Home Airports The 10 Oldest Airports in The World

The 10 Oldest Airports in The World

by SharonKurheg

Planes have been in the air since the very early 20th century. Once they were established as more than just a flying fancy (you see what I did there?), they needed to have appropriate places to take off and land from. That’s when airports came into being.

In the 100+ years that airports have been in existence around the world, many have come and gone. The lists of airports in the U.S. and Canada alone that have closed are staggering. The list of international airports around the world that have closed is just as sad. However there are some really old airports, be their commercial or private, that are still open. These are the oldest ones:

1. College Park Airport (CGS) (United States) – 1909

College Park Airport is a private airport located in College Park, Maryland). It holds the distinction of being the world’s oldest continually operating airport. Its earliest days hark back to when Wilbur Wright came to the field to train two military officers to fly in the government’s first aeroplane. However it’s also the home to many aviation “firsts”: the first mile-high flight by a powered airplane, the first female passenger, and the first controlled helicopter flight.

College Park Airport is owned by The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC).

College Park Airport is open daily from 7am to 10pm and offers group tours by appointment.

2. Hamburg Airport (HAM) (Germany) – 1911

Click here for a pictorial history of Hamburg Airport.

Established in January 1911, Hamburg Airport is the world’s oldest commercial airport still in service (it also holds the distinction of being the second-oldest airport in Germany, after Tempelhof Airport, which closed in 2008). HAM opened in January 1911, thanks to private funding by the Hamburger Luftschiffhallen GmbH (HLG). In its earliest years, it primarily served dirigible balloons.

Although used extensively by the German military in World Wars 1 and 2, HAM got its roots as a commercial airport in 1955, when Lufthansa launched its passenger operations.

3. Aurel Vlaicu International Airport (BBU) (Romania) – 1912

This airport is known by several names – Aurel Vlaicu International Airport, Baneasa Airport and Bucharest City Airport. Either way, it’s the oldest continuously-running airport in Eastern Europe, and the 3rd oldest in the world.

BBU began as a private airfield for French pilot Louis Blériot in 1909. However, it didn’t get official recognition as an airport until 1912. That’s when George Valentin Bibescu, another pioneer in the aviation industry, established one of Romania’s earliest flight schools on the Băneasa airfield.

The airport’s terminal building was built in 1952. It still serves travelers today and continues to be identified as a landmark in the city.

4. Bremen Airport (BRE) (Germany) – 1913

Besides being the world’s fourth oldest continually operating airport, BRE is also considered to be Europe’s fastest airport for departures.

BRE got its start as the Bremer Verein für Luftschiffahrt, a local aerospace club, in 1910. Official permission for the opening of an airport was granted in May, 1913. It was used for civilian operations until World War 1, when the military took it over. KLM began flights in 1920 but the airport’s use was again taken over by the German military during World War 2.

The U.S. took over the airport in 1945, but gave control back to Bremen authorities 4 years later. Civilian routes began not long afterwards, and it’s been a commercial airport ever since.

5. Rome – Ciampino International Airport (CIA) (Italy) – 1916

Officially named “G. B. Pastine International Airport” (but no one calls it that; locally they call it “Ciampino”), this airport was inaugurated in 1916, as a military base for airships, and was operated exclusively by the Army until the 1930s, when it was opened to civilian traffic.

The airport was captured by Allied forces in June 1944, and it became a United States Army Air Forces military airfield. Following World War 2, it began use for commercial flights.

CIA was Rome’s main airport until 1960, with over 2 million passengers per year. After the opening of Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport, Ciampino switched to mainly charter and executive flights for more than thirty years. However, the terminal facilities were extended in the early 2000s and has since been host to several low-cost carriers.

6. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) (The Netherlands) – 1916

Video: 100 years of Schiphol in 100 seconds

AMS started as a military airbase but by late 1920, it was also being used for civil aircraft. Eventually the military pulled out, leaving the airport solely for commercial flights.

The airport was captured by Germany during WW2. It sustained much damage during the war, but was restored by mid-1945. By 1945, it was the main airport of the Netherlands.

7. Paris – Le Bourget Airport (LBG) (France) – 1919

Click here for a pictorial history of Paris-Le Bourget Airport.

LBG opened in 1919 as Paris’ main airport. It had a few claims to fame:

  • It was the landing site for Charles Lindbergh’s historical solo transatlantic flight in 1927
  • It was also the landing site for Howard Hughes’ transatlantic flight, in 1939.
  • Soviet ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev defected at LBG in 1961.

Nowadays LBG is used for general aviation, including business jet operations. It also hosts air shows, including the Paris Air Show.

8. Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport (SYD) – 1920

Originally called Mascot Aerdome, SYD is, of course, now generally known as just plain ol’ Sydney Airport.

The land that became SYD had been pastureland when it was leased from the local race course as a private airfield. The following year the property was expanded so it could be converted into a public airfield. By 1924, it was being used for regularly scheduled flights.

9. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) (United States) – 1920

MSP initially began as Speedway Field in 1919, back when several local groups came together to take control of the former bankrupt Twin City Speedway race track. The first hangar was a wooden structure, constructed in 1920 for airmail services. The Minneapolis Park Board took possession of Speedway Field in June,1928, and passenger service began in 1929. The airport has continued to grow ever since.

MSP has had a few name changes over the years:

  • 1919 – Speedway Field
  • 1923 – Wold-Chamberlain Field (named after veteran WW1 pilots Ernest Groves Wold and Cyrus Foss Chamberlain)
  • 1944 – Minneapolis–St. Paul Metropolitan Airport/Wold-Chamberlain Field
  • 1948 – Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport/Wold-Chamberlain Field

You rarely find people who use the “Wold-Chamberlain Field” part of MSP’s official name anymore.

10. Albany International Airport (ALB) (United States) (1928)

Located in upstate New York, Albany International was the first and remains the oldest, municipal airport in the United States. Its history goes back even further than College Park (the first airstrip was in 1908 – a year before College Park), but the airport moved in both 1909 and 1928. Save for a few hiccoughs here and there, it’s been running ever since.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment

Justin Treft May 23, 2023 - 8:39 am

Smith Field airport in Fort Wayne, IN 1919 still open and providing services to the community!


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