It was 65 years ago on this day that the new airport of the Hungarian capital commenced operation. On May 7, 1950, a Li-2 passenger aircraft flew to Ferihegy from nearby Budaörs Airport. This marked the beginning of civil aviation at Budapest Airport. In the first year of its operation, the airport handled 7133 passengers. In 2014, this number exceeded 9 million.
A summary by Budapest Airport says the history of Ferenc Liszt International Airport, previously called Ferihegy, stretches back even further than 1950. The area was zoned as a dual use, civil and military airport already in 1938, but the Second World War intervened.
Although the construction of a unique, Bauhaus-style passenger terminal designed by architect Károly Dávid Jr. began, focus shifted to the hangars of the Hungarian Air Force and the Aviation Experimentation Institute; there was hardly any civilian traffic. The airport was bombed by the Allied forces several times in 1944, and it was only rebuilt by 1950 (according to the original designs). It welcomed the first Li-2 passenger aircraft (a Soviet version of the American Douglas DC-3 Dakota, built under license) on 7 May.
At the time, the concrete runway at the airport was only 1500 meters long, which was gradually extended to accommodate jet aircraft. Runway I was completed, with its current length of 3000 meters, in 1958.
By the 1970’s (1974, to be precise), the annual passenger number exceeded 1 million, and Terminal 1 was no longer able to handle the traffic. As a result, in 1977 the design and construction of a new control tower, a parallel runway II (3700 m) and a new technical base with aircraft repair hangars commenced. Terminal 2A, which today handles Schengen passengers, was completed in 1985. Due to the continuous traffic growth, further developments were necessary, and Terminal 2B was handed over in 1998.
Significant organizational changes occurred in 2002, when air traffic control (HungaroControl) split from the previously all-encompassing state organization LRI (the Aeronautical and Airport Directorate), and Budapest Airport Zrt. as airport operating company was also established.
Following successful privatization, Budapest Airport Zrt. operated under British management from January 2006, before an international consortium led by HOCHTIEF AirPort purchased 75% of its shares in June 2007. The Hungarian State retained the remaining 25 % +1 vote until the summer of 2011, when it decided to exercise its option right and sold the minority stake to the majority owners.
During privatization, the new owners undertook to invest 261 million EUR (75 billion HUF) into development projects, which was fulfilled by 2012 and has been significantly exceeded since then, with the total value of developments currently in excess of 320 million EUR (approximately 110 billion HUF). In January 2013, with the acquisition of HOCHTIEF AirPort, Canadian company PSP Investments became the largest owner, and the company handling HOCHTIEF’s airport assets was renamed AviAlliance GmbH.
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