Defence's largest ever aircraft hangar opens after construction lasting barely 20 months

Gates as large as a football pitch and a roof measuring almost 14,000 square metres. After a construction period of barely 20 months, the largest aircraft hangar ever built by the Ministry of Defence has been completed. The fact that the hangar has been built less than two years after the start of the construction work - and that during the corona pandemic - can be called a masterpiece. The mega hangar was built by Democo and is now used for the maintenance of the new transport aircrafts of Belgium and Luxembourg, the Airbus A400M. In the multifunctional hangar there is also room for two floors of offices and extra storage space.  

Under the watchful eye of Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder and Deputy Prime Minister of Luxembourg François Bausch, the brand new aircraft hangar of the Ministry of Defence was officially declared open today. In little more than a year and a half, an aircraft hangar of no less than 13,621 m² was erected at Melsbroek Airport, the largest the Ministry of Defence has ever built. The new hangar is also an important milestone in the modernisation operation within Defence. The hangar can accommodate the new A400Ms, and in terms of energy efficiency, the building is completely up to date.  

"With these new transport planes and this brand-new hangar, we want to emphasise the modernisation of Defence. This opening does not mean the end of the modernisation process of Defence in Melsbroek. At this very moment, a real A400M simulator is under construction. The next step is the complete reconversion whereby the current outdated buildings will be demolished for the construction of a larger A400M car park and the construction of several new buildings."  - Ludivine Dedonder, Minister of Defence. 


Multifunctional hangar 

In the first place, the hangar will serve for the maintenance of the new transport aircrafts of Belgium and Luxembourg, the Airbus A400M. In addition, the building will have two floors of offices (1,200 m²), a logistics zone (3,500 m²), various storage and workshop areas (3,000 m²) and parking areas around and under the building. "In concrete terms, the new hangar will soon offer space for simultaneous maintenance of three A400M aircrafts. The multifunctional hangar will enable Defence to carry out military and humanitarian operations smoothly and efficiently."  - Ludivine Dedonder, Minister of Defence. 

In terms of construction too, this hangar is unique in its kind. The maximum effort is put into efficient use of space and ease of use for the technicians of the A400Ms.  

"The entire roof construction is only supported by columns on the outside of the hangar. This way, we provide extra space in the hangar and the new A400Ms can manoeuvre without any problems. In addition, three gigantic hangar doors have been installed. Together, they are good for the width of a football field. You can safely say that the construction of this hangar is one of the most challenging projects that we have ever had the pleasure of completing"  - Frederik Bijnens, General Manager of Democo. 


Pathway with obstacles 

The construction project was not without its challenges. For example, many old pipelines such as high-voltage cables, telephone and data lines had to be rerouted. And there was even a real fire bomb that turned up on the site and was dismantled by DOVO on location. But the biggest obstacle was the corona virus, which required a great deal of organisational adjustment.  

"The corona crisis caused a great deal of uncertainty on the site. Employees had to keep their distance, the site was at a standstill for six weeks, there was uncertainty about delivery... In short, all factors that slowed down the construction process. With that in mind, it's all the more remarkable that we managed to build this mega-hangar in 20 months and within the delivery period. The cooperation with the Ministry of Defence ran smoothly, by the way. Like a well-oiled machine, we pulled out all the stops in the last few months to realise this wonderful project within the parameters of their remit."  - Frederik Bijnens, General Manager Democo. 

"The 'design and build' method was used for this maintenance warehouse. One contractor has full control of the concept and execution on the basis of a detailed requirement file. This form of public-private partnership guarantees a high-quality, customer-oriented and competitive service. This recipe has now borne fruit and we are continuing it in future projects such as Kleine Brogel and the new Defence Headquarters in Evere."  - Ludivine Dedonder, Minister of Defence. 

The first aircraft are already moving into the brand-new hangar in Melsbroek. The office spaces are currently being fitted out.