This week in… 1980 | PTT employees do not go to work by car or train, but by plane. Top civil servants flew daily between Eelde and Rotterdam

In the series This week in… we look back at historical moments in Drenthe. This time the PTT line with which civil servants flew from Rotterdam to Eelde from March 1980.

Suppose: the politicians in The Hague decide to force thousands of civil servants to relocate in the Northern Netherlands. The most expensive workers do not have to commute by train or drive into traffic jams every day. A private jet is arranged for them.

It happened in the eighties when departments of the postal and telephone company PTT partly left for Groningen and partly stayed behind in The Hague.

Moral support

This forced distribution was a divisive issue within political parties and between the cabinet and the PTT top. There was so much grumpiness among PTT employees about the move that State Secretary Neelie Smit-Kroes (VVD) was not also waiting for criticism of the proposed flight connection. “A daily airlift from Eelde to Zestienhoven for PTT officials is moral support in favor of Groningen,” she replied on March 6, 1980 to critical MPs.

So on Tuesday, March 11, 1980, the first PTT aircraft flew through Drenthe airspace towards Rotterdam with a blessing from The Hague. Captain Manfred Krooneman had to immediately divert to Schiphol on the debut flight due to thick fog. Yet he landed thousands of times at Zestienhoven and Eelde in the years that followed. He was by no means jealous of the more exotic destinations of his colleagues at KLM or Martinair. “In the evening at home with wife and child was also worth something.”

Tired of trains

The unusual work traffic was mainly due to two men with the same idea. The Frisian aviation adventurer Gerard Huizinga of Fast Airways, later Quick Arways, and engineer JA van Wijhe of the PTT.

Huizinga immediately saw potential in the flow of workers towards Groningen. Because if he could charter the top of the civil service for daily round-trip flights in his twin-engine ‘Chieftrains’, he would be a big deal. In his first lobby at the PTT summit in 1979, however, he fell flat. At the time, they were still too much in resistance mode against the spread.

Extra mail flight

The breakthrough required a great deal at the PTT, which was stationed in Groningen early on, but had to be regularly at the branches in The Hague and Leidschendam. That turned out to be Van Wijhe, who soon grew tired of trains back and forth and requested a quote from the flight service at Eelde on behalf of the PTT. So with Gerard Huizinga. Then it was quickly settled.

The line got off to a flying start. The three-month trial with eight-person flights was extended due to its success and quickly became permanent. Daily round trips in 1980 were expanded to four flights a day.

When the central management of the State Company of the PTT was given Groningen as its official postal address in 1986, incorrectly delivered mail items also became a permanent part of the luggage. This resulted in an extra afternoon flight for mailbags and civil servants who only had a morning session in Groningen.


Gert van Lingen (57) is now assistant air traffic controller at Eelde and has been a regular at the airport from an early age. After his military service, the then early twenties, mid-eighties started working for Quick Airways. For an expense allowance he maintained the modest air fleet in the hangar. But he can convert that next to nothing into permanent employment if he gets his driver’s license, says Huizinga. Because then van Lingen is the man who can pick up and bring PTT employees by van from Eelde to and from their workshop in the city of Groningen. So happened.

Van Lingen now about this: ,,They were often the same faces. A guy is good with me. He was always a few minutes late. He made me deathly ill because I knew that the coffin had to be airborne. When I told Huizinga that, I was given the blessing to just leave it there for once.”

The young driver still sees the man trudging down the stairwell with his suitcase as he starts the engine. Despite the halt of colleagues and arm gestures of the official in question, he presses the accelerator. When the taxi arrived at Eelde, the taxi was hurriedly called, including the man. “He was bloody linked. “You will hear this,” he snapped at me.

Van Lingen’s boss Huizinga is not impressed by the outburst of anger towards his driver and in turn complains to the PTT. The civil servant in question may then travel by train for a few months.

President priority

The PTT can afford a strict regime. The flights are usually fully booked. 530 PTT employees can gradually claim a seat on both sides of the country on the basis of obligation. It leads to arguments between early bookers and people who have to make the trip at the last minute.

Ultimately, the flight privilege will be reduced to 200 Groningen and 150 Hague civil servants. The higher in rank, the earlier a spot. Those who travel a lot also get extra rights. And chairman Wim Dik and his companions from the main board can always come along. If one of the gentlemen calls and the plane is full, the last booker can still go to the train station.

In the early 1990s, enthusiasm waned and a few years later the Eelde-Zestienhoven line was defunct. Gerard Huizinga passed away in 2007. Former colleagues Manfred Krooneman and Gert van Lingen still talk to each other regularly in their hometown of Eelde at or near their beloved airport.