Online archive of the old Munich-Riem Airport

For almost 53 years, Munich-Riem Airport was the international airport of the Bavarian capital, Munich, before it was relocated to Erdinger Moos in 1992 - a look back at the former Munich Airport in Riem.
The old Munich Airport - a look back at over 100 years of aviation in Munich. (Image source: Munich Airport)

Munich-Riem Airport

For almost 53 years, Riem Airport was the international airport of the Bavarian capital, Munich. In the 19197 days between opening and closing on May 16, 1992, around 250 million air passengers, 900,000 tons of air freight and 330,000 tons of air mail were handled with 4 million aircraft movements.


History of Munich-Riem Airport


1936: Munich needs a new airport

The history of Munich-Riem Airport begins in 1936. In that year it was determined that the Oberwiesenfeld airfield, which opened in 1919, would no longer meet the requirements of modern aviation, as there was no space for expansion and renovation. A fate that would also overtake Munich-Riem Airport very quickly (in peacetime) - but one thing at a time: Riem is chosen as the location for the new Munich Airport. Construction began a year later - the opening is scheduled for September 1939.

1939: hesitant commissioning of Munich-Riem Airport

Munich Airport in the Riem district, which went into operation on October 25, 1939, was one of the most modern airports in the world at the time and replaced the Oberwiesenfeld airfield. Even at that time, Munich was a real hub for flights to the south and south-east.

The opening of Munich-Riem Airport was originally planned for September 1, 1939 as a civilian airport - the historic date on which, as is well known, the Second World War broke out. In addition, the shortage of labor and the material quotas, which were already noticeable in 1938, led to a delay of almost 2 months for civil aviation. The actual purpose - to serve as a peaceful hub for civil aviation - was therefore denied to Munich Airport, because during the Second World War it was also an airfield for the Luftwaffe and, among other things, also served the maintenance and repair of the aircraft engines of Lufthansa and Luftwaffe.

1945: Destruction of Munich-Riem Airport

In the course of the Second World War, Munich Airport was also bombed several times. On March 24, 1945, around 80 Allied planes headed for the airport area. The aim of the destruction was the airport itself, the radio transmission station between Gronsdorf and Salmdorf, as well as the railway line between Gronsdorf and Trudering and the surrounding area around the Munich district of Riem.

Between April 9 and May 1, 1945, further air raids followed on the new Munich-Riem Airport and the Munich-Riem district. At the end of the Second World War, Munich Airport was 70% destroyed, as a result, on April 9, 1945, the civil flight operations of the only two airlines Swissair and Lufthansa had to be discontinued. In May 1945, the airport was occupied by American troops. The USA built a runway made of steel plates over the grass tarmac that was customary at the time.

During the first post-war years, regular services played a subordinate role. Germans were only rarely able to take part in air traffic, as flight tickets could only be paid for in foreign currency. First the Currency reform of June 21, 1948 created the prerequisites for being able to participate in civil air traffic again as a citizen of the FRG in the future. 

1950: Growth at Munich-Riem Airport

On November 22nd, 1949, the new 1900 meter long concrete runway was officially opened. Munich Riem Airport was thus oriented towards growth in 1950, which began with 28,970 passengers in 1949. About a month before the new runway opened, Flughafen München-Riem GmbH (renamed Flughafen München GmbH in 1969) was founded on October 12, 1949. Everything was about to restart and yes - Munich Airport took off: just ten years later, the runway at Munich Airport had to be renewed, this time to be extended to 2,600 meters in order to meet the requirements of the jet traffic age. With the age of jets, the number of passengers grew rapidly.

1955: Capacity, safety and well-being at the limit

Just five years later, in 1954, options are being examined to further expand Riem Airport and equip it with a second runway. Since the airport is repeatedly reaching its capacity limits due to the constantly increasing air traffic and constantly increasing flight movements, this step seems to be urgently needed.

Not least because of the air accidents in 1958 and 1960, the expansion of the old airport was refused, because the proximity of the airport facilities to Munich city center also posed an increasing security risk. After all, the distance between the airport grounds in the east of Munich and downtown Munich was in the city center has always been only 10 kilometers and Munich grew closer and closer to the airport.

On August 5th, 1969, the decision was made to build the new Munich Airport “MUC II” in the Erdinger Moos. Until then, the airport in Riem has to hold out for another 23 years... and the 1972 Summer Olympics are coming up!

1972: the Olympic Games in Munich - endurance test for Riem Airport

Munich-Riem Airport has been expanded in recent years with so-called bridging measures, in particular with temporary lightweight construction in preparation for increasing flight numbers. The handling capacity was doubled when the construction work was completed. According to the planning, the Riem airport was able to handle around 6 million passengers per year.

1988: One last new building on Flughafen-Riem - one Mammoth task for air traffic control

In November 1980, the construction of the Franz Josef Strauss Airport MUC II in Erdinger Moss finally began. In 1981, however, the construction work had to be stopped abruptly. Legal construction freeze for an unknown time! 

In 1983, however, the annual passenger numbers of 6 million travelers at Riemer Airport are regularly exceeded - Riem is bursting at the seams and the much-awaited new Franz Josef Strauss Airport MUC II will probably not be ready by 1988.

In November 1988, Terminal 2 was hastily opened for charter flights in order to be able to bridge the construction freeze in Erdinger Moos, which incidentally lasted 4 years - last year, more than 12 million (!) Passenger movements were registered in Riem, an average of 520 flight movements per Day with only one runway.

1992: Riem Airport becomes a relaxed party mile

23 years after the decision to build a new Munich airport, Munich airport moves to Erdinger Moos overnight on May 16, 1992 - Franz Josef Strauss MUC airport takes over operations, and flight operations in Riem can be discontinued.

In the years after its closure, the old airport site in Riem will initially be used as an event location and flea market area.

1994: Munich Airport crumbles, the trade fair city of Riem is created

From 1994 the new exhibition grounds and the Messestadt Riem with the Riemer Park, which was previously part of the Federal Horticultural Show 2005, were built on the old airport grounds. Little by little, buildings, paths and runways are disappearing to make room for the new Munich Trade Fair Center.

Today only the airport tower, the grandstand and the coat of arms hall - which were placed under monument protection in 1995 - are reminiscent of the old Riem Airport: Remains of the old Munich-Riem Airport. In addition, there is a small piece of runway in the west of the trade fair city, a truly small reminder of the once 2,804 meter long runway at Munich-Riem Airport.

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