The history of Sola Air Station*


THE BEGINNING (1933-1940)

In the spring of 1933 the newly established "Stavanger flyveklubb" (flying club) raised the question of building an airfield for the city of Stavanger.
The fist suggestion was forwarded 17. April 1934. The suggestion involved a circular "grascover" with diameter 800 meters, and the additonal use of "Sømmebukten" by Hafrsfjord as a seaplane harbour. The suggestion was approved 6. December 1934.
Permission to expropriate was given by the Royal resolution of 25. January 1935.
The plans were gradually changed, and in March of 1936 the contract for building a concrete runway was signed between Stavanger Municipality and the contractor "Høyer Ellefsen".
Two runways of respectively 850 and 920 meters should be built, with a width of 40 meters. No airfield in Europe had at this time concrete foundation. On both sides of the runways there should be gras, and 500 sheeps should be bought to keep the gras trimmed!
At the seaplane harbour an expeditonbuilding and two floating stages were built.
The concrete work for the runways was finished 30. November 1936. There was also made a road (6-10 meters width) from the seaplane harbour to the airfield. Of navigational aids, runwaylights and a naval radio direction finder were installed. The latter was later replaced of a new and modern "Adcock direction finder".
The new airfield became Norways first civilan airfield, and Stavanger was to become Norways gate to the rest of the world.
THE AIRFIELD WAS OPENED 29. MAY 1937 , with an airshow 29-31. May.The following aeroplanes were present at the show: Fokkers, Scimitar fighters, Tiger Moth, Sikorsky S-43 amfibium, Junkers G.38, Junkers Ju-86, Autogiret (Swedish), Northrop Delta IC, Miles Falcon, Rapide, Focke-Wulf Stieglitz, and more. A total of 42 aeroplanes participated.
The civilian aviation adventure in Stavanger was not a succes. Only small numbers of passangers were shipped to and from the airfield.
"Stavanger flyveplass" (Stavanger airfield) at Sola was equipped with a new hangar for aircraft maintenance. The following routes were established: The North Sea route (Sola-Newcastle), and The coastal route (Oslo-Bergen-Stavanger-Kristansand).
In 1939 the Norwegian military started to show their interest for the airfield at Sola.
The prominent men of Stavanger started the work of getting a military aviation unit to Sola. People were aware that Sola (Rogaland) was as a strategic place in a potential military conflict, but the airfield was not intentionally built for military purposes.

Junker Ju-52, also called "Aunt-Ju"

5. August 1939 the first of several new Caproni-bombers that the Army had bought from Italy landed. The aeroplanes where called "the clipfish-planes", since the Italians got their payment in clipfish. The four planes that Norway bought was placed at Sola during the "neutrality guard" from 1939-40. The bomberwing had many problems with the bomber engines.
11. August 1939 was a spirited day. No less than 21 military aircrafts visited Sola. The visit included 11 Fokkers, 6 new Gloster Gladiator-fighters and 4 Tiger Moths. 10 of the planes flew back to the eastern part of Norway the same day.
A secret route was established using Junkers Ju-52/3s between Perth-Stavanger-Oslo-Stockholm-Helsingfors during the winterwar 1939-40.


THE YEARS BETWEEN 1940-1945

The "neutrality guard" was established at Sola 2. September 1039. The following aeroplanes was stationed at Sola: 2 MF-11 seaplanes from the Navy airforce, 4 Caproni and 8-10 Fokkers from the Army airforce (Bomberwing). The flyingunits task was to patrol the coastline and terretorial waters between "Jærens rev" in the south to "Fitjar" on Stord in the north. CO for the Navy airforce unit was 1.Liuetenant Bjørn Fraser. 1.Liuetenant Halfdan Hansen was CO for the Army airforce unit.
Sola air station was also used as a intermediate landing place for Finnish aeroplanes bougth in England on their way to the "winterwar". The aircraft were painted with Norwegian indication marks due to the Norways neutrality.
After the "Altmark affair" in Jøssingfjord 16. february 1940, a civilian German Ju-52 filled with journalists landed at Sola to report what had happened. The German crew used their eyes very well during the stay...and probably noticed the lack of airdefece material on the station. The pilots name (on the Ju-52 ) was Goldenfinger - he was among the first pilots who came to Sola with German paratroopers the 9th of April 1940. Defenceforces at the air station was a guardplatoon of only 20 men. In additon there was a mitrailleuse platoon and a machine gun platoon from the "Jaegerbattalion" at Madla camp.
In the beginning of April the Bomberwing was replaced with a Reconnaissance wing. 8th of April 1940 the airdefence unit was placed under full alert. A request for runway demolition was denied by the Divisoncommader in Kristiansand.

