Stuttgart Army Airfield
Aviation came early, unexpectedly,and dramatically to Echterdingen in the form of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin's airship, LZ-4. while sailing over Stuttgart on August 5, 1908, LZ-4 lost power in one of her engines and Zeppelin was forced to land her. He had never landed one of his airships on solid ground before, since he considered it safer to use special floating platforms on lakes. He brought LZ-4 down safely, however, in the flat fields just southeast of the town of echterdingen, and a crowd quickly gathered to wonder at the unexpected visitor. Their excitement turned to dismay when a sudden thunderstorm blew the ship on its side, tore it from its moorings, and carried it away. Instantly flames shot out from the hydrogen-filled craft, and within a few seconds it was completely destroyed. The loss ruined Count von Zeppelin financially, but within less than a week a spontaneous collection, the "Echterdinger Volksspende," raised over six million marks for him and allowed him to continue his experiments. The site of the destruction of LZ-4 is marked by a "Zeppelinstein," a large stone memorial in a grove of trees a few hundred meters northwest of the entrance to the present Stuttgart Army Airfield.
The more recent and happier history of aviation at Echterdingen started in 1936. As the city of Stuttgart expanded in the 1930's, she outgrew her two early airfields, one on the fairgrounds at Bad Cannstatt and the other in boeblingen. When the Luftwaffe decided to take over the Boeblingen field the Air Ministry an municipal officials started a careful topographical and meteorological study of the surrounding countryside in order to find a new airport site with room for expansion. they finally chose the present site on the Filder Plateau near Echterdingen, and strted construction in 1936. Stuttgart's new airport was designed with a grass landing field to handle such aircraft as fifteen-passenger Junkers JU-52, and with terminal facilities to service an estimated 150,000 passengers per year. The airport opened to commercial traffic in 1938, only a year before the start of World War II.
During the war the Luftwaffe based night fighters at Echterdingen, sharing the field with commercial aircraft. The fighters flew interceptions against the many Allied air attacks on Stuttgart and other targets in southern Germany. The Luftwaffe put down a concrete runway of 1,400 meters in 1943, but Allied bombers cratered it later in the war and eventually put the airfield out of commission.
First French Army drove through Stuttgart in April 1945, and left behind a detachment to repair the Runway at Echterdingen. American troops replaced the French Army in the early summer and put the airfield back into operation. When the U.S. constabulary, the armed force of the U.S. Military Government, moved into Kurmaerker Kaserne (now Patch Barracks) in 1946, their small flight section operated from Echterdingen Airfield with L-5 liaison planes. In 1950, Headquaters, Seventh Army was activated at Kurmaerker Kaserne, and their flight section replaced the disbanded Constabulary's at the airfield. The next year, Headquaters, VII Corps moved into Hellenen Kaserne (now Kelley Barracks), and VII Corps aviation units joined the Seventh Army section at Echterdingen.
German civil air operations started up again at Echterdingen in the fall of 1948. In the spring next year the Flughafengesellschaft (FSG), the corporation that owns and operates the airport, arranged to share the U.S. Army apron and other facilities on the north side of the runway. During the winter of 1953 thru 1954, the Army units moved across the runway into buildings on the south side, some of which dated from 1936 while others had been recently built. This left the north side free for German commercial and private flying. It was on the basis of this arrangement that the separation of military and civil aviation at Echterdingen has continued. The U.S. Army and the U.S. High Commissioner, who represented German civil interests under the occupation, signed an agreement in 1954 which formally stated the terms of the agreement. This agreement was changed slightly after the occupation ended and the Federal Republic of Germany established in May, 1955. Since 1 July 1963, the German-American relationship has been governed by the NATO Status of Forces Agreement and later supplementary agreements. The last supplementary agreement, signed in 1969 covered in detail the American rights to use the facilities and the compensation to be paid for their use.
Military flight operations changed markedly in the spring of 1967 when the flight section of Headquaters, U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force aircraft, some of which were multi-engine transports and jets. Because of their greater experience with such aircraft, U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) took over command of the military airfield and also accoutability for real and installed property from the U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) on 1 July 1967. USAFE took full responsibility for flight operations, but USAFE and USAREUR jointly supported the airfield according to the terms of an agreement that was signed on 7 April 1967. USAFE designated the 7005th Air Base Squadron to operate the airfield and drew up a base development plan for Fiscal Years 69-72. Under this plan they built apron and taxiway additions on the south side, GCA/TACAN, and telephon exchange, and a VIP lounge.
Although the airfield became an Air Force command, about three-fourth of the military air traffic continued to be from the Army. USAREUR aviation units at the field included 29th Transportation Company (Direct Support), 25th Aviation Company, and the flight sections of Headquaters, VII Corps Artillery; Headquaters, 2nd Support Command; and Headquaters, 34th Signal Batallion. The military facilities were also used by Air Force and Army transient aircraft, particularly those carrying passengers to the major headquaters around Stuttgart. Military Airlift Command has also operated at Echterdingen, landin troops and equipment from the United States there during the annual REFORGER exercises.
German and international commercial operations expanded rapidly after the 1954 agreements, and the corresponding need for more facilities required a continuous program of constuction and improvements. A new main terminal building and several ancillary buildings went up in the years 1954 - 1955. In 1959, the Flughafengesellschaft (FSG) started a runway extension project that took four years to complete. It started with extensive landfills on the east end of the runway and construction of an underpass to take the Plieningen-Bernhausen road under the extended runway. They then laid out a temporary 1,600 meter sod runway parallel original concrete runway, extended the runway to the east, and improved the apron and taxiways. The result was a modern airfield with a strengthened runway of 2,550 meters. The extension project was finished in 1963, and that same year a new radar tower was built on the Weidacher Heights southwest of the airport. Civil passenger traffic passed one million in 1968, doubled within three years, and was expected to exceed three million in 1975. The improvement and expansion of the facilities appeared to be a never-ending process as the original grass field designed for 150,000 passengers per year stretched to handle twenty that number and more.
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