Evere

Validation date: 07 10 2011
Updated on: 21 08 2016
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50°52'27"N 004°25'44"E

Runway: 09/27 - 820m - concrete (CLOSED)

Airfield Evere (Dutch: vliegveld Evere, also known as Haren-Evere) was the national airfield of Brussels before World War II.
Construction of the airfield by the Germans began during World War I in 1914. In February 1915 they completed a 180x34x23m (LxWxH) Zeppelin hangar. It was partially destroyed on 7 June 1915 during an attack on airship LZ38. Although the hangar was repaired, airships were no longer parked at the airfield.
After the truce of 1918 the Belgian Military Aviation branch began using the terrain and its infrastructure. The Zeppelin Hangar was not torn down until 1923, as it was used to park aircraft left behind by the Germans. Some of the aircraft were used for the first civilian flights at the airfield.


Entrance to the barracks of the Aviation Camp at Evere (source)


The German Zeppelin hangar during World War I (source)

Belgian Royalty took a keen interest in early aviation. King Albert signed the document to form the SNETA (Syndicat National pour l'Etude des Transports Aériens, the National Syndicate for the Study of Aerial Transport). SNETA led to SABENA, the Belgian national airline in 1923. Only a week after it was started SNETA used a former German bomber to fly two passengers from Brussels to London and back via Paris. Steadily civilian air traffic began to grow with flights to London and Paris from the military airfield.
While the military part of the airfield was located in the municipailty of Evere, the civilian branch was wholly located in Haren. The first passengers arrived in a wooden barrack, which soon included a café for visitors to have a pint of beer. The first Aérogare (Air Station) next to it was built of brick and housed administrative services.
A major fire in the sole civilian hangar caused many flights to be postponed in September 1927, because part of the SNETA fleet was also burnt. This led to the construction of large brick hangars. In 1923 a radio center was built, along with a new airport terminal.
In February 1925 Sabena inaugurated the first Congo flight, when a Handley Page W8f took off from the airfield. A notable visitor was Charles Lindbergh, who flew to Evere only a week after his historic transatlantic flight.


Evere airfield in relation to Brussels, ca. 1930 (Belgian-Wings.be).


Detailed map of Evere airfield, ca. 1930 (Belgian-Wings.be).

Air traffic continued its steady growth and by 1929 a new terminal (the third) was taken into service. Although the airfield was still grass, it did receive a concrete platform to keep passengers out of the dirt.
The international airfield attracted several new companies, such as SABCA, and was even open to glider aircraft operations. Several international airlines used Haren-Evere in the 1930s, such as Imperial, KLM, Air France, Deutsche Luft Hansa and Britisch Continental. Haren-Evere planned to modernise the ever growing airfield by the mid 1930s.
In 1935 the first regular scheduled service to Congo started, 10 years after the first attempt. Haren-Evere would not receive a full updrage anymore, however. On 10 May 1940 the Germans invaded Belgium and they occupied the airfield a week later.


The definitive terminal building at Haren-Evere (source)

Although Evere remained an active airfield, the Germans began building a new Fliegerhorst at nearby Melsbroek. The Melsbroek site was no surprise: it had already been considered as the site for a new Brussels airfield in 1936. This because Haren-Evere was rapidly reaching its physical limits and loosing the competition with Amsterdam-Schiphol, Le Bourget and Tempelhof. The Germans also expanded Haren-Evere however, by building a new hangar (VIII) and a 820m long concrete runway (09-27). 
In 1942 the RAF discovered the two airfields had been merged by a single taxiway (completed in November 1942).
On 3 September 1944 Haren-Evere was liberated and only three days later the first RAF squadrons landed. Because the Germans had left in a hurry, the twin airfields needed very little repair work. Between September 1944 and October 1945, the British further expanded the runways, taxiways and aprons.

1944
Allied photo of Evere airfield in 1944. Notice the long rows of C-47 'Dakota' transport aircraft. On the west and east sides of the airfield a variety of aircraft can be seen, including, but not restricted to B-17s. The taxiway to Melsbroek starts just north of the eastern tip of the concrete runway (coll. Jean-Valery Masset).

When World War II ended the two airfields continued to be used by the military. It took until March 1946 before the airfields were fully released for civilian use. Although the airfield continued services from Haren-Evere for a short period, more and more operations moved to Melsbroek. Passengers departing from Haren-Evere were given the rare (and now unthinkable) treat of taxiing from the station building to the runway at Melsbroek. For this purpose, they used the German taxiway doubling as a street, with the military providing a free and unobstructed passage. From 1946 the airfield began shutting down, although repair services of Sabena and the Belgian Air Force would remain at the airfield until the early 1950s.


Former Belgian Air Force Spitfire SM-16 at the firedump at Evere in June 1952 (Belgian-Wings.be).

In 1961 Belgium began using the former air terminal as its Tactical Air Forces headquarters. From 1967 NATO HQ moved into the southern part of the former airfield after a hasty departure from Paris when France withdrew from the NATO military branch. Later, Eurocontrol was also housed at the former airfield.
In 2002 the Belgian Government offered their former headquarters to NATO for a replacement headquarters. The new headquarters was destined to become operational in 2012.