Silesia Airport

Katowice International Airport magazine

Silesia Airport
Issue 59


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Airport history

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The place where the Katowice International Airport in Pyrzowice is currently located, and through which thousands of airline passengers pass, was first used by soldiers. In 1940, the German Luftwaffe started the construction of a field airport in the meadows around Pyrzowice. The Germans traced three bituminous and concrete runway strips with lengths of 1000 to 1500 metres, each 50 metres wide. The airport was used for the transshipment of military materials from aeroplanes flying from the internal part of the Reich to aeroplanes taking supplies to troops on the Eastern Front. In the final stage of the Second World War, Messerschmitt 163 Komet rocket-powered aircraft were tested here. From 1945 to 1951, Red Army soldiers were stationed at the airport. In the early 1950s, the Soviets handed over the airport to the Polish Army. It was then used by the 39th Fighter Regiment, created on April 17th, 1951. The airport in Pyrzowice was first made available for passenger traffic on October 6th, 1966 , when the first LOT Polish Airlines aeroplane took off for Warsaw. At that time, passenger plane pilots used military navigation aids and were guided by army aerospace controllers. The first investments in civil infrastructure were made when passenger flights started to depart from Pyrzowice. By the end of 1969 a small passenger terminal was built (550 m2), together with taxiways and an apron in front of the airport.

Passenger traffic was small and ended on October 28th, 1990, after the last PLL LOT regular flight departed for Warsaw. A period of standstill ensued, caused by political unrest in Poland related to the political transformation.

Upper Silesia had to be connected by air to the rest of the country and to the world, so the Voivodeship authorities proposed that a company be established in order to develop the air industry, which was so important for the region. In the first quarter of 1991, Górnośląskie Towarzystwo Lotnicze S.A. (Upper Silesian Aviation Group, joint stock company) was created.

Thanks to the efforts of the management of GTL S.A., on July 2nd, 1992, PLL LOT re-established the air connection to Warsaw, and on March 27th, 1993 the German carrier Lufthansa flew to Frankfurt, thus inaugurating the first international connection in 54 years. Traffic began to increase gradually and works commenced on developing the civil infrastructure, as the airport was still shared with the military at the time. These works greatly accelerated when the airport was handed over on May 1st, 1994, to be managed by Górnośląskie Towarzystwo Lotnicze S.A. On October 7th, 1994, the modernised passenger terminal was officially opened. In August 1996, the construction of cargo halls commenced and they were opened in February 1997. The second stage of construction was concluded in September 1998. In 2000, the first stage of works started with the aim of extending the aprons, the taxiways and the runway strip. The extension of the runway strip by 420 metres was concluded in July 2001. The strip is currently 2800 metres long. In 2004, the Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air started flying from Pyrzowice. In August 2004, extension of the passenger terminal was concluded. Its surface was increased to 7600 m2, which helped increase its throughput to 1.7 million passengers. The big increase of passenger traffic at Katowice airport, caused by Poland's accession to the European Union and the arrival of low-cost carriers to Poland, brought about the necessity of intensifying works to develop the airport infrastructure. One of the most important issues was the improvement of the road network to connect the airport to the centre of the Silesian conurbation. The S1 expressway was built for this purpose. It was put into operation on November 20th, 2006, connecting the airport in Pyrzowice to the Podwarpie interchange, and ensuring easy, fast and comfortable access to the airport.

Passenger Terminal B, officially put into operation on July 30th, 2007, has been the biggest investment so far in the 16 years of operation of Górnośląskie Towarzystwo Lotnicze S.A. It has enabled handling up to 3.6 million passengers annually in comfortable conditions.

The International Airport in Katowice is constantly developing. In the very neare future, further extension of the aprons is planned, as well as the construction of a third passenger terminal and a new runway strip.


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