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History of Schönhagen Airport

Whoever is looking for a place where the history and future of Brandenburg aviation are both equally portrayed has found it at Schönhagen Airport.   

Here you can read more about the history of Schönhagen Airport. There is also a permanent exhibition about the history of the airport in the terminal.

 

 

Before World War II

As early as the 1920s, records were mentioning the first flying activities on the hills around Trebbin. Back then, the first gliders were catapulted into the Brandenburg skies using elastic rubber ropes from a hilltop to the east of the present-day airport, called the Löwendorfer Berg. A group of apprentice gardeners made a start with a home-made flying machine, followed later by daring aviators from the entire region, particularly from Berlin. A disused cigar factory in Trebbin became the production site for these forerunners of modern gliders.  In 1931 the hilltop was artificially raised in height, four hangars were built and numerous tents put up. Trebbin Gliding Aerodrome was born. The LÜWA aerial surveillance group built a development centre on the hill and became the forerunner of research activity at what is now the airport. Albert Lorke was the first manager of the aerodrome.

In the following years the elastic ropes were replaced with winches and finally the idea was formulated to pull gliders into the air by hanging them onto a motorized plane.  None less than the famous fighter pilot and later General Ernst Udet towed the first glider up from the Priedel Valley at the foot of the Löwendorfer Berg using a Klemm 25.

The Third Reich

The starting point for the present-day airport was the ignoble expropriation of the Mosse family - a sign of the times in those days. In 1934 the Jewish banker’s family lost its extensive estate and properties around Schönhagen. The then still thickly forested land at the foot of the Löwendorfer Berg was cleared and the aviators moved down from the hill into the confiscated Schönhagen Manor. Flight operations were able to start on the new site in 1938. Priority was given to the training of young, up-and-coming pilots for the Luftwaffe in the Nazi Flying Corps, which had been split away from German Air Sports Association in 1937. The freshly trained military glider pilots were sent to the front directly from Schönhagen.

In 1940 they moved from the manor house into the newly built administration building between the airfield and the edge of the village.  In 1942 the training corps was raised to the status of Reich gliding school. The first head of the school was a certain Herr Kiefer. This era was to come to an end just three years later. On the orders of the Allied Control Council, the new buildings were razed to the ground and in 1946 all gliders were burned.

The Post-War Period

In 1952 the government of the GDR commissioned the newly founded Society for Sports and Technology to regenerate air sports. Building work for a new flying school and hangars began that same year and were completed in 1954. Fritz Fliegauf ran the first school of the post-war period.

In the 1950s, the building was not only a flying school, but developed quickly into a cultural centre, with dances, cinema and sports events.  In those days, airport concerts with well-known artists were broadcast live over the radio from Schönhagen.  Only later did the public meeting place of the airport become a hermetically sealed, strictly guarded compound, with which Schönhagen lived to see reunification.

Powered flight and parachute training were added to the first gliding activities in 1956. Personal and technical equipment developed rapidly and soon the training of personnel from other airfields was undertaken.  From 1957 Schönhagen increasingly became the venue for championships and competitions. Teams from Schönhagen won many titles and records in aerobatics and parachuting at various competitions and world championships. From the mid-1960s foreign pilots were also trained here, e.g. from Cuba, Egypt and Iraq. A visit to Schönhagen Flying School was on the itinerary of many foreign delegations.

In 1974 the Society for Sports and Technology founded a combination of four schools. Alongside the flying school, a management school, a model sports school and a communications school opened their doors. There were always 100 pupils boarding concurrently in the four-bed dormitories of the Schönhagen flying school.  The new combination school was run by Herr Stempin, with Fritz Fliegauf remaining as head of the flying school. 

Schönhagen experienced a boom from 1979. With incidences of people fleeing from the GDR increasing, the Society for Sports and Technology cut the number of training centres down to seven airfields. Along with Jahnsdorf near Chemnitz, Schönhagen became the only airfield authorized for powered flight training.  Parachute training was concentrated in Halle/Oppin. Numerous planes were transferred to Schönhagen and training was focussed on armed forces recruits and young flying instructors for the flying school itself. 

Modern Times

In 1990, after reunification, the Society for Sports and Technology and the combined school were dismantled and the Treuhand trust agency took over the administration. In the same year the first Airport Association Schönhagen mbH was founded, in which the surrounding communities were initially involved. By the mid-1990s Teltow-Fläming District Council had acquired the airport from the Treuhand trust agency, incorporating it into the Airport Association and taking over the minor shares. 

Today the District Council holds 99.54% of the Airport Association, with the remaining shares belonging to Trebbin Town Council. The first chief executive in the post reunification period was Gerhard Blex, who had managed flight training in the Society for Sports and Technology since the end of the 1980s.

In the meantime, Schönhagen has been able to draw on its history as well as create new stimuli for the future.

With more than 50,000 flight movements annually, Schönhagen is one of Germany’s most important airports and is the busiest airfield in the new federal states.  Two thirds of the flights are commercial flights.  Today you will find the whole, varied range of general aviation here, from private and recreational planes, across the various areas of aerial work to business aviation.  Six training companies have re-established Schönhagen as Germany’s largest aviation training centre since reunification.

By the mid-1990s investment had already been made in an asphalted, 1200 m long runway, a new apron and a tower. In 1998 Teltow-Fläming’s progressive district council, under its head Peer Giesecke, devised the plan of an aviation and technology park.  Since 2002 this plan has been implemented and developed further under the current chief executive, Dr Klaus-Jürgen Schwahn.

Today 28 companies are located here, over 30,000 m² of industrial real estate, with a few more adding to this number every year. Development and maintenance companies, aircraft manufacturers and flying schools successfully make use of the resulting synergies.

Planning permission, which had been applied for in 1999, could finally be legally granted in 2006. Thus the course was set for a secure future for the airport and its development. The runway could be lengthened to 1550 m and the airport facilities updated to conform to the most recent national and international standards.

A modern events centre with rooms for up to 300 people for meetings and events recalls the cultural centre of the 1950s. Schönhagen is often used as a set for films, TV and advertising productions by Babelsberg Film Studios, amongst others.

Schönhagen Airport’s future potential is also being shaped by collaboration with various universities and colleges, which use the airport infrastructure for diverse research activities.

The most recent developmental step is the construction of an aviation safety centre with notable partners from the air traffic control and safety sectors. The centre should make a name for itself through its participation in national and international research activities, the provision of test environments and simulations of threat scenarios for training and research, including the development and implementation of training modules. In the process, it will offer relevant companies and institutes the chance to operate in a location with great synergetic effect.   

Future

Schönhagen can look positively to the future, not least because of the starting signal for the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport.

With regard to general aviation, Schönhagen is at the forefront of Brandenburg’s air traffic concept and is developing into the most important alternative airport for the capital’s new airport in the category of aircraft with a take-off weight up to a maximum of 12 tonnes.  The instrument approach system, which is important for further development, is currently being approved and has already overcome the major hurdles.

The proximity to Berlin and its central position in the midst of the rapidly growing economic area between the south of Berlin, the state capital of Potsdam, Ludwigsfelde and the future major BBI airport make Schönhagen the ideal site for general aviation near the capital, both today and in the future.  Schönhagen’s easy access is additionally benefitting from the massive transport infrastructure projects currently being carried out around BBI.