I’m always fascinated by reminders of the past, and by knowing the former purpose of a historic site. Over the years many airports have been superseded by newer sites and closed down, and naturally many are redeveloped and lost for good.
But it’s surprising how many little hints of these airports you can still see if you look hard enough. Here are five lost European airports today:
Formerly the main airport for London, UK. Croydon is a town to the south of the city, and in the early days of air travel it became a busy hub for some of the classic airlines and their early aircraft. But space became a problem, and pretty soon the new London Airport (what we know today as Heathrow) was opened. With other London airports also at Blackbushe, Gatwick and Northolt, Croydon closed in 1959.
Today, the original art deco terminal building and control tower survive in the middle of an urban landscape. Outside, a preserved DH Heron aircraft is a reminder of its former purpose.
Formerly the main gateway to Norway’s capital, Oslo. Fornebu was located much closer to the city than the current Gardemoen airport which replaced it in 1998. Fornebu was built on an area of land surrounded by water. It had two runways and a single terminal with three satellites. Due to constraints in expansion, it was decided to close Fornebu. Today the site has been redeveloped, but there are a couple of buildings remaining from the old airport.
The main airport at Munich, Germany, was opened near the village of Riem in 1939. It had one main runway and a shorter runway for smaller aircraft; its single passenger terminal had been extended to cope with growth. Riem was also the location of the famous Munich Air Disaster in 1958 which claimed the lives of a number of Manchester United’s players when their Airspeed Ambassador crashed on takeoff.
In 1992, Riem was replaced by the much larger new Munich Airport, which has grown to become Germany’s second largest. The old airport was gradually transformed into a Convention City Riem development. Today, the control tower, original terminal building, and a small section of runway are all that remain.
Another example in Germany, Tempelhof is the most recent airport in our list to have closed, with its final flights on 30 October 2008. It is also one of Europe’s most significant airports, with its unique Nazi-era design, and the part it played in the Berlin Airlift.
The airport still exists pretty much intact, with its huge terminal and hangars building which allowed aircraft to park under cover. The runways have been turned into public spaces which you’re able to walk along. There are also a few aircraft still present on the site, used in various memorials and training roles.
The capital of Cyprus had the island’s main international airport, handling flights from all over Europe and the Middle East, until its dramatic closure in July 1974. Following years of tension between Turkey and Greece, Turkish troops invaded the island and focussed on the airport as one of its targets, bombing it heavily. A number of aircraft were caught on the ground, including Cyprus Airways’ fleet of Tridents. One was destroyed, another later repaired and flown to the UK, and another is still on the ground today.
Nicosia is a fascinating ghost of an airport trapped in time. Today it sits in the UN exclusion zone which divides the island. Its runway, hangars and terminal building still standing – with slowly decaying interiors – as a testament to the past.