The beginnings of aviation at Portorose are linked with the development of tourism and the Cosulich family. After WW I, during which all tourism died away, the family resuscitated it with ambitious plans. In 1921, in order to attract more people, they bought a used seaplane. It was used for scenic flights for hotel guests. Many people became very fond of aeronautics. Seaplanes enabled people to travel over long distances, and to do it fast, so they used aircrafts for transfer. The Cosulichs then bought two more seaplanes. In 1922 they established the first private company for commercial flights in Trieste and named it SISA, Società Italiana Servizi Arerei.
The Gulf of Trieste is often buffeted by the north wind, so the Cosulichs decided to put up a tent for the planes in the leeward gulf of the Bernardin. Later on, they built a wooden garage. When it burned down they built a concrete hangar. In addition to tourist and promotional flights they also trained pilots, provided service for the planes and introduced new destinations. Ivan Vidmar, Slovene pilot, worked as a flight instructor of the SISA at Portorose for many years. He later became manager of the seaplane base in Trieste and head of the seaplane base at Portorose. The SISA company was in operation here until 1934 when it merged with the Italian National Aviation at Mussolini's request. Despite its new name, the company continued its activities undisturbed until 1941, when the last generation of military pilots finished training.
On the 1st of April 1926, the first regularly scheduled plane of the Italian Airlines from Portorose to Turin took off here, stopping in Venice and Pavia.
After WW II, tourism at Portorose and Piran slowly recovered. The idea of building an airport on the coast was not new. Several possible locations were considered: Sečovlje, Škocjanski zatok near Koper and Črni Kal. Due to the relief, weather, economic and political reasons they chose to build an airport in the Sečovlje Valley.
In the early 60s they prepared the terrain for a take-off runway. Members of the Postojna Aeroklub made an important contribution. In 1962, Drago Gabriel drew his first sketch of the area where the airport was eventually built. Using his sketches, several aviation commissions of the Federal Civil Aviation Authorities from Belgrade started checking the terrain. On the 27th of September that year, the aviation commission from Zagreb recommended a temporary registration for a secondary sports airport for aircrafts up to 3000 kg. Two weeks later, the Civil Aviation Authorities of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia confirmed that the Portorose airport was officially registered.
The first official landing on an unfinished grass runway was on August 22, 1962, when Drago Gabriel landed with an Aero-2 575.
In 1962, it was a new milestone for the Portorose airport. The Aeronautical Associations of Yugoslavia and Slovenia decided that the competition for the 3rd Adriatic Aeronautical Cup would be held at Portorose. The preparations of the grass and the runway were done by Pavel Zamar and other members of the first aeronautical club on the coast. They'd already stablished a 1,200-meter runway for the competitions.
The Portorose airport opened with an aircraft meeting on October 14, 1963. Aeronautical clubs from all over Slovenia attended, as well as delegates from other Yugoslav republics. 26 planes were competing. The event was attended by nearly 5,000 spectators.
The third Adriatic Aeronautical Cup in 1963, sponsored by the Union of Slovene Aircraft Associations and the Portorose Aeroklub, had 86 participants from 16 countries. The first prize in combination went to Czechoslovakia, while the women's first prize went to the USA. The best competitor from former Yugoslavia was Marjan Marič: he was placed 17th. The third Adriatic Skydiving Cup was special for it introduced a new discipline, attraction jumps for the Portorose Tourist Prize. The winning team came from the USA. The Portorose Tourist Association also introduced panoramic flights over the Slovene coast.
The Adriatic Skydiving Cup at Portorose then turned into a biennial competitive event. In 1975, the first European Skydiving Cup was organized. It was attended by more than 100 competitors.
In 1971, the Municipality of Piran approved the construction of an international sports airport at Portorose. In July that year, a building permit was issued for a 700-meter multipurpose runway, 20 meters wide. The asphalt coating was financed by the Portorose Association for the Promotion of Tourism.
Two years later, the Federal Civil Aviation Authorities issued a written order of registration and a permit of use for the airport.
