1945 to 1961

Airport resumes civil flights; growth of a new aviation industry

On the last day of World War II, Soviet troops occupied the air base and the aerial warfare training centre. In the years that followed, the Soviets used the Klotzsche facilities as an air force training camp. In the early 1950s the government of the newly established German Democratic Republic (GDR) began to plan the development of its own commercial aircraft industry. Dresden-Klotzsche was chosen as the location for aircraft assembly because the hangers and buildings of the former aerial warfare training centre offered the best conditions for getting aircraft production off to a prompt start.

After some tough negotiations with the Soviet air force, one of East Germany’s biggest ever investment projects started to take shape in 1955: a 2,500 metre long, 80 metre wide runway, two huge assembly halls and many more buildings and facilities were built on the site of the air base and aerial warfare training centre. Production of the Illyushin IL14P passenger aircraft began almost simultaneously.

Now owned by the East German commercial aviation industry, this well-equipped factory airfield was an ideal place to resume commercial flights. The first scheduled flight of the East German airline Deutsche Lufthansa der DDR landed here on 16 June 1957, bringing Dresden into the East German domestic flight network. Because all the buildings at the airport were already being used by the aviation industry, passenger handling operations had to be carried out in the city centre. One year later, on 2 February 1958, a Soviet TU104 took off from Dresden, heralding the age of passenger jet air travel at East German airports.

On 4 December of that year, Germany’s first jet aircraft, the legendary 152, designed and built in Dresden, took off on its maiden flight. Work on this very ambitious project had already been considerably delayed and soon took a tragic turn: on its second flight the 152 prototype crashed with the loss of its entire crew.

On 22 May 1959 an international passenger flight landed at Dresden for the first time since the resumption of commercial aviation: an aircraft chartered by the Hungarian airline Malev carrying tourists to Budapest. Meanwhile, domestic air traffic had got off to a good start and it was once again possible to ship air cargo to destinations all over the world. By then the Dresden aircraft factory had ceased producing IL14Ps and in 1960, after struggling with fresh delays, it rolled out another 152 prototype which completed two successful test flights.

Meanwhile, however, the decision had been made to wind down the fledgling East German aircraft industry. This prestigious project had already cost 1.3 billion marks and would have remained uneconomical for many years. This would have placed too great a burden on the internationally isolated East German economy.

1962 to 1989: Cold War and capacity bottlenecks