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The origins of Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen go back to 1913. The German Empire was searching for a suitable tract of land to train airship crews. The ideal location would be near the production facilities for Zeppelin airships. A decision was reached and the area was soon known as Friedrichshafen-Löwental. Construction on the barracks started that same year. The barracks were intended to house the 4th Württemberg Company of Airship Battalion No. 4. The site was made up of a troop building, an armoury, an outbuilding, two family houses for officers and three buildings for lodging troops.
The Löwental Airfield came into being in 1915. The airship hangar was completed and the site was renamed Löwental Luftschiffhafen in recognition of its status as a new airship base. On 7 June 1915, the first airship manufactured here, LZ 41 (L11), finally launched on its maiden voyage. The number of aeroplanes landing at the airfield also increased steadily. Aircraft sheds were built in 1916 to house the aircraft.
Theodor Kober was the designer of the first Zeppelin airship LZ1 and the founder of the Flugzeugbau Friedrichshafen GmbH aircraft manufacturing company. Kober built a separate aircraft hangar at the airfield in 1918. The inventive engineer had been designing seaplanes and landplanes in Manzell next to Lake Constance since 1912. The shore of the lake was anything but ideal for use as an airstrip.
Therefore, he had to take the aircraft apart to transport them to Löwental. At the airfield, the aircraft—usually very large G-type aeroplanes so-called for the Grossflugzeug designation used by the German military at the time—were then reassembled and conditioned for flight. As a result, Kober built a paved runway about 150 meters long in the south-west area of the airfield specifically for his aeroplanes. This may well have been the first of its kind in all of Germany.
The runway was cleared away as part of construction efforts in the Competence Park industrial area in 2003, but it is a clearly visible triangle in old aerial photographs.
After the First World War, Internal Security Company SK32 of the newly formed Security Forces moved into the barracks on 1 January 1919. The company's commander was Captain Erwin Rommel, who would later become famous as the "Desert Fox".
The last of a total of twenty-one Zeppelin airships made in Löwental, the LZ 114 (L72), departed from the airfield in June 1920. It was delivered to France as part of World War One reparations.
Alongside the well-established Luftschiffbau-Zeppelin airship manufacturer, Dornier took up accommodations at the Löwental airfield in 1924. By 1926, the old airship hangar was housing a wooden, 1:1 scale mock-up of the enormous DO-X flying boat.
The number of complaints regarding the poor condition of the hangar and criticisms of its use had mounted by that time. It was too small for modern airships and it had become an obstacle for many pilots and planes. As a result, it was finally demolished in 1928.
Flughafen Friedrichshafen GmbH was founded on 6 June 1928 and entered into the commercial register of the local court in Tettnang on 14 October. The City of Friedrichshafen and Dornier Metallbauten acted as shareholders, supplying 50,000 Reichsmarks and 100,000 Reichsmarks respectively. One of the first acts of Flughafen GmbH was to construct a new, state-of-the-art aeroplane hangar immediately north-east of the barracks.
The year of 1929 was something quite special for Friedrichshafen as Deutsche Lufthansa showed its first signs of interest in the city on the shores of Lake Constance. Flights travelled the Stuttgart-Friedrichshafen route and back each day during the summer months, except on weekends. These scheduled flights quickly led to close co-operation involving the Graf Zeppelin airship.
Construction activities also continued on the airfield grounds into subsequent years. The construction of a new airship hangar specifically for the new airships, LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin and LZ 129 Hindenburg, started in 1930. However, completion of the work was delayed until the autumn of 1931.
During this period, Lufthansa expanded its lines to Friedrichshafen from Hamburg via Hanover, from Frankfurt and from Stuttgart. In addition, the company implemented a subsequent delivery service for passengers and mail from Berlin to Friedrichshafen with the start of regular airship flights to South America starting on 29 August 1931. These flights took off until connections to South America were relocated to the commercial airship airport in Frankfurt on 19 April 1936.
Lufthansa flights leaving from Friedrichshafen became a regular occurrence up until the start of Second World War. These scheduled flights were initially covered by the Focke-Wulf A 17 and then later by the Junkers Ju 160, the Heinkel He 70 and, lastly, the Ju 52.
In addition, Dornier moved its landplane production closer to the airfield. This resulted in the construction of a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in the local Allmannsweiler area to the west of the barracks, which had since been renamed in honour of Graf Zeppelin. A 170 metre long aeroplane hangar was also built on the airfield grounds.
