Berlin Airport was to become the pride of the united German capital. It became a disaster, a new national trauma and an example of how things should not be done.
Everything went wrong from the start.
When the wall that divided Berlin fell in 1989, it was important to get the infrastructure in order to unite Germany. Berlin needed a new airport to replace Schönefeld in the east and Tegel and Tempelhof in the west.
On Saturday, October 31, it is scheduled to open, eight years late, billions in excess of the budget.
Intended to build with private money
A private company wanted to build and operate the field. Two serious consortia competed with each other.
The second was led by Germany’s largest construction company, Hochtief. ABB, Fraport, which operates banks and Frankfurt Airport, among others, were also present.
The second consortium was led by the real estate company IVG. It also involved a company running banks and Vienna Airport.
Hochtief won the race, but IVG brought the lawsuit, which it won. The contract with Hochtief was terminated.
In the next phase, IVG and Hochtief found each other and submitted a joint bid in the spring of 2002.
However, politicians decided to reject a plan for private construction and ownership of the field.
Politicians took the lead
Construction was led by politicians and instead of one main contractor, the work was given to 40 smaller companies. Politicians thus imagined they could squeeze costs down.
Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH, owned by the City of Berlin, the Land of Brandenburg and the Federal Republic of Germany, was set up to design, own and operate the new field.
Work seemed to be progressing and the field was due to be completed in 2012. Invitations to the opening were already being sent when security officials blew the game.
The opening had to be canceled, as embarrassing as it was for politicians.
Escalator too short
The kicks were distributed, and the new leader of the project Hartmut Mehdorn made a list of mistakes with his subordinates. There were a total of 550,000 of them.
There were big problems and small problems among them. A small problem might be that several escalators were too short, as unbelievable as it sounds.
However, the worst problems were serious deficiencies in fire safety and smoke extraction.
For aesthetic reasons, the smoke extraction pipes did not lead to the roof. Instead, in the event of a possible fire, the smoke would be vented into the shafts that led under the building.
According to the laws of physics, hot smoke rises, so complex fan systems were needed. Too complicated.
It turned out that the smoke extraction system designed Alfredo di Mauro was not a proper engineer, as had been claimed. In reality, he was a Building Designer.
Non-functioning plans had to be abandoned, systems already made dismantled, redesigned and rebuilt.
Plans changed along the way
Much of the problem was due to the fact that the airport’s plans changed several times after construction began.
Architect of the main terminal Meinhard von Gerkan didn’t like shopping. He drew as few shops on the field as possible.
When the airport company realized this – far too late – it demanded the addition of entire new layers of shopping. This is understandable, of course, because about half of the income of field companies consists of trade.
The already confusing plans became even more confusing. Tens of kilometers more cables were laid again. No one knew what was installed and where.
The “vomiting curve” worries
Delays in completing the field have also been caused by concerns from local residents.
People living near the field complained about the future noise level and therefore special regulations have been made for the take-off of the planes.
Immediately after take-off, the machines must make a sharp 145-degree turn. The German air traffic controllers’ union calls the rise “challenging”.
Pilots, for their part, are concerned that passengers may be afraid of a tight turn. Pilots call it a “vomiting curve”.
The crown “gives space”
the completion of the field and the new opening night we had time to tell half a dozen times.
– This airport, but also the whole of Germany, has become the subject of world laughter. German engineers like me are very ashamed, said the current leader of the field Engelbert Lütke Daldrup to news agencies at a press conference a couple of weeks ago.
Does the field really open now?
– We are ready to leave, Daldrup assures.
At one point, the Berlin Brandenburg airport already had time to be considered too small in relation to the projected passenger numbers. Now, in the time of the Korona, there is no such concern.
– I think it will take three or four years before we reach pre-crown levels in business and passenger numbers.
Daldrup tries to see something good in the corona.
– Keeping the social distance on the field will be easy.