Berlin Tegel: Farewell to the airport that would not die

Berlin Tegel: Farewell to the airport that would not die

(CNN) — Whereas the approaching opening of Berlin’s long-delayed Brandenburg Airport will trigger many within the metropolis to breathe a sigh of aid, it additionally means the unhappy finish of an period.

As Brandenburg cranks into motion, Berlin’s Tegel Airport — a much-loved relic from the final century — will in the end be closing for good.

In fact, Tegel ought to’ve been decommissioned years in the past. It was congested, drained and outdated. However Brandenburg’s decade of delays stored it alive as a stand-in, and for all its faults, it had many admirers.

Even efforts to completely shut the airport earlier this yr as a result of coronavirus pandemic failed. Tegel managed to evade loss of life one final time.

Regardless of its comparatively small measurement, it grew to become Germany’s fourth busiest airport and symbolized Berlin like few different public buildings.

Berlin’s airports had been by no means simply technique of transport, by no means simply faceless terminals in the midst of a discipline. These amenities completely replicate the turbulent story of the town within the twentieth and twenty first century.

Probably the most well-known, Tempelhof, was opened in 1927, and sealed its place in aviation historical past through the Berlin airlift of 1948-49 when the town was blockaded by the Soviet Union.

Now closed, it has been reworked right into a park and sought-after location for World Conflict II motion pictures.

The town’s different most important airport, Schönefeld, opened in 1946 as the primary airfield of East Germany, and retained one thing of that Soviet ambiance nicely past the nation’s reunification.

Of all of them, it is Tegel that holds a particular place within the coronary heart of many Berliners.

Stalin’s orders

Tegel Airport is scheduled to close for good on November 8, 2020.

Tegel Airport is scheduled to shut for good on November 8, 2020.

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP through Getty Photos

Like so many different issues within the metropolis, Tegel Airport is a stopgap measure that one way or the other grew to become everlasting.

After World Conflict II, when West Berlin was nonetheless within the fingers of allied forces, there have been plans to show the realm into allotments, however Soviet chief Joseph Stalin had totally different plans.

Because the blockade he ordered started in June 1948, it turned out shortly that there was want for an extra airfield to convey provides in, so the French authorities accountable for the Tegel district ordered the development of a 2,500-meter-long runway — the longest in Europe on the time.

The primary aircraft, a USAF Douglas C-54, landed in November 1948.

After the blockade ended six months later, Tegel grew to become the Berlin base of the French Air Power.

Within the late Nineteen Fifties, with elevated air site visitors coming into West Berlin in ever larger planes, the runways at Tempelhof had been proving too quick, so over the subsequent twenty years Tegel grew to become the primary airport.

The town’s particular standing through the Chilly Conflict meant that solely the Allies might function navy and civilian plane from and to Tegel. All passengers had to make use of the airport’s unique small prefabricated terminal constructing.

Regardless of these cramped circumstances and restrictions, for some the airport actually was a gateway to freedom.

Drahomira Bukowiecki fled communist Czechoslovakia in 1968 to West Berlin and was sentenced to 10 years exhausting labor in absentia.

For her, the airport grew to become the one technique of escaping a metropolis surrounded by communism.

“I might solely ever go away by Tegel, as I might have been arrested if I attempted to cross the GDR through land,” Bukowiecki tells CNN Journey. “So Tegel actually grew to become my gateway to the world, additionally as a result of I took a aircraft for the primary time in my life from right here.”

Hexagonal glamor

Tegel was seen as a

Tegel was seen as a “a gateway to freedom” for some individuals fleeing Soviet oppression.

Maja Hitij/Getty Photos

The airport continued to make an impression on Berliners, particularly after a brand new, mildly brutalist and hexagonally formed terminal constructing was opened in 1974.

The putting design shortened strolling distances to as quick as 30 meters from plane to the terminal exit.