The airfield did not go through the Second World War unscathed. In order to provide a safe approach zone for increasing flight traffic, the Tettnang Forestry Service started clearing the Oberer Seewald Forest (east of the airfield) in the winter of 1939. Just the next year, the second Gruppe or wing of the Jagdgeschwader 51 Mölders air force group outfitted with the Bf 109E transferred to Friedrichshafen. The aeroplanes were housed in the airship hangar. After just a few weeks, they were relocated to Böblingen.
Despite the transfer, efforts to clear the forest continued in Friedrichshafen and additional plans were set forth. One of these plans envisioned a set of three intersecting runways. After an inspection in March 1941, Colonel General Udet even issued a special order to accelerate this "vital wartime construction." Even though initial work on the 2,400 metre long concrete runway had already started, the order changed and the planned runway length was reduced to 1,000 metres. The shortened runway was then completed by late December 1942. Hermann Göring informed Flughafen GmbH that the construction project would not be included in the military district priority list for the fourth year of the war. This meant that the additional expansion was not in the cards.
The airship hangar was broken up in early 1943. It was transported to the Zeppelin shipyard on a specifically laid industrial track and reconstructed to meet altered dimensions. In the last months of the war, the hangar was used to assemble a handful of V2 rockets. Of a total of twelve bombing raids on Friedrichshafen, some specifically targeted the airfield and the aviation industry located there. The buildings and grounds sustained heavy damage from the bombing in the last months of the war. The airfield resembled a heavily cratered lunar landscape.
The French Air Force replaced the runway and destroyed buildings while it occupied Friedrichshafen in 1945. The airfield was practically rebuilt from the ground up. The first aeroplanes stationed there were P-47 Thunderbolts, which were replaced by de Havilland Vampire jet fighters in 1949.
By this point, work on extending the paved runway was progressing continuously as well. By 1947, there was a 1,300 metre long and 80 metre wide paved runway available, which was extended to 1,500 metres in 1948. Most of the buildings were built during the early to mid 1950s, including the control tower which characterised the former military area. A few of the jet fighters left Friedrichshafen for relocation to Algeria in 1953.
The Luftsportclub Friedrichshafen (known as LSC) was founded on 4 August 1950 and completed its first club-built glider of the Doppel-Raab type during that same year. Dr Hugo Eckener christened the aircraft with the name Graf Zeppelin in November. The aviation club received approval from the French commanding officer to use a portion of a vehicle hall to house the aircraft. The military aircraft were finally transferred to their new base in Bremgarten in 1954.
The first civil motorised aircraft permitted to use the airfield after the war was a Tiger Moth biplane acquired by LSC in 1957. It was primarily used as a towplane. In 1957, a Bergfalke joined the Doppel-Raab and the French aeroplane hangar was housing a total of three civil aircraft.
Although the airfield was still subject to French administration, Pilot Training School "S" located in Memmingen began to establish a secondary station in Friedrichshafen. This squadron, which became known as the "Mufti-Staffel" during this period, was used solely for training pilots on the Do 27. The squadron then left Friedrichshafen in late 1959 and was replaced by Army Aviation Squadron (LL) 9. In the main, the Army Aviation unit used the Sikorsky H-34, Alouette II and Do 27. In 1966, it was transferred to the newly constructed Neuhausen ob Eck Airfield.
The LSC also kept active during this period. In the north-east area of the airfield, the club built its own hangar with a workshop, training facilities and lounges as well as a small control tower.
Bodensee-Flugdienst conducted the first regularly scheduled flights after the war on a twin-engine Be 65 (Beechcraft Model 65 Queen Air) in 1966. Unfortunately, this venture ran into economic trouble and flights stopped soon afterwards.
The official handover of the airfield to Military District Administrative Office 5 took place in 1968. In that same year, the Administrative Office signed a joint use agreement with Flughafen GmbH. By exchanging the grounds in the Graf Zeppelin barracks, Flughafen GmbH later acquired the grounds in the north-east area of the airfield. Over the next few years, several airlines attempted to gain a foothold but mostly without any success.
The local population held fierce protests in the second half of 1973 once it became known that there were plans to station a French Army Aviation unit in Löwental. Petitions to the Federal Ministry of Defence were fruitless. As a result, the first helicopter landed in Friedrichshafen in December. The French remained at the airfield until June 1992.
The definite breakthrough to sustained regional traffic came from Delta Air, which was founded on 1 April 1978. The company served routes to Stuttgart and Zurich with a de Havilland Twin Otter. It also kept a Beechcraft Super King Air and two Piper Cheyenne aircraft on hand for charter flights.
