- 1910 - 1916
- Early history
1910: On 5th March, the famous airship builder Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin visited Hamburg and gave a rousing speech, in which he lauded the airship as the means of transport of the future and appealed to the city's citizens to give their support to airship travel. Thanks to Zeppelin's appeal and the initiative of several of the city's prominent citizens, the people of Hamburg raised the funds to erect an airship hangar privately, and then offered the building to the airship company upon completion.
1911: 10th January saw the official formation of a limited company, the "Hamburg Airship Hangar Company" (HLG). Some time was spent looking for a suitable site for an airfield, and finally 44.8 hectares of land to the west of Lake Alster and north of the Borstel racecourse were chosen, close to the then sleepy village of Fuhlsbüttel. In May 1911, the excavation work for the airship hangar began, and that autumn, the people of Hamburg were treated to the marvellous sight of an airship crossing the sky above their city – the "Schwaben".
1912: The new airship hangar commenced operations in January. However, the "zeppelins" did not have the new airport to themselves for very long: the "magnificent men in their flying machines" soon took possession of the site with the first aeroplanes, the airship's new rivals.
During the First World War, the shortcomings of the "dirigibles" were already becoming evident – accidents were occurring with increasing frequency, and the operators responded by concentrating more on airship construction and on the training given to the pilots. More than 750 military pilots trained and won their pilot's licence in Fuhlsbüttel; and throughout the war military couriers transported urgent letters and packages on many air routes – not only in Germany, but also in England, France, Austria and Italy. Finally, the German War Office closed the site to the public completely; Fuhlsbüttel was now used solely as a military airfield.
1916: A fire in the airship hangar destroyed the last suitable navy dirigible. This meant that airship transport now had no significance for the German navy, and the Naval Office cancelled the lease. The HLG company rebuilt the damaged hangar using its own funds, and then leased it to the Hansa Aircraft Factory.
The outcome of the First World War soon brought all aviation in Germany to a temporary halt. In accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, large parts of the German air force were taken out of the country, many planes were destroyed, and the hangars and workshops were damaged so as to render them useless.