Just a few weeks before the new Berlin airport was supposed to open in June of 2012, I took a tour of the facilities. The twin massive runways were clear and ready. The pristine new train station below the terminal was set for a fast connection to the inner city Berlin. The glass-walled terminal building was filled with hanging flat-screen monitors announcing soon-to-be-arriving aircraft.
Then came the first announcement announcing a postponement of the highly-anticipated opening. After this first massive debacle in front of the international press came numerous additional announcements of delays. The last of these came on January 8th, and that one assured us that the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport (BBI), also known as the Willy Brandt Airport, won’t be opening in 2014. Perhaps prudently no date for 2015 has even been set.
So what has caused all this delay? As it turns out, it’s a combination of poor financial planning and trying to defy the laws of physics and chemistry. On the one hand, optimistic forecasting put the cost of the completed airport at less than half the current expense – and it’s not even open yet! Almost everything, from installations to relocating residents along the flight path to helping nearby homeowners pay for soundproofing, has been more expensive than expected.
Then there’s the age-old problem that heat rises. The terminal building is beautifully designed with a flat roof. While aesthetically pleasing, the desire to keep it flat meant that emergency ventilation systems had to be installed under the building. Unfortunately, smoke rises, and the highly automated fire control systems haven’t been able to counteract these universal laws within acceptable time limits to make the building safe. While they’re working to solve the problem, other faulty areas, such as non-insulated piping, are being discovered with considerable repair costs. It’s not a pretty picture.
In the meantime, the awkwardness that is Schönefeld Airport (literally adjacent and sharing a runway with the new BBI) and quaintness that is Tegel Airport remain open. We’ll keep you posted if a date for 2015 or 2016 get set.