Maastricht Aachen Airport

Maastricht Aachen Airport (IATA: MST, ICAO: EHBK) is a regional airport located 5 NM (9.3 km; 5.8 mi) northeast of the city of Maastricht, in the town of Beek, both municipalities in the Limburg province in the Netherlands. The airport is also 15 NM (28 km; 17 mi) northwest of the city of Aachen, Germany.

It is the second-largest hub for cargo flights in the Netherlands. As of 2010, the airport had a passenger throughput of 260,000 and handled 90,000 tons of cargo.

The Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) of the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL) is also located on the airport.

History
Pre-World War II

Plans for an airport in southern Limburg date back as far as 1919, with various locations being considered. Years of debate between various municipalities over the location and funding of the airport delayed its construction. In July 1939 the Limburg provincial government agreed to financially back the airport, however, the start of World War II meant the plans were put on hold once more.

Advanced Landing Ground Y-44

After the allied invasion of Normandy, the USAAF Ninth Air Force, specifically the IX Engineer Command, was tasked with constructing temporary airfields close to the advancing front. The area around Maastricht was liberated in 1944. In October 1944, the advance headquarters of the XIX Tactical Air Command and the 84th and 303rd Fighter Wings were moved to Maastricht to keep up with the Ninth Army.

Because of the proximity to the new headquarters, the decision was made to create a temporary airfield between the towns of Beek, Geulle and Ulestraten. Several orchards which had suffered damage from a tank battle were commandeered and cleared. Rubble from the nearby town of Geleen, which had been unintentionally bombed in 1942, was used to level the area.

The runway was 5,565 feet (1,696 m) and reinforced with pierced steel planks.

The field was built in less than 2 months and was operational on 22 March 1945, and was designated Y-44.

The first unit to be based at the field was the 31st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, flying the F-6, a reconnaissance version of the P-51 Mustang. The unit arrived on 22 March 1945.

As Nazi Germany was rapidly collapsing, the front was already well into Germany by the time the field was ready, and no direct combat sorties were operated from Y-44. 31st TRS was moved to Y-80 near Wiesbaden on 19 April 1945.

  • 31st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, F-6 Mustang (22 March 1945 - 19 April 1945 )
  • 39th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, F-5 Lightning (2 April 1945 - 20 April 1945)
  • 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group
    • 155th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (Night), F-3 (4 April 1945 - 10 July 1945)
  • 387th Bombardment Group (Medium)
    • 556, 557, 558 and 559th Squadrons, B-26 Marauder (4 May 1945) - 30 May 1945
After World War II

Authority over the airport was officially transferred to the Dutch government on 1 August 1945. It was decided to keep the airport open rather than re-open the pre-war debate over the location of the airport. The first civilian aircraft landed on 26 September 1945 and were operated by the Regeeringsvliegdienst, a government service with the purpose of carrying government officials and other people with urgent business, because the war had left many roads and railroads heavily damaged. The service used six de Havilland Dragon Rapides made available by the English government.

In 1946, the service was taken over by KLM, using DC-3 Dakotas. However, as repairs to the Dutch infrastructure progressed, demand for the service dropped and it was stopped in 1949. The first semi-permanent airport terminal was completed in 1947. The runway was paved in 1949, and a second paved runway was completed in 1950. In 1951, an agreement between the airport and the Dutch Air Force allowed for rapid expansion of the facilities. Runway 04/22 was lengthened to 1,850 m, and permanent runway lighting was installed in 1960.

1950s and 1960s

The late 1950s and early 1960s brought significant expansion in commercial operations at the airport. Operators included KLM, Airnautical, Skytours, Euravia, Tradair and Transair. The airport was also used as an intermediate stop for services from London and Manchester to Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Yugoslavia. A local airline based at the airport, Limburg Airways, had a contract with the International Herald Tribune for distributing the newspaper's European edition, which was printed in Paris. Limburg Airways was taken over by Martin's Air Charter (now Martinair) in 1962.

A promotion campaign by the Dutch tourist board for the nearby town of Valkenburg aan de Geul, aimed at British tourists, was highly successful and brought services by Invicta Airlines, Britannia and Channel Airways.