“To me and lots of different West Berliners, Tegel actually was a spot aside,” Bukowiecki provides. “It symbolized the glamorous world of air journey with its outlets that offered fantastic issues and the entire means of taking a flight which was very totally different within the Seventies.

“And even after reunification, with air journey changing into out there extensively, that view didn’t change. Schönefeld actually is so far-off from the town heart. So for me and my technology Tegel is the true Berlin airport, part of us and the one place that enabled us to fly to freedom!”

Within the subsequent few years issues actually took off for Tegel.

On September 1, 1975, Pan Am and British Airways moved their complete Berlin operation right here in a single day.

Retired journalist Jutta Hertlein remembers the joy of her neighbors when the brand new terminal began its operations.

“Within the morning my neighbor got here to me and requested if I had heard all of the planes flying low over the home all evening — they had been shifting them from Tempelhof to Tegel,” she says. “However I had been so immersed in my work that I didn’t hear a factor.”

Hertlein additionally recollects that Tegel occupied a big place within the political panorama of Berlin and Germany, for higher or worse.

“I used it usually to journey for work; however on the identical time within the ’80s the airport was already used for the deportation of asylum seekers.

“There was a big protest deliberate on one such event, and I went to hitch the protestors at Tegel within the morning, however as I used to be sporting my normal enterprise apparel the policemen cordoning off the protest tried to information me to the airport as I didn’t appear to be a protester in any respect — however I wished to point out that it is not simply the younger punks and leftists protesting these deportations.”

Confusion and chaos

Tegel was scheduled to close early because of the pandemic, but still came back for more.

Tegel was scheduled to shut early due to the pandemic, however nonetheless got here again for extra.

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP through Getty Photos

With German reunification in 1990 and the federal government shifting from Bonn to Berlin, all restrictions on Berlin air site visitors had been lifted and Tegel grew to become the official German authorities airport.

That function has meant it is seen the US President’s Air Power One touchdown right here extra usually than another airport in Germany.

Reunification additionally meant that passenger numbers and flights elevated exponentially as air journey grew to become an increasing number of commonplace.

Tegel was designed for dealing with 2.5 million passengers a yr, however 24 million individuals flew from right here in 2019.

Whereas a brand new third terminal was added in 2007, Tegel grew to become more and more cramped, with operations and amenities clearly outdated.

There was no direct public transport connection both. Vacationers utilizing Berlin’s U-Bahn metro system needed to change to a bus at Kurt-Schumacher-Platz. Even Schönefeld had higher rail connections.

“Tegel’s distinctive structure and design make you’re feeling like being time-warped into the Seventies,” says frequent traveler Michael Stoffl, from Berlin. “The airport is tiny, particularly when in comparison with different main capitals across the globe.

“The airport might have been thought of fashionable and acceptable when it was opened however, particularly during the last decade, passengers had been to expertise its downsides, like usually feeling crammed and chaotic — and positively the shortage of house.

“You needed to be sure you did not line up within the improper queue on the check-in counters because it was usually complicated the place every one led to.

“Many Tegel regulars rave about its proximity to the town heart, which makes for a fast switch into city — except you had been utilizing public transport. Personally, I will not be lacking Tegel, besides maybe from a nostalgic side.”

“ I am head over heels in love with its ’70s ugliness. ”

Tilman Hierath, managing companion of Berlin’s Circus Lodge

However Tegel’s car-friendly design endeared the airport to many, particularly within the Berlin hospitality sector.

Tilman Hierath is the managing companion of the Circus Lodge on Rosenthaler Platz in addition to an enthusiastic interest pilot and loves to make use of the airport.

“Tegel is definitely the very best airport on the planet,” he says. “And I do not solely say that as a result of I am head over heels in love with its ’70s ugliness.

“This design may not be environment friendly to function, however it’s a traveler’s dream of quick ready instances and quick distances. When the cab drivers went on strike a number of years again, I rented a van and drove our visitors from the resort to the airport.

