On June 3, 2012, one chapter in Berlin’s aviation history will draw to a close and another one will begin, when the German capital’s new airport Berlin Brandenburg BER opens, and the two remaining airports, Tegel and Schönefeld, will be shut down permanently. (Tempelhof airport was closed in 2008.)
Construction work at the Berlin Brandenburg airport has now entered its final phase and more than 5,500 workers are busy with the completion of the new hub. The terminal, jet ways, road connections, and operation-specific buildings have for the most part been completed. Basic test operations began on November 24, 2011. In order to make a smooth transition on June 3, non-stop test runs with security forces, airline employees and ground crews are currently underway to reveal any weak spots and to remedy any potential problems.
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The opening of a new, single capital airport is considered to be an elementary step in Berlin’s reunification process more than 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The German capital will finally have the international gateway it has so far lacked. “Berliners are really waiting for the new airport,” says Burkhard Kieker, CEO of visitBerlin, the city’s tourism and convention bureau. “We say it’s one of the last missing jigsaw puzzle pieces in the resurrection of Berlin as an international mega city.”
Construction on the new facilities began in 2006 at the site of the existing, formerly East German Schönefeld airport, with a host of ultra-modern buildings, super-efficient infrastructure and state-of-the-art runways. Nearly 2,500 acres were added to the old grounds; in total, the new airport will cover 3,675 acres, the equivalent of 2,000 football fields. At 5,800 feet apart, BER’s two parallel runways can be operated separately. The airport is built at a cost of Euro 2.5 billion.
Passengers at the new airport will find everything ranging from domestic and European to intercontinental flights under one roof in the central terminal (“one roof concept”). Featuring six floors, the building’s initial version will have enough space to handle up to 27 million passengers per year, 10% more than Tegel and Schönefeld’s 2011 throughput combined. However, expansion modules at BER will allow the structure to eventually accommodate up to 45 million passengers. But the new hub airport is not only ultra-efficient – its design will appeal to architecture aficionados around the world. Von Gerkan, Marg and Partners Architects (gmp), the firm responsible for the design of the new airport, dispensed of all fussiness in BER’s layout and design. The architecture is all about clarity and clean, geometric lines, channeling the timeless beauty of the 1926 Bauhaus in Dessau.