On Thursday 30 March 2017 Twente Airport was officially opened as a civilian airport. During a ceremony the authority was officially transferred from the Dutch Ministry of Defence to the Province of Overijssel.
More than 250 guests attended the ceremonies surrounding this transfer of authority, one of them was Sharon Dijksma, secretary of Infrastructure and Environment. In her speech she referrred to the pioneering powers for which the Twente region is well known. “Twente Airport will be a regional airport with regional characteristics and a national innovative agenda”.
Twente Airport will focus on 3 aspects of aviation: business and small aviation, testing and the settling of aviation related companies. This was already shown earlier with several tests that were executed at Twente Airport (see The Runway is Wet and NLR Tests at Twente Airport) and after the opening the NLR also announced that it would start testing large scale drones at Twente Airport. The settling of companies has also started with AELS. AELS is a company that specializes in the dismantling of aircraft and selling the reclaimed parts. They will use Twente Airport as a location to dismantle wide-body aircraft, such as the Airbus 340 and Boeing 747. The dismantling of aircraft like this takes approximately 2 months per airframe.
After a round-table discussion the moment came for Colonel J.P. Apon to officially transfer the authority to respresentative Eddy van Hijum. During this transfer the Koninklijke Luchtmacht said goodbye in a fitting way, two F-16’s made a fly-by over the runway that they had used for many years.
Airport Director Meiltje de Groot was hopefull for the future and commented: “The last couple of months we already received several requests to land at Twente Airport. Now we are really open for business! We already have several aircraft booked for the coming months and for example, the NLR will use Twente Airport to test their X-calibur drone.”
Earlier on the day several aircraft had already landed at Twente Airport to take part in the official opening. A special visit was made by a CH-47D Chinook from the Koninklijke Luchtmacht, it gave a small performance show for the spectators that had gathered on the Spotters Hill.
The 1st of May 2016 was a historical date for Twente Airport with the arrival of the first commercial flight since 9 years.
With the departure of the Koninklijke Luchtmacht on 7 December 2007 military use of the airport ceased. As of 1 January 2008 the airport has been closed for civil aviation as well, pending governmental agreement on the future of the airport. On 16 June 2010 the province of Overijssel agreed on a spatial plan including an airport.
On 1 December 2010 the ownership of the airport grounds was transferred to the Twente region and the city of Enschede. Though it was attempted to find a party interested in operating the airport commercially, it was announced on 4 December 2012 that despite three parties showing interest in this proposal, none of them made a bid to operate it. In March of 2014 the government proposed that the airport could re-open for General Aviation users in 2015, and commercial traffic in 2016. Movements would be limited to 22.000 a year under the proposal primarily for noise abatement. However, in June of 2014 both the provincial government and the city of Enschede abandoned the plan to re-open the airport for commercial traffic. The future of the airport remained uncertain. In August 2015 it was announced that Belgian aircraft recycling firm Aeronextlife intended to start using the airport to scrap aircraft. As part of the plan, Aeronextlife would become responsible for the costs of certain vital services required for airport operation, such as a fire fighting presence during aircraft operations.
Besides the arrival of Boeing 737 aircraft for scrapping, additional traffic allowed at the airport include cargo aircraft to transport airplane parts, business charter aircraft of a number of operators that requested permission to use the airfield, a limited amount of smaller general aviation aircraft and gliders. Approval was granted, and flights to Twente Airport resumed one the first of May 2016 with the landing of Cessna Citation Sovereign PH-HGT, owned by ASL – Air Service Liège, coming from Manchester, which departed for Aosta later that day. Plenty of enthusiasts were present on the newly erected spotters hill to witness this historical moment.