Manfred Rommel and Stuttgart’s airport
Manfred Rommel was elected mayor of Stuttgart in 1974, the same year that Stuttgart’s airport was approaching approximately two million passengers per year. As mayor, Rommel automatically became president of the supervisory board of Stuttgart’s airport. For the next 22 years, every strategic decision about the airport’s development was subject to his approval. Rommel wanted Stuttgart’s airport to be ready for the future and, thus, guarantee Baden-Württemberg’s economic strength. Most notably, he advocated for modernization of the runway.
The airport’s runway is overhauled in 1996.
Before modernization in 1996, the airport’s runway was 2,550 meters long and located 1,380 meters facing west toward the Weidacher Höhe, a nearby hill. Consequently, for decades planes were subject to many restrictions on take off and landing. For example, when taking off facing west, the weight of a plane was strictly limited and, therefore, not all cargo could be transported. Transatlantic flights, such as to the United States, required stopovers in order to refuel for the long distance. These problems were solved when the runway was relocated to face east and extended to 3,345 meters. Safety was also improved with the additional distance between the runway and the Weidacher Höhe, because an electronic instrument landing system could be installed. As a result, planes could land at the airport in low visibility conditions.
Manfred Rommel’s support of the runway.
Manfred Rommel was explicit in his support of the expansion and extension of the airport’s runway. He listened to the concerns of opponents but, nonetheless, passionately argued his support for the project. “If this would be less important, I would have remained quiet. But this is important for the future of many people in this city, this region and this state, even though many of them have not noticed it yet,” Rommel told the members of Stuttgart’s city council in 1988. “To have a safe and functioning airport, this planning permission is necessary. If we do not go down this path, we should not be surprised if one day our business location is less attractive or if the rate of unemployment is no longer low.”