ATTACK
In the morning of 9. April 1940 the Station commander Halfdan J. Hansen had 9 aircraft with bombs ready, because he had heard about fighing in the Oslo-fjord. From Bergen he was told that the aircraft should remain on ground. The runways were blocked during the night. A reconnaissence plane equiped with a mitrailleuse and 4 100 pound bombs was launched in the morning, but was ordered not to bomb.
The commander of the Stavanger-area, Colonel Sprøck decided to give up the defence of the area, and a 800 man strong battalion was pulled out and sent to Ålgård. The defence of Sola air station was abandoned, and the aircrafts were ordred withdrawn to the eastern part of Norway.
As the aircrafts get ready to take off, precicly at 0800 local time it happens, Sola air station is attaced by Messerschmitt Bf-110 and Junker Ju-88. Air to air artillery and mitrailleuses opens fire against the attackers with little effect. The bombing and fireing lasted approximately an hour. The attackplanes had to land or find another base. The something unexpected happened: Junkers Ju-52 came over the air station and dropped parachutes with canisters. Next pack of Junkers released 12 paratroopers from each plane. This was a company from 1st paratrooper regiment. The elite force gathered quickly after landing and started an attack against the Norwegian positions. About 0900 the Norwegians had to give in. The obstacles were removed and aircrafts in large numbers started to land on the air strip.

Messerschmitt Me-109

A Heinkel He-115 from the Navy airforce was located at the seaplaneharbour on the 9th of April. The pilots stayed at a hotel in Stavanger and did not manage to move the plane untill German troop had occupaid the air station and the seplaneharbour. The He-115 and a Caproni Ca.310 and two Tiger Moth was taken as spoil of war. The 9th of April near 300 aircrafts came to Sola. Use of aircrafts and paratroopers as means of attack was unknown at this time, and the assault on Sola was one of the first places the method was used.
Large quanities of material was landed at Sola - air to air artillery, cannons and radiostations was quickly put up. Close to 2000 men were landed at Sola during 9th of April with the use of a massive airlift.
The English became aware of the German landing at Sola, and because of Sola's strategic location the air station was attcked on a regular basis - the first time on 10th of April. The 17th of April was historic - an air station was attacked using warship from the seaside. The cruiser Suffolk together with 4 destroyers attacked Sola with guns. The Germans enlarged Sola air station with the equalent of 50 million dollars during the war. Already on the 21st of April the work at Forus air station was started. The air station was enlarged from 580 km2 to 10 000 km2. Several builings were demolished amongst them Sola church wich was an obstruction to German fighters, and also a visual mark for bombing.
The two old runways was enlarged to 1 800 and 2 000 meters. A new east-west runway 2 400 meters long and 120 meters wide was built. The seaplane harbour was also enlarged.
"Luftflotte 5" had their headquarters at Sola. The commander had 169 aircrafts under his command at Sola, Kjevik and Ålborg.
On the 15th of August 1940 a large bombingraid against Great Britan was initiated. 65 Heinkel He-111 took of from Sola and Kjevik. The attack did not work well, 16 bombers and 7 Bf-110 were shot down. The loss made it clear that it was futile to send bombers form Norway without fighter support.
The main task for Sola air station after the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941) was to keep the coastline outside "Jæren" open for the occupation force.


German units at Sola during the war:

UNIT:

AIRCRAFT TYPE:

-I/KG 26

Heinkel He-111

-III/KG 26

Heinkel He-111

-Bomber group

Junkers Ju-88

-Seaplane group

Heinkel He-115 flying boat, Blohm und Voss BV 138, Arado Ar 196

-Rescueplanes/Seaplane group

He-59, Do-24, Wal 10

-1 Gruppe Jagdgescwader 5

Messerschmitt Bf-109G, Messerschmitt Bf-110

The Germans capitulated on the continent 7th of May 1945. Because of this a large quanity of aircrafts were flown to Norway ("festung Norwegen") on the 5th of May. Over a 100 German aircrafts were at Sola and Forus air station at the end of the war.
The following aircrafts were seized by the resistence-movement and allied forces when they arrived with a C-47 Dakota on 9th of May 1945:

