1962 to 1989
Cold War and capacity bottlenecks
After aircraft construction ceased, the Nationale Volksarmee (the East German Army) took over the airfield in 1962 and the aircraft factory became the Dresden Aircraft Repair Works where military aircraft were maintained. Meanwhile Deutsche Lufthansa der DDR, later renamed INTERFLUG, continued to operate domestic flights, and was now able to handle passengers directly at the airport.
On 3 May 1967 the first international flight route was launched. Over the next few decades this connection between Dresden and Budapest would go on to become Dresden Airport’s most popular route. Dresden also took on an important role as the airport to which flights to and from East Germany’s main airport, Berlin Schönefeld, diverted in poor weather. Every now and then the additional traffic took Dresden Airport close to the limits of its capabilities.
Dresden’s development as a military airport - a rear echelon unit had been stationed here since 1963 - took place amidst the conflict of interests between the air force, the aircraft repair works and civil air traffic. While domestic air traffic dwindled and was finally discontinued in 1980, the international network was beginning to expand. By the late 1970s Dresden was offering scheduled flights to Budapest, Moscow, Leningrad, Sofia, Varna, Burgas, Tatry and other destinations, bringing the holiday destinations popular with East Germans within easy reach. In addition, Dresden Airport was enjoying brisk charter traffic, including from countries in Western Europe - albeit only for their citizens.
With the steadily increasing volume of traffic - a seven-fold increase from around 54,000 passengers in 1962 to nearly 390,000 in 1985 - the airport was almost constantly operating at the edge of its capacity. A complete rebuild was called for, and on 31 October 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the airport re-opened after a months-long closure.