Court ruling: ILT need not grant Twente Airport exemption

The court has ruled that Twente Airport cannot appeal to the Environmental and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) for a permanent exemption for the construction of turnpads at the runway heads. Twente Airport made every effort to convey to the court the reasonableness of the request for exemption. Unfortunately, this did not prove sufficient. Twente Airport is considering the ruling and considering whether to appeal.

On Nov. 21, the court in Zwolle heard the case between the Aviation Inspectorate (ILT) and Twente Airport regarding the request for an exemption for the construction of Turnpads (turning paths) at the runway heads for the arrival and departure of large aircraft (category D and E). These turnpads are prescribed to allow the pilot to quickly turn the aircraft on its own power to then quickly leave the runway because of the possible arrival of a subsequent aircraft. These turning paths are missing at Twente Airport because they were not prescribed in the military past.

Twente Airport explained at length to the court in its plea why it would be perfectly reasonable for the Inspectorate to grant a permanent exemption to Twente Airport so that these turnpads would not have to be constructed. After all, Twente Airport does not receive intense scheduled traffic and every aircraft is scheduled at least 24 hours in advance. The practice is perfectly safe and a costly investment of community money in the form of building a turnpad adds nothing to safety. 

No permanent waiver turnpads

Regarding the permanent waiver, the court rules that there is no special circumstance on the basis of which a waiver can be granted. The court believes that the term special circumstances must be interpreted to mean a situation in which it is not possible for an operator to comply with a rule. Now that turnpads can be constructed, there are no special circumstances, the court said. 

The Stibbe lawyers supporting Twente Airport believe that the court interprets "special circumstances" too narrowly. Ultimately, any facility can be constructed if you spend enough money, but the issue should be that it cannot reasonably be expected of an operator to construct a facility. Such balancing of interests is now completely absent.

Jan Schuring, acting director Twente Airport: "We have done everything possible to substantiate with our arguments why Twente Airport is requesting a permanent exemption for the construction of a turnpike. Unfortunately, the court has ruled that ILT does not have to grant the permanent exemption. We are studying the implications of this ruling. If we do not file an appeal, it means that we will not generate parking revenue for large aircraft because they will not be allowed to depart without turnpads. Turnpads are unnecessary in terms of safety but very costly. Large aircraft can, however, continue to land for decommissioning. There are still plenty of other opportunities for Twente Airport, such as testing new sustainable aircraft and thus serving as an incubator for sustainable aviation and new forms of mobility."


The case has been in play since the arrival of six Boeing 747s in the summer of 2020. The Aviation Inspectorate stated then that the aircraft were not allowed to leave unless Twente Airport constructed the required turnpads before the end of June 2021. Twente Airport appealed that position to the court. That led to the judge's (preliminary) ruling in April 2021 that the aircraft were allowed to depart again, despite the absence of the required turnpads.


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