Tentative efforts to hold an aviation trade fair in 1979 resulted in what was known at the time as RMF (Rennsport/Motor/Freizeit), which focused on racing and leisure activities. The trade fair organiser sought to fill a gap with an exhibit on general aviation. The trade fair has since become AERO, a well-established event recognised throughout Europe. It takes place each year on the trade fair grounds and the Friedrichshafen Airport.
Delta Air's service closely mirrored regular airline service and, to meet the necessary safety considerations, a control zone was established on 14 June 1979. Since that point, aeroplanes have been permitted to enter the area only after receiving approval from air traffic controllers.
Less affected by inclement weather: The option for a NDB approach (Non-Directional Beacon) on Runway 24 was made available in the winter of 1980. However, the minimum weather conditions it required were quite high because just one non-directional beacon was available in the middle of the airfield. It emitted radio waves that a radio compass could pick up to allow an instrument approach.
Delta Air was founded in 1978 and expanded its fleet by adding a Fairchild Metroliner III in 1982. Co-operative efforts with the regional airline Crossair also began that same year. From 1984 to 1986, Delta Air also flew private company flights for Dornier between Friedrichshafen and Oberpfaffenhofen on the Do 228.
In subsequent years, the airline expanded its route network and replaced the Metroliners operated at the time with 33-seater Saab SF340s in 1986. In 1987, Delta Air acquired the status of a scheduled airline and flew several routes on the Saab 340 on behalf of Lufthansa, including flights to Bremen, Frankfurt, Cologne/Bonn and Berlin/Tempelhof.
Alongside additional aeroplane hangars, a new terminal building was built in 1988. The completion of the new airport terminal and its opening on 5 December 1988 signalled a new milestone for the airport. Up until that point, passengers had checked in at the terminal building, given the nickname Barackenflugplatz or "the barracks field" at the airport. That was no longer necessary.
Delta Air also expanded its fleet with another Metroliner III in this year. The company offered flights to Frankfurt and Cologne on behalf of Lufthansa.
Condor's proposal to offer summer charter flights on the Boeing 737 to Crete and Mallorca drew an outcry from the public in 1989. The local council and district council, who initially had seen no need to take action against the flights, suddenly and unexpectedly began to speak out against the charter operations. It took special approval through the Sigmaringen administrative court requested by Condor to allow tentative flight operations. A total of 52 round trips took place in the period from 7 May to 29 October. For the trips planned for the next year, however, the regional council in Tübingen did not grant any further special approval due to a lack of consent from the local council and the district council. It was only after lengthy negotiations that these two groups ultimately agreed. But the decision came too late for summer charter flights to Mallorca, Heraklion and Antalya. There were no further flights in 1990; flights only picked up again starting in 1991.
In May of 1992, British Airways acquired 49 percent of Delta Air. The airline was renamed Deutsche British Airways Luftfahrtgesellschaft mbh on 5 May. Previous negotiations regarding co-operation with Germania and Aero Lloyd stalled. The remaining 51 percent of the company shares were held by Bayerische Vereinsbank, Commerzbank and Berliner Bank.
The withdrawal of the French Air Aviation unit in the summer of 1992 made it possible to utilise the taxiways in the military area as well, which had been barred to civilian air traffic up to that point. The buildings in the former Graf Zeppelin barracks were then used as housing for up to 400 people seeking asylum. They stayed in the historic buildings until September 1995. Afterwards, the courtyard was used as a concrete mixing plant, with the entire complex ultimately falling prey to road construction in 1996. This removed what was likely the oldest building complex in Friedrichshafen associated with the Zeppelin airships.
AERO had become a well-known aviation trade fair in Europe and the hangars and apron areas vacated by the French provided outstanding presentation opportunities in 1993. Extensive construction work on the airfield began the following year. It was possible to undertake the already necessary runway renovation using the approved subsidies of the state government.
The project began on 27 June 1994. Contractor Kirchhoff-Heine controlled the airfield for over one year. With large-scale facilities and at times over 50 trucks, the largest continuous construction project that has ever been carried out on the airfield began.
In addition to the renovation of the runway and the required reinstallation of the centrelines and edge lights as well as the renovation of the approach lights, new taxiways were built. This eliminated the time-consuming and costly pushback of aircraft on the runway.
Work was also needed to improve the electronic and visual landing aids. Compliance with the Category II standard allowed safe flying operations even with weather conditions worse than before.
Flight operations continued throughout the entire construction phase, even with the larger aircraft like the Boeing 737 and MD 80. In addition to the construction measures, the technical standard in the control tower was brought up to date and the staff was retrained.
The same year, the previous Friedrichshafen airfield received the reclassification of "General traffic Airport" (commercial airport) on August 24th.