SOLA AIR STATION

FORUS AIR STATION

Serviceable aircrafts:

Serviceable aircrafts:

-3 Blohm und Voss BV 138 flyingboats

-1 Junkers Ju-52:

-3 Junkers Ju-88 bombers

-14 Messerschmitt Bf-110 two engine fighters:

-10 Arado Ar 234 Blitz Jet-recon aircrafts

-1 Messerschmitt Bf-108:

-1 Messerschmitt Bf-110 twin engine fighters

-1 Focke-Wulf Fw 58 Weihe medevac aircraft:

-26 Messerschmitt Bf-109 singel engine fighters

-1 Fieseler Fi 156 Storch recon aircraft:

-2 Fieseler Fi 156 Storch recon aircraft

Reserve aircrafts :

Reserve aircrafts:

-8 Arado Ar 234 Blitz Jet-recon aircraft:

-2 Junkers Ju-188 bombers

-14 Messerschmitt Bf-110 twin engine fighters:

-2 Junkers Ju-88 bombers

 

-10 Messerschmitt Bf-109 singel engine fighters

 

-3 Blohm und Voss BV 138 flyingboats

 


Unfortuneatly most of the fully operational aircrafts were destroyd, blown to pieces, and thrown in a large crater at Forus just after the war.


THE YEARS BETWEEN 1945-1949

The newly established Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) at Sola received at the 26th of June 1945 6 Short Sunderland Mk.V aircrafts from 330 squadron from Sullom Voe at Shetland. The Sunderland aircrafts were to big and expensive for the Norwegain airforce, and the squdron was shut down as early as 15. December the same year. The airforce at Sola had a military transport/personell route between Fornebu (Oslo) and Sola, and between Tromsø and Sola, beyond this the military activity was low. Sola Main air station housed the newly established Aircommand "Vestlandet".
At the turn of the year 1945-46 the 333 squadron was moved from Fornebu to the seaplane harbour at Sola. The squadron was equipped with Consolidated Catalina IVA flying boats. The squadron lost two aircrafts while it was operational, one in Bergen i 1948 and one at "Bjørnøya" in 1954.

Consolidated Catalina

21. January 1947 the government took control of the air station (from Stavanger municipality) and changed the name to Stavanger airport, Sola. I conjunction with the civilian Atlantic route from Sola, the air force were supposed to use Forus air station and the seaplane harbour. At Stavanger airport the military should only keep a couple of buildings. This never happened, because of the department of communication decision 22. May 1948, which concluded that Sola should be a joint airport. Sola was devided into a civilian airport and a military air station.
Forus air station was never operational after the war. The draining-facility was sabotaged during the war, and the air station became useless after heavy rainshowers. The air force used some hangars for technical maintenance and as storing facilities. The rest of the air station decayed and was in very bad shape when "Helikopter service AS" (Helicopter airlift company) started using it in 1966.

In October 1949 the først landbased fightersquadron came to Sola. 334. squadron operation De Havilland Mosquito was transferred from Gardermoen. This relocation was the first step in making Sola a major air station after Norway joined the Atlantic treaty (NATO) 4. April 1949. Accidents downed a couple of the Mosquitoes. Only a month after coming to sola one of the aircrafts los a wing over "Boknafjorden". The same happended to another during a firing range exercise at Lista in 1951. After the last accident, the aircrafts - made of plywood were grounded. As a replacement the 334. squadron got the North American Harvard for practice flying and firering range exercises.

De Havilland Mosquito

The communications wing 719-2 used among others the Farichild PT-26 Cornell pratice aircraft. In 1946-47 the airartillery group 2 and 3 was established in the Soma and Sola camps. After several reorganisations it is now called the airdefence battalion and is only used during mobilisation. In 1947 plans were made to establish an American base at Sola. This was due to the strategic geographical location - close to the Soviet Union. The plan was to locate heavy bombers and some 4 500 men on the ground. 4. April 1949 the Norwegian government makes a promise (to the Soviet Union) that no foreign bases shoud be established in Norway except in times of crisis and war. The American plans were abandoned.


