AERODROME - RIGA (SPILVE)
Peter Bakema's Photos
Gerry Hill's Photo
Jeroen M. Brinkman's Photos
- Image #01 - Map of Spilve from the 1935 Aviation Festival program
Image #02 - Map of Spilve surroundings from the 1935 Aviation Festival
Image #03 - Aerial view of Spilve buildings, c.1938
- Aerial view of Spilve, c.2001
Image #05 - VEF-built glider in front of
VEF hangar, 1935
Image #06 - VEF-built glider in front of VEF hangar, 1935
Image #07 - June, 1936
- SPILVE - The Aerodrome is located across the Daugava River
from Riga, to the north west of the city. On its east side runs the
Riga-Bolderaja highway, near the cement factory, and just north of Ilguciems.
- SKULTE - Used by the Latvian civilian aviation and then
Germans/Latvians during the second war, it was located in the Zolitude
neighborhood, on the Skulte property on the north side of the Kalnciems
highway. The airfield was built with the intent of turning it over to the
Aizsargi, but the war interrupted these plans. Note that, although it is
about 30 km from Kalnciems, it was also unofficially referred to as the
"Kalnciems" aerodrome because it was beside the Kalnciems highway.
airfield itself posed two hazards. The first was a forest which was near enough
to the runway that it was a concern during takeoffs and landings. Secondly, the
Skirotava radio antennas were a couple of kilometers away and, with no warning
lights lit during wartime, these were particularly hazardous during night
- SKIROTAVA - When the Riga area was overly crowded with
aviation units, the Germans stationed some units at "Skirotava". Presumably,
this was a clear area in the neighborhood of Skirotava, where today there
exists a large railroad marshalling yard.
- KRUSTABAZNICA - a small and temporary airfield, located on
the right side of Brivibas Street (the Vidzemes Highway) at the edge of the
Bikernieku Forest. From this historic site were flown many of the crucial
reconnaissance missions of the Bermont-Avalov conflict.
- MAZJUMPRAVA - A small airfield, located to the ESE of Riga on
the north shore of the Daugava, used in 1919 during the battles vs.
- April 15, 1916 - This field was first used by aircraft during the
first World War, when the IRAS stationed its 12th Fighter Squadron there,
flying Moranes, Sikorski and Nieuport aircraft. Later they were joined by a
recon squadron flying Voisin two-seaters.
- The airfield was initially unusable during the spring months, when
the Daugava would flood the entire field. This was greatly improved, though not
entirely remedied, when the Latvian Air Force arranged for irrigation and
drainage ditches to be dug, complete with pumps and sluices. On at least one
spring the field was flooded with massive chunks of ice from the Daugava, and
the aircraft had to be hauled up into the hangar roof to save them from damage.
- Immediately after the Russian Revolution, when the Bolsheviks
briefly held Riga, their 1st Aviation Division was based at Spilve. They used
this as their primary base, from which they would assign their Nieuport fighter
planes to satellite air bases at Sigulda, Cesis and Valmiera.
- December 1918 - February 1919 - The Bolshevik 1st Aviation Division
is based at Spilve.
- May 19, 1919 - It was from Spilve aerodrome that Prieditis, Jakubovs
and Puskelis defected from the Red Air Force (with their airplanes).
- May 22, 1919 - After the Bolsheviks were driven from Riga the German
Sachsenberg squadron was briefly based at Spilve.
- June, 1919 - The Sachsenberg squadron is briefly based at Spilve.
- October 22, 1919 - Jakubovs and Sparins
Krustabaznicas airfield in Sopwith #2341.
- November 4, 1919 - Mardoks and Zutte
Krustabaznicas airfield in Sopwith #7046.
- November 29, 1919 - after the Bermont-Avalov battles, Spilve, with
its three hangars, is designated the primary air base for the young Latvian Air
- April 25, 1920 - Peteris Abrams
crashes in Sopwith
- May 2, 1920 - V.Skrastins fatally
crashes in Sopwith
- June 29, 1920 - A.Sparins and K.Sabulis fatally
crash in DFW CV #22 in
Ilguciems, just outside the aerodrome.
- May 26, 1921 - Indans runs Albatros B.II #5 into a
ditch at the side of
- August 7, 1921 - Aviation Festival
- September 30, 1923 - Aviation Festival
- February 25, 1924 - Edvins Bitte fatally
crashes in Fokker
- June 15, 1924 - Aviation Festival.
- July 1, 1924 - The Gourdou Lesseure is demonstrated by a french
aviator. A.Lazdins, trying to repeat the demonstration flying N.Pulin's
and wrecks the airplane.
- September 4, 1924 - Italian aviator Luigi Mainardi dies in a
demonstrating the capabilities of an Ansaldo Balilla.
- May 7, 1926 - M.Prieditis and Ginters
crash in LVG #27,
destroying the aircraft.