In the 70s, the runway was widened and lengthened. A part of the main buinding, a hangar and a platform were erected.
The airport was soon issued a technical attestation for the widened runway, 850 meters long and 28 meters wide, for the apron and the first part of the building. It was financed by the Basic Organization of Associated Labour of the Portorose Casino.
Let's not forget the importance of the casino manager Anton Spinelli. His efforts were important for the development of economy, infrastructure, tourism, sports, educational and social systems in the Municipality of Piran. Many people say he prevented building mindlessly in Piran and Portorose.
In 1978, the renovated airport was opened, registered and put on the list of airports as being suitable for panoramic flights. The opening was a huge bonus for coastal tourism and economy.
The following year, a single-engine sports aircraft Cessna 172 was purchased.
In 1980, the Portorose Aerodrome was issued a licence of the Federal Committee for Transport and Communications in category D for national and international public transport. It was a very important turning point: on June 2, the airport of Portorose went international.
That same year, an aviation fuel service was built. Also, a memorial plaque to the pilots of the 1st and 2nd squadron of the National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia, killed during WW II, was put up.
In May 1981, a Turbocommander plane landed at Portorose. It brought nine passengers from the German city of Passau. It was an important event, for it was the first time that so many passengers landed at the same time.
That same year, an annex to the airport terminal was built. The control tower, rooms for weather monitoring, a border crossing and a visitor information center were built.
In the early 80s, the JAT taxi transit began to operate here. They used Cessna 402 B aircrafts with eight passenger seats. They were able to fly in all weather conditions and land even on small sports airports. Those aircrafts could travel to the nearest European cities. That same year, a Canadian-built craft DASH-7 landed at the airport. It could carry up to 50 passengers.
For safety reasons in cases when large aircrafts landed here, in 1984 the runway was lengthened to 1,200 meters and widened to 30 meters. That year the airport was officially registered for passenger traffic with DASH-7 aircrafts. Soon after that, at the initiative of a British tourist agency that wished to offer holidays on the coast of Montenegro, a scheduled service line with DASH-7 aircrafts was added. At first, scheduled service planes flew from Portorose to Tivat. Since planes flew over Belgrade, a stop in the Serbian capital was additionally introduced.
Because of scheduled services and favourable weather, air traffic at Sečovlje increased in 1985. Airport helds 7,200 arrivals and also offered 1,300 panoramic flights. The company balance sheets were proof enough that our infrastructural plans were well-founded.
In the 1980s, a hangar for the airport technical services and a fire station were built at the same time. Soon after that, the landing infrastructure was completed. During the same period, new plans were made for another lengthening of the runway. It became clear that the runway was too short for fully operational flights.
In 1989, a system for illuminating the runway and nearby obstacles was installed to be used at night. There was a new scheduled service line with Belgrade operated by the JAT and using ATR-42 planes. That same year, the Federal Committee for Transport and Communications issued a licence for night operation as well as for traffic with aircrafts with capacity up to 27 tons.
In 2008, some members of the Coastal Aviation Center decided to mount their own enterprise and founded a new club, the Portorose Aeroklub.
Slovene independence meant a new and difficult start. In 1991, the Casino, run by the Portorose Tourist Enterprise, decided to register a limited liability company and name it the Portorose Aerodrome Enterprise. Then the enterprise was restructured as a public company and its owner became the Municipality of Piran.
The airport was mostly promoted with the help of regular clients. New charter flights were established, using aircrafts DASH-7 and DASH-8 that transported passengers from Austria to Portorose and from there to other tourist places nearby.
Attractive prices stimulated interest for piloting courses. From 1991 to 1997 there were four flying schools there. In the peak season there were up to 400 operations per day, which meant that planes landed or took off every two minutes.
In 1992, there was an interesting event. It was an American F-16 emergency landing. The engine was partly stalled. The American rescue team lifted the plane with a transport helicopter and then drove it to the army base at Aviano.
