The Airport Gatow (1935 – 1994)

The Airport Gatow is situated in Berlin-Spandau, in the district Gatow.

 In the course of re-arming Germany, the Airport Gatow was built up by the National Socialists in 1935. After its completion, the Aerial Warfare School 2 ( Luftkriegsschule 2) and the Aerial Warfare Academy (Luftkriegsakademie) of the German Luftwaffe was put in here. These education and training centres were the most important training camps for the German Luftwaffe.

In the course of the attack on Berlin, the Red Army occupied the airport in May 1945 but pulled back its troops already in July 1945 and surrendered the airport to the Royal Air Force.  During the Territory Exchange after the Second World War, the area originally counting to Seeburg had been exchanged for West-Staaken and then belonged to West-Berlin.

The English constructed the first concrete runways on the airfield now called “Airport of the Royal Air Force Gatow” and arranged the first scheduled flight to London via Hamburg with a BEA DC-3. This flight was quite quickly moved to Tempelhof though.

The Royal Air Force had already thought about plans in case of a blockade. Naturally, they focussed on the Airport Gatow being situated in the British sector. However, they assumed that the main task of an airlift would be the supplying of the own troops.

Maybe this explains the quantity of the goods handled on the first day of these air transportations – the 28th of June 1948: all of 40 tons.

In best time, the more modest appearing Gatow airport mutated to the most strongest cargo airport in handling world-wide. Already at the beginning of July 1948, Gatow achieved the daily delivery of 1,000 tons of all of those goods the trapped town needed – from baby food to coal!

This allows conclusions on the technical-organizational dimensions of the airlift in Gatow, the biggest operation ever of the Royal Air Force realized in peace times.

The aim was to get 20 machines (good weather) and 12 machines (bad weather) per hour on the runway. However, the airplanes had to move in only three corridors and there at a height between 100 and 10,000 feet – according to the Allied Agreement.

After the airlift the Airport Gatow developped to a normal transport/military base of the Royal Air Force. And it was also the destination airport when members of the royal family paid Berlin a visit.

Later, Britannia Airways took on the weekly troop exchanges on Wednesdays together with the Royal Air Force. Moreover, this airline brought the first civilian Boeing 737 to West-Berlin. British Airways used the Airport Gatow for its crew training and as an alternative airport, when landings in Tegel or Tempelhof were not possible.

On the 18th of June 1994 – after nearly fifty years – the Allies said goodbye to Berlin. Now, the German Federal Armed Forces took on the airport on the 7th of September 1994 and stopped air traffic completely at the beginning of 1995.

Today, the grounds are divided in the General-Steinhoff-Barracks and the Air Force Museum-Airport Gatow. The southern part of the area belongs to the barracks, the hangars, the tower and part of the former runway to the museum.

We have been trying to assemble in the picture gallery, which interesting visitors the airport Gatow had to offer.

Have fun with  the “GWW”-page! 

The Planeboys

(Text: Matthias Gocht)

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