Rotterdam - Completely unplanned inaugurated this evening the new airport Zestienhoven in Rotterdam. It takes four weeks before the official opening, but it kept a Danish pilot of a single engine light aircraft not stand to be the first to land at Rotterdam airport.

The Danish driver had no idea Rotterdam airport was not yet in use. Before leaving, from the French Calais, he asked whether in Rotterdam could be landed.

"In Calais I inquired about airport Rotterdam. It was confirmed that, there was an excellent airport to the harbor. True? That one was not sure. I shrugged off further conversation. but, such airport you will find soon enough. Finally, both my wife and I experienced pilots " (S. Grum-Schwansen, Het Vrije Volk, 08-09-1956)

Building Zestienhoven is still in progress. Foto: J. D. Noske, National Archives / Anefo


But as coolly as the 38-year-old Danish pilot came, so great was the panic among the staff that was present at the airport. It was still under construction. The control tower was not yet in use.

Attempts by Grum-Schwansen to catch the people managed control tower was not. At Schiphol Airport staff heard the message of the Danish pilot. However, responses did not. Therefore Rotterdam had to be warned.

To the amazement of the people present in the control tower under construction, suddenly began to rattle the telex:

"A plane's way to you. It will land. Take measures " (Telex from Schiphol Zestienhoven, Het Vrije Volk, 08-09-1956)

But the runway was not ready to receive a phone. Workmen were running on the track to get there bollards road, who still stood for construction. Within half an hour the track had to be completely free.

The fire brigade was alerted and a car was put a big 'T', made of wooden beams. That letter indicated that the plane had to land. The landing went without a hitch.

Text and explanation

The deputy director of public works, and. J.D. Quack, welcomed the two occupants of the helicopter.

"I welcome you. You're the first pilot, landed at the new airport Rotterdam. But tell me ... " (and. J.D. Quack, Het Vrije Volk, 08-09-1956)

Then the Dane told the story was told that the airport was already open. Then he went to Atlanta, for there also to give explanation to the customs.

Afterwards Grum-Schwansen told Rotterdam the new airport is much larger than that in Copenhagen. He called it an honor that he has landed first at the airport.

Hoe ging het verder?

A day after the unexpected landing Dane and his wife went off again. He was the first pilot who landed at the airport. His wife (also pilote) was the first pilot who ascended from Zestienhoven.

The deputy director of public works, who received Grum-Schwansen, also waved him off again. According to The Free People 10 september 1956 There was considerable public event is come.

There then arises commotion. Shortly before takeoff Dane is suddenly a second light aircraft to Zestienhoven. Doing his gear down, but ultimately lands not.

More than a week later, op 17 september 1956, again lands a plane at the airport, but it is planned. It is the first trial landing, British airline Morton Air Services. This is seen by the authorities as the first official landing Zestienhoven.

At the time of the Morton unit lands in Rotterdam, have been completed all the work.

Op 1 oktober 1956 The airport is officially opened. This time, there is much public (see photo below).

As is apparent within a few years that the Zestienhoven runway is too short and that expansion plans must be made. That's quite controversial, because in the construction of Zestienhoven was decided that the job should not be too large, not to become a serious competitor to Schiphol.

But the construction of the 1300 meter runway, there are many more concrete plates on the end placed. On top was grass. When the agreement was for a longer start- runway, said workers' suddenly’ concrete slabs.


Het Vrije Volk – 08-09-1956 – Zestienhoven – not not ready – already initiated

Het Parool – 08-09-1956 – Dane lands at airport that has not yet

Nieuwsblad van het Noorden – 08-09-1956 – Rotterdam airport inaugurated unofficially

Het Vrije Volk – 10-09-1956 – The Dane's gone

Het Vrije Volk – 15-09-1956 – Monday: first 'official test’ on airpot

RTV Rijnmond – 26-08-2016 – Vergeten Verhalen: airport Zestienhoven

Thanks to: Marcia Tap, RTV Rijnmond

Author: Dave Datema

published: 03-11-2018

story number: 106

The opening of Airport Zestienhoven on 1 oktober 1956. Foto’s: Joop van Bilsen, National Archives / Anefo

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