Eindhoven Airport celebrates its 90th anniversary this month. Reason enough to look back at the airport’s rich history. In the second and final part, the thread is taken up in 1952, when the airport officially becomes the property of the defense and was named Eindhoven Air Base.
EINDHOVEN – The old well-known name will continue to be used by the public. The airbase is home to several squadrons of fighter jets. In the early days, there are regular accidents. One of the Thunderjets crashes near Oerle in 1954. And 2 years later things go wrong in Strijp. The story goes that the pilot of a Lockheed T-33 then wants to wave to his pregnant wife and flies a little lower over the Zeelsterstraat. His plane hits the houses, resulting in 2 casualties.
The presence of the Royal Netherlands Air Force is reinforced in 1970 by the arrival of the first eight NF-5 fighters. As a result, noise nuisance for local residents, especially in Woensel, becomes worse. The first protests started, but the fighter planes would remain until 1994. Civil aviation also makes more frequent use of the airport in cooperation with the military authorities. Philips Vliegbedrijf settles there. Frits Philips himself has been a great advocate of both ‘big aviation’ and sport aviation right from the beginning of Welschap. He got his pilot’s license in 1935. At its peak, the Philips company owned 8 planes and a helicopter and employed 70 people. In 1996 Philips stopped.
Air traffic has become more and more intensive since 1960. At the same time, Eindhoven is building large new residential areas in the Woensel district. The new houses there are completely in line with the runway, creating a constant conflict between living and flying. What follows are long-term consultations between The Hague and Eindhoven. After much tug-of-war about the costs, the decision is made: the runway must be moved in such a way that as much as possible is flown over undeveloped areas. The winding runway was completed in 1984 and is used by both the Royal Netherlands Air Force and civil aviation. The latter gets access to a completely new passenger terminal and its own platform in the same year: Eindhoven Airport.
Military use develops on one part of the airport, while civilian use develops on the other. Together they share the same runway as well as important support functions such as the meteorological service and the fire service. In 1992, the military part was assigned the national air transport task of the Armed Forces. Eindhoven thus becomes the fixed point of departure and return for all military flights abroad. For example, the Belgian Hercules plane lands in 1996, which unfortunately crashes. 34 people on board, mostly members of the military brass band, are killed in this Hercules disaster. It is the blackest day in the airport’s history.
From 2006 to 2010, the Dutch army participates in the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. This means a sharp increase in military air traffic. During that period, all transport of personnel and equipment takes place from Eindhoven Air Base. In 2014, all Dutch victims of the MH-17 disaster will be returned from Ukraine to Eindhoven airport. The ceremony on the spot and the onward transport through the Netherlands are still burned into everyone’s retinas.
The new Meerhoven residential area has been under construction since 1999. In 2002, Welschap celebrates its 70th anniversary, but at that time the original airport ‘disappeared’ under a part of Meerhoven, called Zandrijk. In preparation for the construction of the district, a boundary change will ensure that the new buildings and the relocated airport will be located on the territory of Eindhoven. The restored airport building from 1935 was given the status of a national monument in 2001.
The terminal at Eindhoven Airport from 1984 will be replaced in 2005 by a more modern building of 13,500 square meters. In the previous period, the number of passengers increased from 100,000 to 1 million per year. The launch of Ryan Air’s first scheduled service is a key driver of this growth. This also increases noise pollution. Neighboring municipalities are fighting against extending opening hours. The Brabant Environmental Association is campaigning against the increase in the discharge of harmful substances. Consultation between all parties takes place under the leadership of the politician Hans Alders: the concept of Alderstafel was born.
The number of passengers continues to grow strongly during this period. Further expansion of the terminal follows in 2013. The airport’s accessibility by car and public transport has also improved in those years. Even a new train station (near Acht) is also part of the plans. More parking was also needed. The completion of the new parking building is delayed in 2017 due to the partial collapse. New plans for further expansion and renewal of the terminal complex are underway.
At present, Eindhoven Airport is the largest regional airport in the Netherlands with more than 5 million passenger movements per year. In the discussion between supporters and opponents of further growth in air traffic, all kinds of conflicting interests play a role. Local residents demand a reduction in noise pollution, environmentalists want a healthier living environment. On the other hand, economists point to the importance of the airport for the further development of Brainport Eindhoven.
Eindhoven Airport itself works on sustainability. The conclusion is that as long as it is still possible to fly incredibly cheaply to all kinds of European holiday destinations, the number of passengers from Eindhoven airport will continue to increase.
Will there come a time when the limits of Eindhoven Airport’s growth will be reached? It will become clearer in the coming years whether such a turning point is reached. Or will the technology allow it to continue to grow without problems?
Air traffic has become more and more intensive since 1960
Rob van Brunschot / Eindhoven in the picture