In the late 80s and early 90s there were several important political guests here. The last Yougoslav president Ante Marković landed here. The Italian premier Giulio Antreotti came as well. There was also a meeting of eight European prime ministers that were invited here by the Slovene president Milan Kučan. It was in June 1997 at Piran. The heads of state were able to exchange their views on the challenges and opportunities facing their administrations. The main topic was States as national or civic entities: the possibilities for a common European future. The central ceremony was held on the Tartini Square. After that the presidents went sightseeing around Piran.
In 2004, the Aerodrome organized the so-called Aviatica, a general aviation fair. The visitors were able to see various types of passenger, military and acrobatic planes, and to enjoy additional events.
The same year the airfield was sold to a private owners. In July the new owners, the Municipality of Piran, the Ljubljana Aerodrome, Istrabenz, the Port of Koper and the Koper Road Enterprise helped with new investments.
During the next two years, Sečovlje was regulated and a new coat for airfield operations added. The takeoff and landing strips were repaired, traces of plane tires removed and the existing runway re-covered.
In September 2006, there was an informal session of the NATO defense secretaries at Portorose. The Aerodrome was used for logistic and safety purposes. For a couple of days the Aerodrome became an army site.
More than a decade later, in 2009, the airfield was again used for parachute jumping.
It was done to attract free fall buffs as well as those who want to jump themselves. The Portorose Aerodrome aims at presenting skydiving to as many people as possible.
In 2009, the Aerodrome organized an Open Door Day. During this event, they wanted to present their activities to the locals and to everyone else who was interested, and also show the potential of aviation for the municipality. The visitors could attend numerous side events. They could enjoy exciting and daring feats by the acrobatic pilots Benjamin Ličer and Tom Poljanec as well as members of the Paranoia skydiving school. The visitors were acquainted with various airport services. Customs officers showed how they use dogs for detection. Firemen presented their vehicles and equipment. Policemen presented the helicopter they use when controlling road traffic and state borders. There was also time to educate the visitors. They could watch the model of the Eda 5 plane piloted by Tomaž Meze; 19th century clothes worn by members of the Anbot Club from Piran; and Srečko Gombač's exhibition of the history of aviation. The Eda 5 was one of the best planes designed by the Rusjan brothers, pioneers of Slovene aviation. Edvard Rusjan first piloted it in March 1910. A descendant of the brothers, Grazia Rusjan, was also present at the event.
In 2010, the Portorose Aerodrome reintroduced the airline with Belgrade after 20 years. That year there were two more important events. The Slovene government decided to commission a regional plan for the Portorose Aerodrome amd that summer we witnessed the second Open Door day.
In the beginning of 2011, a charter line with Rome was set up at Sečovlje. The new line provides new possibilities of development for tourism in the Municipality of Piran.
In May, a VOR navigation system was installed. The instrument uses radio waves, and the transmitter in the cockpit of the plane directs the pilots until they land safely. It was an important acquisition. The instruments enable flying in bad weather conditions and in conditions of poor visibility.
Many well-known people have visited the airport in the past, e.g. princess Jelisaveta,
descendant of the Karadjordjević royal dynasty; Ralph Schumacher, driver of formula 1 cars; Franz Beckenbauer, one of all-time top football players; and the current top tennis champion Novak Djoković.
In the summer of 2013, Matevž Lenarčič landed here. He has performed exceptional feats as a pilot. He flew around the Earth for the second time with Pipistrel's ultra-light plane, which earned him the title of the best pilot in the world. He came here after his second flight over the North Pole.
In collaboration with the Slovene skiing champion Tina Maze, winner of two Olympic medals, a promotional spot was filmed. It was entitled I Feel Slovenia.
The history of aviation on the Slovenian coast developed parallel to the world trends in aviation. Sometimes it even surpassed them. From seaplanes in the early beginnings and the first commercial lines to the development of general aviation, air transport in coastal towns was important for tourism. Adequate promotion of cultural heritage and an efficient national strategy may give the Portorose Aerodrome every possibility of becoming important in the Mid-European territory.