibility of opening an airfield in the region”, says Douwe Pelleboer, an aviation historian with the Ol El group. As reported by RTV Drenthe.
“There was then a competition between the various gemeentes in and around Groningen, all of whom wanted an airfield. The former wethouder Gesina Bähler-Boerma (1874-1953) is to thank for Eelde being home to the airport”, says Pelleboer. The opening had 23,000 attendees, he adds.
Another person pushing for the airport to be located in the North was the sports aviator Haijo Hindriks, who had also helped to convince the city of Groningen’s mayor to back the idea. Unfortunately, Hindriks died in a plane crash one and a half months after the opening: there is a memorial to him at the airport to this day.
“In the beginning, it was actually just a big grassed field”, says Pelleboer, “in the winter months, the ground was really sodden and often flooded. There are photos from various years of people skating on what is now the airport!”
The airport really saw its fortunes take off with the arrival of the KLM flight school in 1954, which had been in Gilze-Rijen in the south of the Netherlands. Indeed, the Roman Catholic church in Eelde was started by families moving to the North to follow the flight school. The opening of the school was shortly followed by the laying of a hard runway at Eelde.
Image via Groningen Airport Eelde