THE YEARS BETWEEN 1950-1959

COLD WAR
19-26. July 1950 Sola air station was visited by a big American unit with 18 Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star. The Soviet Union stated that Norway was establishing an American base at Sola. At this time Sola was also visited by 4 B-45 Torando and 25 Republic F-84G Thunderjets. 10. September 1951 the 334. squadron received their first jetfighter the Republic F-84 Thunderjet as a replacement for the Mosquitos. The aircrafts were part of the American veaponshelp-program. The occasion was celebrated with an airshow which had close to 5000 visitors. In the airshow both Norwegian Vampires and American Thunderjets from USAF's Sky Blazer participated.
During the summer 1952 the F-84E was replaced by F-84G version.
In the years after the war the air station went through a large construction program. Both technical infrastructure, command- and control equipment and educaiton of technical personnel was enhanced. 334. squadron moved to Bodø in 1955.

In July 1952 the 331. squaron was re-establish at Sola. This squadron was also equipped with the F-84G. The squadron moved to Bodø along with 334. squaron in 1955.

Vampire



In October 1952 the jet training wing 718. squadron was established at Sola equipped with Vampires. 27. April 1953 the squadron received 3 jet training aircrafts, type Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star. The Vampires were retired in February 1954. T-33's were stationed on Sola meny years. The aircrafts were used for further education of Norwegian fighterpilots after their return from Canadian and American aviation academies. The aircrafts were sold to France in December 1968. In the 50s and 60s the school for veaponstraining, called "Luftforvarets bombe- og skyteskole" was placed at Sola. This school cooperated with the718. squadron, where the T-33 was used for airtargeting over the sea. A courisosity to be added: The 13. September 1956 a T-33 jettrainer was "stolen" by a 21 year old aircraft techican. He flew the aircraft for 45 minutes befor he landed adding severe damage on the plane.

T-33 (Tee bird)

The Air force was equipped with GCA (Ground Control Approach) in 1952. The system equipped with a small radar and its operators who "talked" the pilots down during landing was operational untill April 1983. In October 1952 negotiation between Norway and Amercian authorities represented by SAC (Strategic Air Command) led to agreements about intermediate landings with American bombers. Sola Air Station was frequently visited by bombers from SAC. Among the visitors were the Boing B-47 Stratojet longdistance bomber equipped with 6 jetengines, and a capacity of 10 tons of conventional or nuclear bombs. The Americans had 15-20 men stationed at Sola due to the SAC agreement untill the downing of a U-2 spyplane in Sverdlovsk 1. May 1960. British heavy bombers, among them the Avro Vulcan Mk.2 also visited Sola in the 50s and 60s. During the Korea war the 333. squadron equipped with Catalina was rapidly deployed to "Skattøra" in Tromsø. The aircrafts were deployed for 3 yars and came back to Sola in 1953. During the spring of 1954 the Catalina was replaced by the Convair PBY-5A Catalina which had a retractable landing gear. This aircraft was used untill 1961. 13. April 1953 the first of 4 helicopter came to Sola. This was the Bell 47 D-1. These helicopters misson was search- and rescue. 2 helicopters were later sent to Oslo while the other 2 were kept at Soal. For a while the Sikorsky H-19D Chicksaw helicopter was stationed at Sola.

5. May 1954 the photo recon wing in the Air force was re-established at Sola Air station. The wing had received the 5 first F-84E Thunderjets in Norway during a ceremony 10. September 1951. 2. October 1954 the "Nummer 1 fotorekognoseringsving" changed its name to 717. squadron. In April 1956 the squadron received the first of the new swept wing aircrafttype Republic RF-84F. The 717. squdron received a total of 25 Thunderflashs. The squdron stayed at Sola untill June 1960 when it was transferred to Rygge.

Braatens SAFE (civilian air company) carried out the maintenance of the Air force Fairchilds C-119G Flying Boxcar in the years between 1956-68.

THE YEARS BETWEEN 1960-1969

In 1961 the Catalina was replaced by the new Grummand HU-16B Albatross was part of the American veaponshelp-program. 333. squadron stayed at Sola untill 1963, when it was moved to Andøya. The Albatros was in service untill 1969, when they were replaced by the P-3B Orion. 1. Mars 1962 the 330. squadron was re-established at Sola equipped with HU-16B Albatross. The squaron was then again closed down 1. October 1963. In 1968 the 718. squadron replaced their T-33 with the Northrop F-5A and the two-seater F-5B.

F-5 Freedomfighter

In 1969 the 718. squdron and the "Luftforvarets bombe- og skyteskole" was united and given the name "Luftforsvarets flytaktiske skole (LFTS) 718. skvadron".