Domestic travel picked up as well, and newly created NLM CityHopper started to operate a service between Maastricht and Amsterdam Schiphol in 1966. The service would continue after KLM acquired NLM in 1992, and would last until 2008. When it was cancelled, it was the last remaining domestic service in the Netherlands.

An ILS system, which allows landings in poor weather, was built in 1967, for runway 22 only.

1970s and 1980s

In 1973 the airport was expanded again to handle bigger aircraft. The main runway was lengthened to 2500m, taxiways were widened and aprons enlarged. This mostly offset the negative effects of the 1973 oil crisis, passenger volume remained the same and cargo operations expanded.

The international air traffic control area control centre for EUROCONTROL was built at the airport. It started operations in 1972.

In 1983, the aging passenger terminal and air traffic control tower were replaced by new buildings The new terminal was later expanded and is still in use as of 2010.

On 14 May 1985, Pope John Paul II held an open air mass for 50,000 people at the airport, as part of his visit to the Netherlands.

East-west runway

In 1981, a development plan for the airport recommends constructing a 3,500m east-west runway to facilitate growth in cargo operations, particularly during the night hours. The new runway would greatly reduce noise impact over the towns of Beek, Meerssen and the city of Maastricht. Although some night operations are allowed (including distribution of the European edition of The Wall Street Journal), runway length limits intercontinental operations. The Dutch government initially approved plans for the runway in 1985, however, the new runway would mean increased noise over other towns and parts of Belgium, and the final decision was delayed.

As the new runway would require substantial investment, it would only be profitable if night operations were permitted and increasingly the debate became focused on whether or not night flights would be allowed. Successive cabinets could not reach a final decision, and in 1998, after some 25 years of debate and postponement, the plan was aborted altogether.

Recent developments

In July 2004, a 100% share in the airport was acquired by OmDV, a consortium of airport investment company Omniport and the construction company Dura Vermeer, making it the first fully privatised airport in the Netherlands.

Substantial investments in the airport infrastructure have been made since the privatization. Between August and October 2005, the runway was resurfaced and renamed to 03/21 (from 04/22) to compensate for changes in the earth's magnetic field. The airport originally had two runways; the second (shorter, 1,080 m (3,540 ft)) runway (07/25) was closed and removed to make room for a new cargo terminal and additional aircraft maintenance facilities. Construction of the new facilities started in April 2008.

On 7 May 2005, Air Force One carrying US president George W. Bush landed at the airport. Bush visited the Netherlands American Cemetery in nearby Margraten the next day.

The instrument landing system (ILS) for runway 21 was upgraded to category III in 2008, which allows landings in very low visibility conditions. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is the only other airport in the Netherlands that has category III ILS.

In march 2011, the airport was certified to handle the upcoming Boeing 747-8, as two of the airports major airlines Cargolux and AirBridge Cargo have placed orders for this aircraft.

Aircraft movements

The number of aircraft movements decreased significantly between 2005 and 2007 compared to previous years because the flight school, Nationale Luchtvaart School, which was based at the airport, moved all flight operations to Évora in Portugal. In the summer of 2007, flight training at the airport resumed as the Stella Aviation Academy moved into the facilities previously used by the NLS.

In 2009, there were a total of 40,621 aircraft movements, up 13.9% from 2008.

In 2008, there were a total of 35,668 aircraft movements, up 83.4% from 2007.

In 2007, there were a total of 19,454 aircraft movements, up 35% from 2006.

Airlines and destinations
Passenger
Cargo
Ground transport connections
  • The airport is located along motorway A2, exit 50.
  • The nearest railway station is Beek-Elsloo railway station. There is bus service (line 59), operated by Veolia, between station and airport. Additionally, there is bus service to the city of Maastricht.
  • Taxis are available at the airport.
  • To get to Aachen, bus to Maastricht railway station (every hour; 100m across the street from airport entrance), then train or bus to Aachen (various stops: Valls, Theater, Hauptbanhof).

Media

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