4 of the Oldest Operating Airports in the World

More than 100 years have passed since Orville and Wilbur Wright took to the air in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. That flight in 1903 opened the skies for humanity in ways the Wrights likely never thought possible, and advanced aerospace engineering continues to take pilots to new heights today.

It’s easy to look back and recognize just how far aircraft technology has advanced since December 17, 1903. What might surprise you is that the first airports still in operation today were established only a handful of years after that short flight in Kitty Hawk. Here’s a quick flyby of four of the oldest airports in the world.

College Park Airport (Maryland)

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As the “Historic General Aviation Gateway to the Nation's Capital,” College Park Airport in Maryland is the world’s oldest continually operating airport. It was established in 1909 to serve as the military demonstration site for the Wright Brothers while Wilbur instructed a pair of military officers in flying the government’s first airplane.

As one of the oldest airports in the world, the hub has no shortage of aviation achievements. College Park Airport is the home of the first military aviation school; witnessed the first mile-high flight by a powered airplane, the first women to fly in a powered aircraft, and the first helicopter flight; and was the first airport to use radio navigation aids, which paved the way for modern landing systems. Today, College Park Airport spreads across 70 acres, utilizes a single runway, and houses the College Park Aviation Museum.

Ljungbyhed Airport (Sweden)

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Ljungbyhed Airport is located in southern Sweden and was founded in 1910. Today, the airport is used primarily as a hub for private jets and sees more than 90,000 flight takeoffs and landings throughout the year — making it one of the busiest airports in the Scandinavian country. The site of the Ljungbyhed Airport has long been associated with the Swedish military and has been used for military purposes dating as far back as the mid-1600s.  

Hamburg Airport (Germany)

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Hamburg Airport was founded after Ljungbyhed Airport in 1911, but the hub is technically the second-oldest operating commercial passenger airport in the world (since Ljungbyhed mostly serves private jets). Hangars at Hamburg Airport were utilized during World War I, destroyed by fire in 1916, and used again as staging areas during the Berlin Airlift during the Cold War. The airport serves as a major airline hub for travel to and from Germany. More than 17.5 million passengers visited the hub in 2017, according to Hamburg Airport’s annual report.

Shoreham Airport (England)

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Shoreham Airport (also known as Brighton City Airport), in the coastal village of Lancing in East Sussex, sees more air traffic than its commercial passenger counterparts around the world. Today, Shoreham Airport is mostly used by privately owned aircraft and helicopter operators for sightseeing and leisure, and by a number of pilots and flight schools offering flying lessons. Shoreham Airport was founded in 1911 and served as a base for the first British aircraft during World War I and again during World War II.

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