The Pioneer of All Airports
Frankfurt’s airport has changed our lives many times. And it still does today.
What would modern aeronautics look like if it weren’t for Frankfurt am Main airport? Endless chaos, passenger tragedy, an endless series of metrological catastrophes, cancelled flights and unfulfilled human dreams. The biggest German airport is a stable (and irreplaceable) part of Pan-European air traffic. Having existed for more than 70 years, this place near Frankfurt has been the arena of many rich historical events during the years.
In 1909 the first airline in the world was created here – the German Aviation joint-stock company. In 1912 the first air terminal was opened near Rebstock, intended to service the Zeppelins which were fashionable at the time.
A few years later, World War I changed what the meadows around Frankfurt would be used for. They were to be used more frequently for war planes to take off. After the end of the war, the air traffic from Rebstock was quite intense and, mainly, with Zeppelins, which were considered to be the future of civil aviation at the time. The location of today’s Frankfurt airport – in the forests of the metropolis on the Main – was chosen in the middle of the 1930s.
In 1936 the new airport was officially opened, becoming the second biggest airport in Germany at that time, after Berlin’s Tempelhof airport. From its very first days Frankfurt became the flight base of the Lufthansa civil aviation company. After being used for military activities after World War II, the airport near Frankfurt remained in the hands of the Air Forces until Germany gained back its air superiority in 1955.
During the decade following the war, Frankfurt airport held a key role in building the air bridge to Western Berlin, at that time under Soviet blockade. Until 2005 Frankfurt remained both a civil airport and an American air-force base. The airport gained its greatest importance in the 1960s and 70s when the passenger flow grew rapidly and it became the second most important European air hub after Heathrow airport in London.
In 1972 the new passenger terminal was opened, called Terminal Mitte (today known as Terminal 1), designed to serve 30 million passengers per year. Apart from its overall area of 200 thousand square meters and its 56 gates, this terminal is also unique for its fully automated luggage conveyor belt. In the beginning it was 38 km in length and today it has been upgraded and lengthened to 70 km. It has been statistically proven that the precision of delivering passenger luggage to arriving passengers’ conveyor belts or to the cargo sectors of the airplanes is approximately 99.6%. The distribution of luggage is carried out by 650 transmitters (which read the barcodes on the paper stickers on the luggage and distribute it to the corresponding airplanes) along the whole length of the installation. Today Frankfurt am Main airport serves more than 60 million passengers per year via its three terminals – two general terminals and one for first class travelers.
This is the only airport in Germany with a local hospital in the terminal. In 1999 a new rail station was built, which directly connects it to the fast ICE trains from other important German cities. This convenient connection is often used when planning trips within Germany because sometimes it is much faster to travel from Frankfurt to Koln or Stuttgart by train, rather than by airplane. There are flights to all major world destinations from Frankfurt. What is interesting about Frankfurt airport is that since the 1970s there has been constant resistance by environmentalists against any future plansfor the airport’s expansion. The reason is that in order to build new buildings, forests need to be cut down. These protests gave the impetus for the creation of the influential “green” movement in Germany today. Frankfurt airport is really capable of changing our lives.