As Head of the Department of Transport

An attractive, competitive airport in Hamburg was hugely important for future employment and prosperity, of that the head of the Department of Transport, Helmut Schmidt, was certain. As the transport expert on the Hamburg political scene, he began laying the foundations for turning Hamburg into an aviation centre as early as the 1950s. Central to this work was finding a location for a technical base for a German airline to be newly re-founded in the wake of the recovery of sovereignty over the airspace by the German authorities after the Second World War.

About 60 years later, on the 100th birthday of Hamburg Airport in 2011, Helmut Schmidt reported in an interview, “I was then the head of the Department of Transport, and apart from the harbour and the houses of ill-repute, it was all mine. Of course, our mayor Max Brauer and others helped in putting together the bid and the result is history: the Lufthansa Technik base, constructed on a former horse race track at the Hamburg Airport was completed in time to start operating for the newly founded post-war German Lufthansa, becoming one of the three pillars of aviation in the north.”

The lease with the airline was signed on 2 December 1953, leading to the construction of a huge maintenance and overhaul hanger. This became the foundation of today’s Lufthansa Technik base and what is today one of the most important aviation locations worldwide.

Technical base for secure employment
As Head of department, Schmidt was certain that Hamburg was a very suitable location for the soon to be founded German Lufthansa airline and its technical base and maintenance centre. To achieve this, a large aircraft hangar would have to be constructed, and the other requirements for a comprehensive maintenance centre would have to be made available. The Lufthansa technical base has since become Lufthansa Technik AG, servicing the Lufthansa and other airline fleets.


From Hamburg to the World
In the subsequent years, Hamburg Airport developed into a transatlantic aviation hub. From 1956 for example, Lufthansa flew the Hamburg-Dusseldorf/Frankfurt-Paris-Dakar-Rio de Janiero-São Paulo-Buenes Aires route. This was the time of the Lockheed Super Constellation, a four-propeller plane that enabled the airlines to fly long haul flights (with multiple stops). As the age of the jet aircraft began in the 1960s with the Boeing 707, the legendary Pan Am airline became a frequent visitor to Hamburg with its Copenhagen-Hamburg-London-New York route. Air France began its first long-haul flight from Paris via Hamburg to Tokyo, passing over the North Pole.


Aviation in Hamburg today
What began in the 1950s with finding a location for a technical base for an airline at the airport of the city of Hamburg, has since become one of the world’s most important locations in the civil aviation industry. In total, more than 40,000 highly qualified specialist personnel are working here. Their core competencies cover the complete life cycle of an aircraft, from the design, manufacture and fitting out, to the global system of air transportation, maintenance, repair and overhaul, and finally to recycling. The two giants of the industry, Airbus and Lufthansa Technik, are joined by Hamburg Airport and more than 300 small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as a variety of scientific and technological institutions. Every one of them contributes know-how and expertise.