The first Saab 2000 of the German BA landed in Friedrichshafen on March 20th, 1995. Over the course of the year, five Saab 340s had been replaced by this larger aircraft type. Because no sufficiently large hangars were available for Saab 2000 maintenance, it was necessary to create a new maintenance hangar. The new hangars were to be designed to hold two aircraft the size of a Boeing 737 or three the size of a Saab 2000. The new hangar had been realised before the end of the year.
In order to adapt operations to the new conditions, Flughafen Friedrichshafen GmbH submitted an amendment request for the valid operating authorisation to the Baden-Württemberg ministry of transport on 28 June 1995. The previous maximum take-off weight of 70 tons and an average of seven round trips per week was thus replaced by a noise quota allocation for a continuous noise level of 62 db(A) for aircraft on a weekly average.
Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen was also linked to the local public transportation infrastructure on 1 June 1997. The "Friedrichshafen Airport" stop was opened on the adjacent railway line, Ulm-Friedrichshafen.
A new Zeppelin hangar was built in 1997 for the Zeppelin NT project (Zeppelin new technology). The north-eastern grounds of the airport were determined as the location. The construction costs for this project totalled 10 million German marks.
The first prototype, the Zeppelin NT 07, finally made its maiden flight and landed in front of the newly built Zeppelin hangar on the grounds of Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen after a 40-minute flight on 18 September.
The management board of the Flughafen Friedrichshafen GmbH met with a delegation in the notary's office in Friedrichshafen on 13 July 1998. The delegation, on behalf of Federal Republic of Germany, was to examine the purchase of the airport grounds by Flughafen Friedrichshafen GmbH. This process was preceded by lengthy negotiations, which had been conducted since the withdrawal of the French armed forces from Friedrichshafen.
The town of Friedrichshafen, led by Dieter Hornung, the head of the building department, was the chief negotiator for the purchase of all properties used by the French forces. The negotiations were difficult as the purchasing prices the contracting parties had in mind were very different and initially differed by a substantial factor.
Nevertheless, the negotiating team was successful and the Flughafen Friedrichshafen GmbH finally was able to acquire the 160-acre site, including the associated buildings, for 9.5 million German marks. An increase of capital from 5 million German mark to the 9.5 million German mark share capital was made to finance the purchasing price. Flughafen Friedrichshafen GmbH was "master of its own house" after 80 years of airport history.
Rheintalflug Seewald Ges. m.b.H. also began flying the route to Hamburg in connection with Lufthansa using Embraer E142 jets in October 1998. The destinations Cologne and Berlin-Tegel were also added later. Also in October of that year, the former signalman's house was demolished at the new station and Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen's website went live at www.fly-away.de.
Britannia Airways flew from Friedrichshafen to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic with a Boeing 767 every 14 days starting from the winter of 1999 to the summer of 2000 with a stopover in Geneva (winter) and Munich (summer).
In the same year, all-weather operation (CAT III) began at the airport.
In addition to Tempelhof Express, which offered the Friedrichshafen - Berlin connection starting in May 1999, KLM franchisee KLM Alps, founded by Swiss-based Air Engiadina, started the Friedrichshafen – Vienna route in October, 1999.
Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen was awarded the title "Winner of the Year" in 1998 by Vereinigung Cockpit (the German Cockpit Association). It honoured Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen as one of the best-equipped regional airports.
After the four stages of construction, which amounted in a total cost of 8.8 million German marks and a construction time of 14 months, the terminal size was doubled to 2,500 square metres and the capacity of the baggage-claim belts tripled. Since then, the 12 check-in counters, 7 travel agencies, multiple car rental desks, a coffee bar as well as a kiosk can be found in the fully air-conditioned departures and arrivals areas. A visitors' terrace measuring 30 metres long and 100 square metres in size was created on the roof.
Car park P1 was redesigned and the number of parking spaces was increased from 400 to 700 on 13 October 2000. The total investment amounted to a total of 2.8 million German marks. The approval of the Seewald bridge from federal highway B30 towards Friedrichshafen was also granted in 2000.The Seewald roundabout was also inaugurated on 21 September 2001.
With the first flight on 15 October 2001, Hahn Air, founded in 1994, began operating the Friedrichshafen-Berlin Tempelhof route with a twin-engine turboprop aircraft known as a Metroliner. The connection was offered each weekday and completed the Berlin-Tegel offering of airline Rheintalflug.
The old LSC Tower was finally demolished in Spring of 2002 and on 30 April, the new airport restaurant, Halbhuber, opened.
On 4 April 2002, Ryanair began flying the Friedrichshafen – London Stansted route with a B737. Friedrichshafen was the third German airport from which Ryanair operated, after Lübeck and Frankfurt-Hahn.