“In Tegel that doesn’t imply to an entrance two counties away. As an alternative, we had been in a position to drop our visitors off straight at their gate. It’s the solely main airport I do know the place you’ll be able to see the check-in counter from the curb and the airplane from the check-in counter.”

Shabby appeal

An old Boeing 707 that was presented as a gift to Lufthansa sits at the end of the runway.

An outdated Boeing 707 that was introduced as a present to Lufthansa sits on the finish of the runway.

aslu/ullstein bild/Getty Photos

Hierath recollects a selected incident involving a time-pressed visitor.

“He wanted to be in a vital assembly at our resort and in addition wanted to catch his flight that afternoon. So our entrance desk really known as Tegel they usually held the gate open for our visitor.

“It’s this private contact that made all of the distinction. Tegel was not designed to intimidate and impress, it was designed to be on the traveler’s service.”

Tegel has at all times appeared an acceptable entrance to Berlin.

It isn’t a sleekly designed airport strewn with therapeutic massage seats and good screens. As an alternative, like the town it serves, it has a shabby appeal and a very good coronary heart.

Its character reveals by within the quirky components of the airport unrelated to flight operations.

On the finish of the runway sits an outdated Boeing 707, initially operated by El Al, that was as soon as the goal on an try by Palestinian terrorists to hijack it in 1970.

It was embellished in classic Lufthansa markings and introduced to the airline by Boeing as a present in 1986. As no German pilots or carriers had been permitted to fly into Tegel on the time, the aircraft was lined with white stickers and delivered by an American crew at evening, to be revealed in Lufthansa colours the subsequent day.

The plane was introduced by Lufthansa to West Berlin in 1987 as a part of celebrations for the town’s 750th birthday. Ultimately it was shuffled off to a far-flung nook of the airfield, often getting used for evacuation coaching.

On the different finish of Tegel is the small however quirky Allierte in Berlin museum, a non-public assortment operated by volunteers and devoted to the historical past of the Allied forces in Berlin.

Bowie and Reagan

A gateway to Berlin for US Presidents and popstars, Tegel has cemented its place in the city's history.

A gateway to Berlin for US Presidents and popstars, Tegel has cemented its place within the metropolis’s historical past.

Maja Hitij/Getty Photos

The airport itself is because of be confined to historical past on November 8 when the ultimate scheduled flight to go away Tegel will likely be — fittingly — an Air France service to Paris.

After that, the longer term is considerably unsure.

Actual property builders and designers are able to reinvent the airport: There are plans to develop the positioning right into a so-called “City Tech Republic,” a excessive tech enterprise hub that might present 18,000 jobs.

Tegel’s A and B terminals will likely be utilized by the College of Utilized Sciences Berlin to ascertain a brand new know-how park for as much as 2,500 college students. The remaining space will likely be out there for industrial use, the most important single inner-city improvement space in modern Berlin.

No matter its destiny, the airport’s place within the story of Berlin will eternally cement its standing as “the” metropolis airport, notably, as British author and Berlin skilled Paul Sullivan factors out, because of its function in latest popular culture.

“I believe that over the many years the airport’s modest dimensions and aesthetic and the truth that many celebrities like David Bowie and Ronald Reagan used it to enter West Berlin actually created a variety of affection in Berliners,” he says.

“Even the overpriced Currywurst stall exterior the terminal, made to appear to be an S-Bahn carriage, to me symbolizes the airport’s charming crappiness.”

Though the neighbors will likely be relieved, the one factor that I will miss about Tegel probably the most is the direct, loud and smelly expertise of journey.

There was one thing genuinely interesting about ready on the bus cease on Kurt-Schumacher-Platz close to the kebab stands and Chinese language eating places and watching the planes roar in simply 50 meters overhead on their remaining strategy to the airport.

Tegel was one of many final of a dying breed: a veteran metropolis airport, battered and eternally unbeaten.

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