Founded in 1926, Flughafen Dortmund GmbH teamed up and formed the dynamic duo of German airports: Dortmund and Cologne. Despite the grass runway, Dortmund outperformed both Düsseldorf and Essen aerodromes. In the fiscal period 1927 to 1928 Dortmund had 2,589 scheduled flights, among its 8,640 flight operations.
In August 1930 the Graf Zeppelin airship landed in Dortmund. They were greeted by 120,000 citizens.
Unfortunately the Second World War ended civil aviation in Dortmund-Brackel. The military took control of the 1,100 by 80-metre runway at Dortmund Airport. Once the war was over, all German aviation was suspended, and controlled by the Allies.
In 1955 control of Germany’s airspace was returned. It wasn’t until the year 1960, at the site of the current airport, that civil aviation made its return to Dortmund. Subsequently, it took until 1974 before a 650 metre (2,133 foot) tarmac runway was finally constructed.
Naturally the airport has continued to evolve. Nowadays they handle two million passengers per year on a 2 kilometre (6,562 foot) runway that is 45 m (148 feet) wide. It is triple the length and double the width of the original tarmac runway. The terminal facilities have the capacity to handle 3½ million passengers per year so there is plenty of room to expand operations.
Takeoffs and landings occur between 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM. The current terminal became operational in the year 2000, and the previous building that serve that purpose is now used for leisure, recreational flights, and business flights.
Everybody likes to see what is going on at the airport. Take a couple of minutes to look at these two live cameras, facing opposite directions so you can get a good look around. The west-facing and east-facing cameras are not steerable or controllable but if you go to the Arrivals and Departures pages you can find out which particular aircraft you are looking at.
Cockpit View Video
Now, of course, we’ve all heard the expression fly-by-wire, but now’s the time to take an actual look at it in action. The two pilots in this video are hands-off as the huge vehicle responds automatically to the flight computer. They make sure the ILS radios are working to detect the outer, middle, and inner markers, and that the ATC coms are properly set.
They said the flaps, and lower the landing gear but it’s not until the last 30 seconds that the “pilot flying” says “I’m taking control” and performs the final details of the landing. Nowadays the computers can almost do the whole job by themselves. It will not be too long before the pilots are there as a backup to an otherwise fully automated flight.
To add that extra layer of reality, don’t forget to check out the Flight Radar. There is a special feature that cannot be linked directly, but I’ll explain it thusly: Once you are in the feature at the link above, choose an interesting plane, and click on it. On the left side of the screen you will see a box with details about the craft. You’ll also see a cube shape with 3D in it…
Click that and you will be taken to a graphic representation of that plane, flying over a Google Earth type map, showing you precisely where the plane is, and what it is flying over. You can move the image around with your mouse and observe it from any angle.
If you’re a fan of Air Traffic Control you can watch the skies around Dortmund Airport. Clicking on any plane will identify it for you, where green is outbound, blue is inbound, and gray is just passing through the airspace. Unfortunately, listening in on ATC air-to-ground communications is not possible in Germany because it is illegal to rebroadcast ATC chatter.
None—this is a nice, safe airport!
Compared to its heyday, Dortmund is now rated 13th among 21 airports in Germany with 2,000,000 passengers. Frankfurt has 61,000,000 annual passengers; Munich has 41,000,000; and the next five German airports all have 10 to 20,000,000 passengers each.
Nevertheless, constructed of glass, stainless steel, and polished aluminum it’s a very attractive airport, and no slouch on the international scene. It’s got all the usual amenities, so if you are headed there don’t worry—you’ll do just fine.