Spanish airline Spanair also started direct flights between Friedrichshafen and Alicante in Spring of 2002. The flights were scheduled once a week.
The first InterSky regional airline flight from Friedrichshafen to Köln/Bonn on 13 October 2003, in addition to the completion of the exhibition taxiway "M" and the new office building at the terminal towards Luftsportclub, count as Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen milestones. In 2004, InterSky decided to station an aircraft in Friedrichshafen and finally withdrew completely from its former base in Berne in 2005.Since then, the Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen has been the airline's operational headquarters. To this day, InterSky is the airline with the most amount of passengers in Friedrichshafen.
On 18 March 2008, construction of the new Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen terminal area began. The traffic routing at the terminal and the entrances to the P1 and P2 car parks had to be reconfigured. The arrivals and check-in area as well as the departure area were significantly expanded. By 2010, the terminal was more than tripled in size to nearly 7,000 square feet.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the ibis Hotel Airport Messe Friedrichshafen took place in the immediate vicinity of Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen on 28 April 2008. The construction costs amounted to approximately 4.3 million euros.
Guests were now able to spend the night directly at Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen at the new ibis Hotel Airport Messe, which celebrated its grand opening on 1 July 2009. Since then, 80 soundproof and air-conditioned rooms have been available to passengers directly at the airport.
The Dornier Museum opened its doors at the airport as well in the July of 2009. Numerous historical documents, films and historical aircraft – such as the legendary classic DO 27 or the DO 31 STOVL aircraft – are on display here for aviation enthusiasts.
About fourteen months after the official ground-breaking ceremony, there was again reason to celebrate at the Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen construction site on 25 September 2009. After completion of the hangar and the new building for the Airport Fire Service, the topping-out ceremony for the new terminal was held after a construction period of barely one year. The first phase of the new terminal was finally opened and the new baggage handling system in the arrivals hall was commissioned for operation on 22 October 2009.
With the opening of the new terminal on 1 September 2010, a new era began at Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen. About four years after the start of the extensive building measures, the heart of the expansion project was successfully completed after 20 months of construction with an investment of 6.5 million euros.
Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen expanded its airline and route portfolio in 2010 by adding another major player, Germanwings. On 29 March, the airline began flying the route to Cologne/Bonn.
The second-largest German airline, airberlin, lifted off from Bodensee Airport on 16 April 2011, from Bodensee Airport to the Palma de Mallorca hub. Germania expanded its service to tourist attractions starting in April 2011 with the Canary Islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife as well as Heraklion and Rhodes in Greece and Antalya in Turkey. The resident regional airline InterSky also added the tourist destination Menorca to its route portfolio in 2011.
The new duty-free shop in the security area of Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen was opened as the centre of the future shopping area on 31 May 2011.Since then, passengers can shop in a world of goods with more than 10,000 items in a space more than 300 square metres in size.
The restaurant Volare also opened its doors on 25 August 2011. The pizzeria offers 162 seats, which are arranged both in the interior of the restaurant as well as on the terrace.
The Airbus A380, currently the largest passenger aircraft in the world, visited the Bodensee as part of the Do-DAYS on 27 August 2011. Enormous crowds of people were attracted to Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen with three flyovers over the runway and landing strip as well as the subsequent air patterns.
In June of 2012, Gerold Tumulka stepped into the footsteps of Hans Weiss, who handed over the management position after more than thirty years at the FFG.
UK-based Monarch Airlines launched a large flight program going to and from Friedrichshafen on 14 December 2012. London Gatwick and Manchester were included in scheduled service for the first time.
Since 2 May 2013, Turkish Airlines has connected Bodensee Airport to the Istanbul hub and since then also offers optimal connection opportunities throughout the world, in addition to its Frankfurt run.
Temel Kotil, CEO of Turkish Airlines, also confirmed on the occasion of the first flight:
"It is one of the best destinations for Turkish Airlines. Friedrichshafen is one of the places where the aerospace industry was born."
Since 1May, Germania has been offering the popular tourist destinations of Palma de Mallorca, Antalya and Heraklion on a regular service.
The largest British carrier, British Airways, began the route to London Gatwick on 14 December, with scheduled flights running twice a week.
As the second-oldest commercial airport in Germany, Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2015.
Gerold Tumulka stepped down as managing director of the Flughafen Friedrichshafen GmbH in Summer 2015.
After Hamburg Airways exited the market, Germania took over the majority of routes while simultaneously continuing to expand its offers with new routes to Marsa Alam, Lanzarote and Madeira from Friedrichshafen in the winter of 2015/2016.