The Armilla military airbase was the first aerodrome in the province of Granada and one of the oldest ones in continuous use in all of Spain.
The first time that somebody took off from what was then was just an open field it was in a balloon in 1895. However, it wasn’t until the Feria del Corpus in 1911 when the first heavier-than-air flight took place. From that year on a yearly air-show took place.
During the Moroccan war in the 20s it became obvious that a permanent military aerodrome was needed to support the North African conflict, leading to its inauguration in 1922.
The Armilla airbase consisted of stores, workshops, hangers and accommodation for officers and men, as well as a telegraph station. In 1925 it was given the name, Aeródromo Dávila.
An officer, Luis Dávila Ponce de León y Wilhelms, of both Spanish and German descent, had pioneered balloon flights and aviation in Spain and had been assigned the task of designing and setting up the airbase. It was on the 18th of April 1925 that he died in an air accident in a Bristol Fighter 2-seater aircraft, together with his gunner.
When the Moroccan war ended, Armilla Airbase was converted into an auxiliary base for the main Sevilla one (1929) and opened to civil-air use between the two cities. However, this only lasted a year before being converted back to strictly military use for the duration of the Spanish Civil War.
The airbase was reopened to civilian flights again in 1946 but it wasn’t until 1952 that the airbase got a control tower, yet the lack of a hard airstrip (it was still only a grass one) restricted its use to smaller civilian aircraft.
Finally, in the 70s a separate airport in Chauchina became the embryo of the international airport that it is today, whilst the airbase retained its military character.
In 1980 the military aerodrome became the Ala 78 (78th Wing), which specialised in training helicopter pilots, both military and Guardia Civil in their Search & Rescue roll. Finally, in 2004 the Spanish Helicopter display team, Patrulla ASPA was formed and stationed there.
Although the airport was opened in June 1972 with both national and international flights, it wasn’t until 1995 when The World Skiing Championships were to be held on Sierra Nevada that the installations were increased to today’s configuration.
In June 2006, the airport was given its present name of Federico García Lorca Granada-Jaén.
(Feature: Armilla Military Airdrome and Civil Airport)