THE YEARS BETWEEN 1970-1983

1. May 1973 the 330. rescuesquadron became operational at Sola equipped with 2 Westland Sea King Mk 43 helicopters. In 1980 "Luftforsvarets flytaktiske skole (LFTS)" was moved to Rygge when Norway received their F-16s. 718. squadron became an operational fightersquadron again. The 718. squadron was closed down January 1983. After this date the air station has been been home for only the 2 Sea King helicopters at 330. squadron.

Sea King

After shutting down of 718. squdron the Air stations operational role has been receipt and housing of own and allied flying units deployed to Sola in times of crisis and war. The Air station have had frequent visits of both Norwegian and foreign aircrafts. Sola Air Station is also a COB-base for American aircrafts and for Canadian troopmovement across the Atlantic.






THE YEARS BETWEEN 1983-1997

20. February 1987 Sola Air Station got a rare visitor. An American photorecon aircraft, the SR-71 Blackbird had to make an emergency diversion to Sola. The aircraft stayed for 2 week due to repair/maintenance.

COB-BASE**
4. December 1996. The NATO infrastructure program for new fuelstores and taxiways for military tankeraircrafts is completed at Sola Air Station. Regional director Helge Thorheim in the Norwegian Defence Construction Company (Southwest coast) tells "Aftenbladet" that the program has been successful. The projects cost of 180 million Norwegian kroner is covered by NATOs international infrastructure program. This cost is 40 millon kroners less than the budget. The work has been going on for a year and half. In this period Sola has been the only place in Norway were the western defence alliance has been villing to spend any money on improvements and development. The reason for the project is that the the Air station still is part of the American aircraft reinforcement program called COB. I accordance with current defenceplans the Air station shall host upto 18 big tankeraircrafts, the Boeing KC-135, in case of crisis or threat of war in Europe. The construction has included restoring of 3,2 km old and closed taxiways, and 1,3 km newbuilt taxiways. New platforms for parking and refuelling has also been made. In additon a new highvoltageplant and two new trafos and a new cable is put down at the Air station. Along the taxiways new and modern navigation lights have been erected. An older fuelstorage and fuelpipe is removed and replaced wihth 3 new underground fuelstores. What is special whith the work is that the new fuelstorages are barely visible for outsiders. New camouflage techniques makes the new fuelstores only visible from the military side of the Air station. Most of the new facilities is placed in the southern parts of the Air station. Both two old runways from 1937 are repaired and can now be used for parking and as taxiways. The same has been done with the circular taxiway from WW2. The new fuelstore facility was planned to be delivered from the Defence Construcion to the users; NATO, Air force and Sola Air Station next Friday. The uncertain weaterconditions with cold, snow and ice makes the delivery postponed into next year, most possible in January.

SOURCES:
* History: "The battle for Sola" ("Kampen om Sola") by Jan Petter Helgesen / Reporter in "Stavanger Aftenblad" (local newspaper)
**COB base: ©1996 Stavanger Aftenblad





Military commaders at Aircommand West and Sola Air Station.

Aircommand West

 

Sola Air Station

 

jun 45-nov 51

Col Finn Lambrechts

jun 45-jan 46

Col Finn Lambrechts

   

jul 45-sep 49

Ltcol Chr. R. Kaldager

   

oct 49-jan 52

Col Bjørn Fraser

feb 52-dec 62

Generalmaj Erling Munthe-Dahl

oct 52-oct 53

Ltcol M. A. Stansberg

   

mar 54-jun 54

Ltcol Thorleif Heine-Eriksen

   

jun 54-jul 57

Ltcol John Ryg

   

aug 57-dec 58

Ltcol Bredo Thurman Nielsen

   

feb 52-dec 59

Generalmaj Erling Munthe-Dahl

   

jan 60-jul 62

Ltcol Kjell Garstad

   

aug 62- sep 76

Col Bjørn Fraser

   

oct 76- jun 77

Col Bjørn Johansen

   

jul 77- sep 79

Col Alf Granviken

   

sep 79- 1987

Col Birger M. Strand

   

1987 - ?

Col Ragnar Knut Østby

   

aug 95 - aug 98

Ltcol Mølbach Thellefsen

   

aug 98 - jul 99

Ltcol Jens Christian Dahl

   

aug 99 -

Ltcol Odd Jan Olsen