Today it is exactly 30 years ago that I was at the cradle of Helihaven Den Helder, which has since grown into Den Helder Airport, Netherlands Offshore Aviation Mainport. In the meantime I can write a book about all the developments and challenges we have faced over the years, but I will limit it to a few highlights.
At the time, in 1992, the heliport was located in temporary accommodation (which eventually served for 22 years) and employed 32 people. The first KLM ERA Helicopters hangar had just been put into use and 4 more were to follow in the years to come.
The then director, Roel Hijmans, was seconded from KLM ERA Helicopters and was an enthusiastic aviation man. Together we built the heliport and let it grow into the current offshore airport with international status.
In 1992 we had a license for 13,300 flight movements per year. Since that time it has been exciting several times around the turn of the year. Can we manage with the licensed number of flight movements or just not.....
The number of flight movements was periodically increased during the following years thanks to the good cooperation with the Ministry of Defense and in particular Maritime Air Camp De Kooy and the people living in the vicinity of the airport.
With the increase in the number of flight movements, the number of operators and the need for hangar space also increased. In 1993, Schreiner Airways built the second hangar at Den Helder Airport. Skyline Aviation subsequently built two hangars. In 2010 we again foresaw a shortage of hangar space and we built the fifth hangar. The two Skyline Aviation hangars were taken over by Den Helder Airport in 2014. There are currently plans to build a hangar again.
In the end, the semi-permanent station building also became too small and we built a fully-fledged terminal where passengers and freight are handled as we are used to at Schiphol. Complete with check-in counters, X-Ray equipment, Security, Marechaussee and Customs. I therefore affectionately call our beautiful airport “Schiphol in miniature”, with which we also have a number of extras, such as survival suits that passengers are obliged to wear during the flight by helicopter to the offshore location, a flight safety briefing in a specially designed briefing. rooms (instructions normally given by flight attendants) and periodic alcohol and drug checks on offshore passengers.
When Roel Hijmans started enjoying a well-deserved retirement at the end of 2008, we had built up a fully-fledged airport where approximately 500 people work and 32 companies were located. The Den Helder Airport team had also grown to 3 people.
I took over from him on January 1, 2009.
Despite the oil and gas crisis, the number of employees has remained around 450 and the Den Helder Airport team has now grown to 5 employees.
When he said goodbye, Roel said to me: “we have pioneered and built a beautiful airport. Now all you have to do is sit back and make sure everything is going well.” Nothing turned out to be less true!
With the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, we are fully committed to developing this new market for Den Helder Airport as well. Not only by facilitating helicopters for the wind farms that are currently being built at a rapid pace off the Dutch coast, but also by facilitating flights with (electric) airplanes between several offshore airports in the United Kingdom and Denmark and the emerging market. with drones.
In short, in the past 30 years I have never been bored for a moment, experienced many fun and beautiful developments and because of the many challenges, I have never felt the need to look forward to another job. My credo is therefore: “Never a dull moment”.
Den Helder Airport is developing nicely with many new challenges ahead and I hope to remain associated with this great airport until I retire!
Happy New Year!!