80 years ago today, on 20 September 1936, a triangular system of concrete runways was opened on the shore of Lake Ülemiste – and with it, Tallinn’s air field officially became Tallinn Airport.
This new system allowed aircraft to land no matter which way the wind was blowing and in any season, guaranteeing Tallinn year-round air connections to the rest of the world. It is for this reason that 20 September is celebrated as the airport’s official anniversary.
Each of the runways in the system at the time was 300 metres long. In comparison, Tallinn Airport’s existing runway is being extended as part of ongoing construction work from 3070 metres to 3480 metres. The original concrete triangle of runways can still be seen today at the Tartu Highway end of the runway. In its day, Tallinn Airport was considered the biggest and most modern airport anywhere in Eastern Europe.
During this anniversary week, passengers will be greeted in the terminal with mini-concerts and other pop-up events, all of which will be connected in one way or another to staff working at the airport.
A special page has been set up for the 80th anniversary on Facebook, as well as on the Tallinn Airport website, where you will find photos and videos about the fascinating history of the airport. Click on https://www.tallinn-airport.ee/tallinna-lennujaam-80/ for an absorbing overview of Estonia’s aviation history, from Sergey Utochkin’s first flight to major events taking place at the airport today. If you’re on Facebook, the ‘Airport 80’ page is constantly being updated with pictures from the archives, and you can also take part in a series of mini-quizzes, with anniversary souvenirs being awarded as prizes.
Interesting facts about Tallinn Airport
- The administration centre at the airport is in the old terminal building, which was only completed in 1955 despite having been designed by Arthur Jürvetson – grandfather of well-known Estonian risk capitalist Steve Jürvetson – in 1938.
- The longest route in Europe at the time, linking Helsinki to Jerusalem, made its first stopover in Tallinn before continuing on to Rīga, Warsaw, Lviv, Bucharest, Saloniki, Athens, Rhodes and Lydda.
- In designing the new terminal building opened in time for the Olympic regatta in 1980, architect Mihhail Piskov was inspired by the look of old Estonian threshing barn cottages.
- International flight connections were restored with the rest of the world in 1989 when an SAS flight landed in Tallinn from Stockholm.
- It took until 2005 for the airport to surpass the one-million-passengers-in-a-year mark, but only another five years for it to surpass two million.