S. Darius and S. Girėnas Airport

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S. Darius and S. Girėnas Airport
S. Dariaus ir S. Girėno aerodromas
Approaching Aleksotas Airport (EYKS) Runway 27.JPG
Summary
Airport type Public
Serves Kaunas, Lithuania
Location Aleksotas
Elevation AMSL 246 ft / 75 m
Coordinates 54°52′48″N 023°52′54″E / 54.88000°N 23.88167°E / 54.88000; 23.88167
Runways
Direction Length Surface
m ft
09R/27L 1,130 3,707 Asphalt

S. Darius and S. Girėnas Airport (S. Dariaus ir S. Girėno aerodromas) (ICAO: EYKS), also known as Aleksotas Airport (Aleksoto aerodromas), is a small airport located in Aleksotas district of Kaunas City (Lithuania), about 3 kilometres South-west from city centre. On May 6, 1993, the airport was named after the Lithuanian pilots Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas, who perished in a crash near the end of an attempted non-stop flight from New York to Lithuania in 1933.

Military use[edit]

S. Darius and S. Girėnas Airport was conceived as military airport, established by German Army in 1915, after it captured Kaunas Fortress. Used continuously since then it is the oldest functioning airport in Lithuania, making it also one of the oldest airports in Europe. The airport area underwent major upgrades in 1926, 1931, 1942 (800 m. concrete runway with taxiways, repair hangars built), 1950's (concrete runway extension to 1330 m.) and 1970's (passenger terminal, navigation equipment).

During the Interwar period, when Kaunas was Lithuania's capital, Aleksotas Airport was used as primary base of Lithuanian Air Force. It also served as test ground for locally built airplanes, like Dobi I, Dobi II, Dobi III by Jurgis Dobkevičius, Anbo I, Anbo II, Anbo III, Anbo IV and Anbo 41, Anbo V, Anbo VI, Anbo VII and Anbo VIII by Antanas Gustaitis, gliders.[1][better source needed]

The airport suffered heavily during World War II. On June 22, 1941, Luftwaffe on the ground destroyed most of Red Army aircraft, stationed in Aleksotas Airfield. Airport infrastructure suffered major damage in July 1944 during the battle for Kaunas. Retreating Wehrmacht destroyed most of the hangars, and heavily damaged runway and taxiways.

In 1940-1941 and in 1944-1993 it was used as a Soviet (1991-1993 - Russian) airbase, in 1941-1944 as a German Luftwaffe base. Soviet Air Force used Aleksotas Airport as military transport and military helicopter base, with stationed Mil Mi-2, Mil Mi-6 and Mil Mi-8 helicopters prior to its full withdrawal in August 1993.

On May 20, 2016, Lithuanian Air Force moved its Second Search and Rescue post (three helicopter landing areas, one helicopter on constant duty) from Freda Airfield to Aleksotas Airport.

Civil air communication[edit]

The civil air communication was started by the German airlines in 1921. Initially the mail and passenger line Koenigsberg-Kaunas was served by Lloyd Luftdienst, Danziger Luftdienst, Danziger Luftpost. German-Soviet airline Deruluft airline opened regular service Königsberg-Kaunas-Smolensk-Moscow in May 1922. This was later expanded to the route Berlin-Danzig-Königsberg-Kaunas-Smolensk-Moscow. In 1923-1925 Latvian airline Latvijas Gaismas Satiksme AS operated Koenigsberg-Kaunas-Riga-Tallinn-Helsinki route, with the latter being closed in 1925 due to low profitability and withdrawal of Latvian government subsidies. Since 1938 Polish airline LOT operated flights on the route Warsaw-Kaunas-Riga-Helsinki, also connecting with Stockholm[citation needed].

In 1931 the first passenger terminal was built, it was destroyed during World War II. A new Terminal was built in the 1970s[citation needed].

Aleksotas airport was the base of the first Lithuanian airline: the national airline Lietuvos oro linijos was founded in 1938, when Lithuanian government ordered two British-built twin engine six-seat planes Percival Q 6 Petrel. The planes were registered LY-SOA and LY-SOB and, commemorating the national trans-Atlantic heroes, were respectively named "Steponas Darius" and "Stasys Girėnas". The first Lithuanian civil airline was inaugurated on 5 September 1938 with domestic flights from Kaunas (the country's provisional capital at that time) to the coastal resort of Palanga. Later in 1939 Lietuvos oro linijos launched international flights to Riga (Latvia).[2]

All international connections were disrupted on June 16, 1940 when the airport was captured by the Red Army. Civil flights to Moscow were launched at the end of 1940 after the formal integration of Lithuania into the Soviet Union.

In the early 1950s regular civilian connections with other towns (but then only within USSR) were opened. Due to a short runway and limited extension possibilities the airport could accept only a very limited number of jet aircraft types. In the 1980s, Aleksotas Airport was considered one of the most dangerous airports in Europe due to its short runway.[3] It is claimed that only one type of jet - the Yak-40 - could use this airport. Even so, in the 1980s it was a base for about 15 Yak planes, connecting with nearly 30 cities within the USSR, as far as Odessa and Simferopol[citation needed]. Regular passenger flights in Aleksotas airport were stopped in 1988 and were moved to a new Kaunas International Airport in Karmėlava at the northeastern outskirts of Kaunas. Paradoxically, the opening of the new airport coincided with long term decrease in the number of connections from Kaunas: the new airport had limited passenger facilities and the economic downturn of the early 1990s resulted in a significant overall reduction of air communication.

After the withdrawal of the Russian Air Force in 1993, Aleksotas / S. Darius and S. Girėnas Airport serves general aviation. The airport hosts the Kaunas Air Club.

Its historical importance makes it a natural host for the Lithuanian Aviation Museum. The old passenger terminal building was transferred to Aviation Museum on February 19, 1990.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ List of Lithuanian gliders
  2. ^ http://www.sumin.lt/en/activities/sectors_activities The Ministry of Transport and Communications of Lithuania. Civil Aviation
  3. ^ http://vyrud.livejournal.com/100565.html LiveJournal. Kaunas Aleksotas airport

External links, sources[edit]