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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


Spring: the National Flight Academy is based at Eelde.

18 March: first flying lesson.


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


Night-time lighting is installed.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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

Building work starts on the new National Flight Acadamy.


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


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


The airport gets a new name: Eelde Airport.


15 May: Official opening by HRH Prince Bernard.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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


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


April 24: Completion of the runway extension.

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

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.


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.


Construction began on the Groningen Airport Solar Farm. The Solar Farm is located between the runway, taxiway and apron, and consists of 63,196 solar panels capable of supplying enough electricity for around 6,200 homes. A covered walkway to the apron will be built, also fitted with solar panels, producing electricity for the airport itself. This means the airport will be completely self-sufficient.


The Groningen Airport Solar Farm, a GroenLeven project, was officially opened in February 2020 by the Infrastructure Minister, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen. It is the first solar farm of its kind in the world to be constructed at a commercial airport. A much-needed milestone in energy transition for aviation.

An aircraft electric charging station has been installed, making Groningen the first Dutch airport to provide this facility.

June 2020 was the busiest month for many years, despite the fact that there were no passenger flights due to the Corona crisis. Aircraft movements in June were up by almost 50% compared to the same period in 2019.

With around 40,000 aircraft movements, Groningen Airport has been busier than previous  years. Movements were up by 23% compared to 2019. The increase was partly due to growth in training flights.


Start of the innovation and sustainability initiative 'NXT Airport'. Together with partners including; New Energy Coalition, Holthausen, Saab, PEN EM, the KLM Flight Academy, Dronehub GAE and NHL-Stenden University of Applied Sciences, NXT Airport is working on projects aimed at making aviation more sustainable.