Welcome to a slightly different topic!
This time it’s not about the planes but the airports. As some of you might know from me talking about it or from seeing my Instagram story, I took a trip to Berlin earlier this week. While the main reason for that was only one airport, it kinda turned into a picture safari in three airports from three different times. Obviously, I’m going to show you some of the results!
While our schedule on Tuesday was different, I’ll still sort the topic historically and not in the order of our visits.
Some of you might already know, either from real life or from flying to Berlin in Infinite Flight, that Berlin used to have three airports until a few years ago. The oldest of them:
Opened in 1928, Berlin’s oldest airport is located in the south of Berlin and belonged to the American sector in the years after WWII. As the following picture of the main terminal shows, the airport was also named “Zentralflughafen” (=central airport).
During the Berlin Blockade in 1948, the airport served as a hub for the planes of the western forces bringing supplies to West Berlin. To commemorate the Berlin Airlift, the square in front of the old Terminal is home to the Berlin Air Lift memorial. The three struts represent the three air corridors the planes used back in these days. Two copies of the memorial can also be found in Celle and at Frankfurt Airport where the planes started their journey to Berlin.
Today, a fair amount of the former terminal is used by Berlin’s police, but the old signage is still spread around the terminal building. Remember the classic design here, it will return in another place later.
As I mentioned between the lines already - Berlin Tempelhof is not operating as an airport anymore. After 80 years, it closed back in 2008. Since then, the airport area didn’t change a lot. As a consequence, the airfield is still present as a public park where you can go for a walk or a bicycle ride over the former runways which still have their old markings (so it’s a nice place to visit as an avgeek even after its closure.)
So let’s move on to another airport:
This is the place most of the people visiting Berlin know the best. Along with Berlin Schönefeld, Berlin Tegel is the main airport for the German capital. Compared to the capital airports of many other countries, Tegel is a rather small airport and has been operating way over its design capabilites for several years now. The airport was established in 1948 to support the Berlin Airlift and eventually got converted to a civil airport while the German government still performs its flights from the north of the airport. The main terminal was opened in 1974 and has quite a unique architecture. When I visited the airport for the last time in 2019, it was overcrowded and really showing the need for a new airport. This time…well, not so much.
Remember the signs at Tempelhof? They didn’t change much here. Just like Tempelhof, Tegel also gives you the feeling of a time travel since the design of the 70s is present everywhere.
A big advantage of Tegel can kinda be seen here. The airport offers very short ways. Leaving a taxi in front of the Terminal, checking in and all the way to boarding consist of not much more than 50-100m. The pic of the gate signs you see here was taken in the public area before the security checkpoint which is located right behind Check-in for all gates. While the design isn’t the most spacious and efficient one with this setup, it really reduces distances a lot.
In the 1980’s the airport, which also offers a distinctive look from the outside, was named after the Berlin aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal who was the first one to successfully conduct flights with his gliders.
What you see here will soon be a view of the past. While the schedule is already reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the list of arrivals will eventually turn blank in November, when Berlin’s new airport will open (finally!)(and well, we never know what surprises Berlin will come up with until then)
With the second airport covered, let’s move on to the future at
Berlin Brandenburg International “BER”
As the name indicates, the airport actually isn’t located in Berlin but in the federal state of Brandenburg which surrounds Berlin. It’s located south of the old Schönefeld Airport, which used to be the main airport for East Berlin back in the GDR. This airport will continue to operate as BER’s Terminal 5.
But let’s stop talking about Schönefeld and focus on the…well, most laughed about airport in the world. Initially planned to open in 2011, several huge issues with the fire protection system, escalators built too short and cables that were built in violation of German building regulations regarding fire protection (again) caused several delays with a number of proposed opening dates being canceled again and again. While the airport hasn’t seen a real passenger so far, grass is already growing through the pavement in front of the main terminal (which was found to be too small to handle the expected passenger numbers of pre-COVID times).
The reason I went to Berlin’s new airport was the testing process they started in order to prepare for the opening. Along with 450 other volunteers (which adds up to a total number of 9000 people throughout the entire testing process), I tested the processes in the new terminal by playing passenger for a day. In fact, Tuesday was the first day of testing with volunteers since back in 2012. Obviously, I also wanted to have a first look into the new airport and not only compensate the lack of flights in the current pandemic.
A funny little detail I saw right in the beginning could be found on the floor of the arrival area. With the delays, the costs of the airport exploded as well. But who knows if the costs were only caused by the delays? Maybe the coins that were worked into the tiles in the arrival areas also played an important role?
Our journey started in the check-in area (obviously), which is way bigger and brighter than the check-in areas Tegel offered. However, this design also comes with way longer distances to walk.
While Tempelhof and Tegel shared their signage design, BER uses a completely new and hence more modern design replacing the well known yellow with a dark red.
Just like Tegel, the airport also got a name, unlike Tegel even before the opening. The area where the escalators, stairs and elevators from the train station to the departure area are located shows a (rather abstract) portrait of the former mayor of Berlin and former chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Willy Brandt, whose name was chosen for the new airport.
Needless to say, an empty airport also offers various opportunities to take pictures. The following one also gives a view of the new Tower, which is, unfortunately, not really unique since it is basically a copy of the towers in Frankurt, Dusseldorf or Leipzig.
An important airline at the airport, obviously, will be Lufthansa. With its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich, it’s nor very likely that Berlin will turn into an airport of huge importance for the airline, other than for a lot of shuttle flights from Berlin to the long-haul flights from FRA and MUC and vice versa. I wonder how long this sign has been waiting to be seen by the first passengers.
During our testing, we also got to drive around the future apron, which was filled with parked airplanes of Easyjet and Lufthansa. The view from inside the Terminal gave the opportunity to take pics of at least a few parked planes such as Easyjet’s Europcar livery.
Our flights to Grenoble, Antalya, Kittilä and Poznan were replaced by some (way shorter) bus rides which still gave the chance to walk over the apron and take some more outside views.
I’m really curious how the new airport will handle the pax numbers of the future since I found a few areas rather small even in this test scenario. But more importantly: Let’s hope it finally opens this year!
I hope you found this topic interesting and the missing airplanes didn’t cause too much confusion, I’m sure the next spotting topic will be here quite soon!