Tallinn Airport celebrates its 85th birthday this year – the airport was established by Lake Ülemiste on 20 September 1936; Estonian World brings you a selection of pictures taken of the airport and the aircraft over the past eight decades.
Prior to the establishment of the present airport in Ülemiste area, a long-forgotten Lasnamäe Airfield was the primary airport of Tallinn, serving as a base for Aeronaut airline – the first Estonian-owned airline.
Aeronaut operated from 1921-1928, flying German-made Sablatnig P.III and Junkers F13 planes on Tallinn–Helsinki, Tallinn–Stockholm, Tallinn–Riga–Königsberg and Tallinn–Tartu–Viljandi–Pärnu routes.
Aeronaut went bankrupt in 1928 and Lasnamäe Airfield was subsequently used by the Estonian Air Force and later by the Soviet Air Forces (during the Soviet occupation of Estonia) instead, until finally closing in the 1970s, when the Lasnamäe residential district was constructed in the area instead.
The area by Lake Ülemiste became the epicentre of the Estonian air traffic in 1928, when a seaplane harbour – to serve Finnish-operated seaplanes – was built on the shores of the lake.
In 1929, the Estonian parliament, Riigikogu, passed an act to build a modern airport with paved runways. In 1931, the construction of Tallinn Airport – just by the seaplane harbour on the shores of Lake Ülemiste – was started. In 1935, the airport’s administration building was erected, which also served initially as a waiting place for travelers.
Tallinn Airport officially opened on 20 September 1936.
At its opening, the airport – modern by the standards of its time – had a triangular system of three concrete runways, allowing aircraft to land no matter which way the wind was blowing and in any season.
At the time, the runways were 40 metres wide and 300 metres long each – in comparison, Tallinn Airport’s modern runway is 3,480 metres (2.2 miles) long.
The post-war era
A new terminal building was designed in 1938 by Arthur Jürvetson – grandfather of well-known US-born Estonian venture capitalist, Steve Jurvetson. However, the Second World War caused disruption and the terminal’s construction was put on hold.
After the war, the building was redesigned in accordance with the Stalinist architecture and finally completed in 1955. The former terminal is now the administrative centre of Tallinn Airport.
A new terminal
In 1980, the new terminal building opened – in time for the Moscow Olympic Games’ regatta that was held in Tallinn. The terminal was designed by a Moscow-based Russian architect Mihhail Piskov, who was inspired by the look of old Estonian threshing barn cottages. The terminal’s original interior was designed by an Estonian designer Maile Grünberg.
Cover: Tallinn Airport’s terminal in 1999, before it was modernised. Photo by Tallinn Airport.
Estonian World is a global independent online magazine, founded in London in 2012 and headquartered in Tallinn, Estonia. The magazine has editorial representations in London, Boston, Los Angeles and Tallinn, and contributors all over the world, on every continent. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.