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Leipzig/Halle Airport’s excellent road and rail links have helped turn a once sleepy East German airport into a major European cargo hub. Sebastian Schmitz reports.
Leipzig/Halle Airport celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2017. To mark the occasion the airport hosted a fun day during the summer.

O perations began at the current Leipzig/Halle Airport (IATA: LEJ) site, located halfway between the two cities after which it is named, in April 1927. The local area already had a history of aviation with hot air balloons, airships and light aircraft, flying from small airfields in Mockau and Lindenthal (in Leipzig) and Mötzlich and Nietleben, near Halle. The opening of the new airport, close to the town of Schkeuditz, marked the first time that flights from both cities were consolidated at one airfield with state-of-the-art facilities. Two years after the launch of services, the new airport had three international routes and nine domestic (more of the latter than it has today) and handled 20,000 passengers per year. Unusually for the time, the airport also played host to night flying.

With passenger numbers rising, new infrastructure was added including a new terminal building. However, the outbreak of World War Two halted this development and when hostilities ended commercial flying had ceased and much of the airfield lay in ruins. Now part of the German Democratic Republic, a new 8,202ft (2,500m) runway was built. However, commercial traffic opted to use the smaller Mockau airport, with Leipzig/Halle used solely for the Leipzig Trade Fair.

It was only in 1972 that commercial traffic was permanently moved to the new airport, which, unlike its smaller rival, could handle jet aircraft. Between 1972 and 1988, passenger figures grew tenfold from just over 50,000 to 550,000 per year. In 1986, the airport welcomed an Air France Concorde, which became a regular visitor during the Leipzig Trade Fairs. British Airways also visited with its Concorde, but this proved to be a one-off.

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About Airliner World

In the January issue of Airliner World, we bid farewell to KLM’s Fokkers, ending a 97-year association between the Dutch flag carrier and the manufacturer, we examine how a partial privatisation could offer Pakistan International Airlines renewed hope for its future, and we go behind the scenes with launch customer Qatar Airways as it prepares to take delivery of its first Airbus A350-1000. Elsewhere in this edition, we find out Hebridean Air Services has forged a unique and highly valued link with the remote island communities it serves, we find out how Leipzig/Halle has transformed from sleepy backwater to major European cargo hub, and we hear how AeroLink Uganda is playing a quirky but important role in connecting its home market. We also shine the spotlight on Singapore Airlines’ new A380 cabin, and we bring you a selection of photos from NBAA 2017 and from Orly, Paris’ second airport. Lastly, we bring you our comprehensive coverage of worldwide news, including a full round-up from the Dubai Airshow, plus Embraer eyes an April debut for the E-Jet E2, ATR wins a major order from FedEx, Emirates takes delivery of its 100th Airbus A380, and Boeing delivers the first 737 MAX to China. We also have all our regular sections covering the latest commercial aircraft acquisitions, up-to-date accident reports and developments from the world of aviation training and MROs.

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