Aerodromes

AERODROME - RIGA (SPILVE)

Riga
Spilve Map Spilve Map Spilve
Spilve Today VEF hangar at Spilve 1935 VEF hangar at Spilve 1935
Spilve, June 1936 New Control Tower, 1939 Spilve (behind the hangars) Aviation fuel storage at Spilve 1932 Spilve December 1937



Spilve today

Peter Bakema's Photos

Spilve 2004 - Bakema Spilve 2004 - Bakema

Gerry Hill's Photo

Spilve 2004 - Hill


Jeroen M. Brinkman's Photos

Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008

Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008

Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008

Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008

Spilve, July 2008 Spilve, July 2008




  • Image #01 - Map of Spilve from the 1935 Aviation Festival program
    Image #02 - Map of Spilve surroundings from the 1935 Aviation Festival program
    Image #03 - Aerial view of Spilve buildings, c.1938
    Image #04 - 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.
    The 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 flights.
  • 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. Bermont-Avalov.


Pre-1920 Notes

  • 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 crash at Krustabaznicas airfield in Sopwith #2341.
  • November 4, 1919 - Mardoks and Zutte crash at 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 Force.


1920s Notes

  • April 25, 1920 - Peteris Abrams crashes in Sopwith Camel #7.
  • May 2, 1920 - V.Skrastins fatally crashes in Sopwith Camel #6.
  • 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 the aerodrome.
  • August 7, 1921 - Aviation Festival
  • September 30, 1923 - Aviation Festival
  • February 25, 1924 - Edvins Bitte fatally crashes in Fokker D.VII #16.
  • 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 "Spriditis" crashes and wrecks the airplane.
  • September 4, 1924 - Italian aviator Luigi Mainardi dies in a crash while 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 Balilla #28.
  • August 18, 1927 - Janis Vistucis fatally crashes in Martinsyde ADC.1 #21.
  • 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 #63.


1930s Notes

  • January 29, 1930 - D.Gotsalks fatally crashes in Ansaldo Balilla #49.
  • 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 Bulldog #73.
  • 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 trainer.
  • 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 various companies.
  • 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, large, complex.
  • 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.


Post-1939 Notes

  • 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 entirely.

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