As a result of the armed conflict with Morocco, in October 1913 the Spanish government found it necessary to establish permanent aerodromes in Ramel, Arcila and Zeluan. In 1921, Moroccan troops gained control over the areas close to Melilla, including the Zeluan aerodrome, which obliged the air force seek another place to set up an aerodrome. The place chosen was the area of Cabrerizas Altas, to the north of the city of Melilla, and the aerodrome was a narrow rectangular airfield measuring a mere three hundred metres on its longest side.
After the Spanish army regained the occupied zone, the aerodrome was transferred from Hipica to an 800 square kilometre plain to the south of Nador, close to the village of Tauima. The facilities were limited to a few hangars and portable field workshops, surrounded by a protective wall. At the same time El Atalayon hydroplane air station was installed in the bay of Mar Chica. These two aeronautical facilities played an extremely important role in the Alhucemas landing, in September 1925.
Following the end of the hostilities, improvements were made in the aerodrome's facilities, including replacement of the wooden control tower with a masonry construction. By decree from Sultan Dari on 27 July 1931, Tauima aerodrome was officially opened for civil aviation.
At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, the mutinying troops occupied the aerodrome on 17 July. Several routes were inaugurated, both from Tauima aerodrome and from El Atalayon hydroplane air station: Rome-Palma de Mallorca-Melilla-Cadiz, Melilla-Seville, Melilla-Tetouan and Melilla-Malaga-Seville-Lisbon, all of them serviced by the Italian company Ala Littoria. When Italy entered the Second World War the Ala Littoria routes were eliminated and this company was replaced by TAE, which in turn was replaced, in 1940, by Iberia. Only the Seville-Malaga-Melilla route survived.
In the middle of the 40s, runway 08-26 was built. With its length of 1,400 metres it occupied the whole of the available space. In July 1946, Tauima airport was declared a customs point and opened to domestic and international traffic. In 1955, the contract was awarded for the construction of a control tower and transmission station, but the proclamation of Morocco's independence in 1956 forced the Spanish government to gradually withdraw the airforce from the liberated territories. In 1958, Tauima airport still appeared in the Spanish Airports investment plans.
Following the creation of the border between Melilla and Morocco, the airport had to adjust to its new situation. Access from Melilla to Tauima had be carried out in a "sealed" bus. This situation continued until 1967, when the construction of an airport in the city of Melilla was included in the 2nd Economic-Social Development Plan. The land chosen, practically the only area available, was made up of a few plots to the southeast of the city, close to the old Yasinem road. The contract was awarded in October 1967 and the radio facilities were installed in December 1968.
Opening to civil traffic
In July 1969 it was declared open for civil aviation, full domestic traffic and international passengers. With the commissioning of the airport, Spantax began commercial flights from Malaga, with three flights daily. In 1974, the runways were extended and the airport received its first chartered flights. In 1977, the freight terminal was modernised and in October of the following the year the airport's customs service was extended, which meant the airport could receive international freight traffic.
In August 1981, the terminal extension came into service, doubling its previous capacity. Spantax was replaced by Aviaco. In 1982, the runway was once again extended and in 1984 the aircraft apron was also enlarged.
In 1992, Binter Mediterranea took over the Malaga route from Aviaco. In April 1993, the new extension of the passenger terminal building was completed and work began on another runway extension. In March 1995, the new facilities were inaugurated and in 2002 the new control tower came into service.
In February 2005, with the commissioning of the new runway extensions, the airport access road had to be moved underground for which purpose a 240-metre long tunnel was built.
The airport is currently undergoing an exhaustive renovation of its facilities that includes the expansion of the public car park and the passenger terminal, as well as renovation of the freight terminal and the construction of a new technical block and a new power plant.
For further information, you can purchase the work of Marcos García and Luis Utrilla, Historia de los aeropuertos de Melilla.