From farmer to airfield operator

Max Dolderer is the founder of the airfield.

Following good old tradition, Max Dolderer took over and continued his parents´ farming business for long time. But agriculture wasn´t a profitable undertaking in the early 60´s – while production costs climbed continuously, returns for agricultural products diminished.

Many a farm had to close. Other farmers tried to scratch a living part-time. Acting from necessity, Max Dolderer took to the quest for additional sources of income, showing a good nose. He established several miniature golf sites and sold – again successfuly – cooking pots, cleaning supplies and much more.

End of the 60´s an idea took shape in his mind - to establish a public airfield next to his miniature golf site in Tannheim. The area was used already as a glider airfield by the local glider club. Even though the plan´s execution proved to be a huge undertaking and the paperwork seemed almost insurmountable, Max Dolderer didn´t give up. By and by he aquired an adequately large area by trade-offs and land purchases.

Enthusiastically the passionate mountaineer and skier completed his private pilots license with the flying school “Deutscher Alpenflug Ingrid Müller” in Kempten.

Once infected by the aviation virus, flying soon became Max Dolderer´s passion for the years to come. Single engine planes, multi-engined planes up to the King Air, he went on to collect many hours (whenever he found a chance to fly - he did!) in many aircraft types.

In Dezember 1971, Max filed the application for permission of a public airfield. The appropriate local aviation authority, the “Regierungspräsidium Tübingen”, gave the green light for building and operating the airfield in May 1973. The permission first was granted for aeroplanes up to 1500 kg and helicopters up to 6000 kg, as well as for motorgliders, gliders and the DO 27. Construction of the “Tower” began in January 1975.
Like the restaurant, which was essential for servicing the pilots, the tower was ready to use relatively soon,
owing to 14 hour work days and the helping hands of some close relatives (our grandfather Willi Schmidt, Max´ father-in-law, spent lots of hours on the scaffold)
– contrary to the family home itself, which always had lowest priority:-). The Dolderers spent the first years´ nights on mattresses in the living room and with a carpet instead of a front-door, because the sleeping rooms could be tackled not before the operational facilities were ready to use – cause for joy for the four children, which found that pretty cool :-)

In May 1976 Max obtained the airfield operating permit. Shortly after that, the first flying camps took place, which are tradition until today. Guests from all parts of Germany spend their summer holidays in Tannheim and enjoy flying over an appealing landscape, romantic evenings at the campfire and joint trips in a varied ambience. The first flying camp in Tannheim came from Wustweiler, followed by pilots from Münster, Bremen, Hüttenbusch, Kerken, Bonn-Hangelar, Siegerland, Munich, Regensburg, Sindelfingen, Sonnen, Wels, Hohenems, Salzburg, Hofkirchen, Löchgau, Lelystad, Staadskanal and many more with their families. (This list is going to be continued as soon Max can find time to write down his memoirsJ)

In 1978 the 11th Upper Swabian Glider Championship was held. From that time on Tannheim is periodical venue of contests and championships. Renowned „Deutschlandflug“, a flying rallye throug Germany, also made a stop-over twice.

In April 1982 the operating permit was extended for aeroplanes up to 2000 kg. Since August 1982 Tannheim is allowed to be used by microlights. In March 1983 the first german microlight flying school arised here. Quickly the airfield developed to a Mecca for this continuously becoming more and more popular new class of aeroplanes. Glider- and motorglider pilots-to-be were trained and educated since May 1983, private pilot flight training (for single engine piston) is offered since August 1986, when Dieter Kall (former F 104 Starfighter Pilot and retired Lieutenant Colonel of the German Airforce) joined the flight school (a dear friend of the family who was with us for many years). The flight school continued to grow as more experienced military pilots joined the team from the nearby Memmingen Airforcebase, like Eddy Fischer (also a ret. Lt.Col and F 104 pilot) who is still an integral part of the flight school.

Unforgettable for many is the airshow in September 1986 on the occasion of the public airfield´s 10th anniversary. A four-ship formation of F-104 Starfighters from the nearby fighter-bomber squadron 34 Memmingen paid their respects by performing a very impressive  low-pass at Tannheim!

In November 1988 Verena Dolderer founded an outpost on behalf of the Tannheim flying school in Naples, Florida, at the Gulf of Mexico. Until Spring 1996 about 45 flight students and pilots could perform a part of their flying program in the “Sunshine State”. Since March 1989 there was a branch in Saarlouis-Düren for several years.

With the beginning of the 90´s the microlight aviation experienced a remarkable boom. Son Matthias Dolderer won the German Microlight Championship in 1991. As a member of the german national team he flew amongst others to the European Championships to Wales and Hungary with his “Chinook” .

Max Dolderer had logged 2.500 flying hours, when he was overtaken by a sudden deafness in Autumn 1992. From that time on he had to give up his active flying for health reasons. However, Max Dolderer is still closely connected to his airfield. With his son Matthias and daughter Verena, he knows Tannheim in best hands since 1993

Hearing the name Tannheim, one thinks instantly of Tannkosh. The fly-in, in the meantime known throughout Europe, started in 1993 as a canny meeting for microlight pilots with hardly more than ten aeroplanes. Joint trips in formation and campfire with handmade music were on the schedule. Over the years, the number of participants increased steadily. By and by, even a small but nice “airshow program” developed by the voluntary “flying displays” of the attendants. But until today Tannkosh is a festival by pilots for pilots.

Helga Dolderer, the "airfield Mom", also belongs to the essential inventory of Tannheim Airfield. She spoiled her guests in the airfield restaurant – which is not only visited by pilots! -   with swabian specialities and sheparded “her” boys and girls (flight students and pilots) the whole year through – for over three decades! Sometimes she adopts the younger flight students during their flying education (more youngsters in the family:-). She also got a taste of flying, of course, flew the Firebird M1 (under the supervision of Peter Haltiner, our first microlight instructor) and received her private pilot flying instruction until first solo on a Cessna 150 in 1988.

Max Dolderer's dream has come true, his idea of building a very special airfield has become reality. From the beginning, and to this day, his greatest passion are the people who come to Tannheim. His main goal has always been to give a “flying home” to the pilots – a place to feel good at, with friendly service and a familiar atmosphere. And he succeeded. The pilots of the first flying camp in 1976 are still visiting Tannheim often today, and a large number of pilots and friends call Tannheim their Home.

Max Dolderer ist still there for the pilots, always lends a helping hand when needed by a pilot, supports with repairs etc., entertains guests, he cares for the joys and sorrows of the pilots, maintains the runway and buildings. Despite his age (over 70 by now) he is always still in action. Helga Dolderer is also still present daily  for the pilots´ and students´ benefit, has supported Max and the "offspring" since many years, doesn´t get older, and still celebrates with her “boys and girls”.

The “Adventure Tannheim”  recorded constant growth over the years. The airfield was extended by more then 300 m in the course of the land consolidation in the mid-90´s, the flying school´s fleet was enlarged. Tannheim is home base for 65 airplanes. For baptisms and weddings there is even an airfield chapel built by pilots.

Despite all modifications and modernization, one thing has never changed in Tannheim: We're a big family - like we always have been! 

Partners of Tannkosh