- June 29, 1927 - Roberts Bemchens fatally
crashes in Ansaldo
- August 18, 1927 - Janis Vistucis fatally
crashes in Martinsyde
- September 10, 1928 - N.Bulmanis and M.Graveris, during a training
flight, crash heavily
in DFW C.V #3.
- June 17, 1929 - While
landing at Spilve,
A.Salmins levelled out too late and struck the Bolderaja highway, damaging DH9A
- January 29, 1930 - D.Gotsalks fatally
crashes in Ansaldo
- May 25, 1930 - Aviation Festival.
- August 22, 1930 - A.Krastins and P.Sotnieks
crash in Avro 504K
#37. Krastins dies in the crash, but Sotnieks survives.
- December 3, 1930 - A.Lapins fatally
crashes in Bristol
- June 1931 - a contract is tendered for the design and construction
of a proper administration building with control tower. 30,000 Lati were
budgeted for this project. Construction began in 1937 and it was completed
shortly before the war.
- June 5, 1932 - Aviation Festival
- February 17, 1933 - Peculis and Birznieks
crash DH9A #10.
- May 28, 1933 - Aviation Festival
- September 2, 1933 - A.Valleika
crashes in an Avro
- September 8, 1935 - Aviation Festival
- November 4, 1935 - three aviators die in the
collision of a Bristol
Bulldog (#81) and a Flamingo trainer (#95).
- July 7, 1936 - Aviation Festival
- March 15, 1936 - Work starts on the Aizsargu Headquarters at
Spilve. The cornerstone is laid right next to the existing hangars, and the
building is unofficially named "Alkazars" (a reference to events taking place
in the Spanish Civil War).
- September 27-28, 1936 - Spilve is the starting and ending point of
the first "Flight Around Latvia" competition.
- July 8, 1937 - a civilian sunbathing at the Ratsupite creek is
killed in the crash
of DH9A #67.
- September 26, 1937 - start and end point for the second
"Flight Around Latvia" competition.
- October 2, 1937 - The Aizsargu Headquarters at Spilve are
completed. The headquarters were three storeys tall, with a deck and balcony on
the roof. On the ground floor were various storage spaces and workshops, and on
the second floor there was a meeting room and office space for the AA
commander. On the third floor were other offices, including those of the
doctor, meteorologist, photo developing room, and supplies and armaments
officers. The caretaker also had his living space on this floor. The entire
building cost 77.000 lats and the total sum was donated by individuals and
- January 24, 1938 - Work begins on the two new Aizsargu
hangars at Spilve.
- August 21, 1938 - Aviation Festival
- September 1938 - the Aizsargi conduct night flying exercises
at Spilve. The entire field is placed into darkness for the takeoff, but
warning lights are affixed to nearby high buildings and chimmneys. When the
formation returns to land a spotlight is used to illuminate the landing area.
- September 30, 1938 - the Aizsargu hangars and workshops at
Spilve are completed. They were designed by the same company that built the
hangars for the LOT (Polish) airline, so the two projects appear to be one,
- 1938 - the usable area of Spilve airfield is expanded by clearing
brush and expanding the drainage system.
- October 1-2, 1938 - Spilve is the starting and ending point of the
third "Flight Around Latvia" competition.
- October 20, 1938 - Tom Gailitis
crashes in a VEF I-12.
- September 4, 1939 - At Spilve, Karlis Alksnis takes the
VEF/Akermanis JDA-10M on its first test flight.
- May 31, 1940 - K.Nagainis fatally
crashes in a Bristol
Bulldog during advanced combat flying training.
- June 17, 1940 - Soviet occupation. Spilve becomes a Soviet air base.
- June 1941 - the Germans attack the Soviet Union, including occupied
Latvia. They bomb Spilve in the first wave of the attack, and a fuel storage
depot is set alight, which spreads to the new admin /control tower building and
burns it to the ground.
- 1942 - 1943 - German
occupation. (Luftwaffe units based at Riga during the German occupation)
- During the Second World War, the Aizsargi Headquarters,
hangars, LOT hangars, the new Civil Aviation building and the Aviation Regiment
hangars were all destroyed.
- March 9, 1944 (German Occupation) - a secret report on the use of
"prisoner labour" (mostly Jewish civilians) in the German Aviation industry
indicates that approximately 1,000 of these "prisoners" were forced to work at
rebuilding Spilve airport.
- October 11, 1944 - with the advancing Soviet troops at the outskirts
of Riga, German artillery takes up positions at the edge of Spilve airfield,
along the Ilguciems road. While their artillery shells the Soviets, German
sappers explode buried explosive charges every 20 metres along Spilve's
runways. Then they dynamite the control tower, hangars and all other
outbuildings on the airfield. Civilians still in Riga reported hearing
detonations and watching large fires burning, starting very early in the
morning and continuing for hours until the demolition was complete. The Soviets
capture Riga on October 13.
Link to the present-day
Riga International Airport site.
Note: this is NOT Spilve, but a new